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What DAC are you using and why?
Old 29th May 2007
  #1
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Talking What DAC are you using and why?

I'm interested in peoples opinions of DACs in the price range of the Benchmark DAC1 and Lavry DA10.

1. Any stories to tell regards either of these 2? Any problems or praise?

2. Any other DACs in that price range that I should be auditioning?

3. Anyone using either of those DACs in a preampless setup and is it worthy?

4. Are the built in headphone amps up to scratch for classical location recording?

Cheers,
Rob.
Old 29th May 2007
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
I'm interested in peoples opinions of DACs in the price range of the Benchmark DAC1 and Lavry DA10.

1. Any stories to tell regards either of these 2? Any problems or praise?

2. Any other DACs in that price range that I should be auditioning?

3. Anyone using either of those DACs in a preampless setup and is it worthy?

4. Are the built in headphone amps up to scratch for classical location recording?

Cheers,
Rob.
I use the LavryBlack DA10 and I love it. I hear details, like reveb tails, much more clearly. It is, IMHO, a LITTLE more transparent then the Benchmark.

Mytek also makes a good DAC.

I cannot address either #3 or 4 as they do not pertain to me.
Old 29th May 2007
  #3
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I use a Mytek Stereo DA-96 for classical location work and the headphone amp is great. I'm really happy with it all round.
Old 29th May 2007
  #4
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Hi David,

I cannot find a supplier for the Mytek in the UK. Where did you buy it? and is it the same kind of price as the others I mention?
Old 29th May 2007
  #5
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Hi.

I use a DAC1. Totally happy with.

At home my active speakers (ATC 20ASL pro) are connected directly to it. Only additional piece of equipment is a power switch, allowing me to turn off the speaker power when all I want to do is listening on headphones.

Headhone amps are quiet, good-sounding and plenty powerful for my Sennheiser HD650.

No problems in recommending it.

Gunnar
Old 29th May 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
Hi David,

I cannot find a supplier for the Mytek in the UK. Where did you buy it? and is it the same kind of price as the others I mention?
I bought direct from the Mytek EU store (based in Poland) which you can access from mytek.com. The new price for the DAC 96 was about £600 (their prices are in Euros) when I bought it but it has been superceded by the DA-192, which is a bit more expensive. I haven't heard the newer DA but people say it's outstanding.

I don't feel I need to upgrade - I'd be well into the the law of diminishing returns!
Old 29th May 2007
  #7
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Quote:
I use the LavryBlack DA10 and I love it.
Hi Ashermusic, is there anything at all that you don't like about it? (be honestheh )

Are the lock and polarity switches a useful addition in your opinion?
Quote:
I bought direct from the Mytek EU store (based in Poland) which you can access from mytek.com. The new price for the DAC 96 was about £600 (their prices are in Euros) when I bought it but it has been superceded by the DA-192, which is a bit more expensive. I haven't heard the newer DA but people say it's outstanding.
Im afraid if I cant get a demo one to listen then it wont be a contender. Having said that there are 2 pieces of kit that I have bought in the past without auditioning and never regretted it (PMC speakers and Schoeps MK21 capsules).

The thing with this DAC hunt though is that they will be up against my Attraction DAC of which I have yet to hear anything come close. The only reason I'm selling the Attraction is because it is totally impractical on location as it runs off a car battery. I can only hope that these DACs come close because a sonic downgrade would be most depressing.

Any other DACs out there folk would recommend?
Old 29th May 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
Hi Ashermusic, is there anything at all that you don't like about it? (be honestheh )

Are the lock and polarity switches a useful addition in your opinion?


Im afraid if I cant get a demo one to listen then it wont be a contender. Having said that there are 2 pieces of kit that I have bought in the past without auditioning and never regretted it (PMC speakers and Schoeps MK21 capsules).

The thing with this DAC hunt though is that they will be up against my Attraction DAC of which I have yet to hear anything come close. The only reason I'm selling the Attraction is because it is totally impractical on location as it runs off a car battery. I can only hope that these DACs come close because a sonic downgrade would be most depressing.

Any other DACs out there folk would recommend?
If there was I would have said so in my post. After all, they don't pay me

Lock yes, polarity choice I have not needed personally but YMMV.

I am not familiar wqith the Attraction so I cannot compare/contrast with the LavryBlack.
Old 30th May 2007
  #9
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Hi Rob,

I've been using a Benchmark DAC-1 happily for 5 years. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to A/B it with these other units. But aside from sounding great, it serves a switcher for my DAWs and a CD player. I like to compare my mixes to CD favorite reference recordings. With the DAC-1 it is a click away and I can toggle between the 2. It matches my Sen HD600 phones with plebty of power. Even the AKG DF cans.
Please give it listen! Many engineers I respect have it as a favorite.

