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Author Topic: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted  (Read 9463 times)

Hermetech Mastering

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DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« on: April 13, 2011, 11:08:09 PM »

I am currently looking at the following three models, listed in order of street price, low to high:

Benchmark DAC1
Lavry DA11
Grace Design M903

I need a way to be able to control the volume of my new ATC monitors when they arrive, have a high quality monitoring DAC with balanced outputs, and be able to drive a pair of Sennheiser HD600s. A remote control would be a plus.

Any opinons on these three? Are the DACs all of a similar quality? I am not able to test drive any of these before purchase. The Grace is a little pricier, although if it sounds better I don't mind paying a bit more. My instinct is telling me to go for the Lavry, although I have nothing to base that on. ;)

Thanks in advance for any thoughts,

Gregg

PBM

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2011, 02:48:57 AM »

I am currently looking at the following three models, listed in order of street price, low to high:

Benchmark DAC1
Lavry DA11
Grace Design M903

I need a way to be able to control the volume of my new ATC monitors when they arrive, have a high quality monitoring DAC with balanced outputs, and be able to drive a pair of Sennheiser HD600s. A remote control would be a plus.

Any opinons on these three? Are the DACs all of a similar quality? I am not able to test drive any of these before purchase. The Grace is a little pricier, although if it sounds better I don't mind paying a bit more. My instinct is telling me to go for the Lavry, although I have nothing to base that on. ;)

Thanks in advance for any thoughts,

Gregg

Hello Gregg - You should add the Headmaster by DACS (a UK product!) to that list. It has all you need in terms of monitoring flexibility, balanced outs, a superb headphone amp and the DAC is a blameless Crookwood. The pre-amp section also has an analogue input.

Fully East of England approved: I reviewed it for SOS a couple of years ago - Nigel Palmer reviewed it very favourably in Audio Media - and Macc had a quick listen when I took mine across and was suitable impressed.

I much prefer it to the Benchmark and use it now as my main head-amp.

When do you move to Milan?

Cheers,

Eric

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Hermetech Mastering

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2011, 03:10:23 AM »

Thanks Eric, I remember reading your review in SOS. I can't believe I had forgotten about it, as it is priced very closely to the other offerings I was looking at. I can only presume I had forgotten that it offered all those features (DAC, Headphone Amp and Monitor Controller). Food for thought indeed, and it would be really nice to keep as much of my chain British as possible! I will re-read your review, and hunt down Nigel's...

If I could sell my damn modular synth I'd probably have enough to get the Crookwood console with integrated ADC and DAC x 2, headphone amp, monitor control, and flexible switching options that I really want, but she's proving a nightmare to sell, so it looks like I'm going to have to buy various bits at a time...

We should be moving to Milan in about a months time, we have an apartment, and are just finalising details, wrapping up loose ends, and starting to think about all the shipping we need to do, including two cats!!!

Do you still offer courses in mastering/Sadie/Sequoia etc? I'd love to come out and see you some time, now that I'll be much closer to the UK again. There can't be many other philosopher/mastering engineers out there!

Thanks for the advice and recommendation!

PBM

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2011, 04:16:11 AM »


If I could sell my damn modular synth I'd probably have enough to get the Crookwood console with integrated ADC and DAC x 2, headphone amp, monitor control, and flexible switching options that I really want, but she's proving a nightmare to sell, so it looks like I'm going to have to buy various bits at a time...

We should be moving to Milan in about a months time, we have an apartment, and are just finalising details, wrapping up loose ends, and starting to think about all the shipping we need to do, including two cats!!!

Do you still offer courses in mastering/Sadie/Sequoia etc? I'd love to come out and see you some time, now that I'll be much closer to the UK again. There can't be many other philosopher/mastering engineers out there!

A Crookwood would be a big step-up in functionality - same DAC as the Headmaster but greater routing flexibility. Slighter lesser head-amp I'd say, but even the smallest model (C2?) covers a lot of uses.

We don't teach 'mastering courses' anymore - though we're still approved SADiE trainers for classical editing etc. It was a non-starter really - helped a few people start off, but not sure why I thought it was a good idea ... 

Come visit anyway - Macc is nearby and a philosopher too and we're all wise after a couple of Wherrys!

Cheers,

Eric
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Hermetech Mastering

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2011, 05:31:53 AM »

Well, I decided to "part out" the modular so we'll see what happens. If I can raise enough dough I'll hold out for the Crookwood. I was going to go for the M1 with digital/analogue connectivity, three inserts, stereo VUs, 2 x DACs, 1 x ADC, headphone amp, and the M/S (trimmer) option, which (with cabling) was going to be around 4.5K.

If not, then could you tell me if the balanced outs of the DACS Clarity Headmaster are able to be attenuated from the knob on the front panel? The back panel photo shows "Fixed Level Out" for the balanced outputs, but it is these that would be connected to my ATCs, and the number one reason I need a monitor controller.

Yeah, I had wondered where the "courses" part of your site had gone, but it's good to know I'm still invited out for a beer. :)

PBM

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2011, 06:37:57 AM »

Well, I decided to "part out" the modular so we'll see what happens. If I can raise enough dough I'll hold out for the Crookwood. I was going to go for the M1 with digital/analogue connectivity, three inserts, stereo VUs, 2 x DACs, 1 x ADC, headphone amp, and the M/S (trimmer) option, which (with cabling) was going to be around 4.5K.

