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Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529 Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

7/8/17

The Ritz-Carlton Goes Yachting...!



Marriott International’s luxury hotelier The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, has decided to float an idea…

Why not take the Ritz-Carlton amenities, service and style and put it on the water…?

In the form of a yacht…!
Available in 2019, the first of three bespoke yachts will be roaming the seas, dripping with luxury.  At 190-meters, these floating palaces will be small enough to get to locations the full-size cruise ships can only dream about.  Accommodations number 149 suites, each with the requisite balcony, as well as a selection of top-shelf duplex penthouses.  The Ritz-Carlton partnered with Swedish design house Tillberg Design to assure the proper vibe was achieved. 

Shipboard amenities include The Ritz-Carlton Spa, in case you have trouble relaxing, and for those hunger-pangs, head to Michelin-Starred chef Sven Elverfeld’s restaurant, or maybe the Panorama Lounge for a more casual bite and some musical entertainment. 


Voyages will range from 7 to 10 days and will include a variety of destinations from the Mediterranean and Northern Europe to the Caribbean and Latin America, depending on the season.  Private charter reservations will be available as well, just be sure to bring your rather large checkbook…
Per Herve Humler, President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, “The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will have a distinctive personality and the vessels are sure to be true stand outs in some of the most glamorous ports around the world.  This unique combination of yachting and cruising will usher in a new way of luxury travel for guests seeking to discover the world in a relaxed, casually elegant and comfortable atmosphere with the highest level of personalized service.”

Sounds like a plan…  Reservations will open May 2018, so start planning now!

Cheers…!

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

6/26/17

New BMW X3 Gen 3 – G01 Madness...!



BMW’s mid-size SUV… er… they call it SAV for “Sports Activity Vehicle” (semantics) is now available for public consumption. 

The “G01” in BMW geek-speak (a factory production code) is the third generation of the X3, which first debuted in 2003.  The first generation was frankly a bit of an ugly duckling both inside and out, but sold well regardless.  Gen 2 represented a substantial improvement aesthetically as well as a notch above in engineering quality.  Gen 3 appears to be fairly evolutionary on the exterior design changes, but further develops interior design and build quality in good ways!

Slightly larger in size (no third-row seating here) but lighter in weight, the X3 will initially come with two gas-fed motors in the States.  The base X3 is propelled by BMWs ubiquitous 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged powerplant, exuding 248 horsepower and scooting to 60 mph in about 6 seconds.  A step up the performance ladder takes you to the X3 M40i specification and adds 2 more cylinders.  Power climbs to 335 ponies and yields a 60 mph sprint in 4.6 seconds...!
Zippy…!

An eyeball scan of the exterior reveals a substantially larger rendition of BMW’s trademark twin kidney grill, which will likely be the remodel’s most polarizing feature.  Headlight and aero treatments are evolutionary, and the side profile and rear design notes are a touch more athletic in appearance. 
The interior is where my retina is most impressed.  Cleaner and more current in flow and appearance, the design manages to include all of the latest tech gizmodery that BMW saw fit to include.  This includes the newest iteration of iDrive, complete with a 10.25-inch touchscreen and the usual wheel and button controls, not to mention available gesture-control. 

Woohoo..!
You also can opt for the latest safety nannies, including adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alert, collision mitigation, coffee spill assistance…   (kidding on that last one!) 

Overall, I give a thumbs up to this 3rd generation 3 of the X variety.  If it drives as well as it looks, BMW will have a straight hit on its hands…!  This buggy should compete well with Benz’s GLC, Audi’s Q5 and any other mid-size luxe-ute you care to name.
Prices have not been set, but expect the usual bump over the outgoing model.  The G01 X3 will populate US showrooms in November…



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com


6/25/17

The Dynaudio Special 40 – Celebrating 40 Years of Speaker Excellence!




Danish speaker company Dynaudio had been around for a minute.  40 years’ worth of minutes, to be exact. 

One can almost think of Dynaudio as an old-guard speaker manufacturer, as they have had great success in the professional audio, car audio and certainly the home audio markets for quite some time.  Over the years the company has continued to refine their craft, known for their top-quality drivers and furniture-grade speaker cabinets.

