Benchmark Media Announces DAC3 Converters
“It may look like the DAC2 HGC, but the new DAC3 HGC offers a slew of better measurements and more notably, an incremental boost in sound quality. Via headphones I definitely could hear more space around the instruments and an increased precision in transients — like cymbals and upper-register piano notes."
Over the last 4 years the Benchmark DAC2 has enjoyed a well-deserved reign as a highly regarded mid-range digital to analogue converter. Now on the brink of 2017 we welcome their latest advancement in the pursuit of premium audio greatness: the DAC3 range.
Three models are available in the series, all sporting Benchmark’s “Hybrid Gain Control” technology: the base-spec DAC3L model, the DAC3HGC featuring an on-board headphone amplifier circuit, and the DAC3DX model featuring AES connectivity and dual bus outputs designed for the pro sector.
Benchmark DAC3HGC (RRP £2349 Inc VAT)
Benchmark DAC3L (RRP £2099 Inc VAT)
The most notable change in design from an internal perspective is the implementation of ESS Technology’s ES9028PRO chip. For the better part of the past decade Benchmark have utilised the previous 9018 chip to great effect, but with the new component in place THD compensation, oversampling filters and power supply distribution all exhibit marked improvement.
Another welcome enhancement enabled by the chip is the improved phase locked loop. An area where some users believed there was room for improvement was the switching time between digital inputs – this has now been reduced to virtually instantaneous, providing a more fluid user-operation experience.
"In terms of new functions, the DAC3 switches a lot faster between inputs, and gone is that audibly phasy transition when you initially switch between two digital sources.”
Beyond this: 2nd and 3rd harmonic compensation, frequency response and dynamic range are all specs which measure improvement. The end result is a product offering better performance than the DAC2 predecessor which may well be Benchmark’s best effort yet.