Sure, I'll try to be descriptive without getting too poetically subjective. First it took 'clean' to a new level in my experience. It holds on to high-level signals so that there is less loss of articulation on complex signals than I was used to hearing, and usually blamed on my speakers. There is also no audible fizz or low-level distortion to modulate the music, which allows more sonic texture to emerge and seems to preserve more timbrel (word invention?!) color. This is reminiscent of a tube amp in clarity and lack of grain, but a quality that is preserved at a much wider range of power than is typical with a 40 - 60 watt tube amp. In fact the Benchmark has a consistency of tonal balance and character across the range of pitches and dynamics that is better than anything else I've owned. The impression of openness and clarity at very low volume is exceptional. The two channels must track each other very closely because imaging, particularly center placement, is unambiguous. As good as some other visitors to my house have been, Bryston 4bst, Parasound 21, Odyssye Stratos, Sim Moon, my rebuilt Dynaco Mk. IIIs, or Coda and Krell and ARC in my past, the Benchmark is a combo of all their strengths and none of their downsides.

I am annoyed by minor details. Apparently EU mandate requires a timeout. If there's no audio after 30 minutes, the thing shuts off. It's surprising how many times it happens when I'm moving between tasks. The remote trigger thing is weirdly useless in its interface with the DAC. The binding posts require narrow spade lugs and flexible wire, or else banana terminals. Often, when switched on, the protection kicks in for no reason, so an off/on cycle is needed to start it up. It sounded bright and weird at first, so I used cables similar to what Benchmark sells - Canare mic cable and a Belden twisted quad. After 30 hours or so, the sound smoothed out and better wire could be used. I've settled on the Swedish-made Supra quad speaker and balanced interconnect for now. Madisound sells it - good value. That wire was too bright in context with the brasher treble of the DAC1. With the smoother character of the DAC2, it works nicely. My speakers are small-batch two-way monitors, using RAAL ribbon tweeters and Accuton ceramic woofers. Quite revealing. Because the whole thing is so quiet, I expect it would work well with high-sensitivity Klipsch and Altecs, etc. Power is not limitless. For a big room, you'll want two, bridged. So do I, but it would be crazy overkill in my modest space. For what it does, I think $3k is reasonable, and for $5k, the dac/amp makes a fantastic system.

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of L. Hunter Kevil
Sent: Sunday, April 05, 2015 11:24 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] SACD "surprise"

Hi Carl,

Would you please share more of your thoughts about the new Benchmark power amplifier? It can boast of a new technology as well as its high price. TIA,

L. H. Kevil

On Sun, Apr 5, 2015 at 9:21 AM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> BTW, the DAC2 is a substantial improvement on the DAC1, various 
> versions of which I've owned since it came out over ten years ago. 
> Even the analog path is better. Still, I hear a difference with it 
> between Toslink and coax from the same Redbook source. Always have. I 
> know, I know.... The async USB is also audibly better than with the 
> standard driver, whatever the data rate. It was such an impressive upgrade that I splurged on their new amp.
> It replaces a Bryston, which is no toy. The combo is highly revealing, 
> yet not annoyingly so, as there often is a tradeoff between 
> transparency and musicality. I find it correct for whichever hat I'm 
> wearing, mixer or music-lover.