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Benchmark DAC-1 Studio Monitors
Old 10th March 2003
  #1
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Benchmark DAC-1

Certainly winning this in the contest was exceptionally good news but now that I've actually spent an hour listening to the thing, it would have been great news even if I'd paid full list price for it! This thing has outrageous bass reproduction and as good a sense of image and depth as I have ever heard including vinyl.

One of my frustrations has been that I hadn't been able to get the kind of low-end out of my pair of Hafler 9505s as I had been getting using an old Eagle audiophile amp yet the top-end was lots more open with the Haflers. I've tried every kind of buffering, transformers, you name it, every tweak in the book. I've got to tell you, with the DAC-1 low end from the Haflers is no longer a problem! I'm back to being on the edge of too much bass just like I was with the Eagle.

I also love the fact that there is a switch that selects between mains off, mains through the front panel volume control and mains through some trim-pots. This means I can calibrate the trimpots to the level I want as an acoustic reference for critical listening and yet I still have a volume control when I want it or just a headphone amp. I had no idea from the literature what a great monitor controller this thing makes. My only minor complaints are that the volume control isn't detented, there's no mono switch and the fixed/variable/off switch is on the back.

They're going to be selling a whole LOT of these as the word gets out!
Old 10th March 2003
  #2
Gear Head
 
ddavid's Avatar
 

What setup are you using this guy with?
Please ---some specifics - I am new to this Digital world and I would love to hear your comments...
I have MacG-4 - Protools Mix+ - 1622....
What would I use this guy for ---thanks again for your time
dan
Old 11th March 2003
  #3
Gear Addict
 
Etnier's Avatar
 

It's irrelevant. It really is. For a working facility, 90% of the functionality of the DAC-1 will come in improving the quality of the monitoring chain, no matter what the 'setup'. Trust me.

Well, no- I take that back. If you're running all-analog, you might not have a use for one. Otherwise...

I can only agree that the DAC-1 is a landmark box: it's hard to imagine any facility that couldn't justify shelling out the money to obtain one of these convertors.
Old 11th March 2003
  #4
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

The magic about really great monitoring is that the right settings on cheap gear will always sound better than the wrong settings on expensive gear! It lets you really find bargains that sound great but aren't "hip" enough to warrant a large price tag. Granted the "right" setting could be "bypass" but there is no substitute for really being able to hear. This is ESPECIALLY true in the case of digital signal processing.

As monitors get closer to being really accurate as opposed to hyped, the sound has a way of really snapping unambiguously into focus. I began using high resolution monitoring to check my work at home beginning around 1968. I haven't stopped learning how to improve both my work and my monitoring yet. Several of my friends feel the DAc-1 is a contender for the best D to A converter at any price and it's certainly the best I've had in my system.

I'm using Duntech Soverign speakers powered by two Hafler 9505s. These are now fed directly by the DAC-1.
Old 11th March 2003
  #5
I am anxoious to hear how my ADAM SA4-C's sound via them instead of my ProControl analog section.

Old 12th March 2003
  #6
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Kris's Avatar
So this unit has volume control? I know I should just check their site but it appears to be down... I've had a small mackie sitting on my desk, just for monitoring and would love to get rid of it...
Old 12th March 2003
  #7
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atticus's Avatar
Kris,

Yes, the DAC1 does have a volume control that controls both the headphone amps and the main outputs. I was just on the site and it isn't down. It's at :

www.benchmarkmedia.com

Thanks.
Old 12th March 2003
  #8
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Kris's Avatar
Sweet, still can't get to the sight... but there are some other sites I can't get to as well... maybe a regional router is out or something...

I've been waiting for this box to arrive...
Old 12th March 2003
  #9
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atticus's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Kris

I've been waiting for this box to arrive...
Well I hope that you dig it when you grab one, and we have plenty more cool stuff on the way! If you do score a DAC1 let me know how you like it. thanks
Old 13th March 2003
  #10
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I love this thing.
Before the DAC1 listening was through the Digi 001. Now there are parts of the frequency spectrum to be heard that I didn´t know that they were in the tracks at all. And the stereo field als well is wider. ( As someone here once explained about jitter the widening effect must come from it staying away.)

