"Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.’s DAC series of high-performance digital-to-analog converters (DACs) have earned the respect of audio enthusiasts and professional users alike for their state-of-the-art performance, including exceptional audio transparency and vanishingly-low levels of noise and distortion. Now Benchmark has made its DAC3 even better with the upgrade to ESS Technology’s new ES9028PRO DAC chip."
"The heart of Benchmark’s DAC2 is ESS Technology’s ES9018 digital-to-analog converter chip, widely recognized in the industry as one of the best DAC chips and, until now, the best in the view of Benchmark’s Vice President and Director of Engineering John Siau."
"ESS’s Sabre ES9018 DAC chip is now seven years old, and Benchmark began working with the new Sabre ES9028PRO after ESS announced its new chip last October. Measurements and listening tests convinced Benchmark of the new chip’s superiority."
"The ES9028PRO has a 64-pin footprint, and is pin-compatible with the ES9018, enabling Benchmark to drop it into the same PC board used in the DAC2. This makes the DAC3 a cost-effective upgrade. Siau notes that the DAC3 is like a DAC2 on steroids. In addition to the new ESS chip, the software and the analog gain structure are different from those in the DAC2."
"The 32-bitdigital processing in the ES9028PRO not only compensates for harmonic distortion at the chip’s own analog outputs, but it can also be adjusted to compensate for distortion in the post-DAC analog circuitry. The second and third harmonic distortion components can also be independently nulled."
"This graph shows the DAC3’s second harmonic distortion with the ES9028PRO DAC chip’s THD compensation disabled (black) and enabled (red). The THD compensation yields a significant reduction in distortion in the critical midrange, where the ear is most sensitive."
"ESS has improved the PLL in the ES9028PRO, giving the new chip faster lock times than the ES9018. Benchmark has used this to good advantage, changing the timing in the UltraLock2 system used in the DAC2 to create UltraLock3 for the DAC3s. Jitter attenuation in the two systems is virtually identical and exceeds the performance of the PLL in the ESS DAC chips."
"With the ES9028PRO, the DAC3 muting time is reduced to around 6 mS."
"Since last year, my reference DAC has been the DAC2 HGC, so making comparisons between the two was very easy. The DAC’s balanced outputs feed a pair of Benchmark AHB2 power amplifiers, one for each channel."
"The DAC3 HGC retains all the virtues of its predecessor, including its remarkable transparency and a seemingly non-existent noise floor. There’s also a sense of effortlessness and a complete lack of strain even on the most complex musical scores. But, the most obvious areas of improvement are in the reproduction of inner detail and soundstage delineation."
"The DAC3 HGC ensures Benchmark Media’s continued leadership in high-resolution digital audio, and I highly recommend DAC3 HGC.
- Gary Galo, AudioXpress
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"Merriam-Webster defines a benchmark as "something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged." This is what the AHB2s has become for me."
"A pair of AHB2s are now part of my dedicated summertime amplification for my Sound Lab 545PX loudspeakers."
- Don Shaulis, The Stereo Times
"I was led to Benchmark Media Systems through recommendations from Roger West, the designer of Sound Lab speakers. Praise from a local Sound Lab dealer and a local Sound Lab owner effectively twisted my arm to the point where I yielded to temptation to try the amplifiers ..."
"The Class-H Benchmarks give me what I wanted from Class-D amplifiers, but with the musical engagement, I found lacking in Class-D. There is the added benefit of a company that has been in business for over 36 years and has a depth of products, and offers an extended warranty."
"The highest compliment I can pay a piece of audio equipment is that it has found a home in my system. A pair of AHB2s are now part of my dedicated summertime amplification for my Sound Lab 545PX loudspeakers."
"The Benchmark performance continues to engage me, and the company gives me confidence in long-term support."
- Don Shaulis, Stereo Times
"I love, I love, I love my Benchmark AHB2 power amps!"
- Theo Nicolakis, Audioholics Online A/V Magazine
Theo uses a pair of AHB2 power amps in bridged mono (480 W into 6 Ohms) to drive a pair of Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers ($20,000/pair). This is his reference amplifier-speaker combination.
Find out why Theo loves his AHB2 power amplifiers: