Benchmark DAC 3B Vs. Schiit Gungnir Multibit and a question.

I currently am using the Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC.  I’m thinking of switching to the Benchmark DAC 3B.  Does anyone have any experience or opinions with regard to both these products? I already have a Benchmark AHB2 Amplifier and would think the DAC would be a good match.  The description of the Benchmark DAC says it’s designed to work directly with an amplifier.  I’ve been using the Gungnir with a CJ preamp until now. Question is, is there still a benefit to using a good preamp with the Benchmark DAC?
Yes. The HPA4 or LA4 is so much better than doing the DAC3 HGC directly into an amp. Look at the HPA4 thread I created for mine and other post about going direct to amp in comparison with the DAC3 HGC.

The HPA4 or LA4 are quieter than the DAC3 HGC so adding them into the chain does not degrade the sound. It actually improves the sound with a better volume control. The DAC3B( which I have) cannot go direct to amp since the volume control is removed.

How do yo like the tube preamp with the AHB2?
Thanks for the response.
The CJ with the AHB2  really sounds fine.
Excellent combination.
Hey Richard, If you want, you can borrow my Ayre Codex.
I guarantee it will smoke the Gungnir. (And, yes, I owned the Gungy befor e trying a Codex). These two DAC's are very good. The Yggy would probably be more closer to the Codex, sound quality-wise.
I am moving on to the Ayre QB-9 Twenty. I have been waiting for upgraded cabling, as it seems only right to milk out every ounce of sound improvement, as possible.
As far as using a preamp with a DAC with volume control, I suggest you look at the PS Audio/Youtube video -
Buy the Yggy.  It will save you a lot of grief and wasted money experimenting with other DACs.  Nothing under $8k even comes close to the purity, the soundstage or the bass control.
Hi Bob,

I ordered the Benchmark, but am curious about the Ayre QB-9 Twenty.
what does it cost?
benchmark dac will play brighter and leaner than a gumby

agree codex better than both... warmer more textured

i thought bm allows money back trial no? if so doesn’t hurt to hear it in your system

to me in my travels benchmark gear always has had a very consistent reliable voicing... always clear quick somewhat lean mids plenty high end energy... not good or bad... just depends on system matching

depending on which cj preamp you have it will add either a little or a good amount of texture, roundness, glow that is provides a more natural presentation

Thanks for your input.  I was really on the fence about ordering the Benchmark anyway.  Your post pushed me over.  Reviews are less than glowing about it anyway.
What is really surprising to me  that my Oppo 101 is sounding better than the Gungy in many cases. Shouldn’t be happening.
I am a bit confused. I tried looking up the Oppo and it seems to be a unit that plays back video and audio. There seems to be no way to separate the transport from the included DAC.
Is this correct?
Looking at the manual, there seems to be a setting on the remote for
'Pure Audio Mode'.
You’re right, there is no way to separate the transport from the built-in DAC.
The pure audio mode simply turns the video off during audio playback.
what I’m saying is that the Oppo player by itself is sounding better than the Gungy/transport combination.

I have both a Schiit Gungnir Multibit and two Benchmark DACs in three different systems. In one, a Benchmark DAC2 is connected directly to a Parasound amp. Sounds great (the DAC does have volume control however), but not near as good as my Benchmark DAC into a McIntosh MA252. The Schitt Gungnir feeds a Rogue Pharaoh. 

Both Benchmark DACs are better sounding than the Schiitt. More resolution, wider range. 

You cannot go wring with Benchmark.

I previosly owned the A1 version of the Yggdrasil and now using the Benchmark DAC3L.
The DAC3L is much superior in clarity and neutrality.
That is very good to hear.  I just reordered the Benchmark.
Looking forward to hearing it!
If "super clarity and absolute neutrality" is what you are looking for, the more recent Benchmark DACs will provide that.  A DAC3B exhibited these characteristics in my system while reviewing various DACs.   


If "super clarity and absolute neutrality" is what you are looking for, the more recent Benchmark DACs will provide that. A DAC3B exhibited these characteristics in my system while reviewing various DACs.

same here w dac2 in my case

i would add that 'super clarity' is true... 'absolutely neutrality' maybe/probably so but we don’t really know what that is going from d to a - certainly a leaner brighter sound than most r2r nos or tubed dacs sound characters that have a following - not to say it is not a good unit - i suspect it does (and sounds) exactly as benchmark desires

to me, this sound is impressive at the start, very hifi/super-fi, but becomes hard to listen to and live with for long stretches... so many recordings are presented with too much sharpness and sibilance...  ymmv as always -- as systems are different, tastes are different, rooms are different

"...but becomes hard to listen to and live with for long stretches...". 

