Hello, I have a MacMini running Roon to a Benchmark DAC3 and I recently heard of the possibility of upsampling to DSD. The Benchmark only goes to DSD 64, but when I go to set it up in DSP engine, I see no option to upsample PCM formats to DSD, only to higher sampling rate PCM. Am I missing something in the settings, or is this due to some limitation with the Benchmark DAC3? I should be able to upsample to DSD 64 at least, right?
Depending on the device, you could have hidden options. At the bottom of Device Setup screen, is there a clickable field that reads “Show Advanced”? Additional options, including a DSD option, are there.
Thanks for trying, and no, I haven’t used another DAC. I’m guessing Roon has given Benchmark only limited options here. But why it won’t allow the DAC to get DSD 64 upsamples, I don’t understand. @support, can you help with this?
@Joe_Bandy, looks like you have the DAC3 in USB Audio 1.1 mode, which only supports up to 24/96 (not high enough to do DSD64 over DoP). You should be able to switch it into USB Audio 2.0 mode by holding down both of the input switching buttons for a few seconds. It may show up as a different device in Roon at this point, but you should be able to support higher sample rates once you’ve switched it over.
Excellent, that did the trick! I didn’t realize there were two different modes. Thank you.
Now, if you don’t mind, what do the DSD settings mean, namely the 5th and 7th Order settings with or without CLANS? Which is best for my setup? And should I be using Power of 2 buffer sizes with 16GB RAM?
I’m glad that worked for you. Benchmark ships the DAC3 in UAC 1.1 mode by default because it wasn’t until fairly recent patch levels of Windows 10 that it supported UAC 2.0 without additional drivers.
These settings have to do with the algorithms being used to convert from PCM to DSD. Here’s a post from @brian regarding how they work:
My personal preference is for PCM over DSD (particularly single-rate), but you should figure this out for yourself, as it has a lot to do with the specifics of your equipment and your own personal preferences.
This setting is mostly for working around buggy devices or drivers that misbehave otherwise. I wouldn’t touch it if you’re not having issues.
It has been a few months. I just wondered what you found Joe?
Do you prefer PCM conversion to DSD64 in Roon with the Benchmark DAC 3 or just plain PCM (original file format) or an upsampled PCM?
I am curious because the Benchmark DAC 3 upsamples to 250GHz (far higher than any DSD) before downsampling to 211KHz to feed to the D/A chip converter (ESS 9028). It sounds complex but it allows 4 psec timing adjustments for incoming jitter correction and the 211KHz sample rate forces the chip filter to work outside the audible band where it has little or no impact. All to say that this particular device has a highly specific FPGA sample rate conversion process and works very differently from all other DACs. It is therefore less likely to benefit from conversion done in Roon and a 1 bit DSD64 format has a lot of added HF noise in it compared to PCM.
You can read John Siau’s Take on DSD on one of the articles here
Basically Siau favours the technically superior conversion of PCM in the modern 6 bit DS chips. 1 bit DS being limited by the excessive noise of a 1 bit architecture. PCM having the advantage of the low noise floor because of the bit depth.
Thanks Jeremy! Yes, the benchmark has a process of conversion that I really love. It’s part of what drew me to the dac in the first place. I’ve done some A/B comparisons for a while, and just listened for weeks to both the PCM and the DSD64 conversions to determine which might have the upper hand. And you are right: there is not much audible difference between the two given how well the benchmark converts PCM, and possibly the limitations of my system (Mac mini with Roon —> Benchmark —> Bryston 4BSST —> Magnepan .7i) or my hearing. There is no difference at all in dynamics, or Jitter that I can tell. Neither have I heard any differences in bass or high frequency clarity. Where there might be some audible difference on some tracks is the resonance of some midrange notes, with a bit more detail with the DSD. But again, it’s very very slight and everyone who has helped me compare has been inconclusive about which is better. The other difference might be a tad more of a lower noise floor with PCM, as you suggest. But this too is very slight and imperceptible in my system most of the time.
Similar to my experience - nothing causes the Benchmark DAC 3 to flinch or change its spots! About as bullet proof as it gets. If there is any difference in sample rate etc. then I can’t hear it…(and I definitely can hear these kind of changes on other DACs - very easily).
I use a tube preamp to add some flavour as the Benchmark DAC 3 is so dry and detailed I keep hearing all the faults in the mix and mastering, microphone bleed, headphone bleed and every mistake, every splice, every reverb adjustment, distance of vocalist to the microphone etc. - it is just all too easy to hear minute detail that it can become a distraction.
That said, I am not saying the Benchmark DAC 3 is ideal for everyone. It is a reference product and the fact you can’t tweak it or get a multitude of colored sounds out of it is as big of a draw back as active speakers for many folks. You get what you get…which means tweaking to fit a system or setup is difficult if it doesn’t work from the get go.
Yeah, the Benchmark can sound a bit clinical. I often have thought about a more euphonic setup, including tubes. A friend got the Benchmark amp and DAC3 (with Golden Ear Tritons), and says his system is even worse, revealing to a fault. Unfortunately, due to the Maggies’ power demands, I am limited to either more expensive solid state (Pass Labs, for example) or a powerful tube amp (like Audio Research), but both are out of my budget for the time being. I’ve read that adding tubes is best done in the amplifier, but maybe a carefully selected tube preamp may work well and be closer to my budget. I’ve thought of a Conrad Johnson. What do you use?
McIntosh C2600. It has an excellent phono section and uses widely available 5 x 12AX7 and 1 x 12AT7 tubes. It is not the last word in resolution by far but can sound close to SS if you desire (ARC is more SS sounding). It works for me as I wanted some coloration but not overly warm sound like many tube amps. Tube rolling has resulted in my using old 50’s Telefunken in the phono stages and an old 50’s RCA in the line stage. It is a bit of a mystery to me but I can hear hi-hat and percussion much more clearly with this preamp and without harshness - the treble is the most realistic I have ever achieved. I play drums so I really like to focus on them clearly. Tubes aren’t just an EQ boost but probably adding harmonics that give you more intelligibility of the music by giving a chance for some sounds to break through the mix. Kind of like we all tune snare drums to have a high pitched ping that cuts through the electric guitar laden mid range so everyone can hear that back beat. (Due to masking of high frequencies by low frequencies and a busy mid range,I believe that tube distortion can actually help extract some detail through the addition of higher harmonics that are still audible. Doug Sax at the Mastering Lab used a line level tube console/preamplifier designed by his brother and he was probably the most succesful mastering engineer of all time. I believe he used tubes exactly in the way I describe and for the qualities I describe. Simply compare the SACD master by Doug of Aerosmith Toys in the Attic with anything prior and you will get the idea of what a tube preamp can do. Bass guitar players in funk music use this technique to increase bass audibility - they will pluck a string at a low note and then pluck an octave higher just a fraction of a moment later. An octave higher is a harmonic and octave higher string will have other higher octave overtones associated. This is often accompanied by palm muting - again to increase audibility. Flea is a great example.)
A Conrad Johnson preamp would be an excellent choice - among the best in value. I wouldn’t go tube power amps with your speakers and I don’t think you need to go that far. Doug Sax used Active speakers with SS power amplifiers.