"Our final round of the best products from the finest brands of the last 20 years, covering products made from early 1999 to 2019."
"Benchmark is perhaps best known for its range of DACs, but the new HPA4 shows just what the brand can do with a take-no-prisoners headphone amplifier design."
"A real game-changer!"
Reviewed by Tom Martin
"In the past decade, Benchmark consumer products, especially its digital-to-analogue converters, have achieved acclaim for ultra-low distortion and clean sound. While the company is very strongly engineering-oriented, it maintains that listening tests are critical to product development."
"The HPA4 is exceptionally good at presenting a layered, dynamic yet relaxed sound."
"The instruments not only are clearly differentiated but also sound fully rendered, as live instruments do."
"I wish the review sample didn’t have to go back."
- Tom Martin
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."
AHB2 - "An immediacy that makes for uncanny realism"
"Orchestral dynamics were also well served, as the amp has considerable speed and an ability to deliver serious power with alacrity, and there's no sense of overhang in the bass."
"Dr. Feelgood's 'Roxette' [Down By The Jetty, United Artists] raised the hairs on the back of my neck. The Benchmark has an immediacy that makes for uncanny realism, so a track like this is more intense and vital, more powerful in fact."
"The Benchmark SMS1 had been supplied with the amps with a view of doing a whole system eview, a state of affairs that came to pass with gusto when I discovered just how well the combination gelled."
"The Benchmark pairing proved analytical (in typical studio style) but not dry - just very revealing of recording style and balance."
DAC2 HGC - "A small but remarkable contender to add to the must hear list"
"Benchmark was the brand that introduced the first serious small scale digital to analogue converter. Before the original DAC1, most converters were either full width or not taken seriously. All that has changed with a plethora of high-spec, all-singing DACs that are primarily designed for the headphone market but which also have preamp outputs. The DAC2 HGC has a lot more competition than its forbear, so Benchmark has upped the ante in terms of conversion capability, but it remains very similar in facilities terms."
"The latest incarnation of the Benchmark DAC remains a comprehensively equipped and highly capable piece of kit. Those looking for flexibility of operation will find little that competes while listeners in search of the ultimate affordable DAC have a small but remarkable contender to add to the must hear list."
- Jason Kennedy, hi-fi+