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Benchmark DAC3 DX - Digital to Analog Audio Converter - Discontinued


The DAC3 DX has been discontinued.

The recommended replacements are the DAC3 HGCDAC3 L or DAC3 B.


Benchmark Performance

DAC3 vs. DAC2

The DAC3 builds upon Benchmark’s highly successful DAC2 product family. The DAC3 maintains the familiar DAC2 form factor, but adds the higher performance available from the new ES9028PRO D/A converter. The DAC3 DX offers the following improvements over the DAC2 DX:

  • Active 2nd Harmonic Compensation
  • Active 3rd Harmonic Compensation
  • Lower THD+N
  • Lower passband ripple
  • Improved frequency response
  • Faster PLL lock times
  • Faster switching between inputs
  • Adjustable calibration

DAC3 vs. DAC1

The DAC3 and DAC2 add these features that are not found on the DAC1:

  • Asynchronous 192kHz USB Audio 2.0
  • 32-bit D/A conversion system
  • Word Length Display
  • Sample Rate Display
  • Polarity Control
  • Direct DSD D/A Conversion
  • -20 dB DIM
  • Bi-Directional 12V Trigger
  • Power Switch 
  • Home Theater Bypass
  • Digital Pass-Through
  • High-Headroom DSP
  • Dual-Domain Hybrid Gain Control
  • Additional I/O

DAC3 Technologies

3:1 Parallel Conversion Structure

The conversion system in the DAC3 DX achieves a 4.77 dB signal to noise improvement through the use of 3:1 summing on the main output bus. The ES9028PRO D/A is an 8-channel 32-bit converter. In the DAC3 DX, three channels are summed in the analog domain to form each of the two output channels on the main bus. The remaining two channels provide the aux bus outputs

The 3:1 summing also improves the THD. The non-linearities in individual conversion channels are averaged across the four summed channels and incoherent non-linearities are attenuated by up to 4 dB.

Harmonic Compensation

The ES9028PRO has two distortion compensation systems that independently remove most of the 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion in the D/A converter. Benchmark's ultra-clean analog output stages allow these systems to be fully leveraged in the DAC3 series. To the best of our knowledge, no other D/A converter has lower THD than the Benchmark DAC3 series.

The DAC3 DX is Benchmark's newest 2-channel D/A converter.  When compared to the legendary DAC1, the DAC3 series has lower noise, lower distortion, and improved accuracy. The DAC1 and DAC2 series converters have become the reference standard in many of the finest recording studios and mastering rooms. The DAC3 defines a new reference.

DAC3 converters deliver outstanding musical detail and precise stereo imaging.  They employ an advanced high-headroom digital filter design, and a high-sample-rate Asynchronous USB Audio interface. All inputs are fully isolated from interface jitter by Benchmark's new UltraLock3™ jitter attenuation system.

Internal digital processing and conversion is 32-bits, and includes 3.5 dB of headroom above 0 dBFS. Three balanced 32-bit D/A converters are summed together to form the main output bus. Two channels are reserved for the auxiliary RCA output bus.

The performance of the DAC3 DX exceeds the measurement limits of today's state-of-the art test equipment.

Native DSD Conversion

All digital inputs on the DAC3 support native 192 kHz PCM or DSD64 conversion. From any input, DSD is transported with bit accuracy over DoP 1.1. DSD and PCM are both natively converted to analog. There are no DSD to PCM or PCM to DSD conversions to compromise the quality of the music. The DAC3 conversion system seamlessly switches between native PCM and native DSD conversion. DSD over DoP 1.1 is supported by many media players, and DSD downloads are now available from several sources.

Enjoy seamless transitions between native DSD and native PCM playback.

Direct Connectivity to Power Amplifiers and Powered Monitors

Benchmark DAC1, DAC2, and DAC3 converters are designed to directly drive power amplifiers and powered speakers. Benchmark converters feature adjustable low-impedance passive attenuators at the XLR outputs that can be used to optimize the interface to the power amplifier (or powered monitor). The sonic importance of these attenuators cannot be overemphasized. Proper gain matching between the DAC/preamplifier and the power amplifier is essential for achieving peak system performance. The attenuators allow precise matching to all amplifiers and powered monitors.

