DAC3 HGC -

DAC3 HGC - "2018 Digital Component of the Year" - Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems November 21, 2018

Tie for First Place, 16x Price Difference

"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!""

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DAC3 & AHB2 in 5.1 Surround - Kalman Rubinson, Sterophile

DAC3 & AHB2 in 5.1 Surround - Kalman Rubinson, Sterophile

by Benchmark Media Systems November 02, 2018

"In my September 2018 column, I wrote of my discovery of miniDSP's U-DIO8, which converts multichannel data fed to its USB port to eight S/PDIF or AES-EBU outputs at resolutions of up to 24-bit/192kHz. Armed with a U-DIO8, you can use three or four of your choice of stereo DAC."

"I went commando with the DAC3s directly connected to the three AHB2s. All three DAC3s were set to Home Theater Bypass, and I used JRiver Media Center's volume control."

"For the first time I can recall, I heard no noise from my system, even with an ear flush against a tweeter."

"I know that we audiophiles can obsess about small changes and make them seem more important than they actually are, but that's what this hobby is about: Eliminating as many audible flaws as possible, however tiny. In this case, the effect was striking at first listen, and endured through everything I played, even tracks that had troubled me before."

- Kal Rubinson, Stereophile

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DAC3 & AHB2 System - Jim Austin, Stereophile

DAC3 & AHB2 System - Jim Austin, Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems October