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High-Resolution Audio is More than the Latest Digital Format

1982 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.

The Myth 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.

An Audio System is Never Better than its Weakest Link

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.

High-Resolution Audio Components

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. Benchmark's products will allow you to experience the full capabilities of the new high-resolution recordings while discovering previously overlooked details in your favorite CDs.

Step Beyond the CD and Enter the World of High-Resolution Audio

It all starts here

dac2 d/a converter

DAC2

High-Resolution Playback Begins with the D/A Converter

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, and even smartphones, have built-in D/A converters. But there is a problem - these internal D/A converters are rarely capable of delivering high-resolution audio.

Upgrade to an External D/A Converter

The entire audio system in a consumer audio device is normally built for a budget of about $5. 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.

In contrast, the Benchmark DAC2 external D/A converter delivers the full performance of today's best 24-bit high-resolution recordings.

Digital Connections

Most audio products now have digital outputs. These outputs bypass the internal D/A converters and deliver raw uncorrupted digital data, losslessly preserving all of the details captured in the recording. These raw digital outputs can be connected to an external D/A converter. The resulting performance improvement is often huge.

Volume Control

Any practical audio system will need a volume control. These days, most audio devices use digital volume controls. These controls place significant demands on the quality of a D/A converter. 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 includes the input selection and output buffering functions of a traditional HiFi "preamplifier" and is designed to directly drive power amplifiers.

Amplification

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 - A New and Different Power Amplifier

The AHB2 uses THX-patented AAA™ 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.

The SMS1 Loudspeakers - The Final Link in the Chain

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 the outstanding vocal clarity, natural sound, and excellent musicality of the SMS1 loudspeakers.

Quietest, Cleanest Amplifier on the Planet

132 dB SNR, -118 dB THD

AHB2

Engineered and Manufactured in the USA, Shipped Worldwide!

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.

It all Began in 1983

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.

Experience Benchmark - The Measure of Excellence®

We are confident that you will appreciate the audio performance and build-quality of our products. Our goal is to build top-quality 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).

Support - Before and After the Sale

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.

Call Toll Free: 1 (800) 262-4675

(M-F, 9AM - 5 PM, New York)

Please fee free to call our toll-free line with questions regarding the use and operation of our products. We are here to provide expert help, before and after the sale! Please don't hesitate to call.

Experience the clarity of the SMS1

loudspeaker system

SMS1

Application Notes

Audio Myth -"DSD Provides a Direct Stream from A/D to D/A"

August 27, 2015

This myth goes something like this:

"DSD provides a simple and direct digital path between the A/D and D/A."

"DSD is simpler than PCM."

"DSD is not PCM."

While DSD can provide spectacular audio performance, all of the statements above are false.

There are many wonderful DSD recordings, but the quality is not due to any virtues of the DSD format.

Direct Stream Digital (DSD) seems like a simple and attractive system, but it absolutely fails to deliver a "direct" path between the A/D and the D/A.

Benchmark DAC2 vs. DAC1 - Side-by-Side Measurements

August 13, 2015

There was a 10-year time span between the introduction of the Benchmark DAC1 and DAC2 audio D/A converters. The DAC1 defined the state of the art when it was introduced in 2002. Thirteen years later, Enjoy the Music.com selected the DAC1 as one of the 20 most significant digital audio products from the past 20 years. Today the DAC2 defines the state of the art in audio D/A conversion. John Atkinson said that the "DAC2 offered one of the highest resolutions I have measured". Both products set performance benchmarks when they were introduced. In a sense, they provide snapshots of technological progress.

This paper shows high-precision side-by-side measurements of the DAC1 and DAC2 converters. These measurements show how technology has improved, and they show that there may be two or three audible differences between these two products.

Travel through 10 years of audio technology, learn the significance of audio measurements, and see what has improved in our quest for transparent audio reproduction.

Benchmark DAC2 vs. DAC1 - Is There an Audible Difference?

August 06, 2015

Benchmark introduced the DAC1 in 2002 and it quickly became the best-selling 2-channel professional D/A converter. To this day, the DAC1 is a standard fixture in many recording studios, and it is also a central component in many high-end hi-fi systems. In August of 2015, Enjoy the Music.com selected the DAC1 as one of the 20 most significant digital audio products from the past 20 years.

It is easy to show that the DAC2 measures better than the DAC1 in almost every way. From a marketing perspective it would be tempting to claim that all of these measured differences make audible improvements, but this just isn't the case.

One reviewer, Gary Galo, recently had the opportunity to hear a DAC1 and DAC2 side-by-side. He noted some audible differences and we agree with his conclusions. We have had a great deal of experience listening to these converters side-by-side in our own listening room and we are familiar with some subtle differences.

This paper examines the subtle audible differences between the DAC1 and the DAC2. It also includes measurements that may help to explain these differences.

The HPA2™ Headphone Power Amplifier

July 22, 2015

 

Many Benchmark products include our HPA2™ headphone power amplifier. Unlike most headphone amplifiers, the HPA2 is designed to behave like a small but very clean power amplifier. What makes the HPA2 different, and what do we mean when we say that the HPA2 is a "power amplifier"?