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Benchmark's ADC1

A spectacular two-channel analog-to-digital audio converter By Frank Moldstad

Benchmark ADC1Calling Benchmark Media Systems ADC1 a converter is like calling a Lamborghini Gallardo a car. After all, a Ford Focus is a car. But the Lamborghini will smoke the Ford in every performance category -- and leave it far behind at the cash register, too. So the first thing users must ask themselves is if the price/performance ratio is worthwhile for their needs.

For many audio professionals, the answer will be an unqualified yes. After all, were talking a price differential of hundreds of dollars between converters here, not hundreds of thousands between cars. The ADC1 (MSRP $1,750) is a precision two-channel analog-to-digital converter. Its goal is not interpretation or approximation it is transparent conversion of analog sources to digital signals.

The ADC1 has been eagerly awaited by professional audio users since Benchmark announced it two years ago, but shipping was delayed for a couple of reasons. First, it was redesigned from scratch, and then production was slowed by the need to update other products the company makes. The redesign was undertaken because the original design did not perform to the level that Benchmark has become known for, says Benchmarks Jed Burdick. ?We are a boutique design team -- our R&D only goes so far so fast. Thankfully we are out of the woods now, and making super progress in our new endeavors, he adds.

ADC1 and DAC1 joined for rack mounting
However long the gestation, the ADC1 is here now, and it was worth the wait. This unit has the same ability to reveal new details in audio material as its counterpart, Benchmarks acclaimed DAC1 D/A converter. And it offers a variety of flexible routing and conversion options to boot. Its applications include audio post, music studios, broadcast and location recording.

The ADC1 is a half-rack space device that operates at up to 24-bit/192kHz sampling, with intermediate steps of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 and 176.4k. It has four modes of operation: AES/EBU, ADAT, ADAT S/MUX2 and ADAT S/MUX4. A professional multi-function nine-segment digital LED meter (post A/D conversion) is included on the front panel, with a switch-controlled peak-hold function for protection against clipping. Sturdy large metal gain control knobs for each of the two channels are on the right, with 41 detented stops. The knobs also have decibel markers from -5 to +19 around them.

LED matrix
At the left of the front panel are nine LED lights with a flip switch. This is where you set the overall clock source (internal or external) and the sample rates for the main and auxiliary outputs. Its very important to become familiar with this LED matrix. Reading the manual is advisable -- otherwise, you may find yourself flipping switches randomly every time you want to change settings!

The nine LEDs are arranged in three vertical rows of three lights each. The first row indicates the base sample rate -- 48k or 44.1k -- -- and whether the ADC1 is synced to an external clock. The second row indicates multiples of the sample rate; if the first row is set for 48k sampling, x2 is used for 96k sampling and x4 for 192k sampling. Or if the main setting is 44.1k, x2 changes it to 88.2k, while x4 changes it to 176.4k. The bottom light in this column is selected for ADAT, and the ADAT S/MUX2 (88.2/96k) and ADAT S/MUX4 (176.4/192k) modes are automatically activated when the higher sample rates are being used. The third row of lights indicates the auxiliary out settings, which are 44/16, 48/16 and Main. 

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Related Keywords:ADC1, A/D, Benchmark, analog-to-digital, converter, DAC1, D/A, audio professionals, audio post, music studios, broadcast, location recording


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