PS Audio Direct Stream DAC vs Benchmark DAC3 HGC

Spoiler alert - I am prejudiced. :slight_smile:

I would be very cautious going with the McIntosh with B and W. In my experience the McIntosh can tend to be a little on the congested bright side and that’s not what the B and Ws are happiest with. A BHK, on the other hand, has the warmth and
openness for better synergy.


I used the 20dB attenuator on the Benchmark too. Comfortable listening with the 20dB on the Benchmark enabled was between 10-11 o’clock. 12-1 was when I really wanted it loud.

On the DSD Sr. 70-90 is normal listening level for me depending on content. 90-105 is loud bout not loud enough for those times that you just want to crank it up. I could disabled the attenuation for those times, but now I am curious about how a tube pre-amp would change the sound on my system.

I bet you’d love it. I use a Decware ZTPRE preamp and now won’t live without it. . . just the icing on the cake.

Hi Paul - thanks. Yes, the B&W is a little on the bright side so need to add some warmth. I currently have the DAC Sr and love it! Will definitely audition the BHK pre.

A tube preamp gives you options to tailor the sound without buying a new amp. 12AX7 are common inexpensive guitar amp tubes and are used in the C2600 - so you can roll tubes to taste. Too bright - just install an NOS Mullard. Too dull - just install an NOS Telefunken. Looking for something special or “just right” - NOS RCA Long Black Plate from late 50’s are sweet sounding but without loss of detail. There are hundreds to choose from - eBay or Upscale audio or go to garage sales…and remember that with tubes you are not just fiddling with EQ - the unique harmonic distortion qualities of tubes are what allow you a deeper level of control of the sound.

Contrary to popular belief, although SS are much more accurate, tubes can actually allow you to hear more. The harmonic overtones allow the brain/ear to work out fundamentals and this can add clarity much in the same way a drummer will tune a snare so that overtones cut through the mix (although a drum may be bad analogy as the overtones aren’t necessarily harmonic related). I find hi -hat on a tube preamp has much better audibility in the mix!

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I hope I don’t offend anyone in this thread owning it (there might be situations where it works fine), but I can only support Paul, that McIntosh (at least non tube) combined with B&W usually is a very boring, lifeless and sterile experience imo, although sold like that all over the world.

hi buuthanh,

I have just finished returning the C52 to magnolia and they charged me a 15% restock fee. Yes, it’s buried in the website return policy, but that is a large bit of change for having a product less than 10 days. After I was hit with this news, I asked about the MC302 amp I just placed an order for a few days ago (for bi-amping). I own a MC302 from 2015, and made it clear to the dealer that I would return the new 302 if it sounded significantly different than my current 302. He said that would be fine, and that he would ‘take care of it’. He did not mention anything of a 15% restock fee. So, with a bad taste in my mouth from the 15% hit for the 52 return, I got paranoid the new 302 may sound different and decided to cancel my order with that amp. Boom, another 15% restock fee. I left Magnolia giving them 1600.00$ for restock fees. I asked why such a contract exists between them and McIntosh. They said it was due to McIntosh requirements. I’ll be calling McIntosh tomorrow in addition to Best Buy high management. Sure, hit me with a 5-8% restock fee, but damn, 15% on high end audio, while being such a subjective endeavor to begin with, is just bad business and almost theft (Hi-fi is not cheap) from the protective veil of a corporation.

Anyway, I liked the m52, but i did want to put a DSD in front of it. Since the resulting sound was identical with the 52 between my 302 and bencmark dac, as it was w/o the 52 in the chain, i decided it was the 52 dac creating the sound I liked. I expect greater performance from the DSD, so I felt no need or desire to use the 52s DAC. Again, when the Benchmark was in the chain, the 52 made no sonic difference. I’m very aware of the sound from Benchmark > 302. Have I already said this? It was exactly the same sound of the Benchmark >52 >302 chain. I’m ordering the DSD tomorrow, and couldn’t be happier, it’s whats keeping me sane from this 1600.00 nightmare I’m going to try and resolve. STAY AWAY FROM MAGNOLIA you good people…please!

Long story short, please find out everything you can before you purchase McIntosh gear and from what dealer. I’m so irate, i will be posting this information everywhere (sorry your ear got the first rant :D). But, yeah, do your homework. I’m out of the McIntosh game forever…loved their sound since music school. I’ve been wanting an excuse to really look at some Pass gear (with DSD up front), now is my excuse.

Well, the main reason for my winded story is to suggest (I concede I may have it all wrong) that the 2600 sound “MAY”, in large part, be due to the how they implemented the upsampling PCM DAC into their pre amps.

If you take a Mac home, best of luck man!


