Benchmark Media Systems is best known in the pro audio world, but is also rapidly making a name for itself in the consumer market. Their newest product, the DAC 1 PRE, is designed to be the hub of a modern-day two-channel system. It offers six digital inputs, one Toslink and four single-ended coaxial, each of which is capable of accepting sampling rates up to 195 kHz, as well as a USB digital input that can handle up to 96 kHz. One single-ended stereo analog input is present, as well as balanced and single-ended stereo analog outputs, all for the price of $1,575.
The DAC 1 PRE is tiny, but don't let the size fool you. The Benchmark DAC has been highly praised, and for good reason. It has a great sound to it, smooth and dynamic, with excellent bass control and plenty of air and separation. The addition of the USB port makes it a snap to integrate all the music on your hard drive as well. While most computer-based media systems can be difficult to install, the DAC 1 PRE is immediately recognized by PCs and Macs alike and can be set up in mere seconds once the included USB cable is connected between the two. To top it off, the DAC 1 PRE is also a two-channel preamp, so it can connect directly to your amplifiers.
Being from the pro audio world, Benchmark knows about complicated systems. While this piece is a breeze to use, it is capable of being used in the most complicated systems you could dream up. The balanced and single-ended outputs can be controlled by the volume control or preset to a fixed output for use in systems where it won't be the main volume control. Benchmark has also included two headphone ports. One natively defeats the analog outputs and the other doesn't, but you can switch that so neither defeats the analog outs, should you desire, and the levels of the headphone outs are also adjustable to mate them perfectly to any headphones you prefer.
Read The High Points, The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2