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  1. #1

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    Default Benchmark DAC-1 USB and the Audioquest Dragonfly in the house!!!

    Whats up everyone?
    I took home 2 DAC's today listed in the Title. Reason is to really compare the Internal USB DAC in the SC-68. I want to know where it stands against a high end DAC and a more Entry level but getting crazy good reviews model.
    I'm gonna listen all weekend and VS all 3 DAC's. I might bring home the Cambridge DAC Magic Plus again as that has been my favorite DAC out of all the external DAC's I ran.

    I'll post pic's and results as usual.

    We also have the DAC 2 which is a very nice DAC but I'm gonna start with the 1.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

  2. #2

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    Ran listening tests all weekend and came to a final conclusion.
    The Benchmark DAC1 is a fantastic DAC for anyone who doesn't own a SC-68. It's clear and natural sounding like a good analog source should. Downfall of this unit is 2 things. 1 it gets very warm , not exactly hot but warm. 2 it only goes to 96k over USB. This is an issues if you own 192k stuff like I do. I do however have plenty of 96k stuff that I was able to test with and get a good sense of how good it replays these songs.
    The Dragonfly is a real shocker here. It went toe to toe , nose to nose with all 3 DAC's I tested and at times I felt this little guy was as good as the others. I didn't find anything it missed or made sound less then organic compared to the other 2. For the money , this is a gem in our Industry. Downfall is the same as the DAC 1 , it only goes to 96k. I think this is a mistake on Audioquests part not to go all the way to 192k. Maybe the next version of it will. Hell raise the price to $299 or even $399 and it will be well worth it.
    The SC-68 can play all files , this DAC is wonderful especially comparing it to external models as good as the benchmark and Audioquest. I was thinking it would come in last place in this shootout due to it's a internal DAC , made by a receiver company ,not exactly a high end piece , not yet well respected in the Hi Fi Audio community , but if anyone does this vs battle as I have , I believe it will earn it's place.

    if one where to ask me which of these DAC's in the best , well I would say there isn't one. I would say the SC-68 overall is a better DAC as it can take 192k files and replay them correctly. But that's unfair as the other 2 can't. Apples and Oranges I guess. But running files at 16/44.1 which is CD quality , None of them stood out to the point I could pick a clear winner.
    When I listened to the benchmark , I felt this DAC is sweet and clear. Warm and natural sounding. My music is right and I can really enjoy owning such a masterfully built DAC. Then I would switch to the Dragonfly , with little expectation , and get shocked on how it sounded. Running the same song at 16/44.1 , it had all the warmth , natural tone and grace the Benchmark did. What does that say about the benchmark? Well IMO maybe it's overpriced? Maybe not as it can do a lot more then the Dragonfly as it has multi inputs , balanced outs and a headphone amp. So not really comparable in price. But sound quality it's a tie I would say.
    Adding in the SC-68 DAC , it didn't let me down anywhere at 16/44.1. I sat there in pure direct like the other 2 and felt WOW , what a great sound , what sheer natural ability to recreate sound have someone be able to enjoy music on a AVR. I would not say it's better then the other 2 as nothing again stuck out to clearly give it the belt.

    So to up the stakes I decided it was time to start pushing all 3 DAC's to the limits of the benchmark and Dragon fly. 24/96k was up and now I should be able to hear something different or better one way or the other. First up was the Benchmark and it showed why you should spend a few extra pennies to own it. Dynamics as amazing and the blackest of black back ground was clear to hear or not depending on how you look at it. It's so sweet and clean I really think this DAC is better then all others I have ever tested at 96k. I remember my time with the Cambridge and Audioengine , both of which where Impressive , but without them here to do a side by side I would go on memory to say the benchmark is a clear winner. The Peachtree was also very nice and very natural but I'm afraid the benchmark I think would take it in a side by side. This is how I felt after about a hour in which is way longer then I wanted to but I didn't want to stop listening.
    Next up was the Dragonfly. Runing the same song at 24/96k I felt it did it's job. I didn't get as excited at first as I had to make a few adjustments to get it to play. it's not drag and drop easy like the other 2 DAC's are. It's a bit fussy to get playing. I had to run the volume down and then back up internally on Pure Music to make it respond. I felt that weird but once I got it going , it wa for some serious listening. What was amazing was how it didn't fall behind in dynamic's or clarity. it didn't miss a single tone or beat. Impressed I was once again due to the fact it's price point. It's a one trick pony I guess as it can't take on any other sources but USB , but for one who is only going to use a computer , I can't see no reason to have anything else and add expense for no reason.
    I would go on record to say it's damn equal to the benchmark's ability to recreate 96k stuff and hold it's own. how can this be as these to are wildy different in price. Not to mention it steals power from the USB 5v. Ok lets leave price aside and purely compare on sound quality alone. This is the end goal anyway. It's like wire IMO , 2 of which are widely priced different yet perform exactly the same. Ok lets leave that topic alone abd focus on the task at hand.
    The SC-68 was up next and playing the same song once again I felt man did I make a good choice by going with this AVR. This is again hanging with external DAC's and not backing off. The sweet tone and lush midrange came through and made me smile. I listened for over an hour and felt I don't need to rethink my system , I need to enjoy it now as I don't need an external DAC. I'm completely happy with the Internal DAC and comparing to benchmark really made me happy.

