1979 brought us the CD and "Perfect Sound Forever". On a top-quality playback system, the CD can sound stunning. Nevertheless, we have come to understand that the 16-bit, 44.1 kHz, CD format is somewhat less than perfect. For this reason, the recording industry is migrating to a variety of high-resolution audio formats. Recordings are now available in 24-bit PCM at sample rates of 96 kHz and 192 kHz. These recordings promise performance that extends well beyond the limitations of the CD, but formats alone are not enough to gain entry to the world of high-resolution audio.
High-Resolution Audio is a myth unless the entire playback system extends beyond the limitations of the CD format. The truth is that the CD format often pushes the limits of very good playback systems. Very few audio systems are capable of rendering the full capabilities of the CD format. Fewer yet are capable of rendering true high-resolution audio performance.
If a D/A converter, power amplifier, or loudspeaker is limited to CD performance, the entire system will be limited to CD performance. In such a system, the new high-resolution audio formats will fail to deliver any audible improvements.
Benchmark is focused on building some of the highest-quality audio components available. Audio professionals and home audiophiles have come to appreciate the outstanding performance of our products. Our products will allow you to experience the full capabilities of the new high-resolution recordings while discovering previously overlooked details in your favorite CDs.
We live in an analog world. The D/A converter or "DAC" is the essential bridge between digital storage and analog playback. Today, virtually every audio device has a built-in DAC. CD players, DVD players, computers, HDTVs, cable boxes, even smartphones, all have built-in D/A converters.
The entire audio system in a consumer audio device is normally built for a budget of about $5. At this price, the results fall well short of high-resolution audio performance. These internal converters may boast that they support 24-bits and 192 kHz, but in most cases, they cannot even do justice to the CD format. Internal converters typically provide the equivalent of 14-bit performance. The remaining 10 bits serve marketing purposes.
Fortunately, most audio products now have digital outputs. These outputs bypass the internal converters and deliver raw uncorrupted digital data, losslessly preserving all of the details captured in the recording. These digital outputs can be connected to an outboard D/A converter. This connection effectively replaces the low-quality internal converter with a high-quality outboard converter. The performance improvement is often huge.
Any practical audio system will need a volume control. These days, most audio devices use digital volume controls. These controls place significant additional demands on the quality of the D/A conversion. An internal D/A converter that starts with the equivalent of 14-bit performance, may only deliver 12-bit performance at typical volume-control settings. In contrast, the Benchmark DAC2 D/A converter delivers true high-resolution audio performance over a wide range of volume settings.
The DAC2 D/A converter can only be fully appreciated when the entire audio chain is capable of similar performance. Audio amplifiers are a weak link in most audio systems. The amplifier often adds significant noise and distortion. It is difficult to cleanly deliver the power and current required by loudspeakers. For this reason, D/A converters have outpaced the development of power amplifiers. Benchmark set out to solve this problem and create an amplifier that matches the performance of the DAC2.
The AHB2 uses THX-patented AAA(TM) technology to virtually eliminate all forms of distortion. We also focused on frequency response, output noise, drive current, damping factor, and reliability. The result is an amplifier that stands head and shoulders above the competition. No amplifier has lower noise or lower distortion than the AHB2. Experience delicate musical details that are usually lost in a veil of noise and distortion.
Benchmark developed the SMS1 monitors with a focus on achieving low distortion, accurate matching, and a wide frequency range. The quality components, and unique crossover design, contribute to outstanding vocal clarity, natural sound, and excellent musicality.
All Benchmark products are designed and manufactured in the USA. Every product is individually assembled and tested in our state-of-the-art facility in Syracuse, NY. Every unit must meet rigid standards before leaving our plant. Benchmark products are now shipped to virtually every country in the world.
Benchmark Media Systems, Inc. began as a small operation working out of a garage in Garland, Texas. Our founder, Allen H. Burdick, began by building very high-performance audio equipment to meet the specialized needs of television broadcast facilities. The company quickly grew, expanded into additional audio markets, and relocated to Syracuse, NY. To this day, Benchmark remains focused on building products that set performance "benchmarks" for the entire industry.
We are confident that you will appreciate the audio performance and build-quality of our products. Our goal is to build products that you will enjoy for years to come. All Benchmark products are robustly engineered to last a lifetime, and are backed by our Extended 5-Year Warranty (USA sales - registration required for warranty extension).
Our Technical Support and Engineering teams will work with you to attain the highest level of performance from whichever Benchmark product you decide to purchase. Feel free to call us at any time with your questions. We are here to provide expert advice. Also, feel free to contact us with suggestions and comments. Feedback from our customers is always appreciated.
The music industry is struggling to define High-Resolution Audio or "HRA". In doing so, most have focused on the delivery formats - analog vs. digital, 24-bits vs. 16-bits, 1X vs. 2X and 4X sample rates, PCM vs. DSD, uncompressed vs. compressed.
But, High-Resolution Audio is much more than the delivery format. Read more ...
"Analog audio has infinite amplitude resolution, but the resolution of digital audio is limited to a finite number of steps."
While it is true that digital systems quantize the amplitude of the audio signal to the nearest step in the digital encoding system, this does not necessarily mean that digital systems cannot have infinite resolution. Contrary to popular belief, digital systems can provide infinite amplitude resolution if they are properly dithered.
The performance of the AHB2 would not have been achievable without taking a radical approach to power amplification. In many ways, the AHB2 is a complete 180 degree departure from traditional high-end amplifier designs. There is nothing ordinary about the Benchmark AHB2. Read more ...
It's all about control! The movement of headphone transducers must be well controlled in order to produce high-quality audio. It is easy to build a headphone amplifier that produces sound. It is an entirely different matter to produce an amplifier that is clear, clean, and enjoyable.
Headphone amplifiers need ...