Benchmark DAC3 HGC

Benchmark DAC3 HGC – Digital to Analog Audio Converter

A New Reference – Going Beyond the Legendary DAC1 and DAC2

The DAC3 is Benchmark’s newest 2-channel D/A converter featuring the new ESS Technologies ES9028PRO converter chip. The DAC3 converter has lower THD and THD+N noise than Benchmark’s DAC2 converter.

Benchmark’s DAC1 and DAC2 D/A converter families have been the reference to which other converters have been compared. It is rare to find a converter review that does not draw comparisons to the DAC1 or the DAC2. Benchmark converters are in daily use at many of the world’s finest recording studios and mastering rooms. Benchmark converters are also enjoyed by thousands of audiophiles. Benchmark has raised the bar again … the DAC3 defines a new reference.

Reference Performance

The DAC3  delivers outstanding musical detail and precise stereo imaging. It employs an advanced high-headroom digital filter design, and a high-sample-rate Asynchronous USB Audio interface. All inputs are fully isolated from interface jitter by Benchmark’s new UltraLock3™ jitter attenuation system.

Internal digital processing and conversion is 32-bits, and this processing includes 3.5 dB of headroom above 0 dBFS. This headroom prevents the DSP overloads that commonly occur in other D/A converters.

Four balanced 32-bit D/A converters are summed together to create each balanced analog output. This 4:1 summation provides a 6 dB noise reduction, and gives the DAC3 industry-leading performance.

DAC3 vs. DAC2

The DAC3builds upon Benchmark’s highly successful DAC2 product family. The DAC3 maintains the familiar DAC2 form factor and feature set, but adds the higher performance available from the new ES9028PRO D/A converter. The DAC3 offers the following improvements over the DAC2:

  • Active 2nd Harmonic Compensation
  • Active 3rd Harmonic Compensation
  • Lower THD+N
  • Lower passband ripple
  • Improved frequency response
  • Faster PLL lock times
  • Faster switching between input signals

DAC3 vs. DAC1

The DAC3 and DAC2 added these features that were not found on the DAC1:

  • Asynchronous 192kHz USB Audio 2.0
  • 32-bit D/A conversion system
  • Word Length Display
  • Sample Rate Display
  • Polarity Control
  • Direct DSD D/A Conversion
  • -20 dB DIM
  • Bi-Directional 12V Trigger
  • Power Switch with Auto-On Function
  • Home Theater Bypass
  • Digital Pass-Through
  • High-Headroom DSP
  • Dual-Domain Hybrid Gain Control
  • Additional I/O

Native DSD Conversion

All digital inputs on the DAC3 support native 192 kHz PCM or DSD64 conversion. From any input, DSD is transported with bit accuracy over DoP 1.1. DSD and PCM are both natively converted to analog. There are no DSD to PCM or PCM to DSD conversions to compromise the quality of the music. The DAC3 conversion system seamlessly switches between native PCM and native DSD conversion. DSD over DoP 1.1 is supported by many media players, and DSD downloads are now available from several sources.

Direct Connectivity to Power Amplifiers

Benchmark DAC1, DAC2, and DAC3 converters are designed to directly drive power amplifiers and speakers. Benchmark converters feature adjustable low-impedance passive attenuators at the XLR outputs that can be used to optimize the interface to the power amplifier (or powered monitor). This unique Benchmark feature optimizes the gain staging between the DAC and the power amplifier. Proper gain staging cannot be overemphasized. When audio stages are properly matched, each component in the audio chain is able to operate at its optimum signal level, and the system performance is significantly improved.

Sonically-Neutral Studio Monitoring

All Benchmark converters are designed for maximum transparency. This transparency is absolutely essential in the studio monitoring chain. For this reason, DAC3 converters are ideal for critical reference-quality professional systems. Unlike many competing products, the DAC3 is not designed to add “euphonic” coloration to the audio. Instead it is designed to be as uncolored and natural as possible.