Cheers!
Don
Old 30th May 2007
  #10
xxm
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First post here! Hello to everyone.

I am highly surprised that when it comes to converters that no one mentions Lake-People. They had the good idea to develop some new desktop products that are pretty handy. the core is the same as in their bigger models and their sound is truely clean. you can compare it e.g. with a DAD.
I bought the DAC 460 a while ago and am very satisfied with its performance.

DIGITAL-ANALOG CONVERTER DAC C460

the DA is a cirrus 4397 -nothing special- but has a very clean analog stage. the volume pot is absolutely noise free.

the only "weakness" it has, if you want to call it so, is that there is no lightpipe connection. I use for my remote job a O2 from M.audio. works fine.

You can request e.g. thomann to order it for you.

No, I don't have any connections with them!

edit: I pluged it directly in an pair of AML-1 a few days ago and it was absolutely remarkable.

my 2 cents

vincent
Old 30th May 2007
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
1. Any stories to tell regards either of these 2? Any problems or praise?

2. Any other DACs in that price range that I should be auditioning?

3. Anyone using either of those DACs in a preampless setup and is it worthy?

4. Are the built in headphone amps up to scratch for classical location recording?
1. 2 DAC1 units here. No problems, only praise. To be very critical: there is something missing, that last ounce of musicality/transparancy which can be heard in costlier designs, or maybe in

2. Gracedesign M902. Maybe this one beats the DAC1, BUT it has no balanced outputs. It is mainly designed as a headphone DAC/preamp. The lack of balanced outputs were a big nono for me. It made me curious of their bigger m904/m906, but that's another price range.

3. Yes & Yes. You do not want the pot in your way. (The volume control of the m902 did not seem to have the issues the DAC1 has)

4. Yes. Works great with our HD650.
Old 30th May 2007
  #12
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[QUOTE=Yannick;1301849]
You do not want the pot in your way. (The volume control of the m902 did not seem to have the issues the DAC1 has)

Just wanted to add -

I have the Dac-1 directly connected to my DYnaudio BM6a.
The pot IS optional. You can switch to a fixed output volume on the back of the unit. As well as adjust the output range (in 20 db increments) via jumpers on the inside.
Old 30th May 2007
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
I have the DAC-1 directly connected to my Dynaudio BM6a.
Ditto. I like the DAC-1 because of its features, 2 very high quality headphone outputs and the volume pot, and the choice of input and output connectors and config of these. It seems to have all the right ergonomic features for me. Some say some other DAC's sound better, up at this level, its all the same to me, so features wins out.
Old 31st May 2007
  #14
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We use a
Grace m902 for location work.
Prism DA for surround and at the office.

The grace is a very good sounding headphone amp and the DA is decent.
Old 2nd June 2007
  #15
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I used a DAC-1 for several years with no complaints about the sound, but linearity with the output pot was a different matter, as each detent varies in effect with where the control is set. I wanted to be able to set up the monitors with the K scale (and be able to set the 83dBSPL pink noise reference), and this would mean purchasing a precision pot with 1 dB detents and more grief.

Then I saw the Lavry DA10 and it met every need, including my fear of schlepping the DAC1 around and damaging the pot. While the toggle switch output control is not for everyone, if you need absolute repeatability of level with exactly 1dB per click, the Lavry fits the bill.

Sound-wise they are so close it is really a toss-up.

Rich
Old 2nd June 2007
  #16
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Good point about the K-scale! I'm going to admit I have no idea what increments the DAC-1 adds per click. Does anyone know?
I usually keep it in the same spot. They're big enough (to see) to tell where you originally had it set. The stepped pot was a mod benchmark added after about a year. I had an original pot without steps. That was a little confusing.
Old 2nd June 2007
  #17
0VU
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For stereo work either a dCS 954 or Grace m904 - I use the m904 as my normal monitor controller on location (driving ATC SCM20ASL Pros/SCM100ASLs or Quad 988 via Chord SPM1200) and only really take the dCS a an alternative DAC if the session is particularly important or the producer/artist/client requests it; otherwise I quite like the DAC in the m904 - I prefer it to either Mytek or Benchmark and I feel that the headphone amp itself is far better than either of these - at least with Sennheiser HD650/600s/580s and AKG K701s. For surround/multichannel it's a Prism ADA8XR or (if it warrants carrying the extra weight) I can muster 6 channels of dCS954.

I've also got an oldish Grace m901 headphone amp/DAC but I've not got around to upgrading to the m902; I was about to when a lightly used m904 turned up at the right price and I sacrificed portability for extra facilities.

