DAC3 HGC - "I was immediately impressed by the sound"
"The separation of sounds, that see-through quality, and the air around individual instruments and voices is what distinguishes the difference between simply good high-end digital components and excellent sounding high-end digital components."
"It is this sense of space that I more often than not notice first. And I noticed this trait immediately with the Benchmark Media DAC3 HGC."
"The headphone output of the DAC3 is magnificent."
"Used as a headphone amplifier the DAC3 seems to have many of the same traits as its main outputs., as its separation of instruments is extremely admirable, and its way of reproducing what some call a soundfield, or a headphone soundstage, is also outstanding."
"The star of the show is the unit's digital converter, which uses an ESS Sabre Pro 32-bit converter chip. I could easily fill the rest of the review with not only a description of the converting prowess of this ESS Sabre Pro chip, but also discuss its excellent specifications. Briefly, the ESS Sabre Pro has a 32-bit PCM D/A conversion system, four 32-bit D/A converters per channel."
"Benchmark's DAC3 includes a digital output, which is a digital pass-through from its USB, S/PDIF coax, and TosLink optical inputs when the function is enabled. The Benchmark Media DAC3 comes with a nice metal remote that controls all of the functions that one is most likely to need when sitting in one's listening seat."
"The Benchmark Media DAC3 HGC is a fantastic digital-to-analog converter that comes with a fantastic headphone amplifier with two outputs, and can also double as a fantastic preamplifier. Its asking price is more than reasonable for such a versatile component, with a sound quality that can be compared to units costing much more."
- Tom Lyle, Enjoy the Music.com
"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
"Benchmark's LA4 is the widest-bandwidth, widest-dynamic-range, lowest-noise, lowest-distortion preamplifier I have encountered."
- John Atkinson, Stereophile
"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."
- Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile
"Class A" is Stereophile's highest award for preamplifiers.