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Review and Measurements of Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurement of Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC. I recently reviewed the much newer Benchmark DAC3 which did very well. So question was posed how much progress has been made since the original DAC1. As luck would have it, someone brought a DAC1 USB over for me to measure at our latest Pacific Northwest Audiophile Society meeting.

From overall form factor and design language, not much has changed:

Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC Review and Measurement.jpg


It had maybe a little bit less polish than current units.

TIme was limited so this review will be short. Let's get into measurements and see how she did.

Measurements
Let's start with our Dashboard view as usual:
Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC Dashboard Measurement.png


As you can see from the bottom text in green, all the measurements are for unbalanced analog output driven by AES balanced digital input. I think we tried USB but it was not plug-and-play with Windows 10 and with no Internet access we could not download its driver.

EDIT: later post says it is UAC compliant so it should have worked. So ignore the above regarding drivers.

Overall performance is pretty competent with 105 dB of SINAD (usable signal above power of noise and distortion). State of the art today is 10 dB better so no barn burner but good nevertheless. As a way of reference, the Benchmark DAC3 using its balanced output delivered 110 dB SINAD.

Digging into harmonic distortion versus frequency which is behind the SINAD/THD numbers above, we get:
Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC THD+N Measurement.png


As we see, the DAC1 finishes at the bottom of the rank of our best reviewed DAC while easily beating the Schiit Yggdrasil DAC.

Looking at intermodulation distortion we see similar performance ranking:

Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC IMD Distortion Measurement.png


So once again competent but not very competitive.

Linearity test generated disappointing results however:

Benchmark DAC1 USB DAC Linearity Measurement.png

Wish I had tested balanced as even the DAC3 does worse in unbalanced output. Regardless, this is a very poor showing. The DAC1 USB is OK for CD 16 bit playback but errors climb pretty high for high-res.

Unfortunately I lost my J-test results so that is it.

Conclusions
Compared to current state-of-the-art modern DACs the Benchmark DAC1 USB trails in performance. It especially does poorly in linearity. As such it is not really a DAC that I can recommend for new purchases. There are cheaper alternative to what the DAC1 USB fetches on the used market ($800?).

-------------

As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

If you like this review, please consider donating funds for these types of hardware purchases using Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/audiosciencereview), or upgrading your membership here though Paypal (https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...eview-and-measurements.2164/page-3#post-59054).
 
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#2
Cool to see these results in comparison to the newer DAC3! There is a typo in the IMD graph though, says DAC2, should be DAC1. Thanks for the great work here!
 

Blumlein 88

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#4
Thanks for these measurements. Good to know. I do wish you had the balanced results, but puts modern stuff into perspective.
 

restorer-john

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#5
...As a way of reference, the Benchmark DAC3 using its balanced output delivered 110 dB SINAD...
True, but the Benchmark DAC3 (your result 110.411dB) was referenced to 12.89V RMS (a completely ridiculous and unusably high level), not the 2.015V RMS output of the DAC1. Put into perspective, that makes the DAC1 actually quieter than the DAC3 by around 4.56dB with residual noise + D being around 11.8uV vs the 38.8uV of the DAC3.

One cannot compare raw S/N numbers where you have massively different output voltages. Pick 2V (as it's a defacto standard) and reference everything to that.

It's a bit like comparing power amplifier S/N ratios where every doubling of the power output inflates the S/N by 3dB with all else being equal. I've long believed all S/N ratios for amplifiers should be referenced to 1 watt, then apples with apples comparisons can be made that reflect actual usage conditions where residual noise and low level THD issues are the most obvious.
 
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Blumlein 88

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#6
True, but the Benchmark DAC3 (your result 110.411dB) was referenced to 12.89V RMS (a completely ridiculous and unusably high level), not the 2.015V RMS output of the DAC1. Put into perspective, that makes the DAC1 actually quieter than the DAC3 by around 4.56dB with residual noise + D being around 11.8uV vs the 38.8uV of the DAC3.

One cannot compare raw S/N numbers where you have massively different output voltages. Pick 2V (as it's a defacto standard) and reference everything to that.

It's a bit like comparing power amplifier S/N ratios where every doubling of the power output inflates the S/N by 3dB with all else being equal. I've long believed all S/N ratios for amplifiers should be referenced to 1 watt, then apples with apples comparisons can be made that reflect actual usage conditions where residual noise and low level THD issues are the most obvious.
What you say is true. Yet the DAC 3 was meant for pro use. A sensitivity of +4 dbu is 1.23 volts and assumes 20 db headroom or +24dbu max input into monitors you might be feeding. 24 dbu is about 12.3 volts. The DAC 1 was set to 2 volts, but could be calibrated to anything up to about 3.7 volts. While it too was meant for pro use it didn't put out as high a voltage. The DAC3 also can have internal jumpers set to 10 or 20 db pads which according to Benchmark preserves the full dynamic range. So it could be configured so that it still has an actual advantage with a lower realized noise floor vs the DAC1.
 

svart-hvitt

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#7
@amirm , your contribution here is of potential big importance because it puts data on the depreciation factor in (digital) audio gear.

