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kdsl2's picture
Last seen: 6 years 5 months ago
Joined: May 12 2011 - 9:25am
Ayre K-XR vs. Benchmark DAC1 Pre direct - Interpreting Stereophile's measurements

I do not mean in any way for this post to be inflamatory. I am genuinely trying to work out which is the best option in terms of sound quality. I have the greatest respect for both products above. I've posted in the hope of getting feedback from John Atkinson.

My choice for a future direction of my hifi is between:

  1. Running a Benchmark DAC1 Pre direct into active speakers (ATC SCM50ASLs)
  2. Running the Benchmark DAC1 into the active speakers (ATC SCM50ASLs) via a Ayre K-XR

I only have digital sources, so I do not need the source-switching features of the K-XR. I only would be using it as a volume control and preamp gain stage.

At first glance, it looks like a no-brainer: the K-XR should eat Benchmark’s preamp stage for lunch. The only thing in favour of the Benchmark is it is cheaper.

Here is the bit I don’t understand, and would really appreciate input.

The Benchmark direct as a preamp appears to beat the K-XR on nearly all measurement parameters. The Benchmark’s frequency response, THD+N, and distortion are better than the K-XR---in some cases, by an order of magnitude. The main parameter on which the K-XR beats the Benchmark is channel separation, which one would expect from its dual-mono design. But the Benchmark appears to measure cleaner overall.

Preamps that appear to measure as clean as the Benchmark include devices like the Mark Levinson Ref 32 and the Halcro DM10, and even those don’t appear to measure significantly better.

I don’t want to come across as an advocate for Benchmark---I am not, I just want to work out whether adding a component which I admire greatly, the K-XR, to the system is going to improve the quality of the sound reproduction or not.

I would really like constructive feedback. I know that measurements are not everything. I know that one way to decide is to listen and see which one you prefer. The particular question I am asking about is accuracy of sound reproduction. Suppose that one wishes a preamp to be as close as possible to a straight-wire with gain. Why would introducing the K-XR do this better---what exactly do the measurements above miss out on?

Here are the links to the measurements:

Ayre K-XR measurements

Benchmark Pre USB measurements

Halcro DM10 measurements

Mark Levinson 32 measurements

Any feedback would be very much appreciated.

dumbo's picture
Last seen: 2 months 17 hours ago
Joined: Sep 26 2009 - 6:59pm
Well I'm certainly not JA but

Well I'm certainly not JA but my theory on this topic is that the shorter signal path and fewer components inline the better. This is assuming the DAC/PRE can provide enough output voltage to directly feed the device you are attempting to drive to it's maximum potential without overloading that component with too many volts. If you start with a well measured DAC/PRE to begin with such as the DAC1 then everything else in line is just expensive pork.

tmsorosk's picture
Last seen: 2 years 3 weeks ago
Joined: Dec 5 2010 - 12:34pm
Preamp , no preamp

   Hello kds

   I've tried running my DAC direct into my Levinson amp and got a more direct sound , but harder and brittler . Reintroducing the Ayre KX-R gave the system a warmer smoother less fatiguing sound . Don't put to much stock in measurements , they can tell you if a product was designed with integrity but they won't tell you what a product or combination of products sound like .

                                                                                                                                                                  Regards  Tim

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