DAC2 HGC - "When it comes to D-A conversion, this company is called Benchmark for a reason."
"It ... features a clever hybrid gain control (accounting for the 'HGC' in the product title) whereby analogue inputs are attenuated with a motorised analogue potentiometer, and digital inputs are attenuated by a 32-bit digital attenuator, which is controlled by the same rotary pot. The actual D-A conversion (which can also handle DSD streams) is performed by the latest ESS Technology 'SABRE32' reference DAC chip, in a configuration that differentially sums the outputs of four balanced D-A converters together to maximise linearity, signal-to-noise and dynamic range performance."
"I plumbed the DAC2 HGC into a number of different systems, replacing my usual monitoring controllers (Benchmark DAC1, Grace Design M902, Bryston SP1.7, Crookwood M1) without problem. I listened to a wide variety of commercial material sourced via CD, DVD-A, SACD and Sonus media servers, as well as from my own recordings and mixes on SADiE and Reaper."
"The most noticeable and dramatic sound improvement over all of my other D-A converters was the complete absence of peak distortion when listening to commercial CDs! Most current and 're-mastered' music contains significant inter-sample peaks, and that inevitably cause distortion to varying degrees through clipping of delta-sigma converter filters."
"The original DAC1 was aimed squarely at professionals, but was subsequently embraced by the audiophile market. It remains an excellent D-A converter, and its ability to completely isolate interface jitter sets it apart from most D-As, including some of the much more costly models. However, digital audio technology continues to make incremental improvements, and in the eight years since I reviewed the DAC1 the state of the art has clearly advanced. The DAC2 HGC is undoubtedly a major step forward in technical performance compared to its forebear and, although it costs almost double the price of a DAC1, it does also offer a lot of additional features and facilities."
- Hugh Robjohns, Sound On SoundRead the full review →
"RMAF 2018 was really good, with significant numbers of attendees, and more new-product introductions than I remembered ever seeing there."
"Led by engineer John Siau and based in Syracuse, New York, Benchmark Media Systems has built a sterling reputation for making compact, well-engineered, moderately priced electronics that challenge the state of the art, both on the test bench and in the listening room."
"What I took notice of were the specifications: total harmonic distortion of less than 0.00006%, and a signal/noise ratio exceeding 135dB from 20Hz to 20kHz."
"If those claims are true, and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t -- Benchmark gear has always performed as specified on the test bench -- the LA4 should be about as transparent-sounding a line-stage as you can find at any price."
- Doug Schneider, SoundStage! Hi-Fi
"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