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System Review - DAC3, HPA4, AHB2 - Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio

System Review - DAC3, HPA4, AHB2 - Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio

 

Benchmark home setup

DAC3 B, HPA4, AHB2 - "Benchmark ... the Measure of Excellence!"

Benchmark AHB2 Power Amplifier

AHB2 Power Amplifier

"After the arrival of the Benchmark Media Systems AHB2, I immediately thought of the matching HPA4 that colleagues Jaap and Yung were very pleased with."

"The key question, of course, was whether the HPA4 would really provide an audible improvement."

"Well you bet! The synergy between preamp and power amplifier is nothing short of magical, not to mention the DAC3 B that I got from importer Helios for the occasion."

"Not only a few curtains disappear, the whole window is gone."

HPA4 Touchscreen

HPA4 menu screen

"This is a great touchscreen that works very intuitively. You never have to think twice to run any function. This is where Benchmark's pro background comes into play."

HPA4/LA4 Killer Feature - "Input Gain Adjust"

"The 'killer feature' on the HPA4 for me is the ability to make each input play equally loud. Adjusting the gain so that different sources and dacs are equalized is a fantastic tool."

"Balance control is also an important feature given the fact that listening spaces are never perfect."

Remote Control - "A Beauty"

"Remote controls are a pet peeve of mine, but this one is a 'beauty'. It is beautifully made and it fits perfectly in the hand. It has just the right selection of buttons, nothing extra, nothing missing. Adjusting the volume, choosing the inputs and being able to mute every now and then are the most important features. The other settings, which you usually only have to do once, are made via the touchscreen."

Benchmark HPA4 Silver

HPA4 - "Permanent Place in My Reference System"

"The HPA4 has now taken a permanent place in my reference system."

Benchmark LA4 SilverLA4 - Line-Level Preamplifer

HPA4 vs. LA4 - "The HPA4 is the Best Deal"

"Initially I thought to buy an LA4 (preamp only) because I am not really a headphone aficionado and because I thought that the LA4 would perform slightly better... but Benchmark assured us that the line amplifier is identical in both devices."

"The HPA4 is the best deal because for a limited additional charge you get one of the best headphone amps on the planet."

Benchmark DAC3 B Silver

DAC3 B - "Fits Seamlessly into the System"

"The DAC3 B also fits seamlessly into the system. So much so that we prefer it to the Metrum Acoustics Onyx in this setup. Once again proof that synergy is important."

Reference System

"There are many things that come into play when putting together a hi-fi system, one of which is synergy."

  • ATC SCM19 V2 monitors
  • Benchmark Media DAC3 B converter
  • Benchmark Media HPA4 preamp
  • Benchmark Media AHB2 power amplifier
  • Metrum Acoustics Ambre streamer
  • Hifiman Sundara headphones
  • Roon software

Summary

"The slogan of Benchmark Media Systems actually sums it all up nicely: “Benchmark ... the measure of excellence!”"

- Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio

Note: The quotes above were translated from Dutch. The full review (in Dutch) is available below.

Read the full review here →

Rear Panel - HPA4 and LA4

HPA4/LA4 rear panel

 


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"The prospect of the AHB2’s specified distortion level of 0.00015% or lower when at full volume is comical at first glance, but upon actual audition the impact of the achievement is very audible from medium-high listening levels and upward."

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"Benchmark Audio is an engineering focused company with a deep heritage in the recording studio world."

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"The HPA4 is a Headphone Amplifier and Preamp that incorporates the THX-888(AAA) achromatic audio amplifier circuit that was first introduced to the world in the Benchmark AHB2 amplifier."

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"The HPA4 …offers 6 watts into 16 ohm and a whopping 11.5 Vrms into 300 Ohm headphones."

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Listening

I used the track "Slink" from the brand-new Artemis album on Blue Note."

"It is a very dynamic driving track and the Artemis ensemble makes the most of it. The HPA4 and revealed all the sonic details of this track."

"I give the HPA4 my highest recommendation."

- Chris, Forum Administrator - DC Hi-Fi Group

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