mjcmt wrote: OBI56 wrote:
I have both the DAC 11 and the DAC 09, both among the first units shipped and can vouch that the 2 are in completely different classes.
Tube choices aside, can you please elaborate on the differences in sound between the two dacs using the same tubes? I have a friend who has the 09. but it is in a cluttered work office where sound quality has not been the focus, but features for his needs at a budget price. Since owning the Benchmark DAC1 years back feeding directly to a tube power amp I've been interested in Grant Fidelity's dacs as a budget option to the Benchmark HDR. Thanks taking the time to fill me in.
First thing first, the DAC-09 has been discontinued for several months and has not been available new since late last summer.
Secondly, the DAC-11 and DAC-09 are 2 completely different designs using different internal topologies and different tube families (DAC-09 uses a 6N3/5670 tube, the DAC-11 a 6922/6DJ8/ECC88 type tube), so comparing them using the same tube is physically impossible.
The DAC-09 is a tube headphone/DAC that can be internally rewided and used as a preamp. The DAC-11 is a full blown DAC/SS or tube headphone amp/passive, active SS or tube preamp which offers hundreds of possible sound signatures once you start tube rolling. As each tube brand and model has its own distinct sound, you can pretty much custom tailor the sound to what you are looking for at any given time.
The Benchmark DAC is an SS design originally intended for studio/commercial use with a very clean house sound. I actually almost bought one as my first DAC after comparing it to the Cambridge DACMagic, PSAudio, Chord and a stock CityPulse DA-7.2 using both a high end CEC transport and a NAD CD player as sources. The system was a big McIntosh system driving Martin Logan (IIRC) Summits connected with higher end MIT cables in my local McIntosh dealer's sound room. There were 5 of us present for the 4 hour shootout and the general concensus was that the Benchmark was the cleanest one overall, almost to the point be sounding somewhat sterile on this high resolution system (one guy left with the Benchmark he liked it so much), the Chord was the smoothest but the CityPulse was the biggest surprize to everyone, despite being less than half the price of the others, offered the best balanced between detail, bass extension and smoothness overall, so that was what 2 of us left with ; mine was a heavily modded DA-7.2 Mk II which I was perfectly content with for a few years until I got my DAC-09.
Sound is a very subjective and personal thing and, as our tastes change and evolve over the years, tube DACS become more and more interesting due to their ability to customize the sound with a simple tube roll. I had the chance to hear that exact Bemchmark in my own system a few weeks ago in a shhotout between it, my modded CityPulse and my DAC-11 hooked up to my Squeezebox Touch (2 buddies were over looking into the possibility of getting Touches). On MY
system, in MY
room with MY
Squeezebox touch playing MY
ripped music, everyone present agreed that the Benchmark, as fine as it sounded originally, was suddenly cold, analytical, clinical; almost CD sounding. The CityPulse fared even worse when compared with the DAC-11 in tube output mode (pretty much a draw in SS mode).
Was this because the DAC-11 was a better DAC? Nah, it was because our tastes in sound had evelved and its sound was what everyone had come to PREFER over the years. The DAC-11 didn't blow the 2 other DACs out of the water and no one thought that any of the DACs was signigicantly inferior to the other 2; all 3 were rated as pretty good overall and a big improvement over the Touch's internal DAC, but none of them could match the overall sound of my tube CDP playing the original CD.
On my upstairs system (which doesn't come close to the resolution and delicacy of my main system), the Benchmark really shone and brought things to life, as did the CityPulse. Different system, same sources, same music, same DACs, different room and cables,; different results and preferencs. The ONLY thing that has been a constant in all the comparaisons I
have made, no matter what the system/music/room has been the that the DAC-11 has sounded more detailled, refined and smooth (quieter too) than the DAC-09. Your sound priorities may differ from mine or from other listeners, so take my comments in the context that they are MY
impressions and that they could very well be different than yours.
The neat thing about the DAC-11 is that you can try it in your home, on your system for 30 days and, if you don't like it, you can return it.