DAC2 HGC Review - Ernest Denman, Australian HiFi

September 01, 2015

DAC2 HGC Review - Ernest Denman, Australian HiFi

"Better performance than DACs ten times its price"

  "I started reviewing the DAC2 HGC with ordinary CD-standard files, because I'm most familiar with them and have to say that the Benchmark DAC2 HGC impressed me from the get-go with the sparkling, effervescent character of its delivery: lively and entertaining with a lovely freedom to the sound. 'Effortless' is the word I'd say best described it."

"I was able to my use my nocturnal awakenings to extend my reviewing into the wee hours without disturbing the family by evaluating the headphone stage of the DAC2 HGC. Using the HD800s, the high treble performance was beautifully clean and etched, and the midrange warm to slightly-full-bodied, but never so much that clarity was lost at the expense of warmth."

"I could hear no circuit hiss at all when listening through the DAC2 HGC. I took the opportunity to listen carefully for mains hum ... but I came up empty on this one as well, I couldn't hear any mains hum ... or harmonically-related overtones."

"I was so entranced by the DAC2 HGC's performance as a DAC and as a headphone amplifier that I spent almost all my allocated review time using it in those applications, completely forgetting that is was also an analogue preamplifier ... and a true analogue preamplifier, because signals input to A1 and A2 remain completely in the analogue domain: there is no conversion to digital as there is in most other DACs that have analogue inputs."

"The sound as converted by Benchmark's DAC - rather than the external DAC I usually use - was so much better that I pretty much on-the-spot decided that I was going to replace my own DAC with a Benchmark DAC2 HGC. Once I'd decided that, I realized that ... I could simplify my system ... by getting rid of my preamplifier as well. For me, this was an epiphany ... I finally understood what the concept of the Benchmark DAC2 HGC's existence was all about: it's about reducing the component count in your system, and about keeping analogue in the analogue domain and digital in the digital domain. Pure perfection."

"Investing in a Benchmark DAC2 HGC will involve getting rid of the pre-existing notions you have about what components should be in a high-end audio system ... you should now be thinking Source(s) - Benchmark DAC2 HGC - Amplification - Loudspeakers. That's it."

- Ernest Denman, Australian HiFi



Also in Reviews

LA4 -
LA4 - "Best of RMAF 2018" - SoundStage! Hi-Fi

November 01, 2018

"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

Read More
HPA4 - Lab Report - Paul Miller, Hi-Fi News
HPA4 - Lab Report - Paul Miller, Hi-Fi News

October 09, 2018

"Here's a brand that's aptly named - its products providing a 'benchmark' technical performance. The HPA4 is no exception with its relay-switched stepwise volume attenuator calibrated in 0.5 dB steps over a 'useable' 105 dB range."

"Distortion and noise are vanishingly low."

"The frequency response is ruler flat (+/- 0.01 dB) from 1 Hz - 100 kHz."

"The [line output] source impedance is a sensible 30 Ohms and the maximum output a huge 22 V."

"Via the headphone amp, the maximum voltage is 11.2 V and ... the maximum power output is a substantial 4.4W/25ohm and 7.7W/8ohm."

"So, not only will the HPA4 drive the toughest headphone loads but its ... insignificant -102 dBV (8uV) residual noise also ensures exceptionally quiet backgrounds when listening with the most sensitive headphones/earbuds."

"Distortion is broadly unaffected by loading."

"The source impedance is a low <0.6 Ohms up to 10 kHz, increasing to 0.78 Ohms at 20 kHz."

- Paul Miller, Hi-Fi News
Read More
HPA4 Review - Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News
HPA4 Review - Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News

October 09, 2018

Hi-Fi News "Outstanding Product" Award

"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

Read More