Step Into the Studio

When Benchmark’s professional converters are used in hi-fi applications, studio-quality sound can be enjoyed in a home environment. Enjoy pure music without any coloration from the electronics. Hear the music exactly the way it was heard in the studio, and exactly the way the artists intended.

Discover the natural, uncolored, analog sound of the DAC3.

Sit in the Performance Space

Transparent sound can go beyond replicating the studio experience. Recordings that have been produced with a natural and unprocessed sound can transport you to the performance space. But, this can only happen when the entire playback chain is selected for maximum transparency.

This experience of “being there” cannot be created by systems that are designed to add “warmth” or “euphonic color” to the music.


Audio Performance

Fs = 44.1 to 96 kHz, 20 to 20 kHz BW, 1 kHz test tone, 0 dBFS = +24 dBu (unless noted)
SNR – A-Weighted, 0 dBFS = +27 dBu 128 dB
SNR – Unweighted, 0 dBFS = +27 dBu 126 dB
THD+N, 1 kHz at 0 dBFS -113 dBFS, -113 dB, 0.00022%
THD+N, 1 kHz at -1 dBFS -114 dBFS, -113 dB, 0.00022%
THD+N, 1 kHz at –3 dBFS -119 dBFS, -116 dB, 0.00016%
THD+N, 20 to 20 kHz test tone at –3 dBFS -113 dBFS, -110 dB, 0.00032%
Frequency Response at Fs=192 kHz +0 dB, -0.015 dB (20 to 20 kHz)

-0.015 dB at 10 Hz

-0.005 dB at 20 kHz

-0.031 dB at 40 kHz

-0.15 dB at 80 kHz

Frequency Response at Fs=48 kHz +0 dB, -0.015 dB (20 to 20 kHz)

-0.015 dB at 10 Hz

-0.005 dB at 20 kHz

Crosstalk -137 dB at 20 Hz

-130 dB at 1 kHz

-116 dB at 20 kHz

Maximum Amplitude of Jitter Induced Sidebands (10 kHz 0 dBFS test tone, 12.75 UI sinusoidal jitter at 1 kHz) < -144 dB
Maximum Amplitude of Spurious Tones with 0 dBFS test signal < -138 dB
Maximum Amplitude of Idle Tones < -147 dB
Maximum Amplitude of AC line related Hum & Noise < -133 dB
Inter-channel Differential Phase (Stereo Pair – any sample rate) +/- 0.25 degrees at 20 kHz
Inter-channel Differential Phase (Between DAC3 Units Fs<110 kHz) Any sample rate. +/- 0.25 degrees at 20 kHz
Maximum Lock Time after Fs change 6 ms
Soft Mute Ramp Up/Down Time 9.6 ms
Mute on Receive Error Yes
Mute on Lock Error Yes
Mute on Idle Channel No
50/15 us De-Emphasis Enable Automatic in Consumer Mode
De-Emphasis Method Digital IIR
De-Emphasis Supported at Fs = 32, 44.1, 48 kHz


Group Delay (Latency)

Delay – Digital Input to Analog Output (function of sample rate)




1.36 ms at 44.1 kHz

1.27 ms at 48 kHz

0.90 ms at 88.2 kHz

0.82 ms at 96 kHz

0.51 ms at 176.4 kHz

0.47 ms at 192 kHz


Digital Audio Inputs

Number of Digital Inputs (switch selected) 5 (1 USB, 2 Optical, 2 Coaxial)
Number of Channels 2
Input Sample Frequency Range 28 to 210 kHz (Coaxial Inputs)

28 to 96 kHz (Optical Inputs)

44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz (USB Input)

Maximum Input Word Length 24 bits


Digital Input Impedance 75 Ohms (Coaxial Inputs)
DC Blocking Capacitors on Digital Inputs Yes (Coaxial Inputs)
Transient and Over-Voltage Protection on Digital Inputs Yes (Coaxial Inputs)
Minimum Digital Input Level 250 mVpp (Coaxial Inputs)
Jitter Tolerance