Passive output attenuators are only found on Benchmark converters - don't settle for anything less.

Sonically Neutral

All Benchmark converters are designed for maximum transparency. This transparency is absolutely essential in the studio monitoring chain. DAC3 converters are ideal for critical reference-quality professional systems. In home applications, the DAC2 delivers the sonic signature that was created in the recording studio.

Hear the music exactly as it was heard in the studio.

Take the Studio Home

When Benchmark's professional converters are used in hi-fi applications, studio-quality sound can be enjoyed in a home environment.

Discover the natural, uncolored, analog sound of the DAC3.

The Digital-Only DAC3 for Audio Professionals

The DAC3 DX is the DAC3 of choice for users who do not need analog inputs.

The DX is well suited to the needs of professional users and includes an XLR AES digital input. The DAC3 DX is the only DAC3 model that includes dual stereo output buses. The analog output buses can be independently set to fixed or variable gain. The DAC3 DX and DAC3 B are the only DAC3 converters available in rack-mount versions.

A New Reference - Going Beyond the Legendary DAC1 and DAC2

Benchmark's DAC1 and DAC2 series converters have been the reference to which other converters have been compared. It is rare to find a converter review that does not draw comparisons to the DAC1 or DAC2. The DAC1 and DAC2 have been some of the best-selling 2-channel reference-quality converters and are in daily use at many of the finest recording studios and mastering rooms. Benchmark converters are also enjoyed by thousands of audiophiles. Benchmark has raised the bar ... the DAC3 defines a new reference.

Professional Applications

  • Reference-Quality Studio Monitoring
  • Sound-Card Elimination for Computer Audio
  • Stand-Alone Headphone Amplifier  for Digital Sources
  • USB to SPDIF Transfer Device

Hi-Fi Applications

The DAC2 DX uses digital connections (USB, Optical, Coaxial, or AES) to bypass the low-quality built-in converters that are included in many audio products. 

  • Audio Output Device for Music and Video Servers
  • Home Hi-Fi Playback from Digital Sources
  • Audio Output Device for TV and Home Theater Systems 

Add Benchmark Cables to Complete Your New System

Benchmark offers a no-nonsense selection of very high-quality cables.  Benchmark cables are designed for durability and transparency, and most are manufactured in the USA. Our optical cables are manufactured in Canada.


Benchmark Technologies

Benchmark includes some exciting technologies in the DAC2:

  • Hybrid Gain Control
  • Low-Impedance Passive Output Attenuators
  • High-Headroom DSP
  • UltraLock3™ Jitter Attenuation System
  • High-Headroom 32-bit DSP
  • Quad 32-bit balanced D/A Conversion System
  • Multi-Mode Asynchronous USB Audio System
  • Digital Diagnostic Display
  • Volume-Control Bypass
  • Digital Pass Through
  • Distributed Power Regulation
  • "Zero-Ohm" HPA2 Headphone Amplifier

Hybrid Gain Control

The DAC3 DX combines passive low-impedance attenuators, a 32-bit digital gain control, and a servo-driven volume control. All analog outputs are controlled by the rotary volume control unless the calibrated output function is selected. The motorized volume control moves in response to commands from the remote control. Audio does not pass through the volume control. The position of the rotary knob is precisely measured, and digital gain coefficients are calculated. The gain coefficients are filtered and passed to a 32-bit high-headroom DSP system. The 32-bit output of this system is connected directly to the array of 32-bit digital to analog converters. This system can provide a wide range of volume control without losing resolution. The DSP system preserves precise L/R balance, and precise stereo imaging, while avoiding any source of noise and distortion.

The volume control is one of the most critical functions in the audio chain, enjoy the best system available.

Low-Impedance Passive Output Attenuators

Benchmark's unique passive output attenuators provide distortion-free gain reduction without reducing the dynamic range (or SNR) of the converter. The attenuators optimize the gain staging between the DAC3 DX and the power amplifier. This optimization is absolutely essential for maximizing the dynamic range of the entire playback system. Much of the success of the DAC1 and DAC2 converters can be attributed to the passive output attenuators. Musical details can be obscured by system noise whenever a preamplifier and power amplifier are improperly matched. The passive attenuators enable full use of your power amplifier's dynamic range.

