"My initial impression was simple: The LA4 preamp plays everything that is, and nothing that isn't...Neutrality in Audio... and that's really all this review needs to convey."
"The LA4 preamp may occupy neutral audio country, but it is a sweet piece of audio kit. I love its form-factor. I love its simple operation. And I love that it allows the sound of the signal to flow through to the downstream components. This means, of course, you'd better like the sound of your DAC or analog rig, because that is basically what you are hearing on the other side of the border crossing."
"The LA4's specifications are unquestionably excellent. When using pro-level balanced interconnects, the LA4 manages a Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) greater than 135 dB, and Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) of -125 dB."
"The LA4 has a noise floor that is not just low, it's bats-strain-to-hear-it low."
"The LA4's main frontal attraction is ... the capacitive touch screen."
"The screen uses graphics that are easily recognized from the listening chair."
"Less often used options that are not duplicated on the remote must be accessed from the touch screen."
"Audio options like channel balance and input gain boost / cut are controlled directly from the screen, as are other setup options, like input naming, and screen dimming."
"All features are easy to understand and simple to adjust, but just in case, there is a help button too!"
"I liked the option to adjust individual input gain by boosting or cutting the dB output up to 10 dB. It allowed me to match input levels between my digital, and analog sources."
"I've found that stepped volume controls often fail to offer enough steps to ensure sufficient control, especially at lower volumes. The LA4's fully-balanced relay gain control takes care of that by providing two hundred and fifty six (!) steps in 0.5 dB increments. That makes dialing in the perfect volume level a breeze."
"One of things I look for when reviewing any component, is how well it reproduces music at lower volumes."
"The LA4 scales downward beautifully, maintaining a nice sonic balance."
"No matter the volume, the LA4 delivers a cavernously wide stage, startling dynamics, soaring treble, excellent timbre, and satisfyingly deep bass. It peels away the haze from each layer of music, unwinding musical information at a high level of detail and resolution, yet manages the magical-musical trick of never sounding sterile."
"In 2016, I reviewed Benchmark's AHB2 amplifier and DAC2 HGC digital to analog converter. Both are excellent, well priced, high fidelity components. The AHB2 was so good, I awarded it a Positive Feedback Writer's Choice award, so it seemed unconscionable to review the LA4 without its sidekick power-broker."
"The combination of the LA4 preamp and AHB2 amp serves up music with a transparently sunny disposition."
"The pair goes deep, with an effortless slam that belies their small size. The AHB2 is a very fast amp. The LA4 had no trouble providing a signal fast enough to show off the AHB2's speedy nature."
"The sound stage is excellent: depth, width, height, and the illusion of a performance space were fantastic. I really, really, really enjoyed the Benchmark duo's high level of detail, layering of instruments and voices, deep bass, and fast, furious dynamic swings."
"I really enjoy Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather's No Substitutions: Live in Osaka CD. This recording creates a nice feeling of being in a smoky, Japanese nightclub; cocktail glasses clinking amid the chatter and applause The LA4/AHB2 does an excellent job recreating the sense of being in the crowd, listening to these guitar masters. It also highlights differences between the duo's different guitar rigs, and playing styles."
"The Benchmark LA4 is an excellent preamp, an operationally solid spec-monster that also happens to sound great."
"A solid, high-quality audio component."
"Every change I made to my system—whether equipment or musical selections—could be heard."
- Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback
"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