So now it’s time for a birthday celebration!
Marking this auspicious occasion, the Danes have released the Special Forty, a two-way stand-mounted monitor with several technical advancements on an already impressive audio pedigree.

The configuration basics...?  This is a two-say stand mounted speaker, consisting of a 28mm tweeter and 17cm woofer.  The cabinet measures 7.8" wide by 14.2" tall and 12.7" deep, and weights in at just under 18 lbs.

And now for the special sauce...!

Let’s start with the new Esotar Forty tweeter.  This precision-coated soft-dome driver sports improvements to the neodymium magnet, reflection-absorbing materials and speaker airflow.  The result is a robust design producing in Dynaudio’s words a “tighter, more controlled and more honest performance”.  The engineers were also able to lower the tweeter’s frequency response, which improves the sonic pairing with the woofer.
Oh, and about that woofer…

Dynaudio exalts this as their best-ever 17cm woofer.  Strong words coming from these guys!  Improvements to construction and materials provide optimized control of the driver’s excursion-symmetry – the control of the speaker. 
Better sound…!

The crossover between the two drivers is a first-order design, which Dynaudio has used and refined for many years.  The speaker improvements allowed for a high level of optimization in the crossover circuit design.
Again…   better sound!

Top everything off with two Special 40 exclusive finishes available for purchase; high-gloss lacquered Grey Birch or Red Birch in cross-cut sandwiched veneers.  Stunning, of course…
Available this fall and priced at $2,999.00/pair, these Danish delights will please your ears for years to come.  I can’t wait to see what they do on their 50th...!

Cheers...!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com



6/4/17

The Kimpton Gray - Chicago’s New Jewel


The hustle and bustle of Chicago’s Financial District.  Can one actually rest, relax and recharge in such a place?

The answer is yes…!  The reason is Kimpton’s newest Windy City property, the Gray! 

As with many things “Chicago”, there is history here…
History and hotels?


Indeed, I say!  In 1894, one William Le Baron Jenney built the New York Life Insurance Building in downtown Chicago.  Mr. Le Baron Jenney happens to be known as the “Father of the American Skyscraper”, due to pioneering use of metal-framed construction.  In 2006 the building was named a Chicago Historic Landmark.  2014 arrived, and the Kimpton folks acquired the building, launching a 2 ½ year project to restore much of the marble walls and flooring, exterior terracotta surfacing and the historic windows.  Oh, and they converted the building to a hotel along the way. 
293 rooms and 14,000 sq/ft of meeting space later, you have one special hotel…!  You feel the history dripping from the architecture when you arrive.   Combined with tasteful, contemporary styling, the overall vibe has a casual energy, perfect for the Chicago Loop. 

Hunger and thirst pangs are covered by three excellent venues.  15 floors up is Boleo, home to South American inspired bites and a top-notch bar.  Don’t forget the retractable roof – they don’t open this in December!  Ground level has Steadfast, a restaurant with a plush vibe serving highly-crafted seasonal American cuisine.  The third locale, and my personal favorite is Vol. 39.  A dark, high-ceilinged room on the 2nd floor provides a great place to relax with your favorite craft beverage and snack.  The highlight here is the use of several hundred original law books that were found on the premises and restored to pristine condition. 

Amenities on premises also include a fitness center, and Petrosino’s Parlor, home of a pampering Spa and Salon.  No relaxation problems here...!  Even the guest rooms are well thought out, bringing a bit of swank teamed with abundant comfort and convenience. 

Let’s top this off with a courteous, energetic staff – no stuffiness here – and the Kimpton Gray is truly remarkable! 
What’s with that “Gray” name anyway?

All of that beautiful and painstakingly restored marble happens to be of the Georgia Gray variety, thus the applied moniker.  Kudos to Kimpton for the excellent restoration…
If you’re headed to the Windy City and are looking to camp in the Loop, I highly recommend a stop at the Kimpton Gray.  Chicago’s new jewel…! 

Cheers!

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

5/26/17

AXPONA 2017 Recap – Music City?




AXPONA…    Audio Expo North America…  Could there be a new nickname brewing for the Windy City? 

The 2017 edition of this gathering of all things good in the world of audio was a rousing success.  Great music was everywhere, and the event was well organized and extremely consumer friendly.  But I do have a nit to pick…

The problem?

