197 Rooms - Benchmark Room Makes the Audio Beatnik "Top 3"
"The 10th annual AXPONA was the largest yet with an expansive array of speakers, amplifiers and turntables on display across a staggering 197 listening rooms."
"Certain rooms featured systems most enthusiasts could probably afford at some point in their lives, and other rooms catered to the small well-heeled handful who are willing to spend extravagantly to obtain the best possible sound. That’s why I divided my top rooms into two categories: the best three “reality” rooms where the systems were more reasonably priced and the best three “dream” rooms where cost was no object."
Benchmark and Martin Logan - "Reality Room #2"
"Benchmark teamed up with Martin Logan to drive a pair of their Impression ESL 11A electrostatic speakers with their AHB2 power amplifiers in a bridged-monoblock configuration. The source was an Aurender A10 streamer fed through their own DAC3 B and an LA4 preamp."
"The overall sonic signature of this room had a remarkable sense of ease and purity. Minute details such as a breathy initial saxophone note or a solo vocalist parting her lips and taking a breath before singing were easily discernible. At the same time, they presented all of the musical energy and rhythm contained within the source material."
"The effortless and free-flowing nature of the Martin Logans paired up nicely with the transparent AHB2 amplifiers."
"The tonality and realism of the instruments were spectacular. An alto saxophone sounded as if it was in the room with me, and the pitch and timbre of both male and female vocals were absolutely spot-on. It was clear that nothing in this system was getting in the way of the music."
"Their room had a remarkable degree of transparency that made every listener feel closer to the music."
LA4 - Receives Stereophile's Highest "Class A" Rating for Preamplifiers
"Benchmark's usual approach to design is to out-spec the competition, and so it is here. Like other Benchmark equipment he has tested, the affordable LA4 challenged the resolution of John Atkinson's test instruments, with'superb'channel separation,'extremely low noise, and virtually no power-supply-related spuriae.'"
"Benchmark's LA4 is the widest-bandwidth, widest-dynamic-range, lowest-noise, lowest-distortion preamplifier I have encountered."- John Atkinson
"In his listening room, Kalman Rubinson compared the LA4 to a cable—and couldn't hear any difference. He concludes,'the LA4 is probably the most transparent and revealing audio component I've ever used. It does not seem to leave any fingerprints on the sound.'"
"The DAC3 B is a stripped- down, lower-priced version of the DAC3 HGC, which omits the headphone amplifier, balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, volume, mute, and polarity controls."- Stereophile
"The DAC3 was all about depths, in several respects...I heard deeper into the music."
"All I can say is Wow!"
- John Atkinson
"In a Follow-Up, JCA 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."