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A Stereophile "Product of the Year"
"You can't find much more in the way of a high-end audio bargain than the Benchmark DAC1." - Stereophile, December 2004
Professional Quality, Jitter-Immune 24-bit DAC
The DAC1 is designed for maximum transparency and is well suited for critical playback in studio control rooms and in mastering rooms. This is a professional-quality, two-channel 192-kHz, 24-bit audio digital-to-analog converter. It accepts up to 192 kHz and downsamples to 110 kHz. The DAC1 features Benchmark’s UltraLock technology. The UltraLock system is 100% jitter immune, making the DAC1 ideal for critical applications where only the highest level of performance will do.
Stereophile was so impressed with the Benchmark, the December 2004 issue named the DAC1 as a "Product of the Year." According to the magazine, "The Benchmark's measured performance is at least as good, if not better than, the best high-end designs. Its use of a high-performance sample-rate converter chip ahead of its DAC chip means that its rejection of work-clock jitter is about as good as it gets, allowing it to be used, say, to wrest high-end sound from a cheap DVD player."
No Design Shortcuts
No shortcuts were taken in the implementation of the DAC1. The D/A conversion clock is totally isolated from the AES/EBU digital audio clocks in a topology that outperforms two-stage PLL designs. A fully digital de-emphasis circuit supports 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz sample rates and is automatically enabled in response to the source signal.
The quality design and construction is evident in the performance. "The sonics of the Benchmark DAC-1 are very refined and listenable, and it is a winner at this price," reports Bascom King in Volume 11, Issue 1 of The Audiophile Voice.
Built-In Headphone Amplifier
Benchmark’s new professional quality HPA2TM headphone amplifier drives two 1/4” headphone jacks. The HPA2TM is a high-current amplifier that is capable of driving a wide variety of headphone loads while achieving less than 0.0003% distortion under load.
The gain control sets the output level of the headphone jacks. It can also be used to control the output level of the balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analog outputs. A rear-panel switch selects Variable or Calibrated output levels.
Soft Mute Circuitry Eliminates 'Pops'
The DAC1 performs gracefully in the presence of errors and interruptions at the digital audio inputs. A soft mute circuit eliminates pops when a digital signal is applied. Power management circuitry controls the muting and resetting of all digital circuits upon removal and application of power. Muting is only enabled upon loss of power, or when digital transmission errors occur. The DAC1 does not mute when the input data is all zeros. Consequently, no audio is lost when an audio transient follows full silence.
Three digital inputs (balanced XLR, coaxial, and optical*) are provided and are selected from the front panel. All inputs accept either professional or consumer formats.
A Short Signal Path
The DAC1 is designed to interface directly to power amps and powered studio monitors in order to provide the cleanest and shortest path from digital to monitor output. 20 dB pads are provided for interfacing to studio monitors having high input sensitivity.
*Note: Effective with all orders shipped after 2/1/12, the optical input connectors (Toslink) of all Benchmark DACs will be limited to 24/96. In the past, the optical receivers would accept up to 24/192. However, Toshiba, maker of the Toslink connector, no longer will manufacture a connector with this capability. There are no other suppliers.
Owner’s Manual (2.1mb PDF)