"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
"The headphone section, with its choice of 6.35 mm stereo or four-pin balanced XLR connectors ... really impresses with a smooth signal delivery."
"While on the one hand it can rock out when it needs to – its prodigious output means it can give as much power as your headphones can take – its sheer impact, openness and vivacity is jaw-dropping."
"An immaculate all-analogue design, the aptly named Benchmark is both technically and sonically as good as it gets."
- AV Tech Media Awards 2018/2019
Stereophile's editors chose 10 products to receive their top award, the "2018 Product of the Year - Editor's Choice Award". Two Benchmark products made this exclusive list - the AHB2 power amplifier and the DAC3 HGC D/A converter.
"I was impressed by this revolutionary stereo amplifier but it became an obsession when I mated three as monoblocks to a trio of Benchmark's DAC3s."
"The AHB2 is deadly silent, musically revealing, surprisingly compact, and quite powerful."
- Kalman Rubinson
"Benchmark has created a long line of DACs (several of which I've purchased) that present recordings with as little embellishment as is possible at their price points. The latest incarnation, the DAC3, is no exception, and excels at presenting the unvarnished truth, as the artist intended."
- Jon Iverson
The competition in the amplification category was very tight. There was a two-way tie for first place between two amplifiers that cost $30,000 a pair and $13,500 a pair.
The Benchmark AHB2 was just two points behind the leaders when the Stereophile reviewers cast their final votes. In all, there were 13 amplifiers that made Stereophile's select list of finalists. The Benchmark AHB2 was the least expensive amplifier on the list, yet it received top scores from the reviewers. The list included amplifiers with stratospheric prices. Six amplifiers were priced between $25,000 and $118,000 a pair!
At Benchmark we believe that a great audio system shouldn't set you back by the cost of a sports car.