"Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.’s DAC series of high-performance digital-to-analog converters (DACs) have earned the respect of audio enthusiasts and professional users alike for their state-of-the-art performance, including exceptional audio transparency and vanishingly-low levels of noise and distortion. Now Benchmark has made its DAC3 even better with the upgrade to ESS Technology’s new ES9028PRO DAC chip."
"Benchmark considers the THD compensation to be the most significant improvement."
"Benchmark has been around for a long time. In fact, they are one of the early Audiophile pioneers of USB DACs ... I had always thought of them as more of a digital conversion company, and not an amplifier company—until the AHB2 came about."
"A PF colleague of mine (Steven Lefkowicz) said... Dude, you HAVE to try the Benchmark in your system (which at the time was going through a gamut of speaker changes as part of a myriad of reviews being done for PF) to which I replied, wow, they have an amp?"
"I was immediately taken aback with the level of detail given to this unit. Just one glance at the back plate will tell you that this is a well-engineered piece of equipment. Fully Balanced = Check. Speakon Outputs = Check. Bridging Support = Check. Input Sensitivity Adjustment = Check. 12v Trigger support = Check."
"So, how does it sound, after all of that? Well, this thing is no slouch. It's phenomenal! Gobs of power, detail, finesse and control."
- Peter Davey, Positive Feedback
"As with a Class A amplifier, I could detect the muscle of the AHB2 and hear it in the sheer weight of presentation in the lower octaves."
"The AHB2 can drive virtually any speaker load with significant power--especially in monaural mode--yet it never lacked finesse on delicate passages."
"It is a technologically advanced and remarkable amplifier ..."
- Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review
"So, what exactly is musical truth?"
"The truth is when your senses receive what the artist intended to portray. When the audio quality gets to your ears at a more accurate level, the groove and emotion of the music improves accordingly, getting you closer to exactly what occurred in the studio or at the live concert, in a blood, sweat and tears kind of way…" - Marty Feldmann
"The folks at Benchmark Media, with their background in the recording industry, are driven to get that musical truth into the home with their products. With the release of the original DAC1 models and the second generation DAC2, Benchmark has been on the bleeding edge of digital technology trends, especially from a price/performance perspective."
"In my time with the DAC3 I kept going back to my musician days, and the time I would spend in the studio. The immediacy and intimacy of how everything sounded, from single tracks to the completed mix of a song all came to mind. That says a lot to me about this DAC…! Musical truth…"
- Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, Connoisseur Corner
"Benchmark Media began in the mid-1980s providing audio equipment to television broadcast facilities. Today it is recognized amongst recording professionals and high-end audio enthusiasts for producing high-end, sonically transparent components. This philosophy is inherent in all of Benchmark's products--digital-to-analog converters, analog-to-digital converters, preamps, and amplifiers--and it plays right into the sweet spot of high-resolution audio."
"After Benchmark announced the release of the DAC3 HGC, I was quick to contact the company and request a review sample. I was excited after reading about Benchmark's enthusiastic endorsement of the new ESS PRO SABRE chips and had a hunch that the new DAC3 could be a significant step forward in Benchmark's DAC lineage."
"The DAC3 also possesses an uncanny ability to resolve hidden details that typically get lost in a mix. With more resolved detail, the tonality of instruments sounds more real."
- Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review
"My system felt like a dominant force when I introduced the Benchmark DAC3 HGC to the middle shelf of my rack. With the implementation of the latest ESS9028PRO chip from Sabre, Benchmark’s own team of experts, tweaking the accompanied circuitry and the feature rich design offered in this petite package, a genetically modified version of the already popular DAC2 is born."
- Dan Worth, Hifi Pig
The AHB2 was one of only 11 finalists in Stereophile's "Amplification Component of the Year" category. The finalists included 6 power amplifiers, 2 preamplifiers, 2 integrated amplifiers, and 1 headphone amplifier. This elite selection of amplification products included power amplifiers ranging in price from $2,995 (Benchmark AHB2) to $52,000 a pair (Vandersteen M7-HPA).
At $52,000 the Vandersteen includes a chassis milled from a solid billet of aluminum, liquid cooling and a vibration dampening suspension. It is an impressive example of mechanical engineering and industrial design.
At $2,995, the Benchmark AHB2 delivers the quietest, cleanest power available at any price.
The AHB2 proves that top-quality audio can be affordable.
The Benchmark DAC3 is the first product to ship with the new ESS Technology ES9028PRO D/A converter chip.
"Via headphones I definitely could hear more space around the instruments and an increased precision in transients — like cymbals and upper-register piano notes."
"In terms of new functions, the DAC3 switches a lot faster between inputs, and gone is that audibly phasy transition when you initially switch between two digital sources."
- John Gatski, Publisher, Everything Audio Network
It's not the first time I've heard Error-Correction amplifiers, but those were prototypes that weren't working all too well. Classic feedback, TIM-free design was better, so I was afraid that AHB2 might be “wrong” somehow. It took a little bit of “leap-of-faith” to buy one, but I could not ignore the advice I was given about it, as it was given by people that are insiders in this Audio industry of ours. I'm happy to say that my thoughts of Error Correction approach being maybe wrong, could not be farthest from the truth.
What can I say ... maybe the shortest way to summarize it would be this: the AHB2 is the end of the journey for me. I have no desire for ever going back to typical multi-thousand Dollar High-End amplifiers.
- Aleksandar Radisavljević, Founder and Director of RAAL
"Benchmark Media Systems Pro-centric products tout exceptional specifications, and their AHB2 amplifier--developed in tandem with engineers from THX and using their patented HX Achromatic™ Audio Amplifier technology—uses some rather unusual patented designs to get to those remarkable spec numbers."
"These two partners in musical misbehavior sound great together and cost less--with Benchmark cables included—than my Pass XA 30.8 amp alone. To be sure, my reference Pass is a fantastic amplifier, but the AHB2 has its own charms that I found played to my own listening biases."
"Yep. Good stuff, those BM boys."
- Gary L Beard, Positive-Feedback