Given that the kind of rig I usually use, even for small scale commercial work isn't exactly pocket sized, the difference between the m904 and the m902 wasn't really that significant. If the rig needs to be really portable (i.e. is as much as one person can carry without help or multiple trips to the car) then an outboard DAC is likely to be much lower down my list of priorities than getting the preamps and A-D stages right and (if it goes at all when traveling really light) the m901 still works fine for me. (Almost all my recording work is classical/jazz with a bit of other acoustic stuff.)

For that matter, on commercial sessions, I usually have to provide more than one pair of headphones - or at least somewhere to plug in more than one pair - preferably with each having it's own level control, and on some sessions I use electrostatic cans which come with their own amp/energiser just needing an external DAC; then it's usually a dCS 954.
Old 2nd June 2007
  #18
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RE DAC-1 detents: "The newer units have the detented pot in roughly 1dB increments, but it’s not exact."

This from Benchmark, who added in a phone conversation that the effect of each detent was dependent on where the pot was pointed.

For K-scale I adjust the monitor output for 83dBSPL of each channel, which also happens to be SMPTE standard. That setting is "K20"-- for "K14" I simply lower the gain 6 clicks.

I do not master anything louder than K-14. See Bob Katz's website for K-system details Digital Domain - Welcome to Digital Domain! Or even better-- buy his book!

Rich
Old 3rd June 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
Hi Rob,

I've been using a Benchmark DAC-1 happily for 5 years. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to A/B it with these other units. But aside from sounding great, it serves a switcher for my DAWs and a CD player. I like to compare my mixes to CD favorite reference recordings. With the DAC-1 it is a click away and I can toggle between the 2.
Good point Don.

Quote:
For stereo work either a dCS 954 or Grace m904 - I use the m904 as my normal monitor controller on location (driving ATC SCM20ASL Pros/SCM100ASLs or Quad 988 via Chord SPM1200) and only really take the dCS a an alternative DAC if the session is particularly important or the producer/artist/client requests it; otherwise I quite like the DAC in the m904 - I prefer it to either Mytek or Benchmark and I feel that the headphone amp itself is far better than either of these - at least with Sennheiser HD650/600s/580s and AKG K701s. For surround/multichannel it's a Prism ADA8XR or (if it warrants carrying the extra weight) I can muster 6 channels of dCS954.

I've also got an oldish Grace m901 headphone amp/DAC but I've not got around to upgrading to the m902; I was about to when a lightly used m904 turned up at the right price and I sacrificed portability for extra facilities.

Given that the kind of rig I usually use, even for small scale commercial work isn't exactly pocket sized, the difference between the m904 and the m902 wasn't really that significant. If the rig needs to be really portable (i.e. is as much as one person can carry without help or multiple trips to the car) then an outboard DAC is likely to be much lower down my list of priorities than getting the preamps and A-D stages right and (if it goes at all when traveling really light) the m901 still works fine for me. (Almost all my recording work is classical/jazz with a bit of other acoustic stuff.)

For that matter, on commercial sessions, I usually have to provide more than one pair of headphones - or at least somewhere to plug in more than one pair - preferably with each having it's own level control, and on some sessions I use electrostatic cans which come with their own amp/energiser just needing an external DAC; then it's usually a dCS 954.
Ovu, interesting post. Have you ever AB'ed any of your more expensive DACs with the Benchmark or Lavry by any chance?

Quote:
Some say some other DAC's sound better, up at this level, its all the same to me, so features wins out.
This is a good point David. The features of the DAC1 certainly seem to be well thought out. For example, the more I think about it the more I realise how useful the dual headphone out would be. I only wish the DAC1 had the repeatability of the Lavry in terms of output though...
Old 4th June 2007
  #20
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It's hard to beat that DAC1. Made in USA, not made by the CHI-COMMS.
Unit is standing up very well in comparison to other dacs--including recent ones passing through here for evaluation and some expensive ones from the past 10 years.

I think the listening room is more important than the dac, but a calibrated consistent listening level is of vital benefit in a good room.
Old 4th June 2007
  #21
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First day with the DAC1...wish I could love this thing

I've been extensively testing the Benchmark DAC1 since it arrived for evaluation today. Impressions before listening were very positive (excellent build, excellent feature set etc).

I wouldn't normally come to conclusions after just a day but, compared to the DAC I've been using, I have not been impressed at all.

It does have a clarity but it lacks depth in the soundstage and instruments and voices have a serious absence of body. Overall it is very flat and lifeless to my ears. Perhaps I have just been DAC spoilt.

I have an important question: Have any of you guys that own the Benchmark ever compared it to much more expensive devices?

The Lavry DA10 arrives tomorrow. I REALLY hope it impresses me more. I am really hoping for a good all in one solution (DAC, volume, headphone amp, connectivity) but cannot bring myself to sacrifice this much sonic quality in order to get it.

(Plush, the Shaman drum in Litany To Thunder has no serious depth or body with this DAC, where is the ominous sound of that omni present monster of a drum that I loved with my old DAC???)
Old 5th June 2007
  #22
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Oh my root!
Poor Mosrite. Honestly, it sounds like your unit might be broken.

There is no problem with the drum here and all sounds good and just as recorded.
Something inscrutably wrong with unit. . .. .????
Old 5th June 2007
  #23
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I hadn't even consdidered that the unit might be broken, but maybe that's possible?? After all the difference is pretty dramatic and I've heard an awful lot of good things about this Benchmark. The Lavry arrives today so in a way that might tell me what I need to know.

Could I ask what differences people would expect from a seriously high end DAC against something like the Benchmark? A realism, a depth that wasn't there before perhaps? Hearing into the room more?
Old 5th June 2007
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
Could I ask what differences people would expect from a seriously high end DAC against something like the Benchmark? A realism, a depth that wasn't there before perhaps? Hearing into the room more?
Hi Rob,

The first thing I noticed was better imaging. Next the usual stuff; early reflections, room reverb, and much easier to EQ.
Old 5th June 2007
  #25
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Quote:
Hi Rob,

The first thing I noticed was better imaging. Next the usual stuff; early reflections, room reverb, and much easier to EQ.
Hi Don,

So you mean you noticed these things with a more expensive DAC against the DAC1? If so, could I ask what that DAC was?

Been testing more this morning and have come to the same conclusions. My main problems with the DAC1 one in comparison to what I have been using seem to be:

1. A grey backdrop to the sound instead of black, almost grainy.
2. Much less richness of reverb and decay.
3. Instruments lack body.
4. Soundstage is quite flat.

However imaging and detail seem generally good.

I am awaiting the Lavry with interest and am considering trying the next step up in terms of price (the Grace M902 perhaps?)
Old 5th June 2007
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
Im afraid if I cant get a demo one to listen then it wont be a contender. Having said that there are 2 pieces of kit that I have bought in the past without auditioning and never regretted it (PMC speakers and Schoeps MK21 capsules).
This may be of interest to you:

Quote:
Mytek is now offering 15 DAYS SATISFACTION MONEY BACK GUARANTEE at the EU internet store (only) to facilitate experiencing Mytek sound and quality for users not yet familiar with the brand. Any product bought at this store can be returned within 15 days of arrival no questions asked
Here's the link: Stereo96 DAC
Old 5th June 2007
  #27
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Maybe this link will help you...

Hi,

I pay much attention to all your posts, because I'm looking too for a new DAC. My main work is film scoring and classical location recording.

Visiting the Mytek website, I foud a link that could help Mosrite in his choice...

Comparison between Mytek and other highends converters (with samples)

Hope this will help you.
Regards.

Vincent
Old 5th June 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post

1. A grey backdrop to the sound instead of black, almost grainy.
2. Much less richness of reverb and decay.
3. Instruments lack body.
4. Soundstage is quite flat.

However imaging and detail seem generally good.
Have you been listening through the pot or the calibrated output ?
Old 5th June 2007
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mosrite View Post
Hi Don,

So you mean you noticed these things with a more expensive DAC against the DAC1? If so, could I ask what that DAC was?
I'm sorry, but I was refering to advantages of Dac-1 over stock converters. Unfortunately, I have never heard wiess, meitner, prism or lavry gold. I'm asuming unless you have a mastering quality setup, the differences between DAC-1 and others in that price range will be very slight.
Which PMCs are you using? I had the same situation, I had to buy without hearing them, so I opted for Dynaudio (bm6a) only for that reason.
Old 5th June 2007
  #30
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Quote:
This may be of interest to you
that is interesting but I dont think my man can get Mytek in. Also, I am not sure how much more I can take (and I've only been critical listening for 2 days )

Quote:
Have you been listening through the pot or the calibrated output ?
Hi Yannick, I've tried both the DAC1 as attenuator and I've sent it's analogue outs to my attenuator. In both cases the same results occurred.
Quote:
I'm sorry, but I was refering to advantages of Dac-1 over stock converters. Unfortunately, I have never heard wiess, meitner, prism or lavry gold. I'm asuming unless you have a mastering quality setup, the differences between DAC-1 and others in that price range will be very slight.
Which PMCs are you using? I had the same situation, I had to buy without hearing them, so I opted for Dynaudio (bm6a) only for that reason
Well the differences here are not slight. It is important to realise though that I dont find anything dramatically wrong with the DAC1 it just doesn't seem in the same class (for the reasons listed earlier). As a clean, detailed DAC with great connectivity I think it would work well.

I'm listening through PMC DB1SAM's in combination with an REL subwoofer in a decent room. I have also been switching between that system and my old ATC / Sumo / H+H setup. Same results on both although my PMC's setup inherently gives me more insight into the lower Hz.
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