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DAC3 and LA4 Review - Paul Seydor, The Absolute Sound

DAC3 and LA4 Review - Paul Seydor, The Absolute Sound

 

Benchmark DAC3 B Silver

DAC3 B - "Neutral and Transparent"

"In the areas of tonal neutrality and transparency, the DAC3 B sounds like every other Benchmark I’ve heard, which is to say neutral and transparent. But the DAC3 also has new conversion processing, which is said to make for a 3.5dB increase in headroom above 0dBFS, in turn preventing the DSP intersampling overloads."

"This increase in headroom ... is said to result in subtly improved sound."

Benchmark LA4 Silver

LA4 - "Line Amplifier"

"Benchmark prefers to call the LA4 a line amplifier (which may be the more correct term because that is what preamplifiers in fact do: amplify the signal) and offers it in two versions: linestage only, and the identical linestage with an onboard headphone amplifier, called the HPA4."

Benchmark AHB2 Silver

AHB2 - "A Genuinely Innovative Design"

"Before properly introducing the preamp, however, it is worth the while to recall that the AHB2 amplifier is a genuinely innovative design, even, if you will, revelatory, and it set new standards in having by a wide margin the lowest noise and distortion and the widest bandwidth of any amplifier on the market then or now."

Conclusions

"The LA4 has been widely tested with results that tell the same story as those from the AHB2 power amplifier, i.e., the measurements merely confirm the manufacturer’s claims except in those instances where the limits of the test gear are reached before this or that specification can be precisely verified, almost every tester reporting that the unit beats, often handily, any other ever tested in its product category, regardless of price."

"The bandwidth of the LA4 goes out to beyond 500kHz at the top end, while its low-end -3dB point is 0.01Hz."

"Bass through the LA4 driving the ABH2 is outstandingly clean and clear, with superlative definition, articulation, and registration of timbre."

"I find myself in the same conundrum as when I reviewed the ABH2. Once more I have literally nothing to write about. There’s a complete absence of any sort of artifacts or noise; on very clean recordings, the presentation is uncanny in its purity."

"You will notice I haven’t said a word about detail. This is deliberate. It is a non-issue. With noise and distortion at the sub-subterranean levels of the LA4, the AHB2, and the DAC3 B, what could possibly remain that would eat, mask, or fail to retrieve even the lowest-levels of recorded information?"

- Paul Seydor, The Absolute Sound

Read the full review here →

The LA4 Receives Top Awards from TAS

In September of 2020 the Benchmark LA4 received a 2020 Golden Ear Award.

2020 Golden Ear Award - Benchmark LA4

In January 2021, the LA4 received a  2020 Product of the Year Award in the Solid-State Preamplifier category.

TAS Product of the Year 2020 - Benchmark LA4


Also in Reviews

AHB2 Review - Constantine Soo, Dagogo

AHB2 Review - Constantine Soo, Dagogo

by Benchmark Media Systems April 02, 2024

 

Benchmark AHB2 - Black

 

"The AHB2 bridgeable stereo amplifier ... was the topic of a recent discussion between American electrostatic panel speaker manufacturer Sound Lab’s president, Dr. Roger West, and me."

"In our discussion, he related his highly positive experience in driving even his largest, $55k Majestic 945 panels with the $7,000 pair of Benchmark Media AHB2 monoblocks, along with the $3,050 LA4 Preamplifier and factory XLR cables."

"Dr. West described the AHB2 as a class AB design using “feed-forward distortion reduction [thus removing] any possibility of pushing the margin of safety of a standard feedback loop, used in most amplifiers, into an unstable oscillatory mode.”"

"He further shared with me that “this is of most concern on powerful musical transients. The distortion of the amplifier in the balanced mode is astonishingly low even at just below the clipping level of 380 watts.”"

"The prospect of the AHB2’s specified distortion level of 0.00015% or lower when at full volume is comical at first glance, but upon actual audition the impact of the achievement is very audible from medium-high listening levels and upward."

"It was unlike any other sub-$20,000 amplifier I have auditioned."

"My audition of the Benchmark Media AHB2 amplifiers underscores the reason Dr. West is so taken by it, and confirms the design is best described as a watershed moment in the high-end audio industry."

- Constantine Soo, Dagogo

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DAC3 Review - Jerry Del  Colliano

DAC3 Review - Jerry Del Colliano

by Benchmark Media Systems April 02, 2024

Benchmark DAC3 B with Silver Faceplate

"Benchmark is a stalwart brand in pro audio, but has carved out a very respectable niche in the audiophile world with their diminutive but powerful components."

Benchmark DAC3 B Studio Version with Rackmount Faceplate

"The audiophile world sometimes looks to the professional audio world for enlightenment, especially on the digital side of things, and Benchmark Media is one of the companies that we put high on a pedestal."

"They are hardcore digital engineers freezing their asses off in upstate New York as they come up with some pretty innovative ways to get your varied digital sources sounding as much like the master tape as possible. Thank you for your service, gentlemen."

"If you really want to hear what your music sounds like in today’s streaming-driven world, this might just be the DAC that you need to test out."

- Jerry Del Colliano, Future Audiophile

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HPA4 Review - Chris, DC Hi-Fi Group

HPA4 Review - Chris, DC Hi-Fi Group

by Benchmark Media Systems September 15, 2023

"The Sound of Silence"

"Benchmark Audio is an engineering focused company with a deep heritage in the recording studio world."

Benchmark  HPA4 - Black

"The HPA4 is a Headphone Amplifier and Preamp that incorporates the THX-888(AAA) achromatic audio amplifier circuit that was first introduced to the world in the Benchmark AHB2 amplifier."

Benchmark AHB2 - Black

"To this day the AHB2 remains the lowest distortion and highest SNR amplifier on the market."

"The Direct Opposite of Typical Tube-Based Technology"

"From a listening stance it is the cleanest and most accurate delivery of sound you are likely to get with any Hi-Fi component."

"This is the direct opposite of the typical sound of tube-based technology that is awash in second harmonic distortion and noise."

Power

"The HPA4 …offers 6 watts into 16 ohm and a whopping 11.5 Vrms into 300 Ohm headphones."

"You will not be running out of power with this device."

Listening

I used the track "Slink" from the brand-new Artemis album on Blue Note."

"It is a very dynamic driving track and the Artemis ensemble makes the most of it. The HPA4 and revealed all the sonic details of this track."

"I give the HPA4 my highest recommendation."

- Chris, Forum Administrator - DC Hi-Fi Group

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