The purposes apart from judging the sound for me was also to avoid losses when treating digital audio through outboard gear. With the DAC-1 D/A in conjunction with good A/D converters the procedure should be great. I can´t wait to try that out when the current session comes to that point.

Now I´m thinking of also routing the CD player through the DAC to see what new experience this would give for listening through the stereo to commercial records, even if it means long cables.

The audio world to me appeared amazing already and lately even a remarkable step more.

BTW, my DAC had been slightly banged on transport :eek: and I experienced outstanding customer care after it.



Ruphus
Old 13th March 2003
  #11
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Having said that I felt for trying out how records can sound, so closed the session, ripped some tracks from CD to HD and let them play from there.
First listened to a newer piece ( Sheryl Crow ) and once again there were details like I had not been hearing before, although the stereo I use to listen through delivers very nicely ( Luxman RX-103 and fat speakers from Klangräume ).
But even more surprising was what I discovered on pieces that are familiar to my ears already since decades ago on venyl.
Never heard J.J.Cale so airy, bright ( almost too much / harsh and it is like falling in a hole during the digital-nothing-pauses between the songs, as the better reading pulls out the analog noise also ) and tight like right here while typing this.

Jeez, I had been planning to one day send J.J. CDs through the Aphex 2o4 to make it somewhat clearer, as these old tracks always appeared somewhat dull to me.
But there are actually sonics in these records that I would had never in my life believed that they do exist. - No wonder that on my search about D/A boxes the first remark about DAC-1 showed in a forum for stereo freaks.
yuktyy

PS: Here is one of those pieces which I found sonically so much richer than before, for you. I guess it could be liked already with common D/A. Hope ya like it.
Old 15th March 2003
  #12
I have one on demo as of today. It couldnt have arrived at a better time I was just touching up mixes during the day and during the evening the band came along to apove them.

First task was to hop the jumpers over to the 30db attenuation.

It sounds great and it's a real confidence booster for me to have a D/A that goes DIRECT to my monitors.

I felt a new clarity, I was A/B ing between CD's and my mix, I was able to take care of some low mid anomalies that were revealed to my complete satisfaction.

Bass end was kicking VERY, VERY clear!

Next.... mastering my mixes..

And perhaps in the future, monitoring my DAW with it during tracking.

I supose some very high quality cables to my speakers are in order!

Old 15th March 2003
  #13
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Cables don't seem to be that big a deal with it compared to other DACs and preamps I've used. I'm using a couple old 20 foot Monster mike cables and the imaging is awesome while using the same cables was a total mess with a different D to A.

I did a vocal session with it yesterday evening and it worked great. First time I've ever done vocals direct to Pro Tools LE.
Old 16th March 2003
  #14
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Now that I've listened to a pretty wide variety of recordings, I'm finding the low-end even more interesting. I'm hearing a lot more variation between different recordings than I ever have before. Some still have the "weight" I remember (and had been missing from when back I used the other power amp) however others are thinner than I recall. We'll see, my low-frequency translation may have just gone up a notch because this will make me eq the low end somewhat differently!

One thing I know for sure is that if I switched an 888 into this setup, I'd want to be boosting below 50Hz. even though both measure dead flat! The thing that's tricky is figuring out exactly which component is having an interface problem. Some gear, such as this Benchmark D to A, can drive almost anything while other gear can be driven by almost anything. This is why different people can have such wildly differing experiences with the same piece of gear.
Old 29th March 2003
  #15
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Today I tried out an ordinary cable as I hadn´t got me yet a long 75 ohm specimen for the digital out from CD player to the DAC, and it luckily worked.
It was already in the night when I came to this idea so I am listening only at low levels at the moment, but despite of that there is stereo imaging, clearness and tight bass that will make me listen to records for the next days and enjoy what supposedly hardly any CD player around could deliver to the amplifier.

Say, David, should you see this, about cable ... Not that I had the impression like the current setup would be missing anything, but in order to make really sure about best quality in path possibel:
Is it that a cable on the digital path either woks or not and that if it works it ensures all that there is in the signal, or should I still consider to get me a cable especially designed for the digital way?

Thanks for advice in advance.

