"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
"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
"This little unit will change the way you look and listen to amplifiers."
"My first taste of this remarkable new amplifier came earlier this year in April at Chicago's AXPONA where I discovered it driving a newly redesigned Studio Electric Pasadena loudspeaker, also bearing the Benchmark trademark. Now called the SMS1, the Pasadena's crossover had been reworked by Benchmark, upgraded with very low tolerance components, and the new look, more in line with the look of the rest of the Benchmark product line up, had been adopted."
"The subsequent sound in this room was one of the most musically engaging I encountered at this year's event, a remarkable result considering its modest overall system price of just over $7000, sans source."
- Greg Weaver, EnjoythMusic.com
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
"Class A+" is Stereophile's highest award for Digital Processors