If not, then could you tell me if the balanced outs of the DACS Clarity Headmaster are able to be attenuated from the knob on the front panel? The back panel photo shows "Fixed Level Out" for the balanced outputs, but it is these that would be connected to my ATCs, and the number one reason I need a monitor controller.

Yeah, I had wondered where the "courses" part of your site had gone, but it's good to know I'm still invited out for a beer. :)

That's a heavy-duty Crookwood! I just have Crispin's pretty bog-standard digital/analogue router with VU. I use the internal DAC to get into my analogue chain, but the AD and monitor DAC are external, as is the pre-amp for the ATCs. How much outboard (and what proportion digital or analogue) do you have to connect?

Yes - the balanced outputs of the DACS H/M are controlled from the front panel, as is the headphone output.

I hope you're aware of the philosophical explanation of how there is always room in life for a couple of beers?

http://www.lifemastering.com/en/syltetoy_og_bayer.html

Cheers,

Eric

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Macc

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2011, 08:57:59 AM »

Always up for beers here, as Eric well knows... :)

Just to chime in that I did like the DACS very much when I tried it. My memory of it (by comparison to the Mytek 8x192 amp + DAC which I use every day) was a slightly richer midrange, and very slightly chunkier sound - impressive low end. The Mytek feels lean and clean, the DACS had a bit more balls. All fairly subtle, but noticeable nonetheless.

I don't know the Lavry, but the Benchmark was a nice amp. Had that for a while but it is a little bit smiley/friendly-sounding overall.

Speaking of Wherry - Wooodforde's have a new one called Once Bittern and it is a cracker...
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Hermetech Mastering

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2011, 07:56:41 PM »

That's a heavy-duty Crookwood! I just have Crispin's pretty bog-standard digital/analogue router with VU. I use the internal DAC to get into my analogue chain, but the AD and monitor DAC are external, as is the pre-amp for the ATCs. How much outboard (and what proportion digital or analogue) do you have to connect?

Hey again Eric. I currently only have analogue outboard and it is a very simple chain: Chandler compressors to Pullet EQ to Chandler pre amp (make up gain for the Pullet), no digital outboard. But I want some room for future expansion.

Thanks for the info on the balanced outs of the DACS HeadMaster, that quells any fears I had about that device. If I end up not being able to afford the Crookwood, this may well be the way I go.

Great beer story! ;)

Anyone else want to chime in on my original list of three items?

Macc, thanks for your opinion on the DACS too! Hope to share a beer soon!

lowland

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2011, 04:24:11 AM »

I just wrote an in-depth reply which I managed to delete, but the headlines are:

It was the Headlite that I reviewed, but it probably has similar analogue circuitry to the Headmaster...

http://www.lowlandmasters.com/Article%20PDFs/February%202007%20DACS%20Headlite.pdf

...and I've also reviewed the Grace 904, doubtless with the same or a similar DAC to the 903:

http://www.lowlandmasters.com/Article%20PDFs/October%202007%20Grace%20Design%20m904%20monitor%20controller.pdf

I've two DAC-1s here, because one is not sufficient as it stands to give independent level control of both cans and speakers, and select using the source switches. Soundwise, no complaints about the Benchmarks, but I suspect you'll be in good company with any from your list, Gregg.
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Nigel Palmer
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Hermetech Mastering

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2011, 06:20:04 AM »

Thanks Nigel. I had seen that article on the DACS site earlier today, and will read the Grace one now!

I'm always blown away by the consistency of great comments by true "masters" in their field (pun fully intended, it's Friday night here and I am on the Chimay...) on this forum, even to newbies like myself. How I wish the modular synth or general "gear" forums were as helpful, polite and forgiving!

It's basically all going to boil down to how much cash I have once we have settled into our new life in Milan. I'll keep you all posted!

Thanks once again,

Gregg

PBM

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2011, 07:21:42 AM »

I just wrote an in-depth reply which I managed to delete, but the headlines are:

It was the Headlite that I reviewed, but it probably has similar analogue circuitry to the Headmaster...


Oops - my mistake. But yes: Headmaster roughly = Headlite + Crookwood DAC
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lowland

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2011, 08:01:53 AM »

Thanks Nigel. I had seen that article on the DACS site earlier today, and will read the Grace one now!

I have a high regard for Michael Grace and also for his brother Eben who does the 'look-and-feel' stuff with their products.
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Nigel Palmer
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PBM

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2011, 09:56:05 AM »

I have a high regard for Michael Grace and also for his brother Eben who does the 'look-and-feel' stuff with their products.

+1 on that. I have a very high regard for the company. Eben made a special high-gain `ribbon' channel for my Grace 801 pre-amp - (now shamefully underused, though in a nice way, as the make-up gain for the Pullet).
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subvert

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2011, 05:15:34 PM »

Macc is nearby and a philosopher too

something to do with the 'heightened mental state' after 12 pints and a jar full of birds eye chillis!





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Herbeck

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Re: DAC/Headphone Amp/Monitor Controller combo advice wanted
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2011, 07:08:04 PM »

A "secret" code for a freemason?


Cheers,

Herbeck
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