Too little time and far too many rooms for this one audio connoisseur to cover…  A good problem to have!  However, this condition forces my apology for those rooms left unattended, and for any left out of this recap…
Of the rooms I visited, sound quality was pretty darn good overall, although one must work around some of the room induced acoustics at times.  Kudos to all involved for working to get the best sound possible, regardless of the environment.  Here are a few highlights…


Talk about audiophile jewelry...!  The stunning Italian-made Sonus Faber Venere S speakers (5K/pr) paired with the retro-cool McIntosh C-2600 preamp and MC-452 amp provided… what else… beautiful music!  Excellent musicality, tone and a bit of perceived warmth, but not in an overly-honeyed manner. 





Equipment vendor Music Direct had a triple threat room, with three price levels of systems.  The starter was a sub-$1,500 system with Marantz electronics and Wharfedale's Diamond 225 stand mounted speakers.  Next up was the floorstanding ELAC Uni-Fi UF5 speakers (999/pr) sourced from a McIntosh MCT450 disc transport (4K) and McIntosh MAC6700 receiver (6,500).  Both sounded excellent for the money, but the cream of this crop was the bluer-than-blue Focal Sopra No.3 speakers and Balanced Audio Technology electronics providing excellent scale and texture.  A great comparison of three fine systems…



Quintessence Audio’s room showcasing the new Dynaudio Contour 60 speakers (10K/pr), paired to great synergistic effect with the always excellent Simaudio electronics, provided top-notch audio.  I have heard the new Contour line several times now and have been impressed at each listening.  Possessing Excellent dynamics and surprising low-end power paired with a refined top end, these Dynaudios are impressive indeed!




GTT Audio & Video had a dandy sounding room with the excellent YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2 (72,800/pr) and electronics from Audionet, featuring their PRE G2 preamp (23,350), Max mono amplifiers (30,500/pr) and Planck CD player (18,800).  The turntable was a Kronos Pro with Black Beauty tonearm and Air Tight Opus 1 cartidge (63K-ish in total) and cabling was a full suite of Kubala-Sosna’s new Realization! line.  Excellent detail in the music here…


In the “pleasant surprise” category was the CH Precision room.  In the past I have not had opportunity to spend much quality time with gear from this Swiss manufacturer, but they are highly thought of in the industry.  With some sonic exposure, I can now say their reputation is well-earned.  Playing through the excellent Magico S1 MkII speakers (16,500/pr), the electronics consisted of the D1 CD/SACD player (38K) and the new I1 Universal integrated amplifier (38K) with optional Ethernet streaming board and phono input board added in.  I believe the turntable was a Kronos Sparta with a Helena tonearm and Kuboteck cartridge.  Open and naturally detailed, this was an impressive rig…!



Certainly in the running for Best-of-Show was the room from Doug White at The Voice That Is featuring Tidal speakers and electronics.  The Tidal Audio Akira speakers (215,000/pr) were debuting to spectacular results, powered by Tidal’s 3-piece Presencio preamp (77,900) and Impulse monoblock amps (64,900/pr).  Digital was provided by an Aurender N10 server (7,999) through the excellent Bricasti M1se DAC (10,000) and analog was provided by a TW-Acoustic Raven AC-3 turntable with a 10.5 tonearm and Transfiguration Proteus D cartridge, totaling a bit over 35K.  I DID… NOT… WANT… TO… LEAVE… THIS… ROOM…!




                         

Another room that invited longer listening sessions was presented by Chicago’s Kyomi Audio and paired the striking Vivid Audio Giya G1 Series II speakers (68K/pr) with Jadis tube-based electronics, specifically the JA200 MKII mono amps (33,900/pr) and JP200MC preamp (32,900).  Sourcing was provided by a Merging Technologies NADAC (14K) and an MBL 1621A CD transport.  I believe the turntable was a TechDas.  I have never heard the Vivid Audio speakers paired with Jadis gear, but the synergy was obvious, and impressive!


                                    

Brian Zolner and the folks at Bricasti were up to their usual level of sonic excellence.  Debuting their new M5 Network Player (2K) running through the new M12 source controller (DAC / preamp - 16K) and a pair of M28 monoblock amplifiers (30K/pr) feeding Tidal’s Piano Diacera speakers (40K), the Mahler sounded simply beautiful…!



