DAC2 HGC - "The Benchmark DAC2 HGC represents a new reference standard"
"What is required to design a super DAC/preamp in the second decade of the 21st century is no mystery. You start with the best DAC chip that money can buy, the world champion ESS Sabre³² Reference 32-bit 8-channel audio DAC, and use all 8 channels for stereo, 4 per side. In that deployment, the digital noise reduction spec is 133 dB and the total harmonic distortion (THD) is –120 dB (0.0001%). You can’t do any better; that’s what Benchmark has in the DAC2 HGC, and that’s what the megabuck high-enders have in their models, also. As for the analog section, you go with the Texas Instruments (formerly National Semiconductors) LME49860 operational amplifier, which has a specified voltage noise density of 2.7nV/√Hz and a THD of 0.00003% (–130.5 dB). Low enough for you?"
"Once you build your device around electronic components with numbers like that and keep the construction quality high, as Benchmark does, there isn’t much headroom for improvement, nor much reason for a higher price than $1,995.00."
- Peter Aczel, The Audio CriticRead the full review →
"The headphone section, with its choice of 6.35 mm stereo or four-pin balanced XLR connectors ... really impresses with a smooth signal delivery."
"While on the one hand it can rock out when it needs to – its prodigious output means it can give as much power as your headphones can take – its sheer impact, openness and vivacity is jaw-dropping."
"An immaculate all-analogue design, the aptly named Benchmark is both technically and sonically as good as it gets."
- AV Tech Media Awards 2018/2019
Stereophile's editors chose 10 products to receive their top award, the "2018 Product of the Year - Editor's Choice Award". Two Benchmark products made this exclusive list - the AHB2 power amplifier and the DAC3 HGC D/A converter.
"I was impressed by this revolutionary stereo amplifier but it became an obsession when I mated three as monoblocks to a trio of Benchmark's DAC3s."
"The AHB2 is deadly silent, musically revealing, surprisingly compact, and quite powerful."
- Kalman Rubinson
"Benchmark has created a long line of DACs (several of which I've purchased) that present recordings with as little embellishment as is possible at their price points. The latest incarnation, the DAC3, is no exception, and excels at presenting the unvarnished truth, as the artist intended."
- Jon Iverson
The competition in the amplification category was very tight. There was a two-way tie for first place between two amplifiers that cost $30,000 a pair and $13,500 a pair.
The Benchmark AHB2 was just two points behind the leaders when the Stereophile reviewers cast their final votes. In all, there were 13 amplifiers that made Stereophile's select list of finalists. The Benchmark AHB2 was the least expensive amplifier on the list, yet it received top scores from the reviewers. The list included amplifiers with stratospheric prices. Six amplifiers were priced between $25,000 and $118,000 a pair!
At Benchmark we believe that a great audio system shouldn't set you back by the cost of a sports car.