Benchmark DAC 1 PRE Reviewed (USB DAC)

Benchmark DAC 1 PRE Reviewed (USB DAC)

With the DAC1 PRE Benchmark has established exactly what their name implies - a standard of performance to which other USB DACs are compared. The DAC1's feature set makes it perfect in a high-end desktop or serious room-sized computer-based music system.

Benchmark_DAC1Pre.gifThe modern trend of downloading music and MP3 players is clear.  While I won't get into the sonic arguments, I think the technology has pushed the world towards computer-based audio.  Thanks to the ever-dropping price and increasing size of memory for both RAM and storage, many now have most, if not all, of their music on hard drives in their computers, in lossless or totally uncompressed formats, as well as MP3, for their portable devices.  If you aren't yet one of these people, you should be, as the convenience offered by such systems is huge and will have you listening to more music and more diverse music than if you needed to pull the CDs manually.

Read more about Benchmark Media and Benchmark reviews here. 

Read a review of the Benchmark DAC1 HDR here.


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


Benchmark_DAC1Pre.gif

High Points
• Incredible DAC performance and ease of use make anyone capable of having a top-tier hard drive-based music system. 
• The additional inputs and integrated preamp make for a simple system with great sound; just add an amp and speakers.
• The super-small size of this unit makes it easy to hide, but I doubt you'd want to, given its incredible build quality.

Low Points
• The Benchmark DAC 1 PRE doesn't have a remote or home theater bypass.

• The inclusion of only one stereo analog input is limiting for some system configurations.

Conclusion
The Benchmark DAC 1 PRE is an amazing piece of audio gear and one you must try if you are looking for a simple computer-based music system and more.  The smooth nature of the DAC is world-class, both from the standpoint of computer systems and transports spinning CDs, while the analog input provides enhanced flexibility and allows you to add an AM/FM tuner or even a turntable to the rig.  The small size and exceptional build quality, as well as the great sound, of this piece make it a bargain at its $1,575 price.  Though I can see the purists eating this piece up, many will be hindered by the lack of remote control, and a home theater bypass would have been nice to see as well.

Read more about Benchmark Media and Benchmark reviews here. 

Read a review of the Benchmark DAC1 HDR here.

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