                                      
Desmond Harrington from Pass Labs providing me with details of their new XA25 class-A stereo amplifier (4,900) shown here on static display.  This gem provides 25wpc into 8 ohms and doubles that rating into 4 ohms.  A great entry product into the world of Pass Labs amplification, this is well priced and I expect typically superb sound…!



California manufacturer Magico had their new S3 Mk II speakers (38K/pr) on hand, paired with more of the impressive CH Precision electronics, namely the L1 linestage (34,500), P1 phone stage (31,000) and the M1 monoblock amplifiers (102K/pr).  A Kronos Pro turntable handled the vinyl duties and a Berkely Alpha Reference Series 2 DAC provided the digital sourcing.  Open, impactful and effortless all came to mind here.  A superb showing...!


Luke Zitterkopf from Aluminous Audio waxing poetic on updates to the Gravitas speaker system.  Paired with BAT electronics, the sound was even a bit more open and airy than I recalled from RMAF.  This is good stuff..!


The Benchmark folks had a triple stack of their new and very special DAC3 (2,195/ea) running a multi-channel audio rig, powered by their AHB2 mono amplifiers.  With accompanying video, this was one cool and fine sounding demo, despite a bit of an acoustically unfriendly room.  You can find my review of the DAC3 DAC here.



Yet another fine sounding room paired audiophile fave Wilson Audio’s Yvette speakers (25,500) with electronics from lesser-known Doshi Audio.  Owner-engineer Nick Doshi ran his v3.0 Jhor monoblock amps (29,995/pr) along with the v3.0 preamp (16,995) and v3.0 phone stage (16,995).  A dCS Rossini DAC (24K) and Master Clock (7,499) provided the digital conversion, and a reel-to-reel tape deck from Mara Machines was playing analog.  Great jump-factor and life in this room!



Relaxed, clean and lifelike described this system featuring the Wilson Benesch Discovery II stand-mounted speakers (26,800) mated to their Torus subwoofer (12,500).  Ypsilon electronics provided the juice with a Phaethon integrated amplifier and VPS-100 phonostage.  The vinyl rig was a Thales TTT Compact II turntable, Simplicity II tonearm and Ikeda KAI MC cartridge. 



Lars Christensen and the folks at Raidho Acoustics had their Danish-made, stand-mounted D-1.1 Black speakers (23K/pr) on hand with electronics from Aavik Acoustics, namely the C-300 preamp (42K) and M-300 mono amps (48K/pr).  The sound was typical of Raidho speakers, meaning toe-tapping quick and transparent.  The soundstage was far larger than expected from these smaller speakers. 


Another of those rooms with surprisingly top-notch sonics was prepped by the affable Wynn Wong and utilized Penaudio Seranade Signature floorstanding speakers (12K/pr) along with the excellent Goldmund Eidos 36U+ universal player and Karan Acoustics’ L Ref preamp (17K) and S600 stereo power amp (30K).  Extremely musical and with bass that belied the Penaudio speakers' size, this was one sweet-sounding room… 


I will close with one of my most anticipated demos of the show.  Famed speaker manufacturer Paradigm’s new Persona line of speakers has been burning up the audio press machine, and rightly so.  A listen to the top of the line Persona 9H (35K), paired with an Anthem integrated amplifier proved a happy-ear event!  Quick and open, the sound struck me as very even with excellent pace and groove.  The high-tech engineering in the beryllium midrange and tweeter drivers, along with active electronics in the woofers really paid off.  I could live with these speakers for the long haul..!

A special thanks to all the folks doing the work behind the scenes at AXPONA.  If you have a Jones for fine music, put a visit to next year’s show on your to-do list...!  A toe-tapping good time, Chicago may truly be "Music City"…


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

8 Is Enough! BMW’s New 8-Series Breaks Cover..!




BMW’s 6-Series coupe is going away. 

