Alpha-Audio.net tested 10 DACs side-by-side. Only one received the "Alpha-Audio Approved" award. That DAC was the Benchmark DAC3.
"Are you looking for the best DAC (d/a converter) in the price range from 1500 euro to 2500 euro? That’s great! Because we’ve put ten beauties side by side. And we tested it live on camera for you."
"The Benchmark – which we tested as the last one – comes across as very clean, detailed, dynamic and quiet."
"The DAC puts down a particularly well-balanced pallet."
"If we take the notes, we see terms like: kick, punch, inaudible, ink-black background. Your editor finds the ‘silence’ particularly striking with this converter."
"The silence between the notes can be heard and felt with this dac. And that’s very impressive considering the price tag of about 2000 euros."
"We can conclude that the Benchmark is definitely a good choice in this price range. It brings everything the discerning audio and music lover desires. And that in a cabinet that exudes functionality and a no-nonsense approach. Top product."
"It was incredibly instructive to put so many converters side by side. We clearly hear differences - and the viewers could as well. Also dacs with the same chips show differences. And that's logical, because not only is the output stage different (which gives a different signature to the dac), the implementation of jitter reduction, power supply and clocking are also different."
"One of the models we all agreed on is the benchmark DAC3. This is a delicious musical product. Virtually no coloring, nice stereo image and plenty of inputs. Approved!"
DAC3 - "Alpha-Audio Approved"
"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
"Benchmark's LA4 is the widest-bandwidth, widest-dynamic-range, lowest-noise, lowest-distortion preamplifier I have encountered."
- John Atkinson, Stereophile
"The LA4 is probably the most transparent and revealing audio component I've ever used. It does not seem to leave any fingerprints on the sound."
- Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile
"Class A" is Stereophile's highest award for preamplifiers.