Ruphus
Old 29th March 2003
  #16
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As I mentioned in a new thread, I'm seriously considering the Dangerous Monitor reviewed in this month's Tape Op, largely for some of the same issues discussed here (like am I REALLY hearing my music?!!!).

It has enough features that I could bypass my crappy mixer altogether and go direct from there to my Genelecs. So my two questions are:

•How do the Troisi converters in the Dangerous Monitor compare to the Benchmarks? Am I gonna love the sound as much as you love yours (I hope!)?

•What's the price on the Benchmark? If a ton cheaper than the Dangerous, is there something else you would recommend combining it with to get some basic monitoring features (like a fader or two, mono summing, headphone preamp, polarity flip, metering, a few extra outputs and inputs, etc.)? Or am I just better off with the Dangerous which seems to have most of the features i need already built in?
Old 29th March 2003
  #17
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Hi little dog,

unfortunately I don´t know about the Dangerous monitor, but I can tell the price of the DAC-1. Mercenary audio have it for 775$ which seems the best offer around.

Wish you a nice weekend.

Ruphus
Old 29th March 2003
  #18
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5down1up's Avatar
 

so the dac-1 sounds to be very interresting as a monitoring unit

>what else do you need to switch speakers using a dac-1 ?
>you can hook up one more stereo device ( like a cd player ) besides the 2track bus ?
>you feed the dac-1 by using digital outs of the interfaces , if the sound improvement is that great , you are going back into your daw and record the final mix instead of bouncing or using another 2 track recorder ?
( ... or will the improvement be destroyed using f.ex the 888s as a/d again ? )
>if using a clocking system , needs the dac-1 to be hooked up to the master clock as well ?
>what do you use to check mono compatibility of your work ?

i either have the money for a monitoring system or a dac-1 , another 2track like a masterlink is out of range . i would love to have a "good" d/a , so maybe the dac-1 is able to satisfy most of my wishes ???

THX



Old 29th March 2003
  #19
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Ruphus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by 5down1up
so the dac-1 sounds to be very interresting as a monitoring unit

>what else do you need to switch speakers using a dac-1 ?
>you can hook up one more stereo device ( like a cd player ) besides the 2track bus ?
>you feed the dac-1 by using digital outs of the interfaces , if the sound improvement is that great , you are going back into your daw and record the final mix instead of bouncing or using another 2 track recorder ?
( ... or will the improvement be destroyed using f.ex the 888s as a/d again ? )
>if using a clocking system , needs the dac-1 to be hooked up to the master clock as well ?
>what do you use to check mono compatibility of your work ?

i either have the money for a monitoring system or a dac-1 , another 2track like a masterlink is out of range . i would love to have a "good" d/a , so maybe the dac-1 is able to satisfy most of my wishes ???

THX



The DAC1 has three digital ins, 1x XLR, 1x coaxial and 1x optical. You can have sources hooked to all three and switch between them by a little lever ( I love that little levers design as an original idea, BTW ) on the front panel.
For outs there are two pairs, one pair balanced XLRs and one pair consumer level RCAs ( plus 2x headphones ).
So, for altering between monitor feeding or route through other gear one needs either some way of splitting or has to plug / unplug each time.

For the sound it gives you the DAC1 without question is very much worth its money and will certainly be a bargain also in the future. But although yet with my ( well, limited ) knowledge I can hardly imagine more than its brilliant sonics, I think a fair recommendation to colleagues would be to wait a couple of weeks and compare it with the MiniDAC, before final decision.

I personally wouldn´t had taken the MiniDAC into consideration until not too long ago, as expecting it to be hundreds of bucks more, but meanwhile realized that it will be priced relatively near to the DAC1.

So if you want to make sure if there could be differnces between the two and how that would be sounding like, wait another ~ 4 weeks.

I´m sure in either case you will be thrilled about the differnce to e.g. the 001 outs or also to the converting of any CD player.



Greets,

Ruphus
Old 2nd April 2003
  #20
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Just reread this post.

Thanks Ruphus!

One of my concerns was how to A-B commercial CD's with my mixes for reference - but if I hook the CD player up via SPDIF to the Benchmark, I can just flip back and forth with the "little lever"...

Cool, cool, cool!

I don't really need that Dangerous Monitor or Inner Connection DM3 after all!!!

