HPA4 - Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

HPA4 - Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

by Benchmark Media Systems July 31, 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

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DAC3 DX Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

DAC3 DX Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

by Benchmark Media Systems January 23, 2018

DAC3 DX - "Open, smooth detailed sound with that recording studio accuracy that I am used to from Benchmark." 

"I cannot say enough about the DAC3-DX’s sonic character of transparency and accuracy."

"My DSD DSF rip (of the often played) Warren Bernhardt - So Real SACD sounded incredible through the MartinLogans using this DAC. The audible cymbal splash sheen detail is like hearing the cymbal in the front of your listening room."

"Same with the Steinway piano tone. Upper register notes are so live sounding. The “air” and “space” around and between the instruments is simply stunning when played on the best gear."

"On numerous hi-res tracks, the opinion was the same: sonic excellence!"

Awards

"The DAC3-DX most certainly gets an EAN Stellar Sound Award, and should be closely looked at by pros and audiophiles alike."

2017 EAN Product of the Year

- John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

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DAC3 Review and Test Report - John E. Johnson, Jr., HomeTheaterHiFi.com

DAC3 Review and Test Report - John E. Johnson, Jr., HomeTheaterHiFi.com

by Benchmark Media Systems December 21, 2017

DAC3 DX"Will bring the studio to your home audio system."

"Benchmark’s DAC3 DX DAC is designed for recording and mastering studios, but it is a great product for consumer use as well."

"The Benchmark Media DAC3 DX is the successor to the DAC2 DX. The differences between the DAC3 DX and the DAC2 DX are (1) active 2nd harmonic compensation, (2) active 3rd harmonic compensation, (3) lower THD+N, (4) lower passband ripple, (5) improved frequency response, (6) faster PLL lock times, (7) faster switching between inputs, and (8) adjustable calibration."

"For the bench tests, I have moved to using much more sensitive measurements with the Audio Precision ... the distortion is so low, it is beyond the Audio Precision’s capability."

- John E. Johnson, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity

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ADC1 Review - Garrett Haines, Tape Op

ADC1 Review - Garrett Haines, Tape Op

by Benchmark Media Systems November 15, 2017

ADC1 - "Very Natural Sounding"

"The ADC1 USB is very natural sounding. What I put in, is what it captures. Should I wish to color a track, I can call upon other gear in my rack."

"In a mastering context, a neutral, flat-sounding converter is very desirable."

"Benchmark’s trademarked UltraLock clocking scheme delivers quality conversion even when slaved to a suboptimal external clock."

"The best standalone clock in the world becomes irrelevant if the receiving converter’s locking system botches the signal. Unfortunately, many manufacturers skimp on PLL synchronization. Thankfully, not Benchmark."

- Garrett Haines, Tape Op

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DAC3 - Bench Test - John Atkinson, Stereophile

DAC3 - Bench Test - John Atkinson, Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems October 11, 2017

DAC3 HGC - "All I can say is 'Wow!'"

"The Benchmark DAC3 offers extremely low levels of harmonic distortion from all its outputs. Intermodulation distortion was similarly vanishingly low."

"No power-supply–related spuriae can be seen, and the random noise floor lies below –160 dBFS!"

"When the DAC3 decoded dithered 16-bit and 24-bit data representing a 1 kHz tone at -60 dBFS, the increase in bit depth dropped the noise floor by more than 30 dB, indicating that the Benchmark’s resolution is at least 21 bits."

"This as good as a DAC can currently get!"

"All I can say is 'Wow!'" - John Atkinson

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DAC3 Review - Rob Boffard, The Master Switch

DAC3 Review - Rob Boffard, The Master Switch

by Benchmark Media Systems June 13, 2017

DAC3 HGC"As close to flawless sound quality as we’ve ever heard."

"There is an absolutely staggering amount of high-level technology packed into the tiny black box, and what it amounts to is this: glorious audio quality."