Fear not, ye lovers of 2-door lux-mobiles.  Simply do some kindergarten math and add 2…

In its place is the new 8-Series, or G15 as BMW Geeks will call it.  (the factory chassis code.)
Unveiled at the annual Villa d’Este concours on Lake Como, Italy, this is BMW’s most progressively stunning design work in quite some time.  While it is technically labeled a “concept”, very little will change in the final product.  A bit of tweaking in the front for safety / pedestrian standards, but the overall design will remain static.  I for one, am pleased…

You will see the 2-door as shown, a 4-door Gran Coupe variant, and the requisite drop-top look-at-me mobile.  Engine choices will be the entry-level 3.0 liter inline 6, a stonking V8 with 450 hp give or take, and a likely M8 variant that will scare the neighbors!  The gearbox will have 8 speeds and I am guessing that all-wheel drive will be available as well.  Carbon fiber and other tech will make a showing to reduce overall weight.  The folks at BMW are stressing that this will not simply be a boulevard cruiser, but a sporty handler as well.  Let’s hope that rings true...!

The interior follows through on the exterior design progression, with a fitting digital instrument cluster and a properly squared-off steering wheel, hinting of the cars sporting intentions.  The next-gen iDrive will be in residence, providing all the gizmo-wizardry you could ever need.  For the luxe-minded, plenty of bovine hide options will be available with multi-tone combinations, contrasting stitching and we’re told some microsuede surfaces loitering about.  The overall effect is crisp, clean and modern.

On sale in 2018 as a 2019 model, all three body styles will be launched simultaneously.  Pricing will be a sizable jump over current 6 series tariffs, but no firm numbers have been announced.
Kudos BMW…   Job well done..!

Cheers!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…
Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com


5/17/17

KettlePizza – Instant Pizza Oven..!



Eat more pizza…!

The folks at KettlePizza want you to adhere to this mandate.  It just so happens they can provide a bit of assistance. 

If you have a gas grill out back, you are now good to go.  The KettlePizza Gas Pro – Deluxe kit comes with the stainless-steel insert, built-in thermometer, a 15” pizza stone, grilling gloves, and the all-important pizza peel, available in wood or aluminum. 
The prerequisites...?

Your grill surface needs to be at least 24” wide and 17” deep, and you need a minimum of 3 burners.
Simply place the insert and the stone on the grill and fire it up.  Preheat the pizza oven for approximately 20 minutes and you are ready to start turning out the pies.  Temps will be in that 750-degree range, and the pies will turn out quick and perfectly cooked.  Provided, of course, that you pay attention!

There is even a charcoal kit for the old-school grillers out there.  Pricing starts at $209.95 and up, depending on the kit.
Oh, I almost forgot…  Another important prereq…?

Come hungry!  It’s time to eat pizza...!
Cheers!!!


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/16/17

Benchmark Media DAC3 – The Review



Musical truth…

I began the preview blog of the Benchmark Media DAC3 with the above comment.  It was my thinly veiled intimation as to where the review, this “part 2” blog, is heading…
So, what exactly is musical truth?  The truth is when your senses receive what the artist intended to portray.  When the audio quality gets to your ears at a more accurate level, the groove and emotion of the music improves accordingly, getting you closer to exactly what occurred in the studio or at the live concert, in a blood, sweat and tears kind of way…

Trust me on this one…!
The folks at Benchmark Media, with their background in the recording industry, are driven to get that musical truth into the home with their products.  With the release of the original DAC1 models and the second generation DAC2, Benchmark has been on the bleeding edge of digital technology trends, especially from a price/performance perspective. 

The new DAC3 ups the performance ante with the new ESS Technologies ES9028PRO converter chip, the brain or “centerpiece” of the DAC3.  Utilizing this new and impressive chip, along with other engineering creativity generates improvements in lower THD and noise, reduction in jitter of the digital signal, better harmonic performance and better headroom. 

A quick rundown of the feature set of the DAC3 HGC shows a similar setup to the previous gen DAC2, starting with the clever Hybrid Gain Control, essentially a way to combine volume control in both the digital and analog domains.  Add in Benchmark’s excellent HPA2 headphone power amplifier with 2 headphone outputs, a home theater bypass, configurable digital pass through, 5 digital inputs (1 USB, 2 Optical, 2 Coaxial), balanced and RCA analog outputs…  you have one flexible and capable DAC.
Now that I’ve properly introduced you to the DAC3, you’re probably curious how this little dynamo sounds…