Benchmark, here I come!!!
Old 2nd April 2003
  #21
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Ruphus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by littledog
Just reread this post.

Thanks Ruphus!

One of my concerns was how to A-B commercial CD's with my mixes for reference - but if I hook the CD player up via SPDIF to the Benchmark, I can just flip back and forth with the "little lever"...

Cool, cool, cool!

I don't really need that Dangerous Monitor or Inner Connection DM3 after all!!!

Benchmark, here I come!!!
You´re wellcome LittleDog :o)

Right, you can do that. I have connected the 001 via S/PDIF lightpipe and the CD player via coaxial. While I´m writing "Moon Safari" from AIR is running.
Never again listening through the CD players converters for sure!


Ruphus
Old 2nd April 2003
  #22
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Further research, with a big assist from Ruphus now has me also considering the soon to be released Apogee MiniDAC.

By the way, the $775 price for the DAC-1 quoted above as "seems to be best price around" is not accurate. I tried only one place and got a price of $699.
Old 4th April 2003
  #23
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atticus's Avatar
Before you buy anything try to do a blind test with both of them.
Old 5th April 2003
  #24
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

At this point I've mastered 3 CDs monitoring with the DAC-1 and listened to a great deal more music than the last time I posted here. There's absolutely no question that differences in signal processing are sounding significantly less ambiguous and that I'm hearing a more consistent translation of what I do elsewhere, especially in the area of low frequency definition.

The only down side is that it makes me want to touch up everything I've done in the past but that's always been the price of better monitoring!
Old 5th April 2003
  #25
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cajonezzz's Avatar
 

We got our DAC yesterday and fired it up in our unfinished control room.
Yikes..we a/b'd with the 888 convertors and all I can say is that the Benchmark propoganda sheet that comes with the unit is spot on. The low mids seem to be "missing" but upon further listening you realize the detail in the bottom end.....really defined. I want another to use as the sweetheart channel of d/a for inserts....(till we can pony up for the mytek d/a)

great piece of gear.
Old 5th April 2003
  #26
Gear Maniac
 

Got mine last week. I'm absolutely thrilled and already insist on hooking it up wherever I go. It worked its way into my set of "invariables" like right away.
Old 2nd June 2003
  #27
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Ruphus's Avatar
 

After a delay I received the mounting plate today which Benchmark Systems had send me as a warranty replacement for the DACs pot which had been slightly damaged on transport.

With all the circumstances they had about filling out a heap of forms for customs ( to make them stay away from collecting again, while the sniffers still couldn´t resist to open the package and frisk it fuuck ) and also regarding the value of the kit and shipping costs I wanted to express my pleasure of having been treated so outstandingly well and even spontaneously without a need for the company to do so.

Thanks a bunch, David

Old 4th June 2003
  #28
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar

It really is that good!
Lower midrange IS there, garbage IS NOT!
Bass is TRUE (very true with my PMC monitors )
Old 7th June 2003
  #29
Gear Head
 
jbchef's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Riccardo

It really is that good!
Lower midrange IS there, garbage IS NOT!
Bass is TRUE (very true with my PMC monitors )
Ricardo,

How do you like your PMC monitor?
I am shopping for a new monitor. The ADAM S3A seems to be out of range for now, I am looking below $2k, non powered is fine.
Translation of material is very important and NS10 doesn't work for me.

Moko
Old 9th June 2003
  #30
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by jbchef
Ricardo,

How do you like your PMC monitor?
I am shopping for a new monitor. The ADAM S3A seems to be out of range for now, I am looking below $2k, non powered is fine.
Translation of material is very important and NS10 doesn't work for me.

Moko
Hi jbchef,
if you are looking for nearfields then TB2 S are the way to go in my own opinion. Bear in mind that they are transmission line speakers therefore the bass is "faster and tighter" than in a typical reflex design. If you have not had previous experiences with such a design I reccommend you listen to them before buying.
The bass may seem light at first but it is there (down to a good useable 40Hz in room response fo the TB2 S). They also need a good running in before revealing their full potential. They sound good with almost any decent amp but they really take off with a good meaty amp.
They translate quite well to other systems
Hope this helps!
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