Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tweaking the Benchmark (I)

The Benchmark DAC1 Pre is a great component, but it can sound analytical and clinical.


This is simply because Benchmark primarily manufactures studio equipment which emphasises accuracy rather than pleasantries and it has an almost ruler-flat frequency response. Thus it can be very unforgiving - there is no euphonic warmth or tubey mellowness. It is simply a very accurate Digital to Analogue Converter.


When I started using it some time back, I partnered the Supra LoRad power cord with it (connected to a Furutech eTP60/20 power distributor) and my wife commented that she did not like the sound as it was too clinical and lacked 'emotion'.


That started a series of tweaks that made the Benchmark warmer and easier to listen to while still being accurate and analytical.


I replaced the Supra LoRad with DH Labs Power Plus AC, but the sound was 'brightish' and 'shouty'. A DIY power cord fared even worse.


Finally, I plugged in the Oyaide Tunami power cord which is known for its creamy midrange. True enough, the 'creaminess' added smoothness to the sound, but after a while I realised some detail was 'creamed' over.


I contacted CMY Audio & Visual and asked for a Siltech SPX-20 Classic Anniversary (which uses the G7 Siltech silver-gold alloy) power cord to test. I have reviewed Siltech's power cords and speaker cables before and have found that the silver-gold alloy added some 'golden' warmth to the sound quality and I thought it would complement and counteract the Benchmark's clinical and analytical signature. It worked.


The Siltech SPX20 Classic Anniversary power
cord matches well with digital components.


Before I continue, I have to state that there are lots of fake Siltech products - power cords, speaker cables and interconnects - in the market, especially in the Far East and on Internet sites like eBay. So if you are looking for a Siltech, please go to an authorised dealer.


Siltech's SPX-20 is very popular in China, Taiwan and Hongkong as the audiophiles there love it for its warmth and smoothness. The Classic Anniversary edition is the newest version and in Malaysia, it retails at slightly more than RM2k and comes with Furutech FI-11M(G)American plug and FI-11(G) IEC connector.


With the bright blue and flexible Siltech SPX-20 Classic Anniversary power cord, the Benchmark DAC1 Pre sounded smoother and slightly warmer with no loss of the detail that Benchmark is famed for.


Siltech power cords match very well with digital components and if you are having a severe case of 'digititis', I would recommend a dose of G7 silver-gold alloy.


However, owning the Siltech power cord was not the end of the journey in search of sonic nirvana...

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