DACs

Benchmark ADC1 USB Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC)

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Benchmark ADC1 USB


Introduction

The pro-audio company Benchmark has a firm foothold in the audiophile world with their digital to analog converter/headphone amp the DAC1 and DAC1 USB. These have been universally well reviewed, especially here, and I've been able to listen to them myself, and I concur with the positive reports.

But a DAC is for when you already have some bits to 'C'. What if you are a vinyl nut like myself? I buy most of my music on vinyl which is far far superior to CD sound but I can't play vinyl in my car and even I have a little music server action going through my Squeezebox Duet (for the times when I can't be stopping what I'm doing to flip records).

Specifications

  • Design: 2 Channel Analog to Digital Converter
  • Inputs: Two XLR Balanced
  • Outputs: Five Digital outputs (1 XLR, 2 Coax, 1 Optical, 1 USB)
  • Sample Rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, and 192 kHz
  • Output formats: AES/EBU, ADAT, and ADAT S/MUX2, and ADAT S/MUX4
  • THD+N: -104 dB, 0.00063% @ -3 dBFS input, SNR 121 dB A-weighted
  • Simultaneous Output at Two Different Sample Rates
  • Simultaneous 16 and 24-bit Outputs
  • Dimensions: 1.7" H x 9.5" W x 9.3" D
  • Weight: 3.6 Pounds
  • Price: $1795 USA
  • Benchmark Media

Well actually things are looking better and better for us vinyl nuts. Besides the fact that new music is more consistently released on vinyl, often on the same day as the CD (adding years to my life), nowadays many vinyl releases include a coupon for a download of a digital copy of the album. Usually in MP3 but at a high enough bit rate so as to not be completely annoying. Sometimes the record company just throws a CD inside the sleeve. My last trip to the record store was on 'Vinyl Day'. I bought 5 records, 3 of which had coupons for MP3 downloads. Since it was 'Vinyl Day' I thought I might be getting some sort of discount. Yeah right.

For the other 40% of my recent vinyl purchases, not to mention all my old vinyl I need ADC – analog to digital conversion. If you've been slavishly reading my equipment reviews (I know I have), you know that I have ADC through my computer. Specifically a CardDeluxe high end sound card that does a good job at this. However, it wasn't until recently that I solved a key dilemma in this arena, that of properly setting the recording levels. Chances are the levels out of a phono stage will not drive the inputs to any ADC to their full range. If they do, they might occasionally exceed that range and then you really have a problem. I've written some before about this in my review of the PS Audio GCPH.

The short of it is that the GCPH at long last gave me the ability to adjust the record levels in the analog realm, ensuring that I utilized the full range of available bits in the digital realm.

So, how could vinyl recording get any better? Well there is always the possibility of higher quality. And then there is the matter of where the computer is. The CardDeluxe is a full size PCI card for a desktop computer. A computer with fans, a keyboard and monitor. For me, this must be in a different room than my main system, the one with the best turntable.

The Benchmark ADC1 has no fans, though it probably needs good ventilation as it gets plenty warm. It has a USB output which plugged into my laptop and started working with no further computer settings or adjustments. Oh, and it has (analog realm) adjustable gain, per channel no less.

Benchmark ADC1 USB

There's a lot I could say about the user interface of the ADC1 but I'll save that for the end because I've been going on a long time here just to set the stage. I made some recordings with the ADC1, how did they sound?