Originally Posted by denonfan
What are your opinions on this DAC? I have been thinking about getting the PRE version, which is $1575. Should I go with the cheaper USB version which is $1275?
I have the DAC1 PRE USB version and it's just incredible, for the headphone outs at the least (I have barely tested it as a pre-amp yet). I tried some others, none quite at this price level, not even quite at half its level to be fair, and while they helped a little here and there compared to my X-Meridian with OPA627s in it with some headphones, it was switching to this one that I was just blown away.
They say adding more $ gets you less and less in return, but in this case adding more money made a much bigger difference IMO than adding half as much or a quarter as much did.
The near 0 ohm output for headphones means it can drive ANY type of headphone at all without false coloration to the frequency response and the clarity is just stunning and things started to sound truly live (well you do need to plug in a very good head phone of course, stuff like AKG 701, Sennheiser HD600/HD650 and the like). Incredibly subtle detail.
And I am one who DOES think that a great deal of high-end audio is nothing more than snake oil, especially when it comes to all that fancy cable nonsense and how this cable isolates the quantum structure that and was frozen for six hours at 300 deg below absolute zero to do this
and how this digital interconnect magically signal processes ANY type of bitstream and tightens the bass and smooths the treble
etc. For much stuff all you need it the right gauge and home depot wire will do you fine. (obviously for some things you do need shielding, such as analog video by RCA cable which can be prone to picking up interference, depending, but that is very different)
But wow this really proved that any old headphone amp just ain't the same as any other.
The most extreme difference would be with phones that have a very curved response frequency to impedance, like some inner ear phones and many Sennheiser, but that is just down to super low impedance headphone jack. But it's very important for many headphones.
The clarity and lack of added distortion and the jitter-free signal fed to the filters etc. helps any head phone of high enough quality to not scramble the input too much to begin with. Some of the $600 head phone amps didn't sound all that different with the AKG 701 compared to the better $250 ones and my x-meridian with OPA627 but did make a bigger difference with Sennheiser HD600/650 but with this Benchmark headphone amp there was a difference with everything, smooth and live sounding.
I was actually surprised how easy it was to tell some headphone sources apart from others.
If you just use it to drive speakers I can't really say I didn't test it too much yet, been just reveling in the headphone output, and my X-meridian with the OPA627 upgrade seems to do a decent job of driving speakers. I liked the OPA627 better in my x-meridian than the much talked about LME4562 (that this Benchmark features), at least with my receiver/speaker pairing.