(With no Measurable Change in Performance)


>12.75 UI sine, 100 Hz to 3 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 20 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 40 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 80 kHz

>1.5 UI sine at 90 kHz

>0.25 UI sine above 160 kHz

Jitter Attenuation Method Benchmark UltraLock3™ – all inputs


Balanced Analog Outputs

Number of Balanced Analog Outputs 2
Output Connector Gold-Pin Neutrik™ male XLR
Output Impedance 60 Ohms (Attenuator off)

425 Ohms (Attenuator = 10 dB)

135 Ohms (Attenuator = 20 dB)

Analog Output Clip Point +30 dBu
Factory Set Bypass Level (at 0 dBFS) +24 dBu (Attenuator = 0 dB)
Output Level Range (at 0 dBFS) In ‘Variable’ Mode Off to +27.5 dBu (Attenuator off)

Off to +17.5 dBu (Attenuator = 10 dB)

Off to +7.5 dBu (Attenuator = 20 dB)

Output Level Variation with Sample Rate (44.1 kHz vs. 96 kHz) < +/- 0.006 dB


Unbalanced Analog Outputs

Number of Unbalanced Analog Outputs 4
Output Connector RCA
Output Impedance 30 Ohms
Analog Output Clip Point +13.5 dBu (3.7 Vrms)
Factory Set Home Theater Bypass Output Level (at 0 dBFS) +8.2 dBu (2 Vrms)
Output Level Range (with 0 dBFS digital input) Off to +11.7 dBu (3 Vrms)
Output Level Variation with Sample Rate < +/- 0.006 dB


HPA2TM Headphone Outputs

Number of Headphone Outputs 2
Output Connectors ¼” TRS with switch on left-hand jack
Output Impedance < 0.11 Ohms
Output Level Control Stereo Control on Front Panel
Output Level Range (at 0 dBFS) into 60-Ohm Load Off to +21.5 dBu (9.2 Vrms)
Output Power 1.25 W into 30 Ohms
Maximum Output Current 250 mA
Overload Protection (independent per channel) Current limited at 300 mA, Thermal
Bandwidth > 500 kHz, -0.35 dB at 200 kHz
THD+N at 20 mW -108 dB (0.0004%) into 300 Ohms, -100 dB (0.0010%) into 30 Ohms


Status Display

Indicators – Type and Location 16 LED’s on Front Panel
Selection/Status Indication 1 – Dim/Mute

1 – Polarity
6 – Input
2 – Bypass/Calibrated Output
2 – Word length
4 – Sample Rate




AC Power Requirements

Nominal Input Operating Voltage Range (VAC RMS) 100 – 240V
Frequency 50-60 Hz
Power < 0.5 Watts Idle
12 Watts Typical Program
15 Watts Maximum
Fuses 5 x 20 mm (2 required)
0.5 A 250 V Slo-Blo® Type
Min/Max Operating range (VAC RMS) 90 – 260 VAC
47 – 63 Hz



Form Factor ½ Rack Wide, 1 RU High
Depth behind front panel 8.5” (216 mm)
Overall depth including connectors but without power cord 9.33” (237 mm)
Width 9.5” (249 mm)
Height 1.725” (44.5 mm)



DAC3 only 3 lb.
DAC3 with remote control, power cord, extra fuses, and manual 4 lb.
Shipping weight 7 lb.

Important Features

  • Sample Rate Display
  • Word Length Display
  • 5 Digital Inputs
  • 2 Stereo Analog Inputs (2 RCA)
  • 3 Stereo Analog Outputs (2 RCA, 1 XLR)
  • Digital Pass Through
  • Native DSD Conversion
  • Polarity Switch
  • Asynchronous USB 2.0
  • Driverless Asynchronous USB 1.1
  • Home Theater Bypass
  • Bi-Directional 12 Volt Trigger
  • Power Switch
  • Low Power Consumption
  • ES9028PRO Converter