"Benchmark has an unusual combination of DAC and headphone amp, and both sections work superbly!"
"The volume control on the front panel of the DAC3 DX is governed by a 32-bit dithered volume control. This volume control can vary the volume of both headphone jacks on the front (not individually, though, I’m afraid) as well as the main and auxiliary output jacks on the back depending upon how you use the Mute and DIM buttons on the front panel. You can make either set of rear outputs fixed or volume-control variable."
"I found that the Benchmark is a highly accomplished DAC. Listening to Angel Cabrera tickle the ivories of a Steinway Concert Grand on the 24-bit/96-kHz Play The Classics release “Cabrera Plays Debussy” (download at www.playtheclassics.com) is a really stringent test for any stereo system, and I was astounded to hear that with this DAC, the piano leaps from the speakers and sounds like there’s a real concert grand in my living room!"
"This has always been one of my favorite test recordings because it is simply recorded, made in a good sounding venue, and has always challenged DACs. With some DACs, you get a hint of what’s there, and with others (like the wildly expensive dcS Vivaldi) the piano starts to come out of the speakers and into the room sonically. Not since I borrowed a Vivaldi (and its owner) for an evening, have I heard this recording, rendered so palpably!"
"The Benchmark delivers a huge and precise soundstage. Layering, front to back is very impressive."
"The soundstage remains precise, with instrumentation tightly seated in place even when the music becomes complex as in the 24/176.4-kHz HRx Reference Recordings’ “Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber,” with Michael Stern conducting the Kansas City Symphony. (CD, SACD or HRx, RR132) The rich texturing of this composition is rendered clean and focused with each voice in the orchestra impressively defined."
"I then repeated these same selections using the DAC3 DX’s headphone amp. The noise level of this amp is incredibly low with a dynamic range unusual in headphone amplifiers."
"If you think that you don’t like headphone listening, perhaps it’s due to what’s driving your headphones."
"There are many DACs available in what I call the 'sweet-spot' category of roughly $1800 to $2500. And while I haven’t heard all of them, the Benchmark DAC3 DX beats the ones with which I am familiar in terms of versatility and sound quality. If I had to use one word to describe the sound of the Benchmark DAC3 DX, that word would be 'transparent.'"
"In so many ways this transparency results in a presentation that punches way above the DAC3 DX’s weight and selling price. The build quality is first rate and it has a headphone amp worthy of any $750 standalone version!"
"'Many good things come in small packages.' The Benchmark DAC3 DX is one of those 'good things.'"
George Graves, The Audiophile Voice
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
"The benchmark combination offers a full range of equipment that can hardly be topped, leaves nothing to be desired in terms of sound, and meets professional requirements without any ifs or buts."
"The HPA4 has the HIFIMan one hundred percent under control, eliciting neutral timbres, tons of spatial information and crisp dynamics."
"I connected everything the household had to offer in terms of speakers - Spendor S3 / 5, Ayon Seagull / c, Quad ESL57. It goes without saying that the American coped with the dynamic boxes with ease. But even the quads, which have some meanness on the part of their impedance, did not pose a challenge for the amp."
"There are many things that come into play when putting together a hi-fi system, one of which is synergy."
"After the arrival of the Benchmark Media Systems AHB2, I immediately thought of the matching HPA4 that colleagues Jaap and Yung were very pleased with."
"The key question, of course, was whether the HPA4 would really provide an audible improvement."
"Well you bet! The synergy between preamp and power amplifier is nothing short of magical, not to mention the DAC3 B that I got from importer Helios for the occasion."
"Not only a few curtains disappear, the whole window is gone."
- Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio