"The DAC3 B is a stripped- down, lower-priced version of the DAC3 HGC, which omits the headphone amplifier, balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, volume, mute, and polarity controls."- Stereophile
"The DAC3 was all about depths, in several respects...I heard deeper into the music."
"All I can say is Wow!"
- John Atkinson
"In a Follow-Up, JCA 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."
DAC3 HGC - "Does Not Color the Sound of Your Audio"
"It is a studio-grade piece of audiophile equipment that can be used by recording engineers and mastering artists alike to flesh out all the musical detail they wish without having to worry about the sonic signature of their equipment."
"In the audiophile world, utilizing the DAC3 HGC properly can bring realistic texture, voice, and integrity to instruments that would normally take a DAC well over five-figures to do."
"The afternoon before the start of the show I ran into John Siau of Benchmark Media Systems. He says to me quietly, “make sure you stop in our room, we have a surprise!” With curiosity suitably piqued, Co-Editor Jim Clements and I paid a visit ..."
"The results were pretty astonishing. A stable, enveloping stereo image that was devoid of any distortion whatsoever."
- Carlo Lo Raso, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
HPA4 - "Cleanest, Quietest, Most Neutral, Dynamic and Precise"
"Allow me to rave about the HPA4’s built-in headphone amp. Designed using similar technology as the AHB2 and licensed from THX (Benchmark calls it the THX-888 Amplifier), this is the cleanest, quietest, most neutral headphone amp I’ve ever heard."
"The HPA4 has no trouble playing music dynamically and precisely through any headphones I own."
"When the folks at Benchmark suggested a review of their HPA4 for Tape Op, my first reaction was, “Isn’t this aimed more at the audiophile market?” Benchmark’s Rory Rall replied that I should consider its use as a reference-grade monitor controller, with a world-class headphone amp built-in. He recommended I pair it with my Benchmark DAC3 B digital-analog converter and use it to drive my Benchmark AHB2 power amp."
AHB2 - "A Silent Transmitter of Musical Energy"
"When I previously reviewed the Benchmark AHB2, I described it as being as close to a straight wire with gain as I’ve ever heard – “a silent transmitter of musical energy.”
I stand by that description after four years of living and listening to it."
DAC3 B - "The HPA4 Allows the DAC to Run Wide Open"
"The HPA4 is built on the idea of avoiding any sort of bit-stripping volume control in the digital realm. So a full-output DAC sends it line-level audio."
"The volume knob is a 256-step precision encoder, driving relays that engage resistors, in 0.5 dB steps."
"I can’t think of anything else that will get you closer to the sound coming out of your sources."
"Combined with Benchmark’s DAC and power amp with excellent speakers and headphones plugged in, this is quite the monitoring chain."
"When playing music you love, it will fire all the pleasure synapses."
DAC3, LA4, AHB2 - "Matched My Idea of Reference Sound"
"Benchmark is an audio brand that started in Texas in 1983. The company then moved to the founder's hometown of Syracuse, New York, and all products are still designed, assembled, and tested at the Syracuse factory. This benchmark has officially arrived in Japan."
"I had the opportunity to listen to all the products of the American audio brand Benchmark Media Systems, and I was very impressed by how well they matched my idea of reference sound."
"The biggest appeal that all the five models we tested have in common is their sound quality, which you can absolutely trust as a reference."
LA4/AHB2 System - "HiVi 2020 Grand Prize" - Amplifier Category
"A compact amplifier with outstanding high performance that is compatible with AV systems."
"In the areas of tonal neutrality and transparency, the B sounds like every other Benchmark I’ve heard, which is to say neutral and transparent. But the DAC3 also has new conversion processing, which is said to make for a 3.5dB increase in headroom above 0dBFS, in turn preventing the DSP intersampling overloads."
"This increase in headroom ... is said to result in subtly improved sound."
LA4 - "Line Amplifier"
"Benchmark prefers to call the LA4 a line amplifier (which may be the more correct term because that is what preamplifiers in fact do: amplify the signal) and offers it in two versions: linestage only, and the identical linestage with an onboard headphone amplifier, called the HPA4."