My time spent during the review process consisted of both critical listening as well as casual, a benefit of having my system in a central living area as opposed to a dedicated room off in some west wing.  Of course, room acoustics suffer a bit, but fortunately my wife has green-lighted several d├ęcor-friendly moves to eliminate as much unwanted resonance as possible.  The majority of my listening was done with the DAC3 connected directly to my Pass Labs X250.8 amplifier, but you can configure it for use with a preamp or integrated amp if preferred.  As usual, the Feldmann music selection runs the gamut from classical through jazz, R&B, folk, and all the way to Disturbed… er… metal.  I feel strongly that all genres of music are necessary to completely wring out a product. 
The first thing I noticed, in casual listening and without any hours of break-in on the DAC, was nothingness… a vacuum, or if you prefer, a “sonic void”.  There exists no extraneous noise between or behind notes or sounds.  You don’t realize the noise is there until you hear a system without it.  The difference can be illuminating! 

After running the DAC for several days off and on, I spent more time in critical listening mode.   Along with the aforementioned black backgrounds, I became enamored with the transient speed of the Benchmark unit.  Whether the leading edge of the thwack of stick hitting drum, or the decay of a plucked guitar string or cymbal, the DAC3 nailed it with absolute realism.  Harmonic structure also stood out as being properly balanced and sorted, with piano and other stringed instruments fleshed out with excellent presence and weight.  Matt Haimovitz with his baroque cello playing Bach, Emilie-Claire Barlow’s jazz vocal stylings, or Billy Howerdel’s rock guitar work with A Perfect Circle… all presented with nuance, detail and life!
Are there any negatives here?

Nothing that comes to mind.  One could nitpick about the design aesthetic being too utilitarian as opposed to audiophile jewelry, but the build quality is without fault.  You might also find a DAC that has a smidge more soundstage size, but you will likely pay 3 or 4 times as much to get there.  The price/performance ratio of the DAC3 is in the stratosphere...! 
In my time with the DAC3 I kept going back to my musician days, and the time I would spend in the studio.  The immediacy and intimacy of how everything sounded, from single tracks to the completed mix of a song all came to mind.  That says a lot to me about this DAC…!  Musical truth…
Kudos to John Siau and the Benchmark team.  Impressive…!


Review system:
·         Logitech Squeezebox w/custom power supply
·         Parasound Zdac DAC
·         Simaudio Moon P3 preamp
·         Pass Labs X250.8
·         Dynaudio Contour S3.4 speakers
·         Richard Gray power
·         Cables from Transparent and Zu Audio
·         Dedicated 20-amp circuit
·         All music in FLAC format




Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…


Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

4/15/17

Benchmark Media DAC3 – The Preview



Musical truth…

Today we are going to visit the world of digital music.  I’m referencing high-definition tunes – no mp3 files allowed...!  Why no mp3, you ask?  Remember how your TV picture looked in 1989?  Compare that to how your hi-def TV looks today.  I think you get the picture…  (the application of this pun was thoroughly intended by the author!)

Back on point, you need gear to turn those digital files into an analog signal that you can hear.  This brings up the subject of DACs.

“What, pray tell, is a DAC”, you ask?

Digital to Analog Converter is the acronym, and these high-tech wonders turn a digital signal into an analog signal.  DACs are pretty much everywhere these days.  (my apologies to the turntable crowd.)  Any device playing digital audio has one in some form.  Hi-def televisions? Yep…  Cell phones?  Yep…  The list goes on…

As with any other device, quality and ability vary greatly in the world of DACs.  This blog’s focus will be the audiophile world, where DACs proliferate the market from manufacturers near and far.  Pricing can range from wallet bucks on up to a comma and a whole bunch of zeros.

Enter Benchmark Media Systems and their newly released DAC3…

The year was 1983 and the garage was located in Garland, Texas.  Benchmark founder Allen H. Burdick engineered and built professional audio gear used by television broadcast facilities.  Over the years, Benchmark relocated to Syracuse, NY and grew their audio product line into several markets, including the recording industry.  Many of those products, including the Benchmark DACs and amplifiers, are being scooped up by the at-home audiophile crowd for use in high-end sound systems. 

The DAC3 is, of course, the 3rd generation of Benchmark’s DAC, and utilizes a brand-new converter chip from ESS Technology, along with improvements in parts and engineering.  The result is a DAC that sounds…

Not so fast…  Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon to a blog near you...!



Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com