FYI... the latest Slimserver Beta incorporates "Pre-Amp Volume Control" which allows attenuation of the analog RCA outs for DIRECT input to your amp. Bypassing the entire pre-amp stage, cables, etc. yields absolutely pristine sound (even with the native Burr-Brown DAC). IMHO, *THIS* approach is the future gold-standard! (My system... Squeezebox2 into Sunfire Cinema Grand vertically bi-amped driving ML Aerius i's).
Have you actually compared SB3 analog out (direct to amp), with SB3 digital --> DAC1 --> amp? Is there really a significant enough improvement to warrant the $975 investment for the DAC1? I'm ready to pull the trigger and buy a DAC1 *IF* it truly offers substantial improvement over the native Squeezebox. I'm also curious, what amp/speakers are you running?
Well, I finally caved in and am now feeding my SB2 to the Benchmark, then direct to my Sunfire amp (driving ML Aerius i's). I agree completely with your assessment. Definitely a more smoother upper end, and deeper soundstage. The headphone outs are a big plus, so I gotta get some decent 'phones now! Do I think the Benchmark is worth $975? You bet! For less than $1200 (plus time spent ripping to FLAC) I now have a bit-perfect jitter-free transport/DAC combo with Internet Radio, Pandora, and Podcasts as icing on the cake! Looking forward to S'philes Review of the Squeezebox. Hope they'll include a review of Pandora as well, now that the two are integrated.
Nice writeup by JA of the SB3 in the current Stereophile eNewsletter. Can't wait to read the entire review in print. I *DO* hope he'll also try it direct to amp (with and without an outboard DAC), as well as D/L the 6.2.2 version of Slimserver and the latest firmware, which is sonically superb, plus offers the updated tres cool analog VU meter screensaver. Welcome, JA, and Stereophile, to the NEW WORLD of PC-Audiophilia!