And you may have shown that second hand DAC1s are overpriced.

More measurements and analyses of «historical» products is therefore of great interest.
 

Wombat

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#8
@amirm , your contribution here is of potential big importance because it puts data on the depreciation factor in (digital) audio gear.

And you may have shown that second hand DAC1s are overpriced.

More measurements and analyses of «historical» products is therefore of great interest.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$s and sense.

Cheaper modern products have been shown to be betterer. :)

Donated subjects, maybe.
 

svart-hvitt

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#9
BENCHMARK VS LYNX?

It strikes me; in objective audiophile circles Benchmark seems to have a special #1 position. Yet, the Lynx Hilo is about as old as DAC1, right?

And the Hilo seems to be of better quality measurement wise than DAC1, right? Add to it the fact that the Hilo is one of the most versatile boxes out there, while the Benchmark is a narrower product.

So who are the best engineers; Benchmark or Lynx? Is Benchmark somewhat overrated as «the Benchmark of digital audio»?
 

Vincent Kars

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#10
The need for proprietary driver is also a concern given how old the product is.
To the best of my knowledge (I own the unit), the DAC1 is adaptive mode USB UAC1
Hence there are no proprietary drivers, it runs on Win with the (old) UAC1 Win driver.
 

svart-hvitt

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#11
From an audio point of view it doesn't matter if the difference is inaudible.
The incompetence of sChitty products has been shown to be inaudible to highly satisfied customers of sChitty audio gear producers.

@Wombat , ASR is a site that is measurement oriented. So a product with better measurements is therefore a «better» product. What is audible - to whom? - is another question than focusing on measurements and objective data.
 

Blumlein 88

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#13
BENCHMARK VS LYNX?

It strikes me; in objective audiophile circles Benchmark seems to have a special #1 position. Yet, the Lynx Hilo is about as old as DAC1, right?

And the Hilo seems to be of better quality measurement wise than DAC1, right? Add to it the fact that the Hilo is one of the most versatile boxes out there, while the Benchmark is a narrower product.

So who are the best engineers; Benchmark or Lynx? Is Benchmark somewhat overrated as «the Benchmark of digital audio»?
The Lynx Hilo is held in higher esteem in the pro audio world I think.
 

Wombat

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#14
The incompetence of sChitty products has been shown to be inaudible to highly satisfied customers of sChitty audio gear producers.

@Wombat , ASR is a site that is measurement oriented. So a product with better measurements is therefore a «better» product. What is audible - to whom? - is another question than focusing on measurements and objective data.
Some, ostensibly sane, people get messages from aliens and they are just as convinced. Give me sound proof.

Technically better at some point does not necessarily mean audibly better.
 

Blumlein 88

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#15
Now we need to get Amir access to the current Hilo. $100 cheaper than the Yggy. Not to mention it's an ADC DAC and headphone unit.
 

Blumlein 88

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#16
Some, ostensibly sane, people get messages from aliens and they are just as convinced. Give me sound proof.

Technically better at some point does not necessarily mean audibly better.
I largely agree, but getting agreement about what measurements insure that no audible improvements are possible is the sticky wicket.
 

svart-hvitt

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#17
Some, ostensibly sane, people get messages from aliens and they are just as convinced. Give me sound proof.

Technically better at some point does not necessarily mean audibly better.
I agree that «technically better» is not always the same as «audibly better».

I think measurements like @amirm ’s are easier to carry out if we hold the two standards separate.

FWIW, I would always choose SNR of 200 instead of SNR 100, if all else were equal.
 
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restorer-john

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#19
bud, you need to know what is 0dbfs
No. You do not.

S/N (signal to noise ratio) is a voltage ratio measurement expressed in dB. It is the difference in voltage between noise in volts and maximum signal in volts, expressed as a Log x20 to give relative dB.

'0dbfs' as you put it, is simply a maximum level in digital terms, through perhaps a D/A converter. How that ultimately translates to an output level in Volts is actually totally, and utterly unrelated.
 
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mindbomb

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#20
It's used price is like $400. I actually recommend this dac for spdif+headphone users. If you compare it to the topping dx7s, I suspect the jitter over spdif is better on the benchmark because of the ultralock system, and the benchmark headphone amplifier has lower output impedance.
 
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