    So to further my research here I decided to bring up my Rotel and take the SC-68 out of the picture and see if I could find a clear winner between the Benchmark and the Audioquest.
    Running my ST's off the Rotel is always a treat as it sounds so damn good. I really like it's dynamic range and clarity. Punchy little guy it is.
    First up was the benchmark and man does it make my Rotel sing. Just on a side note I used a pair of Sydney IC's and my Forest USB on the benchmark. I felt this was a nice combo and kept everything Audioquest in the chain. I also swapped out my Cardas speaker wire for my Flx14/4 and had the entire chain clean.
    The Dragonfly came in and stole the show only due to price point. It really performed very well. Once in a while I thought I heard a bit of grain in the back ground thinking it's silence between notes might not be a black as the Benchmark , I had to replay the song many times to not hear this or think I did. I was really reaching for something to be different .

    To finally call this I would say all 3 units are special in their own way. I find the Audioquest Dragonfly to be as good as al the reviews I have read on it. it's a gem and earned it. The benchmark is waht it is and really can satisfy . It's other abilities make it very attractive to one who needs them. I don't think it lacks anywhere. If anything it was my benchmark of sonic perfection LOL. If I still had the SC-07 in my system or decided to use my Rotel for 2 channel use , I would love to own such a nice DAC. i would also give me the ability to run other sources which is very nice and if I decided to get into headphones , I'm set.
    The SC-68 is in a class all by itself but I'm willing to bet others will follow. Why not right? I mean Peachtree already has a USB DAC in the Nova series which to me is a wonderful 2 channel piece. I can see other AVR's following Pioneer on this as I believe computer music is the way to go.
    Here is a few pic's from the battle.






    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

  3. #3

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    Nice review Dan!

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    I really want that cardas USB cable.. I will just have to buy one LOL!!
    Hot Rodded SDA 1.2TL's, SDA 1C's, SDA CRS+'s...
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    Me thinks you should probably get your ears checked.
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Me thinks you should probably get your ears checked.
    Me thinks you gotta hear the Dragon Fly to believe how good it is compared to a higher end DAC
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toolfan66 View Post
    I really want that cardas USB cable.. I will just have to buy one LOL!!
    We got plenty in 1 and 2 meters. Go to www.audiolab.com and join the site , you get a discount.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

  8. #8

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    Thanks for the review. I really want to try the dragonfly!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lost240 View Post
    Thanks for the review. I really want to try the dragonfly!
    It's well worth it's price. For it to hang with the big boys speaks volumes . Just remember it only goes to 96k so anything above like 176 or 192k will have to be down rez.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

  10. #10

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    In my experience, higher bit-depth is far more important than oversmpling rate. 24/96 is about as heavenly as it gets, and keeps file sizes relatively sane.

    Cool review Dan.

    Source: Squeezebox Touch/CIA Power Supply
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    Linestage: Placette RVC Passive
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
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  11. #11

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    Thanks for the review Mantis. I'm going to really consider the Dragonfly knowing that it's close to the higher end dacs for that price. I love the fact that it's usb powered and comes with a headphone jack. If I buy it I would use it for my PC setup and take it to work to plug in my headphones.
    Last edited by KrazyMofo24; 03-07-2013 at 12:09 PM.
    Setup:

    2 Channel: Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand, Dared SL-2000A , B&K ST-202 , DacMagic
    PC: Vienna Acoustics Haydn Grand, Cambridge Azur 640A v2, Polk MicroPro 3000, Audioquest Dragonfly
    Cables: AQ Diamondback, Sidewinder, Kimber 4tc

  12. #12

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    Dan - thanks for the review! I'm using the AQ Dragonfly to play music from my laptop via my NAD C720BEE receiver at my office in Kansas City. It's pretty impressive, however I had not been able to do comparisons with any other DAC. Good to know it can hold it's own.
    DKG999
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    Dac's don't always jump out at you. This is where headphones really come into play.
    A good set of cans are going to expose changes upstream better than speakers.
    But then again, NOT all DAC's are going to be that subtle. A Rega DAC pretty much
    leaves no doubt things have changed.
    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." --Thomas Jefferson