Experience new details in your favorite recordings.

UltraLock3™ Jitter Attenuation System

UltraLock3™ is an improved version of the UltraLock2™ system used in the DAC2 product family. On both of these systems, DSP processing is 32-bits, DSP headroom is 3.5 dB, sample rate is 211 kHz, and jitter-induced distortion and noise is at least 140 dB below the level of the music - well below the threshold of hearing. But, the new UltraLock3™ system provides instantaneous (6 ms) lock times. This makes it much easier to perform A/B comparisons between two digital inputs.

Benchmark's UltraLock3™ system eliminates all audible jitter artifacts.

High-Headroom DSP

All D/A converters need 3.5 dB "excess" digital headroom, but few have any headroom above 0 dBFS.

All of the digital processing in the DAC3 DX is designed to handle signals as high as +3.5 dBFS. Most digital systems clip signals that exceed 0 dBFS. The 0 dBFS limitation seems reasonable, as 0 dBFS is the highest sinusoidal signal level that can be represented in a digital system. However, a detailed investigation of the mathematics of PCM digital systems will reveal that inter-sample peaks may reach levels slightly higher than +3 dBFS while individual samples never exceed 0 dBFS. These inter-sample overs are common in commercial releases, and are of no consequence in a PCM system until they reach an interpolation process. But, for a variety of reasons, virtually all audio D/A converters use an interpolation process. The interpolation process is absolutely necessary to achieve 24-bit state-of-the art conversion performance. Unfortunately, inter-sample overs cause clipping in most interpolators. This clipping produces distortion products that are non-harmonic and non-musical . We believe these broadband distortion products often add a harshness or false high-frequency sparkle to digital reproduction. The DAC3 DX avoids these problems by maintaining at least 3.5 dB of headroom in the entire conversion system.

We believe this added headroom is a groundbreaking improvement delivering significant sonic advantages.

Quad 32-bit Balanced Conversion System

Four balanced 32-bit D/A converters deliver audio to Benchmark's low-impedance current to voltage converters. The main bus feeds the balanced XLR outputs and one set of unbalanced RCA outputs. The main bus uses 3:1 redundancy to reduce conversion noise by 4.77 dB. The redundancy also tends to reduce distortion. A fourth set of conversion channels are reserved for the auxiliary bus that feeds the second set of RCA outputs.

Similar redundancy is built into the native DSD conversion system.

The analog circuits that follow the D/A converter are carefully designed. Benchmark has leveraged its long history of building high-end analog audio equipment, in order to create an outstanding analog output stage.

Digital converters are never better than the analog stages that support the conversion process.

Multi-Mode Asynchronous USB System

Benchmark's USB system supports USB Audio 2.0, DSD, and USB Audio 1.1. It is frequency agile, and will follow sample rate changes initiated by the computer and/or the media playback software. In all modes the USB communications are asynchronous in order to eliminate unnecessary sources of jitter.

The DAC3 DX has a low-jitter master clock which controls the transfer of audio data from the computer to the USB sub-system. The computer asynchronously transfers audio data to a buffer in the DAC3 DX. The contents of the buffer are then asynchronously transferred to the D/A conversion sub-system. This second asynchronous transfer eliminates any traces of jitter that accumulate as the data is transferred between the USB and conversion subsystems. No traces of jitter-induced distortion are measurable to our measurement limits (better than -150 dBFS). This truly represents the state-of-the art. Enjoy the convenience of computer playback without compromise. The Asynchronous USB system supports USB Audio 2.0 for high-resolution 192kHz, and DSD playback. No drivers are required for MAC operating systems. An easy-to-install driver adds 192 kHz and DSD capabilities to Windows operating systems.

An asynchronous, driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode supports sample rates up to 96 kHz. This USB mode can be selected from the front panel or from the remote control. The driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode allows quick plug-and-play connections to Windows, MAC, iOS, and many Linux operating systems without installing drivers. Just plug in the USB, and the DAC2 DX becomes an available audio device.

