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Positive Feedback ISSUE 27
september/october 2006


Two Updates - The Benchmark DAC1 and Audio Magic's Quantum Physics Noise Disrupters
by Robert H. Levi


Now that I have completed the review of the astounding Metronome T2Ai Signature CD Player at $20,600, I thought it appropriate to take another quick look at the Benchmark DAC1 I recently used for comparison purposes. This giant killer DAC, still costing only $995, was very competitive to the Metronome if you are willing to treat it as the fine DAC it really is.

As I mentioned in the Benchmark review, it has undergone numerous component changes. The final version has been on the market since March of this year. Here's how to get the absolutely finest performance from this world beater.

First, set all output jumpers internally to 0dB. This allows for full output at the XLRs. It does sound superior when run balanced when you do this. I think overall balanced is best.

Next, use the best interconnects, digital cable, and power conditioning available. Yes, the cables will cost more than the Benchmark. I used all Kubala-Sosna Emotion Cables throughout including their newest AES/EBU Cable. I used the World Power Wing AC Conditioner. All in, the cables cost retail about $5500. I used a variety of transports including the Alesis Masterlink [with AES/EBU] and the Pioneer 919LD/CD Player with SPDIF. I also used the Modwright Sony 999 and the E.A.R. Acute CD Player as transports.

Next, put plenty of cushion under the Benchmark for sweetest sound. I also liked the Quantum Physics Noise Disrupter on the transport feeding the Benchmark. Turn the volume control all the way off as you don't need it with the XLR outputs engaged on the back. You are now ready to enjoy this sonic wonder child to the max.

If you do all I suggest here, the Benchmark DAC 1 is seriously close to the musical presentation of the Metronome for one twentieth the base cost. I liked it best fed with the Alesis Masterlink and the ModWright Sony. The better the transport, the better the result.

I've found with separate DACs, the transport and interconnecting digital cable play a huge role in the maximizing of the DAC's qualities. With optimum setup, the Benchmark can achieve stellar performance, well beyond its price point. Using the same treatment as I would a $10,000 piece in my system, it sounds like a $10,000 piece!

Maximized for best sound, it is alive, fast, agile, smooth, powerful, and elegant to hear. It has superb definition and world beater bass. Using AES/EBU it has zero etch and an almost tube like smoothness. It's a bit crisper with SPDIF. You'll hear amazing focus and a truly top notch signal to noise ratio. There's lots of depth and big sound staging, too.

As you cheat and compromise on accessories, the Benchmark's performance degrades accordingly. It's a garbage in, garbage out situation. Treat it with audiophile loving care and you'll get just that. The Pro's just toss it in the chain and forget about it til needed. Don't you do that!

The latest version of the Benchmark DAC1 is a marvelous music machine and competitive sonically with DACs costing $10,000 or more. The secret is to treat it with ancillaries that you'd use with such expensive gear. You do this and the jumper reset tweak discussed above, and superb upsampled digital performance will be yours for only $995! This is even more amazing since Benchmark has improved its DAC's innards since its intro in 2002 and not raised the price one penny. Oh, if only all of life were like this! The Benchmark DAC1 is a must own DAC. My very highest recommendation.

After 7 months of enjoying a pair of the Audio Magic' Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, I've found more utility and sonic surprise with extended use of these ultra useful noise disintegrators. The only tweak I've enjoyed this much is my Bedini Ultra Clarifier and I find both indispensable.

Placed on top of nearly every digital device or transport, you will hear a sonic improvement. From a Pioneer LD Player, to a Denon SACD/CD/DVD Player, to a ModWright Sony 999 SADC/CD Player, to virtually every power conditioner from Tice to PS Audio, to a Day Sequerra Fm Tuner, to your favorite solid state amplifier, etc. you'll hear more music with less distortion instantly!

I've had a tough time finding a source or amp that did not benefit. What you hear is a lowering of noise and hash in the background which blackens the spaces between instruments. You also hear a subtle smoothing of musical lines and a warming of natural acoustic instruments. Textural cues are more obvious and all! is more enjoyable and realistic.

This improvement is all wrought passively and is instantly verifiable and repeatable. When not used, the Disrupter is instantly missed.

It can be too much of a good thing on tube gear …particularly amplifiers. I think its less applicable on tube amps than on any other type of audio toy you might own. It's best improvement comes on DACs and transports, digital players, solid state amplifiers, and power conditioners. Just putting one under your amplifier interconnects somewhere between preamp and amp, yields a subtle clearing of the musical soundstage which may be all you'll need.

I had thought I might play with the Disrupters for a while, then forget about them. Just the opposite is true. I can't wait to see what one will do on a new piece of gear in for evaluation. I keep moving them around like chess pieces and enjoying their added beauty to the music with every turn. I am convinced that no audiophile should be without one of these. Though they come in a small size, get the larger size and go to town. The Quantum Physics Noise Disrupter by Audio Magic is what true tweaking is all about. It's the icing on the sonic cake and I do love icing!