Exactly.  This was my experience as well on my system, and why I exercised the return policy. Ended up keeping the R2R Ladder DAC instead.  
Not my experience with the DAC3B, no fatigue,  and I listen for hours on end in my office with speakers and headphones. The DAC1 was another matter and I got fatigued easily with that old one.

However, since I really have nothing else to do with this system I am going to blow some money on the R2R Halo May Level 3 DAC just to see what the differences are. I will b able to compare side by side.
I am going to blow some money on the R2R Halo May Level 3 DAC just to see what the differences are.

You’ll hear a difference -and- if you are more acclimated to the big wide open clear sound of the DAC3B, its possible you might not like the romantic and velvety analog sound of some of the R2R Ladder DACs. I do, helping with some streamed content, particularly for tracks that were not recorded very well, makes it more enjoyable.  
The end result also has to do with how open and transparent your preamp/amp and speakers and the rest of the gear is - all together.

Did you see this former Agon thread, folks talking about the Holo Audio May DAC by chance? Different thoughts about the results... fwiw.

And, over at SBAF, some interior pics of the level 3 Holo May DAC, big toroidal transformer and caps inside, nice:

Best of luck on the new R2R Ladder DAC journey.  All personal preference of course.
Having both types can be fun too. 
I’m right now listening to my Gungnir prior to receiving the Benchmark and wondering why I’m seeking a new DAC.  Honestly, I’m loving the sound right now.  The DAC 3B is arriving tomorrow and we’ll see if I made a mistake. .  But the upgrade bug bit me.  I can always return the Benchmark if it doesn’t improve things.  But then there’s always break in time needed, so it’s not so simple..
@rvpiano, I received my DAC3 HGC last week. There is nothing lean about this DAC. Very full sounding throughout the audio spectrum. I was a little concerned about many folks writing about how “bright” the Sabre DAC chip can be. Not so for my system. It is extremely clear, detailed and smooth. I can listen for hours and no fatigue. Let’s not forget about the bass...OH the bass!!! The best I have heard in my system. Tight and detailed. I actually had to redial in some of my sub settings and now it’s just bliss.

I stream via a Bluesound Node 2i into the DAC 3 HGC and out to a Luxman LX-380 tubed integrated amplifier. My speakers are Paradigm Prestige 95F. I plan to eventually upgrade my streamer and cables/interconnects. I have been very happy with this DAC so far. It outperforms the DAC in the Node 2i by a significant margin.

I look forward to your impressions. Happy listening!
I forgot if the DAC3B required much burn-in but the AHB2 amp required hardly any hours to sound it's best. I have had 2 units to compare.
There are 2 things I did to make my DAC3B sound like a superstar. The first was to buy the Benchmark HPA4/LA4 preamp. A very nice improvement with the awesome preamps volume control.

The second thing I finished yesterday is described in the thread that I updated with a post.

I am shocked at the improvements. It cost me $700 + $100 for a microphone. 

I am just laughing at the improvements. Heck, why spend more on a DAC this is end game stuff. 
I forgot if the DAC3B required much burn-in but the AHB2 amp required hardly any hours to sound it’s best. I have had 2 units to compare.

I gave the BM DAC3B several weeks run-in time and it seemed to make no difference, which was a surprise. Then, followed up with Benchmark engineers asking more, they said nope, makes no difference. Build quality was amazing yet I could not find a synergy with it in "my" system. Super clean, clear, absolutely huge soundstage. Seemed kinda dry, and tone, texture, musicality was just "not there" for my system. Even tried mixing back in lower grade OFC copper IC and speaker cabling, grasping, and hoping to hear something engaging to keep my attention. Nope. Was kinda bummed, truly wanted to like it. I kept asking the engineers there if they had any planned revisions coming up. Their approach to me was all about studio engineering, specs, vs. listening-design for home audio use. Sometimes a little distortion kept in the design can be good :)

Will be curious to see if any design changes are made down the road a few years, might beta-test another one in the future if future versions come out.
@decooney I totally understand your statements on the DAC3B. It would be interesting for me to see how other non-Sabre DACs would do in my system. I am getting a cheaper Sabre DAC on Wed, the Matrix Mini-i 3 Pro. I got it for my headphone system but I will try it out on my office system first. I have a feeling it will be very similar tot he DAC3B now with the Convolution file that I have in my digital audio chain. Both DACs are spec’d similarly. I bought Matrix for both sound and feature set since it is perfect for my headphone needs (wireless and easy to move to other rooms).

I am going to turn my attention to getting either a second AHB2 amp or the CODA #8 because my speakers can use more juice. After that maybe buy a R2R DAC just for fun. In other words, a DAC has dropped to the bottom of audio ToDo list after the sound I am getting today.
The "Coda" truly deserves to be fed by a really good sounding DAC and great preamp.

