"I’ll cut right to the chase:
The Benchmark DAC3 HGC is a sonic marvel and an engineer’s wet dream."
"The DAC3 offers the following improvements over the DAC2:
• Active 2nd Harmonic Compensation
• Active 3rd Harmonic Compensation
• Lower THD
• Lower passband ripple
• Improved frequency response
• Increased Dynamic Range
• Faster PLL lock times
• Faster switching between inputs
In short – it's everything you like about the DAC2 only mo’ better."
"I started my evaluation with the Black Keys’ El Camino album and their track “Sister”."
"The big bass drum kick that anchors this track has left me disappointed on other systems and pairings. The DAC3 HGC nailed it and kicked with the authority that I've often found lacking."
"Immediately impressed with the “grunt” of the HPA2 amp section, I moved on to my all-time favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers song – their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. I love Flea’s bass guitar in this track. The benchmark had me toe tapping to the “chicka-wow-wow” rhythm."
"I have some Florence + The Machine tracks that sounded dull and lifeless on other equipment, but popped on the DAC3 with new clarity and energy. You know you’re onto something special when a piece of gear can breathe new life into flat tracks."
"I queued up one of Dr. Chesky’s evaluation discs and got to listening. Perhaps the most interesting test (to me at least) was Rebeca Pidgeon’s cover of “Spanish Harlem”. Each shake of the shaker was indeed different. The DAC3 did an excellent job of resolving minute details in the material. Compared back-to-back against the DAC section of the ES9018 based Oppo HA-1, the Benchmark nailed it. It wasn’t one of those subtle differences that makes you go “hmmm” – it was a “wow” moment."
"I have some great tracks in my collection that are in DSD format. So Benchmark’s support for DSD was “must have” feature for me."
"I think it’s a fantastic sounding D/A converter. On well recorded material it does an outstanding job with detail and resolution. It brought new life to CD quality 16/44.1 material - even on tracks that weren’t particularly well mastered."
- "T Bone", Head-Fi.org
"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