Here is a review from a local guy here (He posted it on a forum, but I am not sure which one. . .):
I'll cut to the chase for those who hate long reviews, opinions and posts. I've not been so excited, so... *UP* on an audio product since I rebuilt my first tube amps over 15 years ago, salvaged Dynaco MK III's with good Genelex KT88's on board. This little black box has transformed my CD collection of hundreds and hundreds of discs. Of all those, I had, at most, a selection of 20 or 30 favorites. Of these, one or two that might find their way to the transport's tray on any given day. After the DAC had burned in for a few days, things got really nice. I would say that my desire to listen to only 10 or 20% of my CD collection has gone to an estimated 80 or 90%. I began going through CD's to simply test the sound of this DAC against my other two DAC's and upsamplers, a CAL Sigma II 24/96, Assemblage D2D upsampler and an MSB III with upsampler. It wasn't long before I decided to sell all my other redbook gear. So out went the CAL Sigma II with 24/96 chip and Assemblage D2D-1 processor/upsampler. The MSB III may stay to translate DVD video and audio. The CD tests bogged down as I found myself sitting and listening to whole CD's through the scott-nixon. In comparison, the CAL Sigma II had a pleasant but forward sound that was, for the most part, bland, inoffensive. Even more so when upsampled through the Assemblage. Not irritating, just no that musically involving. The MSB III gave more of the same with or without the upsampler engaged, except it wasn't as forward in it's presentation as the CAL. I have grown used to these DAC's and consciously had accepted that this was as good as redbook CD was going to get (at least on my budget) but unconsciously I was still hungry. So for Christmas I bought myself the scott-nixon DAC. With the scott-nixon DAC in place, things turned upside down for sure. All of a sudden there was much more life to the music. Toe tappin', *I didn't know this CD was this good*, musically involving sparkle and excitement. The music didn't just play in front of or between the speakers any more but I was presented with a larger, more lively, more open sound with a real sense depth. This DAC couldn't save really bad recordings any more than a super phono setup can save poorly recorded records. But, it has proven to me that much more of my CD collection is worth listening to than I had ever imagined. Certain music with piano or flute, two instruments hard to get right in my head through digital, finally came through fine or at least much more acceptable. I will stop here with the *reviewer speak* type lingo and tell you what happened last night. I had spent most of yesterday listening and enjoying CD's. My wife came home after working a long shift and crashed on the couch. Julia Fordham's CD, Porcelain, was playing. My wife sat there and listened a while and finally commented, "She sure has a beautiful voice. Who is she?". I just snickered to myself. I've owned and played this CD for over 10 years and my wife had never "heard" it before. Heard it done right that is, the way this new DAC translates it. The scott-nixon DAC version I chose was his most expensive tube DAC. $475. There are versions from blank boards to no tube output to the version I bought. There are only two brands of DAC using this concept that I am aware of below $1200 or so. This scott-nixon and the Ack!dAck. Which I also bought and it arrived last night. No opinions on it for a month or two. Besides these two brands, whose costs float around $500 or even less with Nixon's options, I know of no other competition except for DIY projects. I do know that Audio Note, 47 labs and a few others offer the same basic concept for $1200 to $50,000. But I'm thinking there are some serious diminishing returns here! Even if there are improvements at all!. I was very skeptical when I first started reading about the 0 oversampling concept. It just seemed the biggest draw was, they were easy to build for the more DIY adept. But finally, I took the plunge and am glad I did. Redbook CD's may be all I'll ever need or want. Especially when you think what it costs to get into SACD, THEN try and make it sound *just right*. Another uphill, money sucking climb, IMO. The system used to test the DAC's is on the Asylum in *Inmate Systems* under 3moons, The Lounge. Link below. Thanks for reading. 8 jim...
"have you considered the Central Station? I heard both of these pieces in an A/B and the Central Station's conversion is superior plus the extra-cool monitor switching makes the CS very compelling at $499."
Jon and I researched DACs a while back. The research lead to him buying a Bnechmark and raving about. Now he built my Hawk DAC kit and he has eval boards for the Crystal logic chip set. So unlike me he actually knows what's going on with the circuitry in the DACs.
Don't let the compact size of the Benchmark fool you. It's really in a league of it's own.
There's a really interesting thread about the DAC1 on the Head-Fi Forum. About 1/2 way throug the thread the chief designer from Benchmark chimes in. His answers and information are quite interesting.
The thing I find most interesting about the DAC1 is that it's performance is independent of the transport.
K & K Audio have a DAC kit that's been getting a fair amount of buzz on their forum (on Audio Asylum). I bought the Ack dAck non-oversampling DAC - not offered as a kit any more, but I'm very happy with it. But NOS DACs are a pretty fringe product, most people seem to love them or hate them.
Ok , I found an older DAC1 without the 192Khz ability for a good price...I can have it upgraded for $50 + s&h but the tech at Benchmark told me most people dont have 192Khz sources anyways and even 96 is limited because most commercial DVD-Audio discs have copy protection and force the DVD-Audio player into a 16/48 digital output.
I realized at this point that I have no idea what it is that I am buying. All I know is it sounds like its what I am looking for based on what I have read.
"The DAC1 is a two-channel, 24-bit, 96-kHz Digital-to-Analog audio converter. The DAC1 is perhaps one of the more significant recent advances in digital audio conversion technology. The DAC1 provides some of the finest analog conversion through 96-kHz, and will play back 192-kHz with a 48-kHz analog bandwidth."
This line is abit confusing to me because to be honest I dont really know much about sampling rates other than most of my , actually all of my CDs play back at 44.1 Khz thru my Aragon Soundstages's DACs.
What does what? Do you CDs need to be higher bit rate or does your transport need to do something or what?
How does one use the 24/92Khz playback on the DAC1 and what is the 192Khz deal all about?
Somebody please break this down for me and help me understand, thanks.
DAC = digital to analog converter. They are inside all CD and DVD players. They are the devices that take the CD's digital signal from the transport mechanism and covert it to an analog signal that can be fed to an amplifier.
One can use outboard units as well, that's what this thread is about.
The signal level output from the older balanced outputs is +24dB. That's WAY to 'hot' for home gear.
If you intend to use the balanced outputs, you'll need either inline attenuators for the older unit, or have it upgraded. The newer units or upgraded units have jumpers on the PCB that allows attenuation of the signal level of the balanced output
As indicated the sampling rate differences between the old and new units aren't a big deal