I live 10 minutes from Coda, grew up in ESS, Threshold, Pass and Coda land, all started in the same place around here. Always start at the source, and then let the Coda sing if you go that route to feed it well. Good luck.
Well, I got it and am making some preliminary tests.
Out of the box it sounds great.
I just put on a CD that I’ve always liked the sound of, and it sounds cleaner, more detailed.  Literally the first CD I tried, but I think it bodes well for everything else.
Not the slightest tinge of over brightness.  I have a modded CJ tube preamplifier which, I think, matches very well.
More to come as I try out other things.

let us know how it compares to your gumby

cj will help cure a lot of digital ills - which cj?

have fun!
I’ve done a lot of listening in the last few hours.  The impression I have is that it is much more accurate and detailed than the Gumby.  However, it is somewhat unforgiving of some CDs even though it’s really outstanding on others.
Have to do  a lot more listening to determine if I want to keep it.  It certainly is convincing me that I don’t want to stay with the Gumby though.
The preamp model is the PV 11 modified by CJ with Teflon caps.

suggest you give a week, for me it takes time to really come to a solid conclusion, need multiple listening sessions, some cable or equipment swaps, some break in/settling in

to me the gumby had some nice r2r qualities, more rounded sound, detail was from within, not up front, bass was rounder flowed rather than slammed...

i had pv12 and pv14 back in the day... definitely a honey colored lovely luscious tubey character, will do wonders with sharper dacs of the modern day!
Second day of listening, and it seems to have broken in.
Very accurate but more mellow.  More forgiving on bad CDs than yesterday.
Even dared to compare the same identical  track from an LP to the Benchmark and the results weren’t bad at all.  Of course, the LP was better, but not by much.
Richard, I would definitely let it burn in. In fact, just leave it on.
The folks at Ayre recommended doing the same with the Codex, despite it running pretty warm. They said it doesn't 'hurt' it and helps with sound quality.

Thanks for the tip.  I left my Gumby always on, but with the blinking lights and on/off switch on the front, I was turning the Benchmark off.

Just as an aside, I’’m learning to stop listening for the “sound” and start listening for the music to appreciate the DAC more.
I seem to blow hot and cold with this DAC.  Some incredible sonic experiences and some very disappointing ones.  Compared to the Gumby it’s far more revealing but not always in a positive way.  I hear what some refer to as thinness.
And yet it’s very full bodied on some CDs. The Gumby is very consistent and forgiving and has a positive sonic aspect as well.
Certainly more time is needed to make a final judgment.

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Thank you for lending me the Ayre Codex DAC to try out. It’s really outstanding!
I find it’s at least the equal of the Benchmark sonically.  However, the Benchmark has some features that I really want and won’t require adapters to match up with my other equipment.


glad you have the chance to hear the ayre codex

it is massively underrated and underappreciated... the music that thing makes is RIGHT... there are some dacs that do some things better but as an overall package for a warm dimensional full saturated sound the Ayre (in an absolute sense, and certainly for its price) is not easy to beat

i have found the Ayre sounds a touch better through its XLR outs... run that way, I use it and a Metrum Jade as my baseline references to compare any new dac to understand the often subtle differences in presentation

sounds like you are having fun... enjoy the music and comparing!
I just got the Matrix Mini-i-3 Pro and compared it to my Benchmark DAC3B last night. The Matrix was excellent and I think in the same class. It is half the price of the DA3B.  The features on the Matrix is outstanding.

I bought it for my headphone only system.
Well, my Benchmark must have broken in more.  I don’t hear any more
”thinness.”  Only rich beautiful sounds.
Really remarkable!
Testing is over!
Decided on Benchmark. Totally magnificent presentation.
Honestly didn’t expect this quality.

Also, I added the GeerFab D.Bob Audio Disc Digital Extractor which, (combined with Oppo Blu-ray machine) plays SACDs with incredible resolution.

Well, my Benchmark must have broken in more.  I don’t hear any more ”thinness.”

Sorry, but my friend and I were the same, when we A/B'd my r2r dac with his new  Benchmark and it's thinner presentation.
Then he also said after 2 months, it's fine now it must have broken in. Once again did the A/B.
It was his ears that did the breaking in not the Benchmark, now he's looking to sell it.

Cheers George   
Well, it depends on the source.
I do admit it sounds thin on mediocre recordings. The Gungnir did hide those imperfections. But, on most recordings, which are well recorded, the sound is far superior to the Schiit.

I think the point is, the Benchmark gives you what is on the recording.
Garbage in garbage out.  It certainly has no inherent “thinness” in itself.
If you want a DAC that sounds good with EVERYTHING, it’s the wrong DAC for you.
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Not trying to belabor the point too much, but the more I listen to the DAC 3B, the sweeter and fuller it sounds, not at all thin.
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“Tonally it is warm and careful and very easy on the ears; “

Quote from Hifi Review about the all Benchmark system.