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Benchmark DAC 2 HGC

Found it cheaper? Click here. SKU: DAC2HGC
Ex VAT: 1745.83

This is a reference quality DAC, headphone amplifier and pre amplifier, with several advanced features, designed to make full use of the dynamic range of your power amp or active speakers.

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Condition:Brand new in original retail packaging

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Warranty length 2 Years
Brand Benchmark
Product Award What HiFi Award 4 Stars

Tech Specs

SNR:  126 dB, A-Weighted

SNR:  123 dB, Unweighted

THD+N:  -109 dB, 0.00035% (1 kHz, 0 dBFS)

THD+N: -108 dB, 0.00040% (20 to 20 kHz sweep at - 3 dBFS)

Frequency Response:  +0 dB/-0.04 dB (20 to 20 kHz at Fs=96 kHz )

Product Description

Benchmark DAC 2 HGC isa DAC, pre amplifier and headphone amplifier in one, a desktop audio hub and effectively a competitor for the Audiolab M-DAC, designed to offer studio reference quality audio reproduction.

Hybrid Gain Control

Benchmark's unique Hybrid Gain Control system. The DAC2 HGC combines active analog gain control, passive low-impedance attenuators, a 32-bit digital gain control, and a servo-driven volume control. All inputs are controlled by the rotary volume control. This volume control moves in response to commands from the remote control. Analog inputs are never converted to digital, and digital inputs never pass through an analog potentiometer. Digital inputs are precisely controlled in the 32-bit DSP system. The DSP system preserves precise L/R balance, and precise stereo imaging, while avoiding any source of noise and distortion. 

Benchmark's unique passive output attenuators provide distortion-free gain reduction without reducing the dynamic range of the converter. The attenuators optimize the gain staging between the DAC2 HGC and the power amplifier. This optimization is absolutely essential for maximizing the dynamic range of the entire playback system. Much of the success of the DAC1 converters can be attributed to the passive output attenuators. Musical details can be obscured by system noise whenever a preamplifier and power amplifier are improperly matched. The" HGC " system will make full use of your power amplifier's dynamic range. Experience new details in your favorite recordings.

Ultralock Jutter Attenuation System

UltraLock2 is an improved version of the UltraLock system used in the DAC1 and ADC1 product families. DSP processing is 32-bits, DSP headroom is 3.5 dB, sample rate is 211 kHz, and jitter-induced distortion and noise is at least 140 dB below the level of the music - well below the threshold of hearing. Benchmark's UltraLock2 system eliminates all audible jitter artifacts.

High Headroom DSP

All of the digital processing in the DAC2 HGC is designed to handle signals as high as +3.5 dBFS. Most digital systems clip signals that exceed 0 dBFS. The 0 dBFS limitation seems reasonable, as 0 dBFS is the highest sinusoidal signal level that can be represented in a digital system. However, a detailed investigation of the mathematics of PCM digital systems will reveal that inter-sample peaks may reach levels slightly higher than +3 dBFS while individual samples never exceed 0 dBFS. These inter-sample overs are common in commercial releases, and are of no consequence in a PCM system until they reach an interpolation process. But, for a variety of reasons, virtually all audio D/A converters use an interpolation process. The interpolation process is absolutely necessary to achieve 24-bit state-of-the art conversion performance. Unfortunately, inter-sample overs cause clipping in most interpolators. This clipping produces distortion products that are non-harmonic and non-musical . Benchmark believe these broadband distortion products often add a harshness or false high-frequency sparkle to digital reproduction. The DAC2 HGC avoids these problems by maintaining at least 3.5 dB of headroom in the entire conversion system. This added headroom is a groundbreaking improvement.

Multi-More Asynchronous USB

Benchmark's USB system supports USB Audio 2.0, DSD, and USB Audio 1.1. It is frequency agile, and will follow sample rate changes initiated by the computer and/or the media playback software. In all modes the USB communications are asynchronous in order to eliminate unnecessary sources of jitter.

The DAC2 HGC has a low-jitter master clock which controls the transfer of audio data from the computer to the USB sub-system. The computer asynchronously transfers audio data to a buffer in the DAC2 HGC. The contents of the buffer are then asynchronously transferred to the D/A conversion sub-system. This second asynchronous transfer eliminates any traces of jitter that accumulate as the data is transferred between the USB and conversion subsystems. No traces of jitter-induced distortion are measurable to Benchmark's measurement limits (better than -150 dBFS). This truly represents the state-of-the art. Enjoy the convenience of computer playback without compromise. The Asynchronous USB system supports USB Audio 2.0 for high-resolution 192kHz, and DSD playback. No drivers are required for MAC operating systems. An easy-to-install driver adds 192 kHz and DSD capabilities to Windows operating systems.

An asynchronous, driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode supports sample rates up to 96 kHz. This USB mode can be selected from the front panel or from the remote control. The driverless USB Audio 1.1 mode allows quick plug-and-play connections to Windows, MAC, iOS, and Linux operating systems without installing drivers. Just plug in the USB, and the DAC2 HGC becomes an available audio device.

The USB subsystem remains active when the DAC2 HGC is powered down. This prevents interruptions to the computer playback operations and eliminates the need to reconfigure the computer every time the converter is turned on.


Four balanced 32-bit D/A converters deliver audio to Benchmark's low-impedance current to voltage converters. The 4:1 redundancy reduces noise and distortion to levels that set new benchmarks. The conversion system at the core of the DAC2 HGC is as good as it gets. The analog circuits that follow the D/A converter are carefully designed. Benchmark has leveraged its long history of building high-end analog audio equipment, in order to create an outstanding output stage.


Ever wonder why that 192 kHz 24-bit download on your computer just doesn't sound right? Your media player may be down-sampling to 44.1 kHz and/or truncating to 16-bits. Many media players apply poor-quality sample rate conversion and truncation. Fortunately these problems can be eliminated with the selection a good frequency-agile media player. The sample-rate and word-length displays on the DAC2 HGC confirm the proper operation of your media player.


You may encounter recordings with inverted polarity. The DAC2 HGC includes a polarity switch to correct the problem.


The DAC2 HGC can be integrated into a home theater system. Typically the DAC2 HGC drives the left and right power amplifiers, and an analog feed from the home theater system is connected to either of the analog inputs on the DAC2 HGC. A programmable Home Theater Bypass function sets the pass-through gain to unity when the surround system is active. The DAC2 HGC includes an indicator light that is illuminated when bypass is active.


The second coaxial input can be reconfigured as a digital output. In output mode, any selected digital input (including USB) will pass through to the coaxial output. The digital pass through is bit-transparent and even supports DSD (DoP 1.1). Dolby digital and DTS formats can be passed through to a surround processor.


Benchmark re-invents the 12 volt trigger. The trigger connection on the DAC2 HGC can be used as an input or output or both, and is compatible with any common 12 volt trigger input or output. The trigger can be used to turn a power amplifier on or off automatically. The DAC2 will also respond to a 12 volt trigger and follow the actions of another audio component.


The power switch can place the DAC2 HGC in standby, or full shut down. In full shut down, the unit will still respond to the trigger input and the IR remote control. Power consumption is less than 0.5 W in full shut down. The DAC2 uses high-efficiency low noise power supplies and may be operated from any standard international voltage without adjustment. Power consumption is 12 W typical.

Also, To achieve the lowest possible noise, the DAC2 HGC uses distributed power supply regulation. Each critical subsystem has at least one dedicated low-noise voltage regulator.

Press Reviews

  • 'The Benchmark DAC2 HGC is a hugely capable product... The DAC/headphone amplifier category has exploded over the last five years or so. While these products started off as relatively budget devices we’re seeing prices (and performance levels) being pushed. The DAC 2 HGC is at the forefront of that premium wave.' (What Hi-Fi Magazine 2014)
  • 'This Benchmark is a fine performer. The first quality that grabs our attention is its tonal balance. It’s as even as we’ve heard from a DAC at this price, giving each part of the frequency spectrum just the right amount of emphasis.' (What Hi-Fi Magazine 2014)
  • 'If you’re the kind of listener that likes to analyse recordings, the Benchmark is for you. Rarely do we hear a recording laid bare this way; subtle instrumental strands are easy to follow and aren’t lost when the music gets complicated.' (What Hi-Fi Magazine 2014)
  • 'Overall, the Benchmark DAC2 HGC is a talented product. It’s a fabulous headphone amplifier, great DAC and a pretty decent preamp.' (What Hi-Fi Magazine 2014)

Customer Reviews

  • Hugh

    27 May 2015

    Bought on the strength of reviews...Pro DAC with excellent sound quality...a good step up from the Audiolab M-DAC I was using which in itself is a good DAC... the only downside for me was the price as I dont often spend this much on hifi but you really do get what you pay for...its compact size is a bonus on the rack though I have space for this and my Trichord Diablo phono stage on the same shelf...the best of digital and analogue worlds side by side
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