Tascam DA-3000 vs Benchmark ADC1 USB

In a previous thread the subject about using a Tascam DA-3000 to archive vinyl was discussed. I had posted that my initial tests with the Tascam were far from satisfying. I speculated that I thought the issue was the analog circuitry in the front end of the Tascam.

Well I just received a Benchmark ADC1 USB and have run a few test recordings to compare with the Tascam.

I set the ADC1 up to feed digital AES/EBU 24bit/96KHz into the AES/EBU digital input on the Tascam. Clock on the Tascam was set to DI (digital input from the ADC1). Clock rate and bit depth were set to match the ADC1.

So I was effectively using the Benchmark for the basic analog to digital conversion, and the Tascam to convert the digital data stream into a WAV file saved to a 4 G SD card in the Tascam. This way I avoided any USB and computer related variables in building the WAV file of the recording.

The analog inputs to the Benchmark ADC1 were straight out (DC out) of the Spectral DMC-10 phono preamp. I used custom built single ended RCA to XLR cables. Surprisingly, I found hum levels were about 6 dB better that the same inputs into the Tascam directly.

I recorded some quick cuts from LPs I am pretty familiar with (Steely Dan Gaucho Babylon Sisters, John Klemmer's Touch, and Blind Faith's Had to Cry Today that I used initially). The recording levels were very easy to set as the Benchmark ADC1 has really nice analog front panel controls for gain. Setting up the Tascam to "Monitor" confirmed the digital levels and both units agreed with each other to within a dB or so.

What about the results?

I was very happy with the recordings made with the Benchmark. When A/B'd directly with the LP, the recorded 24/96K WAV was not identical, but pretty damn close. Much better than recordings made with the Tascam alone. The original LP was a tad bit smoother and very slightly more detailed, but if you were not A/B ing you might not notice the difference. What was important to me was that the recording maintained the space and 3d sound field of the LP, and not crush it into a plane like many CD recordings.

All in all not the cheapest solution, but still cheaper than the Ayre 9A product. Plus using the Tascam gives you a stand alone solution with no need to connect USB to a computer, but it's there if you want it.

I would say Benchmark was pretty true to what they said their product would do.
I had a chance to do some more testing with the Tascam DR60DmkII.

I ran some pink noise spectrum tests on my speakers with a digitally recorded pink noise source file. I had a Shure SM81 mic connected to the mic pre-amp on the Tascam, and I needed the highest gain setting (there are three, LOW, MID, and HIGH) for pink noise at about 83 dB at the mic.
I then recorded 10 minute files with the mic pointed at different positions, for playback later to a spectrum analyzer.

This system was a lot cheaper than buying a dedicated stand alone sound measurement system. Most mic pre-amps (with phantom power) are more expensive than the Tascam. So you basically get the digital recorder for free.

The Tascam specs on the mic pre-amps indicate the input levels can be as high a 0 dBu (on the LOW gain setting), so there should not be an issue using a phono pre-amp with a balanced output, assuming it can drive the 2K input load in the Tascam. Only compromise I can see is the DR60DmkII only records at 24BIT/96K, unlike the DA-3000 which can record up to DSD frequencies. A further advantage to the little DR60D is the use of discrete components in the input pre-amps,

"The DR-60D's HDDA mic preamplifirers utilize discrete circuitry and premium parts approved after months of evaluation tests."  -- Tascam

Kind of wished they would have used those in the DA-3000.
dhl - Thanks for the info on the Tascam DR60DmkII.  Would you mind creating a recording of an LP with it and comparing the result to the straight Tascam DA-3000 w/o using the Benchmark for the analog front end?  Perhaps you still have one of your earlier test recordings of the DA-3000 by itself.  I was about to purchase the DA-3000 but now thinking the DR60 might be a better choice due to it's discrete analog input stage.  It's much less expensive and I plan on recording at 24BIT/96K.

Was wondering about that myself. I cannot make a direct comparison of two digital files in my system, but can make a comparison between a digital file made on the DR60 and the LP itself. I'll see if I can break some time free to do that test.
Hi Jeff,

I have a digital file that you can have access to of a Phillips recording of Mozart's 6 string quartets.  It is recorded on a Tascam DA-3000.  Send me a private message and I can give you the link.