"Whether we were using it as a preamp, a headphone amp, or a straight DAC, it was nothing but outstanding. What grabbed us, more than anything else, was the clarity and realism. We genuinely felt like we were hearing every single note like it was meant to be heard, with almost no coloration or distortion."

"Although it worked well in all genres, it particularly excelled at things like heavy metal, offering mids and highs that really allowed the guitars to bite. And again, everything was just crystal clear, with no distortion whatsoever. It got to the point that we were throwing different styles and genres at it, just to see if we could get it to falter. It didn’t. No matter what we tried, the DAC3 never missed a beat."

"As far as we’re concerned, it comes as close to flawless sound quality as we’ve ever heard."

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DAC3 Review and Test Report - Gary Galo, Audioxpress

DAC3 Review and Test Report - Gary Galo, Audioxpress

by Benchmark Media Systems June 09, 2017

DAC3 HGC"Benchmark has taken an already remarkable product and moved it to the next level"

"Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.’s DAC series of high-performance digital-to-analog converters (DACs) have earned the respect of audio enthusiasts and professional users alike for their state-of-the-art performance, including exceptional audio transparency and vanishingly-low levels of noise and distortion. Now Benchmark has made its DAC3 even better with the upgrade to ESS Technology’s new ES9028PRO DAC chip."

The ES9028PRO has four key areas of improvement over its predecessor:
  • Total harmonic distortion (THD) compensation
  • Improved oversampling filters
  • Improved phase-locked loop (PLL)
  • Improved power supply distribution

    "Benchmark considers the THD compensation to be the most significant improvement."

    - Gary Galo, AudioXpress
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    DAC3 Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

    DAC3 Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

    by Benchmark Media Systems January 04, 2017

    DAC3 HGC - "More space, Increased Precision"

    The Benchmark DAC3 is the first product to ship with the new ESS Technology ES9028PRO D/A converter chip.

    "It may look like the DAC2 HGC, but the new DAC3 HGC offers a slew of better measurements and more notably, an incremental boost in sound quality."

    "Via headphones I definitely could hear more space around the instruments and an increased precision in transients — like cymbals and upper-register piano notes."

    "In terms of new functions, the DAC3 switches a lot faster between inputs, and gone is that audibly phasy transition when you initially switch between two digital sources."

    John Gatski, Publisher, Everything Audio Network

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    DAC2 & AHB2 Review - Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback

    DAC2 & AHB2 Review - Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback

    by Benchmark Media Systems November 18, 2016

    AHB2 - "It could well be the last amp you'll ever own. Yes, it is that good."

    "Benchmark Media Systems Pro-centric products tout exceptional specifications, and their AHB2 amplifier--developed in tandem with engineers from THX and using their patented HX Achromatic™ Audio Amplifier technology—uses some rather unusual patented designs to get to those remarkable spec numbers." 

    DAC2 - "The Benchmark AHB2 is a very good amp, and the DAC2 is a very good DAC—it's no wonder that they have been slathered in near-universal praise."

    "These two partners in musical misbehavior sound great together and cost less--with Benchmark cables included—than my Pass XA 30.8 amp alone. To be sure, my reference Pass is a fantastic amplifier, but the AHB2 has its own charms that I found played to my own listening biases."

    "Yep. Good stuff, those BM boys."

    - Gary L Beard, Positive-Feedback

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    AHB2 - Driving PMC IB2S Studio Monitors

    AHB2 - Driving PMC IB2S Studio Monitors

    by John Siau October 24, 2016

    AHB2 - Driving PMC IB2S Passive Studio Monitors at AES 141

    At the 141st AES conference we demonstrated two Benchmark AHB2 monoblock power amplifiers driving a pair of 4-Ohm PMC IB2S passive studio monitors (these monitor are also available in the PMC IB2SE hi-fi version).

    In bridged mono, the AHB2 can deliver over 518 watts into each of these 4-Ohm speakers. This is a perfect match to PMC's 500 watt recommendation. The AHB2 easily provides the power, the output current, and the damping required by these low-impedance speakers.

