Benchmark DAC3 DX Digital to Analog Converter with Headphone Amplifier (Black with Remote Control)


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  • The DAC3 builds upon Benchmark’s highly successful DAC2 product family. The DAC3 maintains the familiar DAC2 form factor, but adds the higher performance available from the new ES9028PRO D/A converter. The DAC3 DX offers the following improvements over the DAC2 DX:

    • Active 2nd Harmonic Compensation
    • Active 3rd Harmonic Compensation
    • Lower THD+N
    • Lower passband ripple
    • Improved frequency response
    • Faster PLL lock times
    • Faster switching between inputs
    • Programmable Auto-On mode
    • Adjustable calibration


    • Hybrid Gain Control
    • Low-Impedance Passive Output Attenuators
    • High-Headroom DSP
    • UltraLock3™ Jitter Attenuation System
    • High-Headroom 32-bit DSP
    • Quad 32-bit balanced D/A Conversion System
    • Multi-Mode Asynchronous USB Audio System
    • Digital Diagnostic Display
    • Volume-Control Bypass
    • Digital Pass Through
    • Distributed Power Regulation
    • "Zero-Ohm" HPA2™ Headphone Amplifier

    The DAC3 DX combines passive low-impedance attenuators, a 32-bit digital gain control, and a servo-driven volume control. All analog outputs are controlled by the rotary volume control unless the calibrated output function is selected. The motorized volume control moves in response to commands from the remote control. Audio does not pass through the volume control. The position of the rotary knob is precisely measured, and digital gain coefficients are calculated. The gain coefficients are filtered and passed to a 32-bit high-headroom DSP system. The 32-bit output of this system is connected directly to the array of 32-bit digital to analog converters. This system can provide a wide range of volume control without losing resolution. The DSP system preserves precise L/R balance, and precise stereo imaging, while avoiding any source of noise and distortion.

    The volume control is one of the most critical functions in the audio chain, enjoy the best system available.

    Benchmark's unique passive output attenuators provide distortion-free gain reduction without reducing the dynamic range (or SNR) of the converter. The attenuators optimize the gain staging between the DAC3 DX and the power amplifier. This optimization is absolutely essential for maximizing the dynamic range of the entire playback system. Much of the success of the DAC1 and DAC2 converters can be attributed to the passive output attenuators. Musical details can be obscured by system noise whenever a preamplifier and power amplifier are improperly matched. The passive attenuators enable full use of your power amplifier's dynamic range.

    Experience new details in your favorite recordings.

    UltraLock3™ is an improved version of the UltraLock2™ system used in the DAC2 product family. On both of these systems, DSP processing is 32-bits, DSP headroom is 3.5 dB, sample rate is 211 kHz, and jitter-induced distortion and noise is at least 140 dB below the level of the music - well below the threshold of hearing. But, the new UltraLock3™ system provides instantaneous (6 ms) lock times. This makes it much easier to perform A/B comparisons between two digital inputs.

    Benchmark's UltraLock3™ system eliminates all audible jitter artifacts.

    All D/A converters need 3.5 dB "excess" digital headroom, but few have any headroom above 0 dBFS.

    All of the digital processing in the DAC3 DX 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, for a variety of reasons, 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. The DAC3 DX avoids these problems by maintaining at least 3.5 dB of headroom in the entire conversion system. We believe this added headroom is a groundbreaking improvement delivering significant sonic advantages.

    Four balanced 32-bit D/A converters deliver audio to Benchmark's low-impedance current to voltage converters. The main bus feeds the balanced XLR outputs and one set of unbalanced RCA outputs. The main bus uses 3:1 redundancy to reduce conversion noise by 4.77 dB. The redundancy also tends to reduce distortion. A fourth set of conversion channels are reserved for the auxiliary bus that feeds the second set of RCA outputs.

    Similar redundancy is built into the native DSD conversion system.

    The analog circuits that follow the D/A converter are carefully designed. Benchmark has leveraged its long history of building high-end analog audio equipment, in order to create an outstanding analog output stage.

    Digital converters are never better than the analog stages that support the conversion process.

    Benchmark's USB system supports USB Audio 2.0, DSD, and USB Audio 1.1. It is frequency agile, and 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.

    The DAC3 DX has a low-jitter master clock which controls the transfer of audio data from the computer to the USB sub-system. The computer asynchronously transfers audio data to a buffer in the DAC3 DX. The contents of the buffer are then asynchronously transferred to the D/A conversion sub-system. 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 our measurement limits (better than -150 dBFS). This truly represents the state-of-the art. Enjoy the convenience of computer playback without compromise. The Asynchronous USB system supports USB Audio 2.0 for high-resolution 192kHz, and DSD playback. No drivers are required for MAC operating systems. An easy-to-install driver adds 192 kHz and DSD capabilities to Windows operating systems.

