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 →
"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