The USB subsystem remains active when the DAC2 DX is powered down. This prevents interruptions to the computer playback operations and eliminates the need to reconfigure the computer every time the converter is turned on.

Enjoy the convenience of USB connectivity without any compromise to audio performance.

Digital Diagnostic Display

Ever wonder why that 192 kHz 24-bit download on your computer just doesn't sound right? Your media player may be down-sampling to 44.1 kHz and/or truncating to 16-bits. Many media players apply poor-quality sample rate conversion and truncation. Fortunately these problems can be eliminated with the selection of a good frequency-agile media player. The sample-rate and word-length displays on the DAC3 DX confirm the proper operation of your media player. These tools are also essential in the studio - get instant confirmation of sample rates and word lengths. The DAC3 DX measures the sample rate and examines bit activity, it does not use metadata flags (which are often incorrect).

Know when High-Resolution Audio is being delivered to your DAC.

Volume-Control Bypass

The DAC3 DX has two analog output busses. Each bus can be placed in a calibrated volume-control bypass mode in order to provide a full-level output while using an upstream digital volume control or downstream analog volume control. This feature is useful in many professional applications and it is also useful when the DAC3 DX is feeding a Hi-Fi preamplifier.

The bypass function should be enabled whenever a Hi-Fi preamplifier is inserted between the DAC3 DX and the power amplifier. However, for best performance, Benchmark strongly recommends connecting the DAC3 DX directly to the power amplifier. The DAC3 DX performs all the functions of a DAC and a Hi-Fi preamplifier - a separate downstream Hi-Fi preamplifier can only degrade the performance.

The Volume-Control Bypass provides flexibility for specialized applications.

Digital Pass-Through Function

The second coaxial input can be reconfigured as a digital output. In output mode, any selected digital input (including USB) will pass through to the coaxial output. The digital pass through is bit-transparent and even supports DSD (DoP 1.1). Dolby digital and DTS formats can be passed through to a surround processor.

The Pass-Through Function provides a coaxial output for any USB-connected computer.

Power Switch

The DAC3 DX will enter a standby mode if the selected digital input is inactive for more than 5 minutes. Operation will resume when the selected digital input become active.The power switch places the DAC3 DX in "full shutdown". Power consumption is less than 0.5 W in "full shutdown". The DAC3 DX will respond the IR remote or the 12V trigger while in "full shutdown".

The DAC3 DX saves energy by meeting or exceeding all standby power standards.

Low Power Consumption

The DAC3 DX uses high-efficiency low noise power supplies and may be operated from any standard international voltage without adjustment. Low-noise audio circuits require generous amounts of power. High-efficiency circuits in the DAC2 DX deliver this power without wasted energy.

Power consumption is 12 W - typical.

Distributed Power Regulation

To achieve the lowest possible noise, the DAC3 DX uses distributed power supply regulation. Each critical subsystem has at least one dedicated low-noise voltage regulator. There are 20 voltage regulators in the DAC3 DX.

This power system is so effective that there no evidence of any AC line-related hum and noise are at least 135 dB below the calibrated output level.

"Zero-Ohm" HPA2 Headphone Power Amplifier

The DAC3 DX features the HPA2 - Benchmark's signature high-current, 0-Ohm headphone power amplifier. The HPA2 is arguably the ultimate reference headphone power amplifier. It will deliver the full rated performance of the DAC3 DX to the headphones. The HPA2 maintains less than 0.001% THD+N into 30 Ohms. The DAC3 has two 1/4" headphone jacks on the front panel. The performance of the HPA2 remains consistent even when two headphones are being driven simultaneously.

The 0.11-Ohm output impedance of the HPA2™ maintains tight control of headphone transducers.