    An asynchronous, driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode supports sample rates up to 96 kHz. This USB mode can be selected from the front panel or from the remote control. The driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode allows quick plug-and-play connections to Windows, MAC, iOS, and many Linux operating systems without installing drivers. Just plug in the USB, and the DAC2 DX becomes an available audio device.

    The USB subsystem remains active when the DAC2 DX is powered down. This prevents interruptions to the computer playback operations and eliminates the need to reconfigure the computer every time the converter is turned on.

    Enjoy the convenience of USB connectivity without any compromise to audio performance.

    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 media players apply poor-quality sample rate conversion and truncation. Fortunately these problems can be eliminated with the selection of a good frequency-agile media player. The sample-rate and word-length displays on the DAC3 DX confirm the proper operation of your media player. These tools are also essential in the studio - get instant confirmation of sample rates and word lengths. The DAC3 DX measures the sample rate and examines bit activity, it does not use metadata flags (which are often incorrect).

    Know when High-Resolution Audio is being delivered to your DAC.

    The DAC3 DX has two analog output busses. Each bus can be placed in a calibrated volume-control bypass mode in order to provide a full-level output while using an upstream digital volume control or downstream analog volume control. This feature is useful in many professional applications and it is also useful when the DAC3 DX is feeding a Hi-Fi preamplifier.

    The bypass function should be enabled whenever a Hi-Fi preamplifier is inserted between the DAC3 DX and the power amplifier. However, for best performance, Benchmark strongly recommends connecting the DAC3 DX directly to the power amplifier. The DAC3 DX performs all the functions of a DAC and a Hi-Fi preamplifier - a separate downstream Hi-Fi preamplifier can only degrade the performance.

    The Volume-Control Bypass provides flexibility for specialized applications.

    The second coaxial input 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 be passed through to a surround processor.

    The Pass-Through Function provides a coaxial output for any USB-connected computer.

    The DAC3 DX will enter a standby mode if the selected digital input is inactive for more than 5 minutes. Operation will resume when the selected digital input become active.The power switch places the DAC3 DX in "full shutdown". Power consumption is less than 0.5 W in "full shutdown". The DAC3 DX will respond the IR remote or the 12V trigger while in "full shutdown".

    The DAC3 DX saves energy by meeting or exceeding all standby power standards.

    The DAC3 DX uses high-efficiency low noise power supplies and may be operated from any standard international voltage without adjustment. Low-noise audio circuits require generous amounts of power. High-efficiency circuits in the DAC2 DX deliver this power without wasted energy.

    Power consumption is 12 W - typical.

    To achieve the lowest possible noise, the DAC3 DX uses distributed power supply regulation. Each critical subsystem has at least one dedicated low-noise voltage regulator. There are 20 voltage regulators in the DAC3 DX.

    This power system is so effective that there no evidence of any AC line-related hum and noise are at least 135 dB below the calibrated output level.

    The DAC3 DX features the HPA2™ - Benchmark's signature high-current, 0-Ohm headphone power amplifier. The HPA2™ is arguably the ultimate reference headphone power amplifier. It will deliver the full rated performance of the DAC3 DX to the headphones. The HPA2™ maintains less than 0.001% THD+N into 30 Ohms. The DAC3 has two 1/4" headphone jacks on the front panel. The performance of the HPA2™ remains consistent even when two headphones are being driven simultaneously.

    The 0.11-Ohm output impedance of the HPA2™ maintains tight control of headphone transducers.

    This Benchmark product was designed, assembled, and tested in the USA using USA and imported components. Most major components are made in USA.

  • Number of Digital Inputs (switch selected) 6 (1 USB, 2 Optical, 1 XLR, 2 Coaxial)
    Number of Balanced Analog Outputs 2
    Balanced Analog Output Connector Gold-Pin Neutrik™ male XLR
    Number of Unbalanced Analog Outputs 4
    Unbalanced Analog Output Connector RCA
    Number of Headphone Outputs 2
    Headphone Output Connectors ¼” TRS with switch on left-hand jack
    Form Factor ½ Rack Wide, 1 RU High
    Width 9.5” (249 mm)
    Height 1.725” (44.5 mm)
    Weight DAC3 only 3 lb.
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