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DAC3 B Review - John Atkinson, Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems March 01, 2023 2 min read

DAC3 B Review - John Atkinson, Stereophile

Benchmark DAC3 B


"The product under review is a stripped-down version of the DAC3 HGC."

"While it uses the same complement of ES9028PRO DAC chips as the flagship HGC and retains the USB port, the B offers a fixed output level and omits the headphone amplifier, balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, volume, mute, and polarity controls, and the remote control."

"I never auditioned the DAC3 HGC in my own system, so when I got an opportunity to borrow a sample of the DAC3 B, I eagerly agreed."

"I had been using MBL's network-connected N31 CD player/DAC ($18,680 with Roon Ready module) before installing the DAC3 B."

"The MBL offers an excellent sense of drive and low-frequency impact, but when I replaced it with the Benchmark, both these aspects of the music seemed enhanced."

"Whether it was an orchestral bass drum or a kickdrum, electric bass guitar or acoustic double bass, the MoFi speakers seemed to acquire more low-frequency weight without losing definition. The locked-tight, bass-and-kickdrum groove on a DSD64 file of Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" (from Gaucho, A&M/ Analogue Productions) steamed along like a locomotive. To quote Donald Fagen: "Nice!""

"A chance conversation with Michael Fremer just before Christmas reminded me that it had been too many years since I had listened to the groundbreaking 1980 performance of Handel's Messiah with Christopher Hogwood."

"With the DAC3 decoding the bits, my attention was held from the opening "Symphony" to the closing "Amen" 136 minutes later. The images of the solo singers, the original instruments, and Christ Church Cathedral Choir were all superbly resolved and stably positioned. The soundstage was deep and stable, the soloists palpable, especially the divine-voiced soprano Emma Kirby in "Thou Art Gone Up On High.""

"The solo trumpet in "The Trumpet Shall Sound," for example, seemed natural, not thrust forward."

"I concluded my May 2004 review of Benchmark's DAC1 by calling it an "audiophile bargain." The same applies to the DAC3 B. Highly recommended for Class A+ in Stereophile's Recommended Components, along with the DAC3 HGC, which Benchmark says sounds identical."

- John Atkinson

Read the entire review →

Stereophile 2023 A+ Recommended Component →

Benchmark DAC3 B - Rear Panel

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