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DAC2 HGC Review - Hugh Robjohns, Sound On Sound

October 01, 2013

DAC2  HGC Review - Hugh Robjohns, Sound On Sound

DAC2 HGC - "When it comes to D-A conversion, this company is called Benchmark for a reason."

"It ... features a clever hybrid gain control (accounting for the 'HGC' in the product title) whereby analogue inputs are attenuated with a motorised analogue potentiometer, and digital inputs are attenuated by a 32-bit digital attenuator, which is controlled by the same rotary pot. The actual D-A conversion (which can also handle DSD streams) is performed by the latest ESS Technology 'SABRE32' reference DAC chip, in a configuration that differentially sums the outputs of four balanced D-A converters together to maximise linearity, signal-to-noise and dynamic range performance."

"I plumbed the DAC2 HGC into a number of different systems, replacing my usual monitoring controllers (Benchmark DAC1, Grace Design M902, Bryston SP1.7, Crookwood M1) without problem. I listened to a wide variety of commercial material sourced via CD, DVD-A, SACD and Sonus media servers, as well as from my own recordings and mixes on SADiE and Reaper."

"The most noticeable and dramatic sound improvement over all of my other D-A converters was the complete absence of peak distortion when listening to commercial CDs! Most current and 're-mastered' music contains significant inter-sample peaks, and that inevitably cause distortion to varying degrees through clipping of delta-sigma converter filters."

"The original DAC1 was aimed squarely at professionals, but was subsequently embraced by the audiophile market. It remains an excellent D-A converter, and its ability to completely isolate interface jitter sets it apart from most D-As, including some of the much more costly models. However, digital audio technology continues to make incremental improvements, and in the eight years since I reviewed the DAC1 the state of the art has clearly advanced. The DAC2 HGC is undoubtedly a major step forward in technical performance compared to its forebear and, although it costs almost double the price of a DAC1, it does also offer a lot of additional features and facilities."

- Hugh Robjohns, Sound On Sound

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