Benchmark DAC3 HGC review: An outstanding all-in-one headphone amp, DAC, and preamp

    Wouldn’t it’s nice for those who might purchase a reference-quality headphone amp, DAC, and preamp multi function small footprint? Nicely, you’ll be able to. Look no additional than Benchmark’s excellent DAC3 HGC, which follows within the footsteps of the corporate’s acclaimed DAC2 and DAC1.

    The DAC3 HGC has two units of analog RCA inputs and 5 stereo digital inputs (two Toslink optical, two coax digital, and one USB Sort B). When you plan to make use of the Benchmark DAC3 HGC with USB-C geared up computer systems (like I did), you’ll be able to choose up a USB-C to USB Sort B cable on-line. When you intend to play hi-res music information higher than 24-bit/96kHz, the USB or coax digital inputs are really useful.

    The entrance of the unit sports activities two 1/Four-inch headphone outputs, able to driving two pairs of headphones concurrently. The headphone outputs are pushed by Benchmark’s HPA2 headphone amplifier. Benchmark claims the HPA2 amp has an output impedance near zero ohms, delivering a excessive damping issue to keep up management over a headphone’s transducers.

    Every headphone output performs a barely completely different perform on the DAC3 HGC. Plugging a headphone into the left output mutes the DAC3’s analog outputs, enabling you to immediately swap from listening to audio system to headphones. Plug your cans into the best jack and all outputs stay dwell, so linked audio system and headphones will play on the identical time.

    Theo Nicolakis

    The DAC3 can drive two headphones concurrently. Right here, the DAC3 is driving each Focal Clear and Beyerdynamic Amiron House headphones.

    You possibly can disable the auto-mute function of the left headphone output by adjusting the DAC3 HGC’s inner jumpers. Talking of jumpers, you’ll be able to even modify the HPA2’s achieve, which can lower the default output by both 10db or 20db. Benchmark gives this management so you’ll be able to fine-tune the DAC3’s efficiency to your headphone’s impedance.

    I ought to be aware that along with the DAC3 HGC, the corporate sells the DAC3 L and DAC3 DX. All DAC3 fashions supply an identical audio efficiency, the distinction lies in every mannequin’s inputs and outputs. The DAC3 L, for instance, has no headphone amplifier—it’s only a DAC and preamp. The DAC3 DX, in the meantime, provides an XLR AES digital enter whereas dropping the 2 analog stereo RCA inputs discovered on the HGC and L fashions.

    DAC energy beneath the hood

    The DAC3 HGC sports activities the most recent ESS Expertise ES9028PRO 32-bit D/A converter chip, which performs all of the unit’s digital-to-analog conversion. The chip is geared toward audiophile and recording-studio gear. Among the many ES9028PRO’s advantages over earlier—era ESS chips are lively 2nd and third harmonic compensation, decrease THD+N (whole harmonic distortion and noise), decrease passband ripple, improved frequency response, and sooner PLL (phase-locked loop) lock instances.

    The Benchmark DAC3 is constructed to function the center of your hi-res and common disc assortment. There’s native assist for each main hi-res lossless codec, together with FLAC, ALAC, and DSD. When you’re a purist, you’ll be completely happy to notice that each DSD and PCM are transformed natively to analog. Benchmark says that DSD is transported with bit accuracy over DoP 1.1. There’s no conversion of DSD to PCM, or PCM to DSD previous to the analog stage. The DAC3, nevertheless, received’t decode MQA tracks.

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