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There has been a lot of discussion recently about the differences that changes to our system can make and there has been lots of heated debate. Maybe everyone has fixed views and it’s a waste of time to do this thread. However in the spirit of furthering the debate here are some thoughts. And it means that other threads don’t get side tracked Base system Auralic Aries Mini, Benchmark DAC1, Quad 909 and Harbeth P3ESR. Three upgrades: Digital coax cable between Aries and Benchmark, SBooster power supply to Aries, Benchmark DAC2 HGC. Different people will respond differently to so called upgrades, even regarding a new DAC. I would like to comment about ‘better’ and ‘more enjoyable y/n?’. I didn’t do extensive controlled testing because a) life is too short b) differences should be obvious and c) I am not a scientist The SBooster didn’t alter the musicality in that musicians didn’t appear to be playing better aka musical expression. And that is my normal criteria for any change. But it removed digital noise that I never knew that was there and so I could play more loudly without fatigue. So I it was better but only more enjoyable at higher volumes. At lower volumes I didn’t notice a big difference in enjoyment. Overall though it was worth it but at the limit of being financially ’a good deal’. Cost £330 Digital coax change. I changed from an Audioquest Forest cable to the cheapest Wave coax cable. I also have a Luxman DAC with usb input so I was able to daisy chain everything together and swap the order of Audioquest and Wave cables. The Wave cable was significantly better that the Audioquest because it impacted the flow of music in the same way as the change from the Marantz PM7000N to the Quad 909 ie baselines were more bouncy aka more musical expression. In my view better and also more enjoyable. Cost £495. Value is good based on the effect that it has had even at this price as it provided more enjoyment than the SBooster. Benchmark DAC2. I have owned my DAC1 for over ten years and I know the sound intimately. The DAC2 is the same but with much better detail, a touch more warmth, but the same character. It also has more facilities. And if you are into mixing music in a studio or like hifi type effects on playback the soundstage is a lot bigger. Is it better? Yes (including being measurably so). Is it more enjoyable? Well that depends on what you are into. For me the additional enjoyment that I get is variable. As I said the character is the same and so it comes down to additional detail which of itself isn’t affecting the musical performance for me. On some productions this is sometimes distracting ie rock/pop where a lot of ‘clever’ engineering effects have been used. Also a small number of albums have revealed themselves to sound a bit nasty where they were not before. As it’s only a few cases it’s the album not the DAC. The majority sound better. On simply recorded music ie classical or something acoustic the extra detail is amazing. I sit 1m away from the Harbeths and so with the enlarged soundstage I have to sit further away from my desk. If I am working on something this is not ideal. If listening from across a room this would be fine. So only sometimes more enjoyable from a musical perspective. Sometimes interesting from a musical engineering perspective. Cost secondhand £1100. Value for money for me is medium but I also gain facilities that are important to me. My value for money conclusion when putting musical enjoyment as no1 priority the Wave cable has given more than the DAC or SBooster upgrade. Second is the DAC2 and third SBooster. Just so that we are clear. @Fourlegs isn’t a mate. He didn’t ask me to write this or know that I was going to write this. I have no agenda and always tell it as I find it on here. I don’t expect everyone to reach the same conclusions and fully expect that many would love the difference the Benchmark DAC2 would make to their systems. Undoubtedly I will have some haters and people will accuse me of being stupid and deaf and etc etc. But I thought that it was worth giving a comparison and personal view between these three changes. Anyway @Fourlegs I will see you in the pub next weekend as usual when I return from your holiday home in the Algarve and shall also return your new Porsche that you lent me along with your wife. (Joke)
I have just bought another Benchmark DAC; this time a DAC2 HGC. I also have ordered another pair of Neumann active monitors to use with it. But I also have a wonderful pair of Harbeth P3ERs that I will use. I am currently using a Quad 909 which sounds fine although to as good as the power amp section of my Marantz PM11S2 and am thinking about whether to get a different power amp. Given that Benchmark favour using the XLR outputs I am wondering if there is a big difference between using the XLR outputs vs single ended and does it make more of a difference if the receiving amp is 'just xlr input' or a proper 'balanced xlr' input. Thanks