Previously I was using BDP-1 with Benchmark DAC1 directly into 4BSST2. I always felt that I am missing something. The volume control of the Benchmark is horrible. Once you turn it down, the sound becomes totally dull, no bass, no soundstage, no nothing.
I was considering whether to take the plunge for DAC-1+BP26, however, my dealer had NAD M51 available for home demo. After a few days of burn-in, I began to smile widely. Exactly what I needed. The digital volume control is just stunning. My wife is telling me to turn it down even when it is at -40db. Practically no loss at all.
Finally all the instruments sound right. For example, solo piano or jazz trios were unlistenable with Benchmark, the notes were smeared without definition. Bass is also totally in different league, nice and juicy but always in control.
The HDMI inputs are also very convenient. I can add my Dune media player and cable TV box easily and have decent sound.
Given the fact that NAD M51 is 5 times cheaper than BDA-1+BP26, it is a true bargin. The only negatives are that volume control is only remote controlled and that there are no analog inputs.