Definitive Computer-Audio Playback, Native PCM and DSD Conversion, Incredible Transparency, Pure Sonics, Serious Headphone Amp: Benchmark DAC3 HGC DSD DAC Sets New Standards
Continuing the design excellence that has resulted in the use of Benchmark DSD DACs in some of the world's most in-demand recording studios and mastering rooms, HGC DAC3 ups the ante in reference-level performance in its price range and touts multiple key enhancements over its acclaimed predecessor. Bolstered by an ESS Technologies ES9028PRO chip, the U.S.A.-made HGC DAC3 offers both native PCM and DSD conversion to analog. Free of any sonic compromises, HGC DAC3 seamlessly switches between native PCM and DSD conversion, meaning you can enjoy high-resolution playback as it's meant to be heard. You'll experience finite details, spot-on precision, realistic imaging, impeccable timing, and absorbing immediacy from your recordings. HGC DAC3 bows as one of the most neutral, transparent, and purist-based DACs ever made. And, with the built-in HPA2, it doubles as an extremely serious headphone amplifier.
Outfitted with four balanced 32-bit converters summed together to create each balanced analog output, HGC DAC3 lays out the spoils for gearheads and tech-loving audiophiles. Active second harmonic compensation, active third harmonic compensation, and several performance upgrades over the acclaimed DAC2 – lower THD+N, lower passband ripple, improved frequency response, faster PLL lock times, and faster switching between input signals – all translate into astounding transparency and naturalism. Benefitting from an advanced high-headroom digital filter and asynchronous USB interface, HGC DAC3 provides 6dB noise reduction and boasts a trademarked UltraLock3 jitter attenuation system. A polarity switch, home theater bypass, digital pass through, and bi-directional 12-volt trigger also come standard. Read more about the specifics below, but know that HGC DAC3 is true to the meaning of the Benchmark name. 100% Music Direct Money-Back Guaranteed.
"If ever there were a reason to shout how we are living in a golden age for music lovers, it would be Benchmark DAC-shaped. The DAC3 HGC is the kind of DAC that not only pushes the technological envelope, but also does so without sacrificing the sonic performance, and doesn’t cost as much as a car in the process."
– Alan Sircom, Hi-Fi+
Unique Hybrid Gain Control System for Sterling Purity and Tremendous Dynamic Range
"HGC" is Benchmark's unique Hybrid Gain Control system. DAC3 combines active analog gain control, passive low-impedance attenuators, a 32-bit digital gain control, and a servo-driven volume control. All inputs are controlled by the rotary volume control that moves in response to commands from the remote control. Analog inputs are never converted to digital, and digital inputs never pass through an analog potentiometer. Digital inputs are precisely controlled in the 32-bit DSP system that preserves precise L/R balance and precise stereo imaging while avoiding any source of noise and distortion. Benchmark's unique passive output attenuators provide distortion-free gain reduction without reducing the dynamic range of the converter. The attenuators optimize the gain staging between DAC3 and the power amplifier. This optimization is absolutely essential for maximizing the dynamic range of the entire playback system. Musical details can be obscured by system noise whenever a preamplifier and power amplifier are improperly matched. The HGC system makes full use of your power amplifier's dynamic range.
Virtually Perfect Jitter Reduction With Trademarked UltraLock3 System
The lightning-fast UltraLock3 is an improved version of the UltraLock2 system and provides virtually perfect jitter attenuation. DSP processing is 32-bits, DSP headroom is 3.5dB, sample rate is 211 kHz, and jitter-induced distortion and noise is at least 140dB below the level of the music - well below the threshold of hearing. Benchmark's UltraLock3 system eliminates all audible jitter artifacts.
High Headroom Features 3.5dB "Excess" for Coloration-Free Playback
All of the digital processing in DAC3 is designed to handle signals as high as +3.5 dBFS. Most digital systems clip signals that exceed 0 dBFS. The 0 dBFS limitation seems reasonable, as 0 dBFS is the highest sinusoidal signal level that can be represented in a digital system. However, a detailed investigation of the mathematics of PCM digital systems will reveal that inter-sample peaks may reach levels slightly higher than +3 dBFS while individual samples never exceed 0 dBFS. These inter-sample overs are common in commercial releases, and are of no consequence in a PCM system until they reach an interpolation process. But virtually all audio D/A converters use an interpolation process. The interpolation process is absolutely necessary to achieve 24-bit state-of-the art conversion performance. Unfortunately, inter-sample overs cause clipping in most interpolators. This clipping produces distortion products that are non-harmonic and non-musical . We believe these broadband distortion products often add a harshness or false high-frequency sparkle to digital reproduction. DAC3 avoids these problems by maintaining at least 3.5dB of headroom in the entire conversion system.
