DAC1 - "A clean, lean digitizing machine"
John Watkinson, author of "The Art of Digital Audio" wrote:
"If the use of an exotic cable makes a DAC sound better, then the DAC is not performing adequately and should be repaired or redesigned. If the goal is actually to achieve high quality, rather than just claim it, then this is one of the fundamental tests a designer should use."
"As can be seen (from the graph above) the DAC1 easily operates with total freedom from jitter at the end of a 1000′ length of CAT5e data cable."
"Whoever heard of a DAC operating without jitter induced sidebands over 1000′ feet of garden variety data cable? Now that’s a properly engineered device!"
"Benchmark. That’s a loaded name for a component manufacturer. It brings to mind thoughts not only of quality build and performance but, for those philosophically inclined, also epistemological questions pertaining to the nature of high-end audio."
"Certainly one means of establishing a benchmark is through testing. Speaking of specifications, never have I seen such a cascade of specifications attached to a DAC as with the DAC1."
"Benchmark is willing to trot out every iota of information to assuage the objectively minded audiophile."
"The DAC1 was created with three target users in mind: the professional studio, home use by audio professionals, and audiophiles. Indeed, the DAC1 has been well received by studios and has made inroads into the audiophile community. It is feature-laden and smartly laid out."
- Doug Schroeder, dagogo
"I conducted an informal online interview with John Siau, Director of Engineering at Benchmark Media."
According to John Siau:
“UltraLock is a clock isolation system. The incoming digital audio contains an embedded data clock that often contains high levels of jitter. UltraLock creates an impenetrable wall of separation between the high-jitter embedded data clock and a pristine fixed–frequency D/A conversion clock…Jitter from the transport cannot reach the D/A converter.”
"I’ve not heard any dac in a player or outboard that has coughed up as much miniscule movements in the music as the DAC1."
"It does what it claims; even a “low life” CDP’ can sound great with it! You can take a $100 (at least in my experience with the NAD player) cdp, hook it up to the DAC1 and get horribly good performance!"
"It’s more than a DAC, it’s a pretty doggone good preamp too!"
"It presents hyper-nuanced, super clean sound."
"The Benchmark is a clean, lean digitizing machine. It does set the standard at its price point for pure, unadulterated digital signals coming to your nearest amp(s)."
"If you’re after the most measurably perfect CD sound and endless detail, put it on your own test bench – your audio rack."
- Doug Schroeder, dagogo
"Before I dig into the sound of the LA4 it is important to know that it employs a wide bandwidth design. The LA4’s bandwidth is specified at 0.2 Hz to 500 kHz."
"Most of the wide bandwidth designs I have heard exhibit ... a purity in tone with superb timing and speed ... the LA4 proved to be no exception."
"The Benchmark LA4 yielded a change that was quickly apparent in several areas. Notably were; bass, upper midrange, treble, low-level listening, and the ability to distinguish the colorations of other components that were contributing to my overall sound."
"Acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica among many other instruments are presented with speed, clarity, and coherency that made them sound more “present” in the room and less like a recording."
"The Benchmark LA4 is simply the most transparent, least colored, and most revealing component I have had in my system to date. I look forward to it joining my stable of reference components."
- Ken Redmond, The Audio Beatnik
"This little unit will change the way you look and listen to amplifiers."
"My first taste of this remarkable new amplifier came earlier this year in April at Chicago's AXPONA where I discovered it driving a newly redesigned Studio Electric Pasadena loudspeaker, also bearing the Benchmark trademark. Now called the SMS1, the Pasadena's crossover had been reworked by Benchmark, upgraded with very low tolerance components, and the new look, more in line with the look of the rest of the Benchmark product line up, had been adopted."
"The subsequent sound in this room was one of the most musically engaging I encountered at this year's event, a remarkable result considering its modest overall system price of just over $7000, sans source."
- Greg Weaver, EnjoythMusic.com
Jim Austin wrote, "The DAC3 was all about depths, in several respects . . . I heard deeper into the music."
The concise conclusion to John Atkinson's Measurements sidebar: "All I can say is 'Wow!'"
In a Follow-Up, Jim Austin wrote of using the Benchmark processor with the same company's AHB2 power amp—a combination of high source output voltage and modest amplifier gain that he describes as "optimal for minimizing noise and distortion"—and reported hearing "richer and more interesting" reproduction of very subtle details.
- Stereophile Magazine
"Class A+" is Stereophile's highest award for Digital Processors