"Benchmark was the brand that introduced the first serious small scale digital to analogue converter. Before the original DAC1, most converters were either full width or not taken seriously. All that has changed with a plethora of high-spec, all-singing DACs that are primarily designed for the headphone market but which also have preamp outputs. The DAC2 HGC has a lot more competition than its forbear, so Benchmark has upped the ante in terms of conversion capability, but it remains very similar in facilities terms."
"With this DAC there is more: internal jumpers allow you to convert a digital input into digital pass-through (more of a studio thing), the attenuation of the XLR outputs can be altered by +/- 10dB, as can headphone output level, and finally, the headphone output on the left can mute or let be the pre-output as you choose. So it’s pretty flexible, definitely more so than most."
"You have a native DSD channel that does not turn DSD into PCM prior to conversion to analogue."
"The USB input can be run in class 1 or 2 with the latter requiring drivers when used with a Windows based computer. You can run it in class 1 too, but that limits sample rate to 96kHz. As the driver is a free download it seems worthwhile installing it for the truly high-res material in your collection."
"The latest incarnation of the Benchmark DAC remains a comprehensively equipped and highly capable piece of kit. Those looking for flexibility of operation will find little that competes while listeners in search of the ultimate affordable DAC have a small but remarkable contender to add to the must hear list."
- Jason Kennedy, hi-fi+