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by sucks2beme View Post
    Dac's don't always jump out at you. This is where headphones really come into play.
    A good set of cans are going to expose changes upstream better than speakers.
    But then again, NOT all DAC's are going to be that subtle. A Rega DAC pretty much
    leaves no doubt things have changed.
    When I was demoing the Audioengine , Peachtree and Cambridge Audio , I heard differences easily between all 3. With the Benchmark , Pioneer Elite and DragonFly , it was very difficult to hear differences with the same exact music I used for the other demo minus my 192k stuff.
    When I finished my demo , the only thing I felt the Benchmark did better over the Dragonfly was grain. It was more grain free at higher volumes then the Dragonfly. What I mean by grain is a slight bit of static like sound like when a radio is not completely dialed in , but not that dramatic , it was very slight , very hard to tell. I still feel if you just need a USB DAC , the Dragonfly is a serious contender especially for the price. I hate the fact it doesn't do 192k but if you have good software , you can down rez it. I didn't notice much difference doing so compared to the SC-68 internal DAC , not enough to not buy one. You have to spend so much more to get hardly any better in all other resolutions.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

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    Dan,

    I did a similar toe to toe comparison between my Peachtree DAC iT and a buddy's Dragonfly and I was, like you, surprised the lil guy had no problems keeping it close the whole time.
    Thanks for confirming my results as my buddy who didn't sit in on the comparison, can't believe his DAC that cost half the price of mine could go toe to toe. Now I can point him to this review. Hehe
    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
    I may have an addiction... RTA-15TL, SDA 2, LSi25, LSi15, LSi9, LSi7, LSiCx2, LSiFX, LS/FX, RT/FX, DSW MP2000...and that's just the Polks...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZLTFUL View Post
    Dan,

    I did a similar toe to toe comparison between my Peachtree DAC iT and a buddy's Dragonfly and I was, like you, surprised the lil guy had no problems keeping it close the whole time.
    Thanks for confirming my results as my buddy who didn't sit in on the comparison, can't believe his DAC that cost half the price of mine could go toe to toe. Now I can point him to this review. Hehe
    I believe why the Dragonfly costs less is a few things , there is no power supply , it gets it's power from USB on the computer side , It's only has one output VIA Mini plug , no extra cost has to go into expensive output stages and analog RCA female , small case less materials. Factor these things into the vs and now the price gets closer. Most other DAC's do a lot more then the Dragonfly does which justifies the higher cost IMO. But if you only needed a USB dac , I can't see at least checking out the Dragonfly.
    Dan
    My personal quest is to save to world of bad audio, one thread at a time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mantis View Post
    I believe why the Dragonfly costs less is a few things , there is no power supply , it gets it's power from USB on the computer side , It's only has one output VIA Mini plug , no extra cost has to go into expensive output stages and analog RCA female , small case less materials. Factor these things into the vs and now the price gets closer. Most other DAC's do a lot more then the Dragonfly does which justifies the higher cost IMO. But if you only needed a USB dac , I can't see at least checking out the Dragonfly.
    I own the dragon fly DAC and it is hooked up from my Mac mini with audioquest sydney cable. I also have a peachtree idac. The dragonfly is a very good dac. I was thinking the same thing as you, how could this dac compete with much more higher dacs. I orginally bought it because the idac was on back order and I needed something simple to hold me over. It will stay in my house to say the least. Honestly, for the price of admission, it was worth it.

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  18. #18

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    Let's not forget that D-A conversion is only 1/2 the story. The DAC needs to have a very good analog output section as well. You go cheap on either side of the design, quality will suffer.

    Source: Squeezebox Touch/CIA Power Supply
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    Linestage: Placette RVC Passive
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    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
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    This is probably going to by next purchase. I read that it's also a headphone amp which would be awesome, because I do want to use it at work with headphones. Can anyone confirm that? I'm going to pick it up even if it doesn't but would be a nice bonus.
    Setup:

    2 Channel: Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand, Dared SL-2000A , B&K ST-202 , DacMagic
    PC: Vienna Acoustics Haydn Grand, Cambridge Azur 640A v2, Polk MicroPro 3000, Audioquest Dragonfly
    Cables: AQ Diamondback, Sidewinder, Kimber 4tc

  20. #20

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    I heard the dragonfly and it was not very musical to me so I did not really like it . I cannot understand what sounds good about it as it reminded me of an old HRT music streamer. If I play the kevin bacon game then my squeezebox touch sounded the same as the HRT and the HRT sounded just like a cambridge dac magic. I also got a good listen to the Benchmark and just don't understand how it could even be close in comparison? Comparisons and mostly dependent on the gear used to audition so I can understand how this may sound like that. Either way for the money and what you get the dragon fly is a great entry into the world of high rez audio.

    I have heard a whole bunch of DAC's this week but still not been able to get anyone to hook up the Pioneer that I actually am interested in hearing because of Dan's glowing reviews

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    I too have had an ear on the Cambridge and the HRT, Both seem to lack the musicality I craved. Then again, one mans "neutral" is another mans "sterile". What the heck do I know anyway, as long as Dan dug 'em, roll with it.

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    Turns out I may not get to try the dragonfly. W4S Dac 2 on the way! Maybe I will see if someone nearby had one to demo just for fun anyway

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Me thinks you should probably get your ears checked.
    And of these - how many have you heard in person?

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