    "I am very impressed with the clarity and accuracy of these outstanding professional monitors. The Benchmark AHB2 and PMC IB2S are an absolutely killer combination!" - John Siau, VP, Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.

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    AHB2 Review - Paul Seydor, The Absolute Sound

    AHB2 Review - Paul Seydor, The Absolute Sound

    by Benchmark Media Systems May 13, 2016

    AHB2 - "Essentially Perfect"

    "Benchmark products ... are made for the professional market (where they are ubiquitous) and designed to the most exacting standards of performance and reliability."

    "Within a remarkably short period of time ... my mental processes shifted from comparison mode to enjoying music, all the attention drawn to the source material and the rare sensation of feeling as if I were listening back to the source."

    "... the AHB2 gets as high, enthusiastic, and confident a thumbs up as my arm is capable of reaching."

    - Paul Seydor, The Absolute Sound, April 2016

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    AHB2 Technical Analysis - Robert E. Green, The Absolute Sound

    AHB2 Technical Analysis - Robert E. Green, The Absolute Sound

    by Benchmark Media Systems March 11, 2016

    AHB2 - "A Technical Tour de Force Without any Question"

    "The Benchmark amplifier is quieter than any other amplifier I am aware of."

    "It has noise of around 110 dB down relative to 1 watt, and since it has 100 watts of power, the signal-to-noise ratio that is relevant to resolution is around 130 dB."

    "The Benchmark also has extremely low distortion—among the lowest around and surely far below known thresholds."

    "The Benchmark can be used in bridged mode, to give 400 watts into 8 ohms (actually 380W is specified). That ought to be enough for most applications except in extremely large rooms."

    "The Benchmark AHB2 amplifier is a technical tour de force without any question."

    - Robert E. Green, The Absolute Sound, April 2016

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    AHB2 Review - HIFIQC

    AHB2 Review - HIFIQC

    by Benchmark Media Systems February 11, 2016

    AHB2 - "Runs like a high-performance sports car"

    "This amplifier runs like a high-performance sports car. I was amazed at the AHB2’s ability to keep up with dense music mixes and never sound congested or lacking. In fact, this tidy beast produced some of the tightest low end I’ve ever heard in my 2 way speakers. The midrange was articulate and clear with an obvious clarity that bested my current class A/B amplifier. Extending to the high frequencies were equally clear and distortion free, no hype here- just honest clear reproduction."

    "Acoustically, the AHB2 performs so cleanly and quietly that it resolves the hall and space between musicians distinctly- something professional engineers and audiophiles can equally appreciate."

    "If you are looking for an amplifier that can reveal your source material and DAC without flinching, then the AHB2 is a top choice."

    -HIFIQC, February 11, 2016

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    AHB2 Review - Jason Kennedy, Hi-Fi+

    AHB2 Review - Jason Kennedy, Hi-Fi+

    by Benchmark Media Systems February 01, 2016

    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."

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    DAC2 and AHB2 Review - Tom Fine, Tape Op

    DAC2 and AHB2 Review - Tom Fine, Tape Op

    by Benchmark Media Systems January 29, 2016

    AHB2 - "Conspicuous Only in Its Absence"

    "Before she joined Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick was in a band called The Great Society. They made an LP, Conspicuous Only in Its Absence, the title of which has stuck in my mind ever since I first heard it as a teenager. (The album also contains some killer psychedelic rock riffing, but that’s another story for another time.) That album’s title is a perfect description of how the new Benchmark AHB2 power amplifier fits into a studio monitoring system."

    - Tom Fine, Tape Op

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    DAC2 DX - 2015 Product of the Year - Everything Audio Network

    DAC2 DX - 2015 Product of the Year - Everything Audio Network

    by Benchmark Media Systems January 12, 2016

    DAC2 DX - "Home Recording/Audiophile D/A Converter Product of The Year"

    "Take the ultra accurate PCM/DSD DAC2 converter add AES/EBU and dual buss output and you now have the ideal studio or hi-fi DAC for headphone or speaker listening — the $1,995 DAC2-DX. And no DAC measures any better."

    - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

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    AHB2 Review - Toby Tingskog, dagogo

    AHB2 Review - Toby Tingskog, dagogo

    by Benchmark Media Systems January 11, 2016

    AHB2 - "These are the amplifiers that you are looking for."

    "There’s a new actor in the high end audio amplification field – THX. The company is a technology spin-off from Lucasfilm, which originated the Star Wars movie series."

    "THX has patented a novel amplifier design, THX AAA Technology(TM) and Benchmark Media Systems has turned it into a new power amplifier – AHB2. The design is called Achromatic Audio Amplifier. Achromatic may mean colorless or neutral or without modulation."

    "So is there a sound signature to the AHB2? Since THX calls it Achromatic we can assume that they were not aiming for a warm and sweet tubey sound – and this is not what it delivers. The sound is indeed neutral and exact without being sterile or clinical. Colorless? Not really. The amp will send through the sound palette of the source component and disc/file without stripping any color away."

    "The AHB2 is so good it will immediately expose weaknesses in your system. It requires a very good pre-amp ... which should output a balanced signal."

    "Medals to everyone and a rebel princess to the AAA Technology inventor!"

    - Toby Tingskog, dagogo.com

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    DAC2 DX Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

    DAC2 DX Review - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

    by Benchmark Media Systems December 31, 2015

    DAC2 DX"I cannot emphasize enough the DAC2's sound quality"

    "Ever since Benchmark released the DAC2 Series a few years ago, the D/A’s measured performance, ultra-accurate smooth ESS-chip audio delivery has made, it, er, the Benchmark of D/A converters. Every DAC I get in for review, I always compare to the Benchmark."

    "If you like a clean, transparent, yet smooth and detailed D/A converter for your home pro (or larger separate pro facility) or hobbyist studio, the DAC2-DX should be on your short list of DACs to consider."

    "I cannot emphasize enough the DAC2's sound quality. If your only experience has been with the old DAC1 Series, you are in for a treat. The DAC2 blows it away in terms of listenability. Significantly smoother, especially with Pop music."

    "Like the DAC2-HGC, the DAC2-DX receives our Stellar Sound Award and an 2015 EAN Product of The Year Award nod in the home recording studio category."

     - John Gatski, Everything Audio Network

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    AHB2 Review - Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile

    AHB2 Review - Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile

    by Benchmark Media Systems November 12, 2015

    AHB2 - "A real breakthrough in every way"

    "... it was probably the AHB2's low noise level that revealed to me much more apparent low-level detail in already-familiar recordings."

    "These surprising and delicious details were evident from the bass up through the midrange and extreme treble, which nonetheless remained silky and diaphanous."

    "In addition to quantity of soundstage detail, the AHB2 ... had all the power needed to drive with aplomb my Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond speakers to any reasonable level."

    "As time passed and I listened more, I grew to love the AHB2's sound, and undertook the rewarding effort of listening through it to as many different recordings as I could. It was a great pleasure, as old friends, some already mentioned, smiled anew."

    - Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile

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    AHB2 Bench Test - John Atkinson, Stereophile

    AHB2 Bench Test - John Atkinson, Stereophile

    by Benchmark Media Systems November 01, 2015

    AHB2 - "An extraordinary amplifier ... its performance lies at the limits of what is possible for me to reliably test"

    "Conventionally, it is assumed that the measurement system used to test a product is much better than the device under test."

    "However, the Benchmark amplifier's specifications are close to those of my Audio Precision system ... correctly characterizing the AHB2's measured performance would therefore present a challenge. The second and third harmonics lie close to the residual distortion in the Audio Precision's signal generator."

    "The Benchmark amplifier has a claimed S/N ratio "approaching 130dB," which, at 6.02dB per bit, is equivalent to more than 21-bit resolution. It is truly a high-resolution amplifier." 

    "Benchmark Media Systems' AHB2 is an extraordinary amplifier."

    - John Atkinson, Stereophile

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