HPA4 and LA4 Review - Ruud Jonker, FWD Magazine

by Benchmark Media Systems June 30, 2022 2 min read

HPA4 and LA4 Review - Ruud Jonker, FWD Magazine

"It has already been noted in previous reviews that the professional market often offers products that may also be of interest to the 'ordinary' consumer. In Japan in particular, home systems often consist of a mix of consumer equipment and (vintage) professional items."

"Benchmark was founded in 1983 and started building professional audio equipment."

"The goal, from the outset, is to build sound-transparent equipment of the highest quality. The employees are musicians, audiophiles and audio technicians. So sound quality is top notch."

HPA4 vs. LA4

"The HPA4 and LA4 are preamplifiers and largely identical. The HPA4 also has a built-in headphone amplifier."

Rear Panel - (HPA4 and LA4)

Benchmark HPA4 and LA4 Rear Panel

"The inputs (2x XLR balanced and 2x RCA unbalanced) are switched by gold relays. The volume is then controlled via a rotary encoder that can make 256 steps of 0.5 dB. The balance control also works via the four 256-step attenuators in the HPA4. Two attenuators are for the line outputs and two attenuators are for the headphones."

Impressive Specifications

"The specifications of the 100% analog line stage of both devices are impressive, as are the specs of the THX-888 Headphone amplifier module present in the HPA4."

"For the analog line amplifier, consider a frequency range of 0.1 Hz-500 kHz within the -3 dB points and a signal-to-noise ratio of 137dB (A-weighted between 20-20,000 Hz). The deviations in the frequency range shown below are extremely small (0.003 dB at 10 Hz, -0.001 dB at 20 kHz). That makes these preamps a straight line with gain."

This review covers Loudspeaker Applications Only

"The HPA4 was used for the listening test, but the headphone output was not listened to. In order to be able to listen to the HPA4 properly, speakers, power amplifiers and cables were chosen as neutrally as possible."

Benchmark HPA4 Headphone/Line Amplifier

"They bring the essence of the recording closer to the listener"

"A striking observation is, listening to a system that is as neutral as possible, that the true character of a recording becomes very recognizable. If a recording is superior, it will be fully featured. However, if recordings are of lesser quality, then these are not provided with coloring distortion by such a system and sometimes by the listener judged as pleasant additions caused by woofers, phase misery, hissing tweeters, driver resonances, cabinet -resonances, frequency range deviations and other nonsense."

"That's not to say that a lesser recording always sounds bad on such a neutral system, but you just hear the real quality."

"The Benchmark HPA4 and LA4 preamps deliver a very high quality neutral and transparent signal."

"Developed from a professional focus on sound reproduction, they bring the essence of the recording closer to the listener."

"That elementary and almost direct link with what happened during the recording is the fascinating thing about such neutral equipment. It requires listeners who are further along in their audiophile development."

- Ruud Jonker, FWD Magazine, fwd.nl

Read the full review here →

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