DAC3 HGC - "Expansive soundstage populated with nicely layered instrumentation."
"Tonally things are well balanced, with no part of the frequency range gaining undue prominence. This is coupled to a good dose of refinement, so any aggressive tendencies in recordings, while revealed, are never overemphasised."
"Like all the best products, the Benchmark manages the difficult feat of stepping out of the limelight and letting the music take centre stage."
"These results remain unchanged whether we use the Benchmark as a conventional line-level DAC or as a headphone amp. It is consistent regardless of set-up used, which is a testament to the precise way the company has developed this product."
"The initials HGC in the product name stand for Hybrid Gain Control. The volume control uses a clever design that works in both analogue and digital domains separately."
"Digital signals are governed by a 32-bit dithered volume control, while analogue streams aren’t touched by the processing but remain in their native state throughout the product."
"Benchmark’s work with the Hybrid Gain Control seems to have resulted in a lovely, transparent performance that, if anything, sounds even more impressive than the number-crunching section."
"There’s a high degree of transparency here, and a fluidity of dynamics few rivals can match."
"The Benchmark ... lacks any hint of luxury. It reminds us more of lab equipment than premium hi-fi ... but give it a little time to prove itself and you’ll find it’s an impressively capable unit – we can’t think of an alternative that does so much so well."
- What Hi*Fi?
Stereophile's editors chose 10 products to receive their top award, the "2018 Product of the Year - Editor's Choice Award". Two Benchmark products made this exclusive list - the AHB2 power amplifier and the DAC3 HGC D/A converter.
"I was impressed by this revolutionary stereo amplifier but it became an obsession when I mated three as monoblocks to a trio of Benchmark's DAC3s."
"The AHB2 is deadly silent, musically revealing, surprisingly compact, and quite powerful."
- Kalman Rubinson
"Benchmark has created a long line of DACs (several of which I've purchased) that present recordings with as little embellishment as is possible at their price points. The latest incarnation, the DAC3, is no exception, and excels at presenting the unvarnished truth, as the artist intended."
- Jon Iverson
The competition in the amplification category was very tight. There was a two-way tie for first place between two amplifiers that cost $30,000 a pair and $13,500 a pair.
The Benchmark AHB2 was just two points behind the leaders when the Stereophile reviewers cast their final votes. In all, there were 13 amplifiers that made Stereophile's select list of finalists. The Benchmark AHB2 was the least expensive amplifier on the list, yet it received top scores from the reviewers. The list included amplifiers with stratospheric prices. Six amplifiers were priced between $25,000 and $118,000 a pair!
At Benchmark we believe that a great audio system shouldn't set you back by the cost of a sports car.
For 2018, Everything Audio Network has selected just one product for the honor of "Product of the Year". That product is the Benchmark HPA4 headphone/line amplifier.
"One of the most transparent audio products I have ever heard at any price"
"Marvelously open and clean"
- John Gatski, Everything Audio Network