DAC2 and DAC3 Awards


DAC3 Reviews


Audio Performance

Fs = 44.1 to 96 kHz, 20 to 20 kHz BW, 1 kHz test tone, 0 dBFS = +24 dBu (unless noted)

SNR – A-Weighted, 0 dBFS = +28 dBu

127 dB

SNR – Unweighted, 0 dBFS = +28 dBu

125 dB

THD+N, 1 kHz at 0 dBFS

-111 dBFS, -111 dB, 0.00028%

THD+N, 1 kHz at -1 dBFS

-112 dBFS, -111 dB, 0.00028%

THD+N, 1 kHz at –3 dBFS

-116 dBFS, -113 dB, 0.00022%

THD+N, 20 to 20 kHz test tone at –3 dBFS

-108 dBFS, -105 dB, <0.00056%

Frequency Response at Fs=192 kHz

  • +/- 0.005 dB (20 to 20 kHz)
  • -0.013 dB at 10 Hz
  • +0.005 dB at 20 kHz
  • +0.006 dB at 40 kHz
  • -0.002 dB at 80 kHz

Frequency Response at Fs=48 kHz

  • +/- 0.006 dB (20 to 20 kHz)
  • -0.015 dB at 10 Hz
  • -0.001 dB at 20 kHz


  • -120 dB at 20 Hz
  • -120 dB at 1 kHz
  • -106 dB at 20 kHz

Maximum Amplitude of Jitter Induced Sidebands (10 kHz 0 dBFS test tone, 12.75 UI sinusoidal jitter at 1 kHz)

< -144 dB

Maximum Amplitude of Spurious Tones with 0 dBFS test signal

< -138 dB

Maximum Amplitude of Idle Tones

< -147 dB

Maximum Amplitude of AC line related Hum & Noise

< -135 dB

Inter-channel Differential Phase (Stereo Pair – any sample rate)

+/- 0.25 degrees at 20 kHz

Inter-channel Differential Phase (Between DAC3 DX Units Fs<110 kHz) Any sample rate.

+/- 0.25 degrees at 20 kHz

Maximum Lock Time after Fs change

400 ms

Soft Mute Ramp Up/Down Time

50 ms

Mute on Receive Error


Mute on Lock Error


Mute on Idle Channel


50/15 us De-Emphasis Enable

Automatic in Consumer Mode

De-Emphasis Method

Digital IIR

De-Emphasis Supported at

Fs = 32, 44.1, 48 kHz

Group Delay (Latency)

Delay – Digital Input to Analog Output (function of sample rate)




1.36 ms at 44.1 kHz

1.27 ms at 48 kHz

0.90 ms at 88.2 kHz

0.82 ms at 96 kHz

0.51 ms at 176.4 kHz

0.47 ms at 192 kHz

Digital Audio Inputs

Number of Digital Inputs (switch selected)

6 (1 USB, 2 Optical, 1 XLR, 2 Coaxial)

Number of Channels


Input Sample Frequency Range

28 to 210 kHz (Coaxial and XLR)

28 to 96 kHz (Optical)

44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz (USB)

Maximum Input Word Length

24 bits

Digital Input Impedance

75 Ohms Coaxial, 110 Ohms XLR

DC Blocking Capacitors on Digital Inputs

Yes (Coaxial and XLR Inputs)

Transient and Over-Voltage Protection on Digital Inputs

Yes (Coaxial and XLR Inputs)

Transformer Coupling on Digital Inputs

Yes (XLR Input)

Minimum Digital Input Level

250 mVpp (Coaxial and XLR Inputs)

Jitter Tolerance

(With no Measurable Change in Performance)


>12.75 UI sine, 100 Hz to 3 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 20 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 40 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 80 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 90 kHz

>0.25 UI sine above 160 kHz

Jitter Attenuation Method

Benchmark UltraLock3™ - all inputs

Balanced Analog Outputs

Number of Balanced Analog Outputs


Output Connector

Gold-Pin Neutrik™ male XLR

Output Impedance

60 Ohms (Attenuator off)

425 Ohms (Attenuator = 10 dB)

135 Ohms (Attenuator = 20 dB)

Analog Output Clip Point

+29 dBu

Factory Set Bypass Level (at 0 dBFS)

+24 dBu (Attenuator = 0 dB)

Output Level Range (at 0 dBFS) In ‘Variable’ Mode

Off to +28 dBu (Attenuator off)

Off to +18 dBu (Attenuator = 10 dB)

Off to +8 dBu (Attenuator = 20 dB)

Output Level Variation with Sample Rate (44.1 kHz vs. 96 kHz)

