"The year was 1983 and the garage was located in Garland, Texas. Benchmark founder Allen H. Burdick engineered and built professional audio gear used by television broadcast facilities. Over the years, Benchmark relocated to Syracuse, NY and grew their audio product line into several markets, including the recording industry. Many of those products, including the Benchmark DACs and amplifiers, are being scooped up by the at-home audiophile crowd for use in high-end sound systems."
"Today we are going to visit the world of digital music. I’m referencing high-definition tunes – no mp3 files allowed...! Why no mp3, you ask? Remember how your TV picture looked in 1989? Compare that to how your hi-def TV looks today. I think you get the picture…"
"The DAC3 is, of course, the 3rd generation of Benchmark’s DAC, and utilizes a brand-new converter chip from ESS Technology, along with improvements in parts and engineering."
"So, what exactly is musical truth?"
"The truth is when your senses receive what the artist intended to portray. When the audio quality gets to your ears at a more accurate level, the groove and emotion of the music improves accordingly, getting you closer to exactly what occurred in the studio or at the live concert, in a blood, sweat and tears kind of way…"- Marty Feldmann
"The folks at Benchmark Media, with their background in the recording industry, are driven to get that musical truth into the home with their products. With the release of the original DAC1 models and the second generation DAC2, Benchmark has been on the bleeding edge of digital technology trends, especially from a price/performance perspective."
"The new DAC3 ups the performance ante with the new ESS Technologies ES9028PRO converter chip, the brain or “centerpiece” of the DAC3. Utilizing this new and impressive chip, along with other engineering creativity generates improvements in lower THD and noise, reduction in jitter of the digital signal, better harmonic performance and better headroom."
"You’re probably curious how this little dynamo sounds…"
"As usual, the Feldmann music selection runs the gamut from classical through jazz, R&B, folk, and all the way to Disturbed… er… metal. I feel strongly that all genres of music are necessary to completely wring out a product."
"The first thing I noticed, in casual listening and without any hours of break-in on the DAC, was nothingness… a vacuum, or if you prefer, a “sonic void”. There exists no extraneous noise between or behind notes or sounds. You don’t realize the noise is there until you hear a system without it. The difference can be illuminating!"
"I became enamored with the transient speed of the Benchmark unit. Whether the leading edge of the thwack of stick hitting drum, or the decay of a plucked guitar string or cymbal, the DAC3 nailed it with absolute realism."
"Harmonic structure also stood out as being properly balanced and sorted, with piano and other stringed instruments fleshed out with excellent presence and weight. Matt Haimovitz with his baroque cello playing Bach, Emilie-Claire Barlow’s jazz vocal stylings, or Billy Howerdel’s rock guitar work with A Perfect Circle… all presented with nuance, detail and life!"
"Are there any negatives here?"
"Nothing that comes to mind. One could nitpick about the design aesthetic being too utilitarian as opposed to audiophile jewelry, but the build quality is without fault."
"In my time with the DAC3 I kept going back to my musician days, and the time I would spend in the studio. The immediacy and intimacy of how everything sounded, from single tracks to the completed mix of a song all came to mind. That says a lot to me about this DAC…! Musical truth…
- Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, Connoisseur Corner
"I'm asking because clearly Benchmark is a highly regarded company here, and plenty of ASR members own Benchmark amplification/DACs. We know they are top of the heap in terms of measured performance, outdoing plenty of the competition in terms of typical distortion measurements."
- @MattHooper, AudioScienceReview.com
AHB2, LA4, DAC3
Subtle aesthetics? Check.
Unobtrusive size? Check.
Solid build? Check.
Made in America? Check.
Best in class? Check.
Superior performance proven by Amir? Check.
Superior customer service? Check (and not just in audio world; best customer service I have experienced from any company, anywhere, ever).
Expensive? For me, yes. Limit of my budget, but buy once cry once.
"The afternoon before the start of the show I ran into John Siau of Benchmark Media Systems. He says to me quietly, “make sure you stop in our room, we have a surprise!” With curiosity suitably piqued, Co-Editor Jim Clements and I paid a visit ..."
"The results were pretty astonishing. A stable, enveloping stereo image that was devoid of any distortion whatsoever."
- Carlo Lo Raso, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
"Sound was extremely well-integrated and controlled, and the bass memorable."
"The Note received signal through the introductory version of the company's Liquid Cables. Each cable contains 27,000 wires. The company's introductory Elephant memory player joined Benchmark Media's AHB2 power amps, DAC3 B D/A processor, and interconnects."
"With the aid of a forthcoming DEQX HDP4 processor that's due in the fall, the system sounded super on a 16/44.1 file of the famed rendition of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, recorded by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra for Reference Recordings."