"As soon as everything powered up, there was a big smile on my face. With the LA4 in control of the system, everything sounded right, and subtle differences among recordings, amplifiers, and speakers were clear."
"Compared to the other preamps on hand, the LA4 was consistently quieter, more open, and more revealing of detail."
"The action of the large knob is stepped, and an audible relay click accompanies each 0.5dB step change. I am accustomed, as perhaps many are, to smooth, silent operation, and I hastily concluded that the clicking would be intolerable. Nevertheless, I was wrong, especially as this construction contributes to some of the virtues I observed later."
"The LA4's 16-step gain stage feeds a 256-step attenuator with 12 gold-contact relays and 64 precision (0.1%) thin-film resistors, switched by an array of 40 sealed, gold-contact precision relays."
"The use of physically large, metal-film resistors ensures rapid heat dissipation, preventing heat-induced increases in resistance values."
"The relays are controlled by an FPGA to ensure precise timing of relay switching, which Benchmark says reduces transient currents that can cause pops, clicks, and 'zipper noise.'"
"The LA4's design, the company says, ensures long-term, low-distortion, low-noise operation with accurate interchannel balance and repeatability. It also means that one can use multiple LA4s and know that they are accurately matched."
"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. It has a useful array of inputs, outputs, and functions, and the use of sealed relays for volume and input selection assures a long and noise-free life."
- Kal Rubinson, Stereophile
"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.