Multi-Mode Asynchronous USB System Supports USB2.0 and DSD
Benchmark's USB system supports USB Audio 2.0, DSD, and USB Audio 1.1. It will follow sample-rate changes initiated by the computer and/or the media playback software. In all modes, the USB communications are asynchronous in order to eliminate unnecessary sources of jitter. DAC3 has a low-jitter master clock that controls the transfer of audio data from the computer to the USB sub-system. The computer asynchronously transfers audio data to a buffer in DAC3. The contents of the buffer are then asynchronously transferred to the D/A conversion subsystem. This second asynchronous transfer eliminates any traces of jitter that accumulate as the data is transferred between the USB and conversion subsystems. No traces of jitter-induced distortion are measurable to Benchmark's measurement limits (better than -150 dBFS). So you can enjoy the convenience of computer playback without compromise. The asynchronous USB system supports USB Audio 2.0 for high-resolution 192kHz and DSD playback. An asynchronous, driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode supports sample rates up to 96kHz. This USB mode can be selected from the front panel or from the remote control. The USB subsystem remains active when DAC3 is powered down to prevents interruptions to the computer playback operations and eliminate the need to reconfigure the computer every time the converter is turned on.
Incredibly Low THD Via Quad 32-Bit Balanced Conversion
Four balanced 32-bit D/A converters deliver audio to Benchmark's low-impedance current to voltage converters. The 4:1 redundancy reduces noise and distortion to beguiling levels. The conversion system at the core of DAC3 is superb and the analog circuits that follow the D/A converter carefully designed. The conversion system in DAC3 achieves a 6dB signal-to-noise improvement through the use of 4:1 summing. The ES9028PRO D/A is an 8-channel 32-bit converter. In DAC3, four channels are summed in the analog domain to form each of the two output channels. he 4:1 summing also improves the THD. The non-linearities in individual conversion channels are averaged across the four summed channels and incoherent non-linearities are attenuated by 6dB.
HPA2 High-Current Headphone Amp Delivers Full-Rated Performance to Any 'Phones
DAC3 features HPA2, Benchmark's signature high-current, 0-Ohm headphone power amplifier. HPA2 is nothing short of a reference headphone power amplifier. It delivers the full rated performance of DAC3 to any headphones. DAC3 also counts two 1/4" headphone jacks on the front panel. The performance of HPA2 remains consistent even when two headphones are being driven simultaneously.
Two Harmonic Compensation Systems
The ES9028PRO chip has two distortion compensation systems that independently remove most of the 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion in the D/A converter. Benchmark's ultra-clean analog output stages allow these systems to be fully leveraged in DAC3. To Benchmark's knowledge, no other D/A converter has lower THD.
Diagnostic Tools, Home Theater Bypass, and Digital Pass Through
Ever wonder why that 192 kHz 24-bit download on your computer just doesn't sound right? Your media player may be down-sampling to 44.1 kHz and/or truncating to 16-bits. Many computers and media players apply poor-quality sample rate conversion and truncation. Fortunately these problems can be eliminated with the selection a good frequency-agile media player. The sample-rate and word-length displays on the DAC3 confirm the proper operation of your media player. DAC3 also includes a polarity switch to correct recordings with inverted polarity. It can also be integrated into a home theater system. Typically, DAC3 drives the left and right power amplifiers, and an analog feed from the home-theater system is connected to either of the analog inputs on DAC3. A programmable Home Theater Bypass function sets the pass-through gain to unity when the surround system is active. DAC3 includes an indicator light that illuminates when bypass is active. Finally, the second coaxial input on DAC3 can be reconfigured as a digital output. In output mode, any selected digital input (including USB) will pass through to the coaxial output. The digital pass through is bit-transparent and even supports DSD (DoP 1.1). Dolby Digital and DTS formats can also be passed through to a surround processor.
High-Efficiency Low-Noise Power Supplies and Distributed Power-Supply Regulation
DAC3 uses high-efficiency low-noise power supplies and may be operated from any standard international voltage without adjustment. To achieve the lowest possible noise, DAC3 uses distributed power supply regulation. Each critical subsystem has at least one dedicated low-noise voltage regulator.
User Manual (PDF, 3.5 MB)