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  1. #1

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    Post Bel Canto DAC2 vs Benchmark DAC1...

    This weekend Wes (I-SIG) and I got together to compare the Bel Canto and Benchmark DAC's in my system. We ran The Bel Canto into "Aux1" on the preamp, and the Benchmark into "CD." This allowed us to A/B by remote, very cool. Both were used with the C.E.C. CD-3300 as transport. The coax out on the CEC was used for the Bel Canto, the AES/EBU out for the Benckmark. The Bel Canto does not have an XLR digital in. We got lucky as output levels were probably within .25dB of each other, the Bel Canto having just a touch more output.

    Without droning on with all the usual audiophile terminology and 50 cent words....the 2 sounded 99.9% indentical. The only difference I could note was noticed during a track that had "hand clapping" (Incubus, "Are you in?"). The Bel Canto made the hand clapping sound just a touch (we're talking miniscule) higher in pitch. When I noticed this, I played the track for Wes several times and he noticed as well. Could it have been the slight output increase in the Bel Canto?---I don't think so, it was more of a "pitch" thing than a "level" thing. Other than that difference, I could hear nothing else in the 6 plus hours of listening we did.

    The choice between these 2 is really about features. Niether has a power switch; the Benckmark has XLR ins/outs, the Bel Canto does not. The Benchmark has irratatingly bright LED's on the front, the Bel Canto (thankfully) does not. The Benchmark has a dual headphone output coupled to a very nice headphone amp; the Bel Canto does not. The Benchmark can be used as a standalone preamp, the Bel Canto cannot.

    Just depends on what features are applicable to your personal wants. If you're looking for streamlined simplicity, go with the Bel Canto; if you're a headphone geek, need XLR, or want to use your DAC as your preamp, go for the Benchmark. I run the Benchmark in "dedicated" DAC mode.

    Wes should chime in soon with his impressions...
    Last edited by steveinaz; 04-11-2005 at 11:07 AM.

    Transport: Oppo BDP-103/USB HDD (flac)
    DAC/Preamp: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Cables: Kimber Hero/8TC; DH Labs D-75

  2. #2

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    I bet Wes was sitting, Speedo on, gun in hand, whiskey in the other, waiting to shoot the losing DAC.

  3. #3

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    Sweet! Both of these DAC's are on my short list.

    Most of the reviews I read say the Bel Canto adds a hint of warmth but still sounds transparent and neutral. Where the Benchmark is VERY neutral, probably due to it's recording studio background.
    Sony KDL-40V2500 HDTV, Rotel RSX-1067 Receiver, Sony BDP-S550 Blu-ray, Slim Devices Squeezebox, Polk RTi6, CSi3 & R15, DIY sub with Atlas 15

  4. #4

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    They both sound wonderful. A must-have if redbook digital is your primary source.

    Transport: Oppo BDP-103/USB HDD (flac)
    DAC/Preamp: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Cables: Kimber Hero/8TC; DH Labs D-75

  5. #5

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    Well, what can I say? Steve summed it up very well. I closed my eyes a few times while Steve was switching back and forth between the two.

    Nothing different, save for that Incubus track. I would imagine that if one sat for days on end listening to songs like 30 times in a row, a person with superb ears could pick out other teenie-weinie differences.

    If you don't listen like that or have the time to, then as Steve has said, it all boils down to features. The Bel Canto does have one LED that is either green (lock) or red (error) but it can be positioned so that it faces backwards.

    I'll admit that if I was more aware of the Benchmark at the time I purchased the Bel Canto that I would have probably gotten it simply for the additional features at a pretty similar price point.

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

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