For approximately one month, I shot out a McIntosh C52 preamp against a Mark Levinson 326S preamp using the DS Sr. as the source. I got both preamps from Audio Classics in Binghamton, NY (coincidentally, the home of McIntosh). I kept the Levinson and returned the C52 (this shootout took place before the BHK pre was released). The MSRP on the Levinson was higher ($11.4K w/optional phono preamp) versus the C52 ($7K), though the sale prices were much closer together (i.e., the discount on the Levinson was greater). Audio Classics was excellent to deal with: NO restocking fee on the C52. Full disclosure, I bought both preamps on the condition that I would keep one of them. If I were in the market for McIntosh gear, I would start my search at Audio Classics.


Hi Robert,
Thanks for sharing your experience. This is truly unacceptable from Magnolia to treat a customer like they did to you. If you paid it with a Credit Card, you may want to reach out to see if they can help you with dealing with Magnolia and resolve the restocking fee of 15% which seems outrageous.
I will audition both the C2600 and BHK pre. My experience with the DAC Sr so far has been excellent.
Good luck.

Thanks for this info on the restocking fee. If I go into a magnolia for anything at all - it will be my first question. Thanks again. And sorry to hear about this. I hope Best Buy makes it right by you


I’m really stating to believe a tube preamp is the way to go - introduces flexibility.

hey again buuthan,

Great, great idea regarding the credit outreach. I will be doing that first thing in the morning.

If you do like the 2600, there is a dealer in Houston I should have done business with in the first place. Super nice 70 year old guy who doesn’t need the money, but doing this because he loves music. I can’t tell you any kind of price break you may be able to work with him (he told me he would deny it if i told anyone :D), but I enjoyed talking with him. Damn, I should have given him my business…erg!

good luck! I think the 2600 DAC will be nice enough for something different to listen too…just to mix it up every so often.


Thanks Timm, I hope they can make it right too. I may have to walk into a biker bar with a few grand to ‘make it right’! No reason audio can’t be exciting for a good story!

Burn post after reading!

oops, Houston dealer is at:

Best to email him, he avoids the phone due to constant dealer calls. His name is Don.

After a weekend of research I narrowed down my pre-amp choices to: Aesthetix Calypso Eclipse (used), Classe Omega Preamp & Power Supply MKIII (used), McIntosh C1100 (used), Passe Labs XP-30 (used), PS Audio BHK Signature (new) and Simaudio 740P (dealer demo).

Being tight for money after my DSD Sr. purchase and my overwhelmingly positive experience with it, I have decided to give the BHK pre-amp a shot. I now have one on the way!


Please follow up with a report of your impressions. You have obviously given this a good deal of thought.

Would love to hear your impressions on the BHK pre with the DAC Sr. The BHK pre is on my short list for pre-amps.


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Definitely will do!

I also have this guy building me a custom 24" sealed sub-woofer to match my white 800D3 arriving in the next month or so. I will post that in the speaker forum haha

I thought with the 800D3, you may not need a big subwoofer. But, wow. This will bring down the house when you crank the volume up :slight_smile:
I have 802D3 and DAC Sr, so can’t wait to hear your feedback when you add the BHK pre to your system. I can imagine it will sound incredible.


I just wanted to follow up and provide feedback with my BHK Pre experience. In my system the BHK Pre had a native hiss that was audible at my listening position. As you recall, the only reason I bought the BHK Pre was because the DSD Sr had an incredibly loud hiss without the attenuator enabled and with the attenuator enabled max volume was not loud enough for my system.

I did enjoy the [non-hiss] sound coming from the BHK Pre, although I would classify it as a marginal improvement from the DSD Sr alone. It was not the monumental upgrade I experienced in moving from my Benchmark to the DSD Sr. but rather a slight refinement in sound. Kudos to PS Audio for trying to help me address the hiss issue promptly and sending replacement tubes, unfortunately the hiss still remained in my system.

An almost new McIntosh C1100 came up for sale locally and the deal was too good to pass up. The seller also agreed to take my BHK Pre in on trade which helped me out as I was short on cash after the BHK Pre/DSD Sr. purchases. The Mac is dead quiet in my system and improved the sound much more the BHK Pre did.

I’m not sure it’s fair to make the comparison as the Mac has over 2x MSRP than the BHK Pre but the resolution is incredible with the Mac. I feel like the BHK applied a grit filter to the music, maybe ‘soulful’ would be a better descriptor? The BHK Pre made me feel like I was listening to vinyl even though it was digital. The Mac put me in the room with the musician, I could see the individual strings being struck and could hear when the vocalist took a breath.

Not bashing here just providing my honest experience between the two. I am very happy with my DSD Sr. and just ordered two P20s + one P15 for my set-up. The BHK Pre was just not a good fit in my system YMMV.