Make / Model: Benchmark DAC 1
This was my primary DAC at my MortarWorks Mastering studio. The reason: It is an excellent DAC. I picked one up again recently, and even with the 15 years between it’s introduction and now, it is still one of the best DACs on the market. This has to do with a couple reasons: 1) The chip is great 2) the analog stages are excellent designs and 3) the headphone amp is very good.
The importance of a good DAC is that all DACs colour (essentially, EQ) the sound. So, if as in mastering, you are making critical adjustments to a recording, the DAC you use will cause you to either be correct, or in error, in your judgement of the EQ of the material.
Nowadays, most DACs on the market, or in devices are decent, and so the differences between an average DAC and a great DAC are not as obvious as they were in the 2000s, and no where near the differences in the 80s and 90s. However, there are still quite large differences in certain applications.
Overall, this was a landmark product, bringing high DAC quality to middle level studios for a 1/3 of the cost of competing devices.