"Benchmark Media Systems Inc from Syracuse, New-York is an American company and has been one of the top pro-audio manufacturers for thirty years. In recent years they have also ventured into the consumer market with considerable success. Their first commercial product, the Dac1, was very well received worldwide."
"Of course it didn't stop with d/a converters. In collaboration with THX came the AHB2 power amplifier and not much later they developed a suitable headphone amplifier and preamplifier, the HPA4 and LA4 respectively."
"The HPA4 and AHB2 have been a fixture in our reference set for several years now."
"These devices are indestructible, wonderfully compact and not very heavy."
"Their greatest quality, however, is their versatility. With the HPA4 you can adjust the balance, name each input, set each input separately (useful when testing DACs) and control the volume very precisely."
"The AHB2 is also particularly versatile for a power amplifier. For example, you can adjust the gain (useful when testing DACs with volume control), a SpeakOn connection is possible and you can convert them into a monoblock."
The AHB2 rear panel features XLR inputs, SpeakOn outputs, a 3-position gain switch and a Stereo/Mono switch.
"In stereo mode we get a nice 100 watts (8 ohms class A/B) but in mono that goes to an impressive 380 watts!"
"We set the small switch on the back of the AHB2s to mono and connect each speaker to an AHB2."
"Is it worth buying a second AHB2?"
"We say a resounding yes."
"The extra power (380 watts!) not only gives you more control over your speakers, but so much more."
"The AHB2 is not cheap, but it does deliver great quality. It is particularly versatile, compact and indestructible. And even more than in stereo, the playback in mono is 'off the charts'."
"There's no going back really. You have been warned!"
- Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio
"I don't think it is sterile sounding at all ... it is very neutral."
"In the studio, neutral, flat and detailed are on the top of my list."
"The HPA4 is speeding up my work, helping me make better decisions."
- Ken Jacobsen, Ken Jacobsen Music
"It has already been noted in previous reviews that the professional market often offers products that may also be of interest to the 'ordinary' consumer. In Japan in particular, home systems often consist of a mix of consumer equipment and (vintage) professional items."
"Benchmark was founded in 1983 and started building professional audio equipment."
"The goal, from the outset, is to build sound-transparent equipment of the highest quality. The employees are musicians, audiophiles and audio technicians. So sound quality is top notch."
"The HPA4 and LA4 are preamplifiers and largely identical. The HPA4 also has a built-in headphone amplifier."
"The Benchmark HPA4 and LA4 preamps deliver a very high quality neutral and transparent signal."
"Developed from a professional focus on sound reproduction, they bring the essence of the recording closer to the listener."
- Ruud Jonker, FWD Magazine, fwd.nl
"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