A benchmark is a standard or point of measurement to which other things can be compared.
As our name implies, we are committed to excellence. Our award-winning products define the current state-of-the-art in terms of audio performance.
Benchmark products are designed and built by audio enthusiasts. We are musicians, audiophiles and audio professionals who are passionate about audio quality. We also are passionate about the durability and build quality of our products. Most of our products are designed, assembled, tested, and shipped worldwide from our headquarters in Syracuse, NY, USA, where we have been for over 30 years.
Our goal is to build top-quality sonically-transparent products that you will enjoy for years to come.
When you see the Benchmark name on an audio product you can be assured that the product has been designed to be sonically neutral and transparent. This means that we are focused on building products that have an accurate impulse response. It also means that our products produce very little distortion or noise. The accurate impulse response is an indication of our focus on maintaining an accurate phase response, as well as a very wide and flat frequency response. Transparency can be measured and defined by these parameters.
If you are looking for audio products that will change or enhance the sound of your music, you have come to the wrong place. If you are looking to add a warm veil of even-harmonic distortion, you have also come to the wrong place. On the other hand, if you are looking for accurate, clean, and transparent audio equipment, you will enjoy Benchmark products.
Transparency is essential in a studio monitoring chain but it is also important in a home listening environment. Transparent home systems can recreate the studio experience. The electronics get out of the way and allow you to experience the music.
If you want to hear your music the way the artists heard it in the studio, you will need a transparent playback system.
If the entire recording and playback chain is transparent, the listener can be transported to the performance space. This is the magic of music. It is enabled by the magic of a transparent audio chain - from the performance space to the listening space. Enjoy the magic!
Benchmark products are designed for professional applications, but we include features and certifications that make our products well-suited to the home environment. Our products are designed for demanding 24-hour a day use in professional environments but we offer options, such as remote control, to meet the needs of our audiophile customers.
Benchmark began in 1983 as the "Benchmark Sound Company", a small operation working out of a garage in Garland, Texas.
Allen H. Burdick, Founder
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, and was incorporated as Benchmark Media Systems, March 5, 1985. Benchmark expanded into additional audio markets, and relocated to Allen's home town, Syracuse, NY. To this day, all Benchmark products are designed, assembled and tested in our Syracuse facility.
The graphic in the background of Allen's photo states: "Old fashioned perfection ... state of the art performance". Benchmark still faithfully follows these guiding principles set down by Allen Burdick.
John Siau, VP, Director of Engineering
Allen's vision and passion for audio has been carried forward by John Siau. Under John's direction Benchmark has continued to lead the industry with outstanding award-winning audio products.
AHB2 Power Amplifier
Our AHB2 power amplifier is a product that would have made Allen proud. It has the lowest distortion and lowest noise of any audio power amplifier at any price. Like many of our current products, the AHB2 was designed after Allen's retirement. Due to health problems, Allen was unable to participate in the design of any products released after 2007. Nevertheless, each new product closely follows Allen's vision for building transparent audio products.
Just hours before we announced our new power amplifier, we received the sad news that Allen had passed away. In honor of Allen H. Burdick, the AHB2 power amplifier bears his initials.
See "History of the AHB2 Power Amplifier" for the rest of this story!
Some very high-quality products are not transparent because they are intentionally designed to produce an audible effect or enhancement. For this reason, measurements are much less useful when evaluating non-transparent products. Distortion and frequency contouring are often added to create euphonic effects. A "poor" set of THD measurements may indicate that the product is carefully crafted to produce a warm overlay of even-order harmonics. A "poor" set of frequency response measurements may indicate that the product has been designed to contour the frequency response.
In contrast, Benchmark products are designed for transparency. This means that measurements can form an important part of our design process. Nevertheless, we understand that measurements don't always tell the full story.
It is very important to verify transparency by listening. Many times, we have detected problems in listening tests that didn't show up in a basic set of measurements. Usually this was an indication that the measurements were incomplete.
We have learned that if we hear something that didn't show up in the measurements, then we haven't done the right measurements! Over the years, our listening tests have helped us to refine our measurement techniques. We have learned how to detect and quantify defects that were initially revealed only by human ears.
When measurement techniques are adequately refined, defects can be quantified and design changes can be evaluated objectively. Measurements then allow us to refine a product until the defect is reduced to inaudible levels. In the end, the refinements need to be confirmed by listening tests.
Benchmark's listening room is equipped with a number of popular studio monitors (active and passive) and with passive hi-fi loudspeakers. It is also equipped with an ABX tester that is used to conduct double-blind tests. In the photo to the left, we were comparing a selection professional near-field monitors in a carefully calibrated setup. The passive monitors were driven by the AHB2 power amplifiers. This test demonstrated the improved clarity provided by external amplification. In addition, the AHB2 to passive monitor solutions were completely noise free. In contrast, each of the active monitors produced some audible noise. Powered monitors may be cost effective, but the performance clearly seems to suffer.
The Benchmark AHB2 power amplifier and HPA4 headphone amplifier both feature feed-forward error correction. This correction system is an important subset of the patented THX-AAA™ (Achromatic Audio Amplifier) technology. It is one of the systems that keeps these Benchmark amplifiers virtually distortion free when driving heavy loads. It is also the reason that these amplifiers can support 500 kHz bandwidths without risk of instability when driving reactive loads.
This paper explains the differences between feedback and feed-forward systems. As you read this paper, you will discover that you already understand the benefits of feed-forward correction because you use it instinctively to improve a feedback system commonly found in your automobile. If feed-forward correction can improve your driving experience, it may also improve your listening experience!
If you look at the back of any Benchmark product, you will find balanced XLR analog-audio connectors. As a convenience, we also provide unbalanced RCA connectors on many of our products. In all cases, the balanced interfaces will provide better performance.
We build our unbalanced interfaces to the same high standards as our balanced interfaces, but the laws of physics dictate that the balanced interfaces will provide better noise performance.
This application note explains the advantages of balanced interfaces.
Benchmark has introduced a new analog-to-analog volume control circuit that features a 256-step relay-controlled attenuator and a 16-step relay-controlled boost amplifier. The volume control has a +15 dB to -122 dB range in 0.5 dB steps and is a key component in the HPA4 Headphone / Line Amplifier.
Our goal was to produce an analog-to-analog volume control with the highest achievable transparency. We wanted to be able to place this volume control in front of our AHB2 power amplifier or in front of our THX-888 headphone amplifier board without diminishing the performance of either device. Our volume control would need to have lower distortion and lower noise than either of these amplifiers. Given the extraordinary performance of these THX-AAA amplifiers, this would not be an easy task!
This application note discusses the engineering decisions that went into the development of this new analog volume control circuit. The end result is a fully buffered volume control with a signal-to-noise ratio that exceeds 135 dB. THD measures better than the -125 dB (0.00006%) limits of our test equipment.