Benchmark Media DAC2 D review. The DAC2 D is an American born audio A2D converter system that is often seen in mastering studios and audiophile rigs. The DAC2 D offers superb sound quality with additional remote features that aid the production professional.
DAC’s are the zero point of any pro audio or audiophile set up, and finding what you consider to be ‘the one’ is no easy task. Over the last 18 months we have had countless DAC’s come in each with different features and nuances. Today we are presenting Benchmark Media's DAC2 D.
Benchmark Media have a legacy of high end pro audio equipment that is used all over the world in studios and mastering houses. As a mastering engineer myself, I have very specific needs and wants from my DAC’s in the signal chain, so the Benchmark has a lot to live up to.
Unboxing, Build and Design Quality: Right out of the box the DAC2D emits professionalism. The solid metal inclosure insures you straight away that the product is sturdy and can take on the trials of a working studio.
The front panel houses the motorised, yes thats right motorised, volume control and interface buttons. The interface buttons allow the user to change input source, reverse polarity as well as dim/mute the device. The buttons are tactile and well made and as for the volume control, the dial is weighty and firm.
So you now may be asking yourself ‘okay is that really that important?’ The simple answer here is; ‘yes!’ Fine adjustment of volume is key for calibration for audio set ups and Benchmark Media have allowed you to control the DAC2 D accurately and with ease. As said before a great addition to this DAC is a motorised volume control. This is controlled via a sleek and brilliantly finished metal remote which feels just as expertly crafted as that DAC2D itself.
The remote was most certainly not just a gimmicky add on thats just thrown in, it looks great, feels great, and works perfectly. All controls on the DAC 2D front panel are controllable on the remote. This feature was great for me, when auditioning a pre master or finished project with a client I normally find myself sat at the back of the studio with them monitoring the sound in the sweetspot and other various locations away from my workstation. Having the remote control for the various settings gave me control over volume away from the workstation and added a much finer degree of control over presenting the final mix, or indeed various revisions.
Between the interface controls and the volume dial are the LED displays for the I/O configurations. As well as the I/O there are the LED’s that show you what sample rate and bit depth the DAC2D is clocking to. This simple layout and the bright blue LED’s makes it easy to see the information the DAC2D is outputting even in the low light of the studio. Lastly, on the the front panel are the two headphone sockets both of which are well made and are seated in the enclosure securely.
To the rear of the device are the I/O configurations for the DAC. On this backplate we can identify various inputs and outputs including the XLR left and right monitor outputs and two RCA connectors. Now we move on to the digital input connections, and Benchmark Media have given the user a host of options to fully optimise the set up you are using. You can connect the device via the two available digital optical and digital SPIDIF connections or even by USB (1.0/2.0). This array of connections allows the user to have many input sources to your DAC2D, and these can easily be switched via the front panel or the remote. The DAC2D can really be integrated to many set ups with out having to disturb your I/O configuration drastically.
Through mastering I get to listen to all types of music and I need to hear it clear and uncoloured, but with the definition and a fullness that will transverses the full audio spectrum.
When using the DAC2D I discovered that it is one of the most uncoloured DAC’s I have come to work with to date. The Benchmark Media DAC2D allows myself to confidently and criticality analyse the varying audio content I work with. Through many sessions and tests, the crystal sound of the high end on the this DAC keeps on surprising me with definition that continues to blow me away when every time I'm working with it. With out sounding brittle or harsh the high end frequencies sound natural and clear.
The overall sonic detail of the DAC2D is continually excellent with the separation of instruments and body of sound that allows for a clear understanding of the music. This can be noticed most in classical music as well as the huge dynamic range the Benchmark offers, creating an audio experience that will have long lasting effect on you!
Transient detail is an aspect that really stepped out for me whilst testing the device. Being able to accurately replicate the wave form may sound like a obvious concept, however producing it at a level appropriate for mastering is no simple task. With every snare hit as perfect as it was in the studio, the Benchmark DAC2D really becomes a precision tool in the studio I am struggling to find fault in.
Other than mastering applications, the DAC2D also is a excellent sounding DAC for general music listening, and excels itself when used with a turntable and vinyl. So for all you audiophiles out there the benchmark most certainly not just a pro audio piece of equipment. The sound is very clear and neutral and doesn't have a defined character as it where, so may not be fit for everyone's taste. However sometimes this is the sonic choice you need to take to hear the music you enjoy at its most accurate state.
The DAC2D as well as providing superb sound via speakers outputs, it also excels in its headphone amps to. The headphone amps translates in a way that is still clear and uncoloured like the DAC itself. This allows for a critical listing on headphones which is vital for detailed analysis of audio. The ease of translation between pre amps and headphone amps makes for a great integrated work flow for myself.
The left headphone socket will mute the DAC2D XLR and RCA Phono outputs when in use. This can be a useful, however make sure to lower the volume if using high impedance headphones when removing, as the level in use with the headphones will then be transferred to the DAC2D output amplifiers. The right headphone socket however does not affect the DAC2D’s preamp connection.
When using both headphone amplifiers at the same time I found no loss in power output or quality. This is down to the signature Benchmark HPA2 amplifier that can delivery power to even high sensitivity 600-
When sound becomes such an important part in your life and work, you always want to be at the end of the best audio set up as you can, the DAC 2D facilitates this tremendously. This product can easily be added to any pro audio work flow, it was an seamless and brilliant addition to mine, and there will be no regret!. The Benchmark really does lend it self to many applications during its use, with it always allowing you hear the best out of your audio. Wether it be for a pro audio set up or the front end for a HiFi set up the DAC2D just works and delivers every time. The definition of a true and pure sound along with attention to detail and craftsmanship, the Benchmark Media DAC 2D has to have a full 5 star rating!