DAC2 HGC - Test Report, Steve Holding, Newport Test Labs

September 16, 2015

DAC2 HGC - Test Report, Steve Holding, Newport Test Labs

DAC2 HGC - "Better performance than DACs ten times its price"

"Distortion was exceedingly low at all levels and frequencies ..."

"At a recorded level of - 20 dB, the only harmonic distortion component visible on the spectrogram is a single third harmonic at -125 dB (0.0000562%). This is exceptionally good performance, unequaled by any DAC I've ever seen."

"... but look at the noise floor ... it's more than 140 dB down, including at low frequencies. Superb performance."

"The Benchmark DAC2 HGC also revealed superb performance in the area of intermodulation distortion... the two test signals at 19 kHz and 20 kHz have only single side-bands at 18 kHz and 21 kHz, and these are down around -117 dB (0.0001413%). At 1 kHz, where every DAC I've ever seen has produced some unwanted output, the Benchmark DAC2 HGC has no output at all - the perfect result."

"Frequency response was extraordinarily flat - so much so that Newport Test Labs 'zoomed in' on it ... this makes it relatively easy to see that the Benchmark DAC2 HGC's frequency response extends from 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 0.01 dB ... almost unbelievably good."

"Channel separation is outstandingly good, being better than 130 dB across almost the entire audio band, diminishing only at 20 kHz where the lab recorded it at 110 dB ... again one of the best figures I've ever seen at this high frequency."

"Channel balance, too, was exceptionally good, with just a 0.014 dB difference between the left and right channels."

"Phase accuracy was within measurement error almost all the way across the audio band, with a slight 0.24 degree error at 20 kHz."

"It was good to see that the DAC2 HGC has a de-emphasis circuit which will activate for those CDs that require it, plus that the circuit is very accurate, being perfect at 1 kHz, and a stunningly good 0.078 dB at 16 kHz."

"Superb: I have used that word a number of times to describe the results returned by the Benchmark DAC2 HGC, and there is really no better word to describe its overall performance as well.

"I have analysed the test results of a half-a-dozen of the world's best DACs, most of which sell for more than ten times the price of the DAC2, and across almost all parameters tested the performance of the Benchmark DAC2 HGC equals or exceeds that of every single one of those DACs."

"This is digital audio engineering at its very best."

- Steve Holding, Newport Test Labs, Australian HiFi

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Tie for First Place, 16x Price Difference

"This contest produced another tie, and yet another contrast between two wildly different philosophies—economical, if not technical. As Jim Austin pointed out in his initial review, the DAC3 HGC D/A processor from Benchmark Media Systems—a company known for making pro-audio as well as domestic-audio gear—sells for less than the price of certain high-end interconnects. The dCS Vivaldi D/A processor sells for 16 times the Benchmark's price, and in our pages was first reviewed, by Michael Fremer, as part of a $114,996 dCS digital front end."

"Both DACs impressed their respective reviewers with magnificent sound—and in his measurements for both, John Atkinson offered the same one-word conclusion: "Wow!""

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"I went commando with the DAC3s directly connected to the three AHB2s. All three DAC3s were set to Home Theater Bypass, and I used JRiver Media Center's volume control."

"For the first time I can recall, I heard no noise from my system, even with an ear flush against a tweeter."

"I know that we audiophiles can obsess about small changes and make them seem more important than they actually are, but that's what this hobby is about: Eliminating as many audible flaws as possible, however tiny. In this case, the effect was striking at first listen, and endured through everything I played, even tracks that had troubled me before."

- Kal Rubinson, Stereophile

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"What I took notice of were the specifications: total harmonic distortion of less than 0.00006%, and a signal/noise ratio exceeding 135dB from 20Hz to 20kHz."

"If those claims are true, and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t -- Benchmark gear has always performed as specified on the test bench -- the LA4 should be about as transparent-sounding a line-stage as you can find at any price." 

- Doug Schneider, SoundStage! Hi-Fi

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