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  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
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To Hans Wetzel,

I just got my Benchmark DAC2 HGC this afternoon to use in my main two-channel music-only system to connect to my Audio Research LS27 preamp. It is replacing a Stello DA220 Mk.II DAC. I also have a Benchmark DAC1 USB that I’ve only used on my desktop with my computer.

I just wanted to ask a question: when you used your review DAC2 only as a DAC, how did you have it configured? I think I understand how to hook up the DAC2, but I just wanted to verify things because it is different due to the volume/gain control knob in the front compared to my old Stello. The Stello was just the same normal hookup: source to DAC and DAC to preamp (with a fixed output). But with the DAC2, is the knob in the front a gain control when using the digital inputs? Should that just be set to the maximum level when I hook it up to my preamp? Or should I play around with the levels and find the one that works best? Is that how the DAC2 is meant to be used when using it as a traditional DAC like my old Stello DAC? I am using the balanced XLR outputs from the DAC into my preamp. For now, I‘ve left the DAC2's XLR output jumper pads at the factory default of 10dB.

Just a little confused. Thanks for any light that you can shed.

Sanjay

Congratulations on the DAC2 HGC, Sanjay. I think you'll find it to be a noticeable improvement over your DAC1, and you can be confident that you own one of the most overachieving digital components on the market today.

As for the setup, the DAC2 can be a little confusing. Unlike the DAC1, which has a switch on the back to select whether you want a fixed output (for use as a DAC) or a variable output (for use as a DAC-preamplifier to be run directly into an amplifier), the DAC2 only has the volume control on the front. I, too, was a little befuddled at first as to how the volume control should be set, but your hunch is a correct one. When used solely as a DAC, simply set the volume to maximum and you'll be all set. As I recall, Benchmark's informative manual details how to preset the volume on the DAC2, so you should be able to preset it to maximum whenever the unit is turned on.

But if you decide to try running the DAC2 as a DAC-preamp, bypassing your Audio Research LS27 in the process, pay very close attention to the setup. When run as a preamp, you'll want to have the volume preset very low so as not to blow out your speakers. You will also want to always make sure to turn on your amp before the DAC2 when powering on your system, and turn off the DAC2 before the amplifier when powering down your system. I experienced a brutally loud pop through the GoldenEar Technologies Triton Three loudspeakers when I got that backwards, though luckily all of the equipment was fine. It can't hurt to double- and triple-check everything if you decide to go this route.

Please let us know how the DAC2 HGC works out for you. . . . Hans Wetzel