AHB2 - "A Genuinely Innovative Design"
"Before properly introducing the preamp, however, it is worth the while to recall that the AHB2amplifier is a genuinely innovative design, even, if you will, revelatory, and it set new standards in having by a wide margin the lowest noise and distortion and the widest bandwidth of any amplifier on the market then or now."
DAC3 B, LA4, AHB2 - "The Presentation is Uncanny in its Purity"
"There’s a complete absence of any sort of artifacts or noise; on very clean recordings, the presentation is uncanny in its purity."
The DAC3 HGC received Stereophile's top "A+" rating.
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
"With DAC, preamplifier and power amplifier, Benchmark knows how to build a bridge between the professional sector and home hi-fi. Very beautiful."
HPA4 - "A Whopping Six Watts into 16 Ohms"
"If you value transparent, precise sound, but at the same time want a certain level of comfort and at least a little elegance, you are in good hands with the Americans."
AHB2 - "A High Degree of Precision"
"The DAC3, HPA4 and AHB2 are all characterized by their wonderfully transparent sound and their high degree of precision. At the same time, sufficient amenities are offered to offer adequate comfort. A successful mix."
"Today, is a very special day for me, since I believe I am hearing the best overall performance out of my headphones."
"The distance performance-wise between HPA4 and my second-best headphone amp is Night and Day!"
"This headphone amplifier and line pre-amplifier receives my highest recommendation and scores the highest rank in my book."
"It spoiled me so much, that for the past 3 days I’m waking up at 5 A.M. so I can listen, tap my feet and head-bang just a little bit more. I for one, started saving for one, I’m sorry but I can’t go back to regular amps."
"Without a doubt Benchmark HPA4 is an end-game, top of the line headphone amp – it’s The One to rule them All."
197 Rooms - Benchmark Room Makes the Audio Beatnik "Top 3"
"The overall sonic signature of this room had a remarkable sense of ease and purity. Minute details such as a breathy initial saxophone note or a solo vocalist parting her lips and taking a breath before singing were easily discernable. At the same time, they presented all of the musical energy and rhythm contained within the source material. The effortless and free-flowing nature of the Martin Logans paired up nicely with the transparent AHB2 amplifiers."
"The tonality and realism of the instruments were spectacular. An alto saxophone sounded as if it was in the room with me, and the pitch and timbre of both male and female vocals were absolutely spot-on. It was clear that nothing in this system was getting in the way of the music."
"Their room had a remarkable degree of transparency that made every listener feel closer to the music."
Stereophile's editors chose 10 products to receive their top award, the "2018 Product of the Year - Editor's Choice Award". Two Benchmark products made this exclusive list - the AHB2 power amplifier and the DAC3 HGC D/A converter.
AHB2 - 2018 Editors' Choice Award
"I was impressed by this revolutionary stereo amplifier but it became an obsession when I mated three as monoblocks to a trio of Benchmark's DAC3s."
"The AHB2is deadly silent, musically revealing, surprisingly compact, and quite powerful."
- Kalman Rubinson
DAC3 HGC - 2018 Editors' Choice Award
"Benchmark has created a long line of DACs (several of which I've purchased) that present recordings with as little embellishment as is possible at their price points. The latest incarnation, theDAC3, is no exception, and excels at presenting the unvarnished truth, as the artist intended."
"The Benchmark DAC3 DX DAC is designed for recording and mastering studios, but it is a great product for consumer use as well. Its clean, low distortion analog output and flexible setup controls will bring the studio to your home audio system."
DAC3 HGC - Top Two Finalist - "Digital Component of the Year"
"This contest produced another tie, and yet another contrast between two wildly different philosophies—economical, if not technical. As Jim Austin pointed out in his initial review, the DAC3 HGC D/A processor from Benchmark Media Systems—a company known for making pro-audio as well as domestic-audio gear—sells for less than the price of certain high-end interconnects. The dCS Vivaldi D/A processor sells for 16 times the Benchmark's price, and in our pages was first reviewed, by Michael Fremer, as part of a $114,996 dCS digital front end."
"Both DACs impressed their respective reviewers with magnificent sound—and in his measurements for both, John Atkinson offered the same one-word conclusion: "Wow!""