"The headphone section, with its choice of 6.35 mm stereo or four-pin balanced XLR connectors ... really impresses with a smooth signal delivery."
"While on the one hand it can rock out when it needs to – its prodigious output means it can give as much power as your headphones can take – its sheer impact, openness and vivacity is jaw-dropping."
"An immaculate all-analogue design, the aptly named Benchmark is both technically and sonically as good as it gets."
- AV Tech Media Awards 2018/2019
For 2018, Everything Audio Network has selected just one product for the honor of "Product of the Year". That product is the Benchmark HPA4 headphone/line amplifier.
"One of the most transparent audio products I have ever heard at any price"
"Marvelously open and clean"
- John Gatski, Everything Audio Network
"Speaking of reference gear, few names in high-end audio are so closely attached to the reference sound as Benchmark. Their fantastic HPA4 reference amplifier could be found at booths throughout the show. This year, Benchmark was introducing its new DAC3 B."
"I spent some time playing around with the Benchmark pieces, and they really have a high quality pro-audio-like build to them. They're the polar opposite of some of these more DIY-feeling boutique amps and DACs out there – Benchmark has a very professional level of finish on it."
"Benchmark describes its product as a 'reference Stereo Headphone Amplifier and Reference Line Amplifier with Relay Gain and Input Control', which should give you some idea of what's going on here, but only hints at the fact that this is actually two completely separate products packed into one relatively compact unit."
"The headphone section is powered by a power amp from THX, employing the same AAA (Achromatic Audio Amplifier) technology first used by the company in its AHB2."
"Benchmark's line amplifier uses relays for input selection, gain control and muting while four independent 256-step attenuators ... feed the the headphone ... and preamp outputs."
"As PM notes in his Lab Report, this design gives the HPA4 not only outstanding performance, but also rather impressive - to say the least - signal delivery."
"All of a track or two should do the trick, as whether with revealing headphones ... or used as a preamp, the HPA4 simply drops jaws with the sheer impact, openness and vivacity of the way it plays music."
"It was one of those real 'performer in the room' experiences and I was instantly transported back to the time I spent monitoring the recording as it was being made ..."
- Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News, November 2018
HPA4 - "One of the most transparent audio products I have ever heard at any price"
"Marvelously open and clean"
"The HPA4 is a co-design by Benchmark and THX, Ltd. using the THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (AAA™) technology that was implemented in the Benchmark AHB2 amplifier a couple of years ago."
"The HPA4 is sonically neutral, distortion free and deeply dynamic."
"The rotary relay gain control features 256 steps in 0.5 dB increments."
"The key to a superior volume control is how it sounds when you turn it down ..."
"... you should be able to hear the gentle room reverb of drum cymbal or ringing piano note decay as you turn the volume down."
"The Benchmark HPA4 with its precision relay and ultra quiet amp section, sounds the same at reduced levels as it does when it is turned up."
"The Benchmark HPA4 is one of the most transparent headphone amps I have ever heard — at any price. Just as impressive is the line stage, which delivers volume control that many an esoteric analog or digital preamp could only dream of."
"To say I am impressed with Benchmark HPA4 would be an understatement."
"Based on my impressions, the Benchmark HPA4 receives two Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Awards. One for its headphone amp and one for its line stage. Folks, it is that good."
- John Gatski, Everything Audio Network
HPA4 - "The best sounding headphone amp I've heard"
"For the first time in my audio life I can pin my ear to each speaker driver and hear absolutely no sound coming from the speakers in a quiet room with the system volume control at any position from minimum to maximum with no source material playing."
"I find that lowering the background noise paints the music on as black a canvas as possible and thus seems to bring out realistic low-level detail in recordings."
"The Benchmark HPA4 is the best sounding line amplifier I've yet heard. It's innovative approach to controlling system volume/SPL results in what for me is a uniquely transparent-to-source experience."
"It is also the best sounding headphone amp I've heard, both for very-insensitive, hard-to-drive phones and those sensitive enough to easily be used directly from a smart phone."
"The HPA4 truly stands apart in terms of measured and subjectively low background noise and distortion when driving either loudspeakers or headphones."
- tmallin, moderator of Tom's Corner, whatsbestforum.com
DAC3 HGC - "At the top of its class ... highly recommended."
"I’m immediately struck by the way the depth presented by the current model immerses you in the recording."
"Having put the DAC3 through its paces with a wide range of tube and solid state amplifiers for The Audiophile Apartment, as the core of a high performance, yet highly compact system, the DAC3 is a charmer, indeed."
"The three-dimensionality is the best I’ve achieved on my reference system."
"This is a special digital product indeed."
"Since the introduction of the original DAC1, Benchmark has set the industry on its ear..."
"We gave the original DAC1 our first Exceptional Value award in issue 3, and the current DAC3 HGC is an equally good value, earning this award again in 2017."
- Marck Marcantonio, Tone Audio
DAC2 - Stereophile Class-A Recommended - Headphone Amplifier
"Although similar in appearance to previous Benchmark models, with a front-panel volume control and two ¼" headphone jacks."
