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 →
"Benchmark describes its product as a 'reference Stereo Headphone Amplifier and Reference Line Amplifier with Relay Gain and Input Control', which should give you some idea of what's going on here, but only hints at the fact that this is actually two completely separate products packed into one relatively compact unit."
"The headphone section is powered by a power amp from THX, employing the same AAA (Achromatic Audio Amplifier) technology first used by the company in its AHB2."
"Benchmark's line amplifier uses relays for input selection, gain control and muting while four independent 256-step attenuators ... feed the the headphone ... and preamp outputs."
"As PM notes in his Lab Report, this design gives the HPA4 not only outstanding performance, but also rather impressive - to say the least - signal delivery."
"All of a track or two should do the trick, as whether with revealing headphones ... or used as a preamp, the HPA4 simply drops jaws with the sheer impact, openness and vivacity of the way it plays music."
"It was one of those real 'performer in the room' experiences and I was instantly transported back to the time I spent monitoring the recording as it was being made ..."
- Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News, November 2018
"John Atkinson's measurements corroborated Benchmark's claim that the DAC3 is capable of "at least" 21-bit performance ..."
"Benchmark created an amplifier that more than matched the DAC3's dynamic range: the AHB2. Bridged to mono, the AHB2 has a claimed A-weighted dynamic range of 135dB ... it now sits in Class A of Stereophile's 'Recommended Components.'"
"With the DAC3 HGC and the AHB2, Benchmark seems to have achieved the lowest-noise, lowest-distortion system of source and amplification on the planet. The signals this combo sends to loudspeakers should be cleaner—truer to the source—than any other audio components can achieve."
"This article is unusual in that my goal was not to take the measure of a particular component but to determine whether Benchmark's entire low-noise system could resolve musical detail that a more typical audiophile system, with noise and distortion levels that are low but not as low, could not."
"The comparison system consisted of PS Audio DirectStream DAC and BHK Signature preamp and, variously, PS Audio BHK 300 and Pass Laboratories XA60.8 monoblocks."
"Through the Benchmark amps those quiet sounds were richer and more interesting. There seemed to be more going on in those quiet moments. It's harder to describe than it was to hear."
"Over the course of several days, I went back and forth between the Benchmark amplifiers and heard it every time. The difference didn't go away."
- Jim Austin, Stereophile