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Discussion Starter #1
I know that there are many good dac/headphone amps made by companies like Benchmark, Ross Martin Audio, Teac and Peachtree but which ones are truly worth the money?
As purely a headphone amp?
As an integral part of your audio system?
As an audiophile component?
 

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I have a Benchmark. I like it, about the same way that I like the transmission in my car. It does its job. Causes no trouble.

It includes two headphone outs with some special attention paid to that functionality.

It is an integral part of my system. All my digital sources go to it for decoding. To that end, everything 'sounds the same'.

I figure it is about as good as it gets in the Sound Department in the mainstream decoder arena. Trinity DAC fans (not so mainstream) will poo-poo that but you can't afford one of those anyway.

The ESS 9018 DAC chip is well respected and widely used in gear purporting to be high performance.

The implementation has enough connectivity options for me.

Other units are available with the same DAC, and similar or different feature sets and performance and bells and whistles for the same or less or more money now.

--

Is there a 'best' anything?
 

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I don't need a dac, but if I were to upgrade to a headphone amp with a dac I'd give some serious thought to the Oppo HA-1. It also has the ESS 9018 dac along with numerous digital inputs. I use those dacs coming out of my Oppo 95 so I just use a plain headphone amp.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
I have listened to the older Benchmark Dac1 and

Found it to be very good but not quite as good as my $375 Ross Martin Audio Super Beast which surprised me a lot. I understand that the ES9018 is a fine chip that might be slightly superior to the pcm1794 in a dual parallel configuration like the Beast has. That is with good implementation; which I'm sure the new Benchmark Dac2 has but, is it a two chip dac? Is the Oppo?
I like the analog preamp inputs of the Benchmark as I could sure use them for a phono amp. My sweet Beast lacks little besides that and DSD. I understand that Mytek offers a similar two es9018 Dac with a phono module option but it costs over $5000 vs $2000 for the Dac2.
 

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For the oppo and it's dedicated 2 channel output:

"Dedicated stereo analog output where “each output is driven
by four DAC channels stacked together to achieve even higher performance.” (The stereo output offers two sets of output connectors: one set with RCA single-ended connectors and the other with XLR balanced connectors.)"
 
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Benchmark DAC2 HGC user here...

...and I don't have anything negative to say about it. I echo the comments above about it "just doing its job". There are certainly pieces that offer a different set of features or more audio bling, but I find the sound of the DAC2 HGC suits me well.
 

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...and I don't have anything negative to say about it. I echo the comments above about it "just doing its job". There are certainly pieces that offer a different set of features or more audio bling, but I find the sound of the DAC2 HGC suits me well.
excellent DAC, great choice
 

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I have a Benchmark. I like it, about the same way that I like the transmission in my car. It does its job. Causes no trouble.

It includes two headphone outs with some special attention paid to that functionality.

It is an integral part of my system. All my digital sources go to it for decoding. To that end, everything 'sounds the same'.

I figure it is about as good as it gets in the Sound Department in the mainstream decoder arena. Trinity DAC fans (not so mainstream) will poo-poo that but you can't afford one of those anyway.

The ESS 9018 DAC chip is well respected and widely used in gear purporting to be high performance.

The implementation has enough connectivity options for me.

Other units are available with the same DAC, and similar or different feature sets and performance and bells and whistles for the same or less or more money now.

--

Is there a 'best' anything?
Can the Trinity DAC sound better?
 

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I've just started looking into buying good set of headphones and a dedicated amp / DAC. After a lot of reading, opinions, education and confusion, my thoughts started pointing me toward possibly killing two birds with a new BluRay player like the Oppo 105 Darby. Not a little box but has all the right stuff it seems while I get the bonus of an upgraded BluRay. It sells for less or the same as some mid priced units and has the ESS 9018 DAC likes its sister HA-1. Am I missing something other than small box aesthetics? :confused:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
From what you guys are saying and what I can find

on the internet. The best stereo implementations of the es9018 use two chips each containing 8 dacs in parallel for the lowest s/n ratio and although excellent the single chip renditions of the es9018 are slightly inferior to the two chip versions including the two chip Ross Martin Super Beast mainly because they are quieter, but can also use superior op-amps etc.. The bells and whistles such as superior usb , xlr, remotes, pre-amp capability, dsd etc. depend on your needs. I'm going to wait for some new two chip solutions to come along at the right price. Maybe the Gustard X20 when it arrives soon. My $350 Beast will do for now. Anyone know how to hook one up to an old sacd player to take advantage of dsd or is that only an internet down load thing? As for a trinity I don't have tens of thousands of USD's to spend unfortunately.:)
 

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I have the Audio-GD NFB-11. It has the Sabre ES9018.
 

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I got Dragonfly, Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 (usb recording interface), FiiO Qogir and Realtek integrated audio on my motherboard. Asides from fact that integrated audio and Scarlett can't really drive my HD650 properly, I hear no audible difference between those that would dramatically affect my listening experience. I also tried Fiio vs some rather costly options, also didn't hear any dramatic improvements. I do hear differences in various types of hi-fi and lo-fi headphones in case you are wondering if I am deaf.
 
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