"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
"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