LA4 Review - Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback

April 09, 2019

LA4 Review - Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback

"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."

Controls and Features

"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."

Listening Notes

"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

Read the entire review at Positive-Feedback.com →



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"Thanks to the special, discrete analog circuit/relay attenuator, this may be the most transparent line-stage preamplifier in the audiophile world."

"If you got a great-sounding source, the LA4 presents the audio in its original state — with gain or attenuation to the amplifier. I have never heard such low-level detail from a pre."

"The better the DAC, the better you hear it through a quality amp and speakers. It is quiet as a top-notch DAC, with S/N exceeding -135 dB and, feature-wise, it comes with unbalanced/balanced I/O and a really slick user interface."

"I use the four-input LA4 for audiophile A/B testing of DACs, monitoring my Hi-Res home recording/editing/mastering projects, as well as just listening how good my vast collection of 24 bit and DSD music sounds through an accurate amp and speakers."

"A steal at $2,500!"

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"Since the HPA4 arrived, I have rediscovered so many of my favorite works all over again with improved detail retrieval dynamics and transparency that it’s hard to pull myself away!"

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"Benchmark Media Systems’ LA4 preamplifier presented an utterly realistic reproduction of what was contained on each recording I played through it -- and weak recordings stood out more than usual. The LA4’s clean, analytical abilities are unmatched by any similarly priced preamplifier I know of. The LA4’s touchscreen brings it up to date with current user interfaces, and permits functions, such as balance control and muting at the device."

"If you want a preamp that editorializes, look elsewhere."

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