Fun: Benchmark vs PSAudio vs Accuphase vs Audioquest

Just for fun… an old audio geek friend of mine stopped by this past weekend and we did some A/B/C/D ing…

Results: We both could easily pick out which unit was playing… very easy to do.

  1. PS Audio JR - natural sounding with plenty of space and image
    2 Accuphase DP-55v CD player with digital ins
    3 - Benchmark DAC USB
    4 - Audioquest Dragonfly Black (1.5) ($100)

PC via USB to Mutec 1.2 to various DACs to PrimaLuna HP integrated allowing for simple one-button switching of the same music source… Adioquest was attached to a 2nd USB port and required one-button switchin on integrated plus switching driver in Foobar.

I won;t go into it too much, but the differences were more than obvious to both of us and both could pick which was playing 100% of the time. I level balanced them with a 1khz tone measured with my old Realistic SPL meter… works fabulously. I will just note the surprises:

1 - The Accuphase is about a 20 year old CD player with digital ins… it is really suseptible to jitter but the Mutec really really mitigates much of this. Anywho… this unit is very close to the PS Audio so the myth that new must be better is not always true. The Accuphase lacked some of the detail and air of the PS Audio, but still is one of the most analog and musical DACs I ever heard (along with Ayre products of the time).
2 - Benchmark - just not musical… even when I purchased this thing I thought it sounded “dead”. I have no idea why it was rated so highly. If you listen to it with a technical ear, everything is there… but it just doesn;t get your toe tapping.
3 - Aduiquest Black - for $100, this thing is great. Not a great sounding DAC, but I use one at work attached to my Asus laptop and it makes even YouTube video music sound good. I think this thing is a must have for at-work music.

Accuphase info:
"In the DP-55V, two delta sigma converters are operated in parallel, which results in a performance improvement by a factor of 1.4 (=√ 2). An important characteristic of the MDS principle is that the performance benefits are achieved regardless of signal frequency and signal level. "

Bruce in Philly

Bruce, I partly agree but also see the comparison with the Accuphase a little more extreme.

I used an Accuphase DP 75V (which ist quite a bit better than the 55) long time and also directly compared it with one of the earlier firmwares of the DS.

I agree that the Accuphase was one of the most “analog” and “musical” sounding DAC’s of the time. Both in terms of tonality mainly imo, not the other aspects of “musical” and “analog” sounding (I’d say it just was because it wasn’t sounding sterile). Many “better” gear like DCS etc. was already much more detailled and transparent sounding, but also had the kind of sterile over-detailled digital sound to me I didn’t want.

IMO the Accuphase, as “musical” it was in terms of warm tonality, was not really “musical” in terms of prat, ambiance and “drag you into the recording” imo. It was more a sound machine to me in retrospective and quite fat and not very open sounding.

While the non-isolated, plain USB instead of Bridge used, unmodified DS and with early firmware at the beginning to me also was too sterile and uber-detailled and not rich enough sounding in comparison, it surpassed the Accuphase by far at the end of all optimizations.

I must say imo they are not similar at all, except that both have a special emotional component in their sound.

The DS especially was a totally different world to me in terms of prat, extension, bass control, ambiance, soundstage, detail, transparency, resolution, holographic imaging, just about everything. Would be funny to go back…I think I wouldn’t survive it :wink:

That doesn’t mean the Accuphase was bad, just very different also to analog imo. Somehow dark and damped and limited in information. But certainly all that reacts a little different in different setups.

Interesting… we actually have very similar impressions of the Accuphase sound. The word “Dark” is spot on. Honestly, I was never comfortable with its dark character, but I assumed it was important for its musicality.

I actually purchased a second unit for another system and got a DP-67. Then when it came time to sell one, I kept the 55v (the lesser model) feeling it was a bit more musical albeit darker. The fact that I chose a lesser unit over a more modern and better one tells you something of my value system.

Like I noted, it was easy to tell the Accuphase and DS Junior apart A/Bing so I agree with you, they really are very different. But as I grew older, musicality became the number one for me and until the DS Junior, I was very happy with my Accuphase. I felt it was more musical but not as detailed etc.than my new Benchmark. Musicality is an odd thing… you would think accuracy is most important for musicality, but it does not always seem so. I tend to keep equipment I like… I don;t swap out hardware just because it is interesting… I only do it if I feel I will gain. So… I missed alot of years of product then sprung for the Benchmark and was generally disappointing with its lack of musicality. The reason I tried the DSJ is it reviewed differently and appeared to be different.

I feel the DSJ has it all… but… stay with me here… there was something special about the dark sound of the Accuphase.

Thanx for the post!

Bruce in Philly

I’m with you that they had a special sound. Quite everything sounded good. Not different, nothing really bad or great, but all good.

I think it comes out of a time when digital either still had quite some downsides of digital, accompanied with good detail…or it sounded „musical“ in a pleasant sense, lacking openness etc.

I also preferred the latter of that choice at the time. It was the compensation for what sounded different in analog than in digital usually at the time, but it was not at all the final key, it was clearly limited in another more pleasant way imo.

Just curious has anyone any thoughts on the above adding Chord Mojo into the list? I would say mojo only because of price point as Hugo or Hugo 2 would be much more expensive.