"Benchmark Media Systems’ LA4 preamplifier presented an utterly realistic reproduction of what was contained on each recording I played through it -- and weak recordings stood out more than usual. The LA4’s clean, analytical abilities are unmatched by any similarly priced preamplifier I know of. The LA4’s touchscreen brings it up to date with current user interfaces, and permits functions, such as balance control and muting at the device."
"If you want a preamp that editorializes, look elsewhere."
"If, like me, you value a high-resolution, totally neutral musical performance, add a Benchmark LA4 to your system, particularly if you already own a Benchmark DAC."
- Erich Wetzel, SoundStage! Hi-Fi
"RMAF 2018 was really good, with significant numbers of attendees, and more new-product introductions than I remembered ever seeing there."
"Led by engineer John Siau and based in Syracuse, New York, Benchmark Media Systems has built a sterling reputation for making compact, well-engineered, moderately priced electronics that challenge the state of the art, both on the test bench and in the listening room."
"What I took notice of were the specifications: total harmonic distortion of less than 0.00006%, and a signal/noise ratio exceeding 135dB from 20Hz to 20kHz."
"If those claims are true, and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t -- Benchmark gear has always performed as specified on the test bench -- the LA4 should be about as transparent-sounding a line-stage as you can find at any price."
- Doug Schneider, SoundStage! Hi-Fi
"Benchmark Media Systems used RMAF 2018 to launch two new products that it was able to lump together into one neat little stack."
"On the top is the DAC3 B, which has the same basic circuitry as the company’s more expensive DACs, but deletes the volume control, polarity and mute buttons, and headphone amp found on those models."
"On the bottom is the LA4 linestage preamplifier..."
"The LA4 has two pairs each of single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) inputs, and boasts some impressive specs: THD of less than 0.00006% and a signal-to-noise ratio exceeding 135 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz."
"Volume is controlled by dual 256-step attenuators that operate in 0.5 dB increments."
AHB2 - "2015 Product of the Year - Pioneering Design Achievement"
"Last year, in his November editorial, Hans wrote about our lack of consensus in naming the winner for this award."
"This year ... the Benchmark AHB2’s incredible sound quality makes it a no-brainer for the 2015 Pioneering Design Achievement award."
"Hans reviewed the AHB2 for SoundStage! Access in June, and had read every other product review we published in 2015, and felt that nothing else came close."
- Doug Schneider, SoundStage Hi-Fi
AHB2 - "Strikes fear in the transformers of more expensive amps"
"If you value the information revealed by measurements, you’ll appreciate the fact that the AHB2 is one of the quietest amplifiers ever made, with a signal/noise ratio of 132 dB."
"As someone who reviews his fair share of extremely high-priced gear, I know that components like the AHB2 strike fear in the transformers of more expensive amps. The question is, how many audiophiles will dismiss the AHB2 because of its low price?"
- Jeff Fritz, SoundStage!Ultra
AHB2 - "A cut above every integrated amplifier I’ve reviewed"
"The AHB2 is a power amplifier only, so you need to use a preamplifier with it. When I did, I found it a cut above every integrated amplifier I’ve reviewed, a list that includes: Hegel’s H160 and H300, Linn's Majik DSM, Musical Fidelity's M6 500i, and Luxman's L-550AX."
- Hans Wetzel, Sound Stage! Access
AHB2 - "Recommended Reference Component"
"The AHB2 is being recognized as a Recommended Reference Component -- it’s an incredibly good amplifier that can take full advantage of the high-resolution music sources that audiophiles have access to today."
- SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors
"It may be hi-fi’s biggest bargain"
- Hans Wetzel, SoundStage! Access
“I measured less distortion and noise in the AHB2 than in any other of the many power amps I’ve measured over the years.”
- Bascom King, BHK Labs
AHB2 - "A Giant-Killer"
"Benchmark Media Systems’ modest-looking little AHB2 power amp may be hi-fi’s biggest bargain. It is one of the -- if not the -- quietest, most resolving amps I've heard. Time and again, without ever having intended to, I wound up hours deep in listening to the fringes of my music collection, thanks to the AHB2’s reference-level transparency and obscene athleticism."
"The AHB2 was incredibly transparent. It just tore down the cloud of ambiguity that burdens the sounds of, well, just about everything else I've heard."
"If ever there were a giant-killer of an amp, this is it."
- Hans Wetzel, SoundStage!
AHB2 - "Less distortion and noise than any other power amp I’ve measured over the years"
"All amplifier measurements are performed independently by BHK Labs."
"The AHB2 is Benchmark’s attempt to produce a very-low-distortion, low-noise power amplifier using THX’s AAA Technology, which linearizes the amp’s class-AB output stage without using large amounts of overall negative feedback. I must say that they’ve succeeded; I measured less distortion and noise in the AHB2 than in any other of the many power amps I’ve measured over the years."
"High-frequency THD+N is admirably low, and in stereo and mono modes, the AHB2’s level of distortion throughout most of the power range is amazingly low."
"... the signal harmonics -- consisting of the third and fifth harmonics in stereo mode -- are extremely low in amplitude."
- BHK Labs, SoundStage!
SMS1 - "Pulled off the tough trick of sounding neutral yet very detailed and spacious"
"Benchmark is known for digital-to-analog converters (DACs), but it's recently been expanding into other products, including the first amplifier to use THX's new high-efficiency, all-analog technology, and the new SMS1 minispeaker."
"The SMS1 is a rebranded and somewhat improved version of the Studio Electric SE Monitor. As designer David Macpherson, owner of Studio Electric, told me, Benchmark's engineers were able to refine the circuit-board layout and acquire parts with tighter tolerances."
"I thought the SMS1 pulled off the tough trick of sounding neutral yet very detailed and spacious."
- Brent Butterworth, Sound Stage
DAC2 HGC - "Far more refined than its price would suggest"
"The DAC2 HGC uses one of the best digital chipsets on the market today to produce a quality of sound that, until a few years ago, wasn't available for less than $10,000."
"It sounds far more refined than its price would suggest, and when you consider that it can serve as the keystone of a digital and analog system, on a desktop or in a listening room, it becomes all the more remarkable."
- Hans Wetzel, SoundStage! Access
DAC1 HDR - "A rich feature set and top-quality sound"
"The DAC1 HDR carries on Benchmark’s tradition of approaching cost-no-object performance for a very reasonable price."
"For audiophiles who can live with only one analog input... the DAC1 HDR delivers a rich feature set and top-quality sound for much less than you’d spend on three separate components."
- Doug Schneider, SoundStage! Access