Monday, October 11, 2010

Tweaking the Benchmark (II)

To get the best sound from a Benchmark DAC 1 Pre, you must first adjust the output level of the balanced connections (see

The balanced outputs have passive attenuators that control output levels and when it leaves the factory, the Benchmark's balanced output is set at 20dB which does not offer good sound quality. When set to zero, the balanced outputs will outperform the single-ended ones.

After the Siltech SPX-20 Classic Anniversary power cord (see previous post) provided some warmth and smoothness, I decided to go a step further.

I had been googling around and read that some Benchmark owners who changed the fuses had reported great changes in sound quality. Two brands of audiophile fuses were often mentioned especially by forumers in Hong Kong - Hi-Fi Tuning and Furutech.

Since I could not find any Hi-Fi Tuning fuses in Malaysia (update: a reader said they are available at Octave; another reader said Hi-Fi Tuning fuses are available at Nova Hi-Fi in Jaya One, Section 17, PJ, while Octave sells Argentech silver fuses), I telephoned Eugene Ngoh of Audiomatic in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, and asked if he had any Furutech fuses. He said he had some in stock and off I went to Amcorp Mall.

Can this little thing improve sound quality?

Furutech's Select Series Pure Transmission Fuses come in two sizes - 20mm and 32mm.
According to Furutech's website: "The fuse is equipped with rhodium-plated OFC copper caps and a special low-inductance copper alloy conductor, ceramic body with special damping filler. All metal parts treated with Furutech’s patented Alpha Super Cryogenic and Demagnetizing process. These audiophile fuses are engineered to withstand 1 nanosecond at a full 1,500 watts, and rated at 125mA/6.3A."

The Benchmark uses 5 X 20 0.5A fuses which cost about RM190 each.

I had never been a believer of audiophile fuses even though I have seen them in showrooms for many years. I remember seeing some German-made silver ones that cost a small fortune.

But the theory is that all links in the signal path are important and the fuse links the power supply from the wall socket to the power supply section of the hi-fi component and an improvement in that connection could improve things.

Furthermore there were lots of audiophiles reporting good results in various online forums.

Back home, I replaced the fuses that came with the Benchmark with the Furutechs which was quite an easy job.

Then I played some music. There were improvements - the imaging immediately became very stable, more details could be heard and the sound was smoother.

The forumers are correct - audiophile fuses do work. And it was another step closer to sonic nirvana for me.


  1. HiFi tuning fuse is available in Malaysia. Octave Electronics is one of the dealers.
    Audiophile fuse is one of the cheapest upgrade.

  2. i reveived this comment via gmail. i thought i shld share it with others.

    Hi-Fi Tuning fuses are available at Nova Hi-Fi (contact MK Lai 019-2226129) in Jaya One, section 17. Octave sells Argentech silver fuses which is also good to my ears (my very first silver fuse).

    I am using hi-fi tuning fuse for my Cyrus 7 for about a year now. It transforms the original characteristic of Cyrus 7 from being detail, analytical and thin sounding to warm and fuller sound, far clearer nasal definition, maintaining detail and improved base too. I have 2 Cyrus amps, the Cyrus 2 with PSX and 7 (without the PSX-R). For years, I hardly run the 7 simply because its original characteristics are not pleasant to my ears. But now, my preference is the 7.

    My experience with fuses:
    Hi-fi fuses have life span; one has to very carefully when powering up/down; and may blow due to ‘on-surge’ (sudden draw of current by the transformer during power up). Overtime the filament becomes weak too.
    If you have just power-up and realized you need to shut down for some reason, wait for the fuse to cool down (approximately 2-5min) before powering up again. I had an expensive experience when I first ventured into silver fuses 2 years ago.

    As for blowing the fuse due to on-surge, my experience was after using the hi-fi tuning fuses in my Cyrus 2 for 9 months, one day it just blew when I power up. I sent it to TT Yap (Octave Electronics) to check and he told me the damaged was cause by the on-surge which quite common when the amp has big toraidal transformers.

    To summarize, silver fuses can be expensive hobby (I have burn RM350 on silver fuses).
    P/S: Ask TT Yap about cheaper alternative fuses (I got one for RM3 to replace the hi-fi tuning fuse for the Cyrus 2 and it is performance is quite close too)

    Six months ago, I found it far more beneficial changing to audio grade wall socket (Furutech FP-1363-SR UK 13A Wall Socket).

    Say Jit