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Benchmark DAC-1 vs CIAudio VDA-2/VAC-1

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ralflar

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Question to those who bought one of these: what made you choose one over the other?

Price will not influence my decision. After all it would cost 600 (VDA-2) + 150 (VAC-1) + 150 (balanced cable set) = $900 in CIAudio kit to match the feature set of the DAC-1, minus the DAC's stepped gain selector.

The DAC uses an unusual coaxial input (bad). Sleepy and one forgotten reviewer praise the DAC's preamp-bypassing gain selector (good). Another reviewer dislikes same (could be good or bad). I happen to like the simple and purposeful CIAudio look.

Please share your opinion, even if you said it before in other threads. I did use the search function a lot but finding the right search terms is hard.
 

Jeff Zaret

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ralflar,

I have the CI Audio VDA-2 with the power supply. I liked the looks and the simplicity. I surfed the internet for any all reviews of the CI Audios DAC and found nothing but praise. I even called and talked with Dusty before I purchased it. He is the owner of CI Audio. He has a great reputation and lots of praise for his products being a great value for the price. He also has a 30 money back guarantee plus a small restocking fee.

I can not speak for the Benchmark because I have not heard it but I believe my initial investigation was that it was more money. Although this should not be a determent it was a concern for me. I am running my CD with a coax to the DAC I also am running my Roku through it through the fiber connection. The results were pleasing and better than I had hoped.

Jeff :cool:
 

sleepysurf

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Just to clarify, the DAC-1 uses a BNC connector for the digital coax input, BUT it also ships with a BNC/RCA adaptor that accepts a standard SPDIF cable (with RCA termination). The Benchmark is an oversampling DAC, which produces a very pristine and detailed sound. Some folks prefer the sound of a non-oversampling design, or a tube DAC. My suggestion, if possible, is to demo various designs in your system, and go with what sounds best.

Of note, I was originally using my Benchmark as a Pre, feeding it DIRECT to my amp. That configuration provided incredibly detailed bass and midrange, at the expense of harsh "digititis" on some older recordings. After getting the Modwright Pre (SS/Tube hybrid), I'm now using the Squeezebox/Benchmark combo purely as a source. I now have a MUCH warmer and 3D soundstage, with NO "digititis" whatsoever, but have lost a smidgeon of bass detail in the process. In this audiophile race you inevitably win a little, then lose a little!
 

lugano

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ralflar

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Jeff,

Thanks for the feedback. Did you try the VDA without the VAC? If I go with the VDA-2 it will be powered by a VAC-1 for sure. That way I won't have to worry about missing anything. However, I am curious.
 

ralflar

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Thank you sleepysurf. I did not know about the included adapter. That is one less concern.

If "digititis" only occured on some older recordings, why do think it was the DAC's fault? Intuitively I'd blame those recordings instead.
 

Jeff Zaret

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ralflar,
I asked that question of Dusty. What he told me was it was dependent on the equipment you had. He said if you have mediocre equipment having the additional power supply would not be beneficial. He said that better equipment would reveal more mids, lower mids and a better defined bass.

I hope this helps a bit more. :confused:

Jeff :cool:
 

ralflar

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Lugano, you are right of course, I really should explore more options. I'll pass on the e.One DAC3, though. It costs $2500. That chunk of money is probably better used to upgrade my speakers to Summits. Oops, strike that, I meant Vantages ;).

What made you choose the Benchmark DAC? Do you use it to drive the PS Audio amp directly?
 

ralflar

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Jeff,
Dusty sure is a smart person: who would consider one's system mediocre? In need of certain upgrades perhaps, such as a VDA-2! Ergo, a VAC-1 is needed also, by default. ;) Of course, in our previous communications he has given me factual information instead of sales pitch. I like that.
 

Jeff Zaret

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ralflar,
I was trying to be politically correct with the mediocre system comment. Off hand I do not remember what system components you have but I believe you are beyond mediocre. I was leaning more towards a receiver type system only components. I think you will hear a difference but you can get the VDA-2 now and if you like the results then get the VAC-1.

Just some a thought and respectful suggestion.

Jeff :cool:
 

lugano

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ralflar said:
What made you choose the Benchmark DAC? Do you use it to drive the PS Audio amp directly?
Well, one day I decided that a better CD player was due, so I started the usual searches, only to find that the "better" thing would cost me way too much, so instead of changing the whole player I thought I'd better change only a significant part of it, i.e. the DAC part. Once decided that, I began to browse dac reviews at the well-known places and the Benchmark DAC immediately caught my attention as a too-good-to-be-true thing, at a sub 1k$ price. But when reviewers begin to buy the review sample, one is inclined to believe a bit more and the "let's try it out" urge becomes quite imposing. I did some more research on this DAC and the enthusiasm of reviewers and especially owners caught me in a deadly embrace.

Incredibly, as I was looking for a swiss distributor, a Benchmark DAC showed up on the swiss eBay... I knew it was THE sign - I just had to have it. So I got it, and when I listened to it for the first time I could not believe my ears. The first reaction I remember I've had, after repositioning jaws, was to slam my forehead for having waited so much before adding a dac to my system. Anyway, to sum things up, I've chosen the Benchmark because it delivers the most bang for the buck. It started as a pro product, used by the guys that master what we end up listening, and conquered audiophiles later on.



I don't use it as a preamp - the PS Audio is like an integrated amp even if it's not an integrated - and the less things in the signal path, the better so for me the DAC's output control knob is useless.
 
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