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DAC3 Review - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

DAC3 Review - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

Benchmark DAC3 HGC Black with remote

DAC3 - "Its Sound is Among the Best at Any Price"

"Benchmark Media began in the mid-1980s providing audio equipment to television broadcast facilities. Today it is recognized amongst recording professionals and high-end audio enthusiasts for producing high-end, sonically transparent components."

Benchmark DAC3 HGC Silver with remote

"The DAC3 is solidly built ..."

"The components look as if they were designed for studio performance. If you are seeking slick, contemporary componentry with digital displays and backlit remotes, you will fare better shopping elsewhere."

"Features include a hybrid gain control (the digital and analog volume paths are discrete), a high-current preamp output with multiple settings that can be adjusted to better match the input sensitivity of your power amplifier, analog inputs, a headphone amplifier, a home theater pass-through, a 12-volt trigger, and the same heavy-duty metal remote control that the company has offered for years. The front panel includes eight LEDs that indicate which input is in use, as well as six LEDs that indicate sample rate and word length. This is incredibly helpful ..."

"While the DAC3's aesthetics are identical to those of the DAC2, the similarities stop there. All major changes and upgrades are internal, the biggest being the ESS ES9028PRO digital-to-analog converter. As of this writing, only three companies utilize chips in the new ESS PRO lineup."

"When I first began evaluating the DAC3, I was impressed with just how quiet it really is."

"The DAC3 also possesses an uncanny ability to resolve hidden details that typically get lost in a mix. With more resolved detail, the tonality of instruments sounds more real. As someone who played guitar for the better part of two decades, I felt like Laurence Juber (Altered Reality, Narada, TIDAL Hi-Fi), Richard Thomson (Acoustic Classics, TIDAL Hi-Fi) and Keb' Mo' (Just Like You, Epic, DSD64) were present and performing in my listening space. The vivacity and energy of their recordings took on new life and kept me fully engaged, even when re-listening to the tracks multiple times and finding new details to appreciate."

"The DAC3 also consistently underscored the ability of my Pass Labs XA30.8 and First Watt SIT-2 to produce highly accurate, precise, three-dimensional soundstages. The front-to-back layers and horizontal placement of instruments and vocals in A Love Supreme, Live in Amsterdam by the Branford Marsalis Quartet (Sony Masterworks, 24/48) and 1 by The Beatles (EMI/Apple, TIDAL Hi-Fi) were delivered with punctuated accuracy."

"The DAC3 soundstage is highly accurate, and its sound is among the best at any price."

"The DAC3 employs a state-of-the-art ES9028PRO SABRE digital-to-analog converter and will outlive the usual rapid technological obsolescence of most DACs."

"The headphone amplifier is a highly worthwhile addition to the HGC and DX models."

"The Benchmark DAC3, despite showing no differences in the aesthetics department over the DAC2, is a meaningful step forward in digital-to-analog conversion. It utilizes a state-of-the-art chipset from ESS and is somewhat future-proof as a result, compared with other DACs. I never owned the DAC2, but I did own a DAC1 for several years, and the sonic improvement here is significant on many levels."

"Like any component at any price, the DAC3 is not for everyone. However, if your priority is digital conversion of your favorite two-channel music and movies with purity and transparency, the DAC3 should receive your fullest consideration."

"It resolves digital sources with precision and finesse; and, whether you decide to use the DAC3 as a preamplifier/DAC or a standalone DAC, it is a complete winner and will be right at home in any audiophile two-channel system."

- Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

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