"The new DAC2 HGC uses four 32-bit ESS Sabre DACs, run in balanced configuration, for a significantly lower noise floor; has a new Hybrid Gain Control (HGC) for volume attenuation, which combines active analog gain control and passive low-impedance attenuators in the analog realm with a 32-bit digital DSP gain control for digital signals."
"It had a pleasantly forward sound, with smooth highs, a solid bottom end, and excellent image separation, said EL."
DAC3 HGC - "I am confident in saying the DAC3 has hit the Goldilocks spot in tonal balance."
"Benchmark was and is a pro audio brand at the forefront of the democratisation of the recording industry and audiophiles became interested in the product line toward the end of the last decade."
"Despite looking very similar to the DAC1 and DAC1 HDR, and virtually identical to the DAC2 HGC, the DAC3 HGC brings a lot of ‘new’ to the table."
"There’s an intrinsic sense of honesty to the sound ... it always sounded, just right… in the Goldilocks sense."
DAC2 HGC - "The bottom line ... good for any mastering or recording project"
"With all the headphones I had available the DAC2 headphone amp rivaled the sonics of the stand-alone iFi iCan headphone amplifier ..."
"For me the bottom line on the Benchmark DAC2 HGC is that is it not only good enough to live with long-term, it’s good enough to use for any mastering or recording projects that might come up."
"The DAC2 HGC is easy to listen through, highly revealing, and with well-recorded material astonishingly three-dimensional."
- Steven Stone, The Absolute Sound
DAC2 HGC - "The audio quality is pretty stunning"
"The audio quality of the DAC2 is pretty stunning and like a lot of high quality amplifiers the first thing to jump out here was the soundstage."
"This and instrument separation gave a presentation which is hugely revealing and very enjoyable with good recordings although that comes with it an obvious double edged sword (depending on your preferences)."
"After these wow factors came the detail, now I'm not saying the detail is the 3rd best aspect, it's just that it hit me in that order. I think the best way to describe the detail is precise and edgy."
"Combine this machine with a pair of headphones that already display those traits and you have yourself a pretty impressive experience."
- Noble Hi-Fi
DAC1 HDR - "A landmark piece"
"Fit and finish of this component is top notch. My unit came in the black finish and it was physically perfect."
"The Benchmark DAC makes for a smooth and pleasant presentation of music, even on older material like Jimi Hendrix's Blues album (MCA). On "Hear My Train A Comin'" the guitar was lively and clear, while bass of the drums was well portrayed. "Catfish Blues" had a depth and energy that made the piece so powerful to listen to, and the emotion continued through "Voodoo Chile Blues" keeping plenty of air around the instruments making for a very open presentation."
"The Benchmark DAC1 HDR is a landmark piece. Its small size and inclusion of not only a great DAC but remote controlled preamp with analog input as well as a flexible headphone amplifier make this a great piece for a top notch system at a reasonable price."
- Dr. Ken Taraszka, Home Theater Review.com
DAC1 PRE - "A dramatic improvement in sound"
"You could use the DAC1 PRE in your office with your desktop or laptop, for a dramatic improvement in sound over your computer's built-in soundcard. And I do mean dramatic. You can drive a pair of powered speakers directly from the Benchmark. Or try a small power amp, maybe even a little single-ended tubed triode."
"As a headphone amp, the Benchmark DAC1 PRE really shone—even with fussy, difficult-to-drive headphones like my reference AKG K-701s, or my affordable faves, the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700s."
"Many people I respect had lauded the DAC1, and I was interested to hear it in my home. Many reviews of the DAC1 had mentioned its headphone amplifier but had said little about it. Being an avid headphone listener, I wanted to see how well the DAC1 would stand up against my usual headphone amplifiers."
"Since then, months have passed during which I've used both the DAC1 and ADC1, and I can say with confidence that Benchmark’s reputation is well deserved. The three most important elements of any product -- build quality, sound quality, and customer support -- are all present in their designs."
"The ADC1 is the most powerful recording tool I've ever used, and is probably overkill for the casual recorder. But if you have a serious vinyl collection to archive, or are setting up a small digital recording studio, it should flawlessly perform to high standards."
"The DAC1 will have a wider audience and can serve many functions: headphone amp, digital preamp, and, of course, D/A processing."
- Eric Hetherington, GoodSound!
DAC1 - "If you are looking to improve your monitoring ...you really must audition the DAC1"
"Its performance is quite extraordinary for the UK retail price, and it competes favourably against units costing considerably more."
"It is a very neat, well-designed package with an excellent feature set, including an internal mains PSU, usefully clean and powerful headphone monitoring, and the provision to configure the analogue outputs for fixed or variable levels."
"If you are looking to improve your monitoring, or to hear what your A-D converters are actually providing, you really must audition the DAC1. I must warn you, though, that this will be hazardous to your wallet — because you'll have to buy it once you hear it. I did!"
- Hugh Robjohns, Sound On Sound