Audiophiles are always looking for the next performance improvement and after the launch of the Compact Disc in 1982 audio lovers quickly abandoned vinyl for the CD but even the most enthusiastic fan of digital will tell you that it was far from perfect. A few years into the format's launch came the rise of the "separates movement" where the Compact Disc player was broken into two units: the Compact Disc transport (the unit that spins the disc) and the DAC or "digital to analog converter". The idea behind separating the units was to give both products their own power supply which is the main reason why separate amps and preamps are favored by audiophiles. Additional advantages were noted including: reduced "jitter", better physical dampening and bracing as well as an upgrade path that allowed audiophiles to change their systems piece by piece but not having to sell their transport in the process.
The rise in popularity of the digital to analog converter lasted well into the 1990s when a reversal of sorts took place. Audio companies started to realize that they could make better all-in-one Compact Disc players and that the complexity of two piece audio players didn't match well with the newly popular DVD-Video player. Like fashion, everything that's old becomes new again and the DAC stepped aside for a while.
Enter the game changing iPod from Apple in the early 2000s. This deck of cards sized, hand-held audio device allowed everyone from audiophiles to any lover of music to have a 10,000 song collection of music right in their hands and travel with it like it was a tiny Walkman. From an high performance audio standpoint - Apple's iPods didn't exactly come with the best digital to analog converters. To compound matter more, the MP3 files that were often stolen from Napster and other peer to peer sites were ripped at less than one forth the quality of the Compact Discs that preceded them. The convenience of MP3 audio was unquestionable and the mainstream consumer voted their approval millions and millions of times over despite cries from audiophiles that MP3s on iPods sounded terrible.
The iPod era gave birth to a whole new style of digital to analog converter as the need to get better sound from Apple devices (and other MP3 players that are nearly all defunct now) was desperate for those who even wanted CD level audio - let alone higher resolution sound. Benchmark Media Systems, a Syracuse, New York based professional audio company led this revival of the digital to analog converter with units like the Benchmark DAC-1 PRE which is not just an upscaling DAC capable of taking lower resolution and CD level files and converting them to sound more like studio-level files.... but the DAC-1 PRE is also an actual preamp thus controls volume thus combing the switching needs of a digital preamp with a state of the art DAC. Audiophiles liked this professional approach to a new-school audio problem. They also liked the reasonable professional audio pricing and Benchmark Media products won awards from all sorts of audiophile and consumer electronics publications.
Today, Benchmark Media is still known more for its pro audio products than its consumer or audiophile lines however its role in helping to make consumer friendly, priced right audio products that can help make today's modern media servers sound better is unquestioned.
Contact Information for Benchmark Media
Mail: Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.
203 East Hampton Place
Syracuse, NY 13206