To Hans Wetzel,
I'm in the market for a new digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The Benchmark Media Systems DAC1 seems like a safe bet. Is it? Any others you'd recommend for $1000?
As an owner of Benchmark's DAC1 USB, I am probably biased in agreeing with you. The original DAC1 (sans USB input) is getting a bit old, but despite its age, it's still a terrific product that will reveal more detail in your music collection than you'd expect for the price. That said, it's interesting that you framed it as a "safe bet." As it's aged, a raft of competing, less-expensive DACs have flooded the market, and many of them are very competent designs. If the competition hasn't caught up to the high standards of the Benchmark, they have substantially closed the gap, and the DAC1's "personality" is now more of a consideration to buyers. This personality, a kind of shockingly clean and wide-open sound, marked by a slight tonal coolness and a slight hardness in the high-frequency range, stands in contrast to most other DACs I've heard. Without further information about your system, I'd have a few suggestions that should run the gamut. Musical Fidelity's M1DAC, which I reviewed earlier this year, offers a far more relaxed and easygoing sound, standing in stark contrast to the DAC1, and at $749, is cheaper, though ultimately less resolving than the Benchmark. I'd also suggest looking at AudioEngine's D2 wireless DAC, Cambridge Audio's Azur DacMagic Plus, and Peachtree Audio's iDac, each of which offers features that you might find appealing. . . . Hans Wetzel