< +/- 0.006 dB

Unbalanced Analog Outputs

Number of Unbalanced Analog Outputs


Output Connector


Output Impedance

30 Ohms

Analog Output Clip Point

+13.5 dBu

Factory Set Home Theater Bypass Output Level (at 0 dBFS)

+8.2 dBu (2 Vrms)

Output Level Range (at 0 dBFS)

Off to +12.2 dBu (3.2 Vrms)

Output Level Variation with Sample Rate (44.1 kHz vs. 96 kHz)

< +/- 0.006 dB

HPA2TM Headphone Outputs

Number of Headphone Outputs


Output Connectors

¼” TRS with switch on left-hand jack

Output Impedance

< 0.11 Ohms

Output Level Control

Stereo Control on Front Panel

Output Level Range (at 0 dBFS) into 60-Ohm Load

Off to +22 dBu (9.7 Vrms)

Maximum Output Current

250 mA

Overload Protection (independent per channel)

Current limited at 300 mA, also thermally protected


> 500 kHz


-100 dB, 0.001% into 30 Ohms at 50 mW

1.26W maximum into 30 Ohms

Status Display

Indicators - Type and Location

16 LED’s on Front Panel

Selection/Status Indication

2 – Mute, Dim
6 – Input
2 – Bypass/Calibrated Output
2 – Word length
4 – Sample Rate

AC Power Requirements

Nominal Input Operating Voltage Range (VAC RMS)

100 – 240V


50-60 Hz


< 0.5 Watts Idle
12 Watts Typical Program
15 Watts Maximum


5 x 20 mm (2 required)
0.5 A 250 V Slo-Blo® Type

Min/Max Operating range (VAC RMS)

90 – 260
47 – 63Hz


Form Factor

½ Rack Wide, 1 RU High

Depth behind front panel

8.5” (216 mm)

Overall depth including connectors but without power cord

9.33” (237 mm)


9.5” (249 mm)


1.725” (44.5 mm)


DAC3 DX only

3 lb.

DAC3 DX with remote control, power cord, extra fuses, and manual

4 lb.

Shipping weight

7 lb.

DAC3 DX Features

  • Sample-Rate Display
  • Word-Length Display
  • Six Digital Inputs
  • Three Stereo Analog Outputs
  • Two Independent Analog Output Buses
  • Digital Pass Through
  • Dual HPA2 Headphone Outputs
  • Headphone Mute Switch - left headphone jack mutes main output, function may be defeated
  • Native DSD Conversion
  • Native PCM Conversion
  • Asynchronous USB 2.0
  • Asynchronous USB 1.1 for Driverless Operation
  • Volume Control Bypass Function for Main Bus
  • Volume Control Bypass Function for Auxiliary Bus
  • 12V Trigger I/O - for sequenced system power switching
  • Mute Relays - on all analog outputs
  • Optional IR Remote Control - with heavy-duty metal housing
  • Power Switch
  • Low Power Consumption


Rack-Mount Options

The DAC3 DX is available in rackmount chassis. Non-rackmount versions can also be rackmounted using Benchmark's 1-RU tray.  All Benchmark DAC3, DAC2, DAC1, ADC1, and MPA1 products are housed in a 1/2-wide 1 RU chassis.  Two units can be mounted side-by-side in a standard 19" rack. The rackmount version of the DAC3 DX is 1/2 rack wide and requires a blank plate and coupler if mounted by itself.


Detailed specifications and performance plots are available in the downloadable manual.

DAC3 DX Manual


View a list of recommended accessories for your DAC3 DX here!Benchmark accessories



Detailed specifications and performance plots are available in the downloadable manual.

DAC3 DX Manual


Windows operating systems prior to Windows 10 require a driver when operating in USB Audio 2.0 mode. USB Audio 2.0 mode is required for sample rates over 96 kHz. No driver is required for Windows operating systems when operating in USB Audio 1.1 mode (sample rates up to 96 kHz). No driver is required for Mac or Linux operating systems.

DAC3 and DAC2 Driver

DAC Application Notes

DAC App Notes

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This Benchmark product was designed, assembled, and tested in the USA using USA and imported components. Most major components are made in USA.

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