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DAC3, HPA4, AHB2 System Review - Home Theater and High Fidelity

DAC3, HPA4, AHB2 System Review - Home Theater and High Fidelity

Benchmark Stack

DAC3 B, HPA4, AHB2 - "Purchased Them for My Reference System - Nuff Said!"

"The Benchmark 'stack' ... saw use with a wide variety of loudspeakers and other electronic equipment."

"Having the Benchmark stack here for an extended period also made me re-evaluate a few things about how and what I use to review equipment."

"I dare say that they produced as clean and noise-free a stereo playback chain as I have ever come across."

"Benchmark Media Systems is a well-regarded brand that is known for its high-quality DACs and ADCs that also find their way into professional studios."

"In 2014 they introduced the AHB2 power amplifier, using patented THX AAA amplifier technology, that brought previously unheard of low levels of distortion, and high SNR capability."

Benchmark HPA4 Headphone Amplifier

LA4 and HPA4

"Last year Benchmark released the LA4 preamplifier and the HPA4 headphone amplifier. Both components use an ultra-precision relay-based volume control and feature vanishingly low levels of distortion."

Benchmark DAC3 B


"The DAC3 B is an alternate version of the DAC3 DX that ... simply does away with the included volume control and headphone jacks which makes it ideal to use with the HPA4 or LA4."

"The Benchmark DAC3 B ... is a finely executed example of a modern ESS-based digital to analog converter."

Benchmark HPA4 - View of Relay Gain Control Boards

Line Amplifier - Stepped Relay Gain Control (LA4 and HPA4)

"Benchmark has implemented a fully balanced, relay-based gain control that uses 256 steps in 0.5 dB increments to ensure low-noise with consistent, precise level matching. According to the company “The HPA4 includes 4 independent 256-step attenuators: two for the L&R headphone outputs, and two for the L&R line outputs. To make this all happen, the HPA4 includes a total of 64 precision relays.” When used as a line-level preamp, the HPA4 is spec’d to have an SNR of more than 137 dB A-Weighted, with less than -125 dB of THD and up to 20 Vrms of output voltage."


Benchmark AHB2


AHB2 Power Amplifier

"The AHB2 is designed around the novel THX “Achromatic Audio Amplifier” technology which uses feed-forward error correction and is touted to have incredibly low levels of distortion with a wide dynamic range along with being able to drive difficult loads cleanly."

"Swapping out my Class D Audio SDS 470C amplifier for the AHB2 quickly and rather starkly revealed how colored the SDS 470C actually sounded. I’ve known for a while that the SDS 470C had a warm and sweet character to its sound making it, and things connected to it, sound very agreeable but I don’t think I was quite expecting the dramatic difference that replacing it with the AHB2 would show. The sweetness and roundness to the sound were now completely gone. The result was not harshness or a flattening of the music, but more clarity. I could now hear more of the speakers and their true nature. More subtle nuances in vocals were the first details that I noticed. Then a tighter and more accurate pitch in electric and acoustic bass lines."

Extended Listening Period

"The Benchmark “stack” was used in my main studio 2-channel rig for a large portion of the review. In that implementation, it saw use with a wide variety of loudspeakers and other electronic equipment."

"I want to acknowledge Benchmark Media’s indulgence with the time they afforded me on this little experiment. Wanting to experience the synergy of these three pieces meant I needed to sample them together and individually with other pieces of equipment to get a sense of any difference one way or the other."

"Having the Benchmark stack here for an extended period also made me re-evaluate a few things about how and what I use to review equipment."

HPA4 Headphone Amplifier

"The Benchmark Media HPA4 quickly showed itself useful in several headphone reviews that I had lined up."

"In each use case, compared to the few portable headphone amps that I have around here and even the Focal Arche headphone amp that I reviewed, the HPA4 was just that much more transparent, giving me a more accurate sense of a given headphone’s true characteristics."

System Impressions

"It should come as no surprise that, when the Benchmark DAC3 B, HPA4 preamplifier, and AHB2 power amplifier were used together they performed especially well. I dare say that they produced as clean and noise-free a stereo playback chain as I have ever come across."

"I used the Benchmark stack with the Revel F328Be, the ELAC Uni-Fi 2.0 UF5.2 towers, and the Sonus faber Lumina III towers."


"The Benchmark Media Systems HPA4 preamplifier, AHB2 power amplifier, and DAC 3B are, individually, exceptionally transparent and well-designed audio devices. They are each top-shelf examples of their respective equipment categories in both measured and subjective performance."

"When used as a system the resulting synergy was even more revealing."

"I found the system to be an extremely neutral reference point that allowed me to hear more of what a connected speaker or headphone was actually doing and, in turn, how much my existing electronics were adding to the sound that I was hearing in my reviews. I had thought that I already had equipment that afforded me a consistent and reliable reference point from which to judge and compare other gear."

The Benchmark 'Stack'

Reference Logo

"The Benchmark HPA4 preamplifier, the AHB2 power amplifier, and the DAC3 B are, individually, exceptionally transparent and well-designed audio devices."

"I liked them so much that I purchased them for my reference system. Nuff said!"

- Carlo Lo Raso, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity

Read the full review here →



Benchmark HPA4 - Best High-End Stereo Preamplifier -

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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DAC3 & AHB2 - System Review, Trevor Butler,

DAC3 & AHB2 - System Review, Trevor Butler,

by Benchmark Media Systems March 28, 2024

Editor's Choice Award - DAC3 and AHB2 -

"I began with the DAC3 HGC and AHB2 powering the glorious Morel Avyra 633 three-way floorstanders."

"This pairing created a full-bodied sound which brought the recording to life."

"Notable from the off was the bass from the DAC3 HGC and AHB2."

"Wow! It was deep, tight and conveyed a real feeling that the electronics were in charge of the transducers."

"Involuntary foot-tapping confirmed the timing ability and the overall presentation was spot-on, the Benchmark electronics created a fluent sound across a vivid soundstage; performers evident both tonally and spatially in an easy-to-believe presentation that brought the performance close."

"The Benchmark’s ability to retrieve deep-down detail and display it so well across the soundstage, with accurate positioning and convincing layering, made for a glorious re-creation of the recordings."

"To my mind the AHB2 is an amplifier with no obvious characteristics of its own: the level of transparency is sublime."

"Above all, the improved transient response performance stood out in a presentation that was not only lively but incredibly fast and revealing. The attack and decay displayed was awesome and not something I expect at this price point."

"The Benchmark DAC3 HGC and AHB2 are cracking products, sonically superior to a lot that’s available and well priced."

"They are superbly designed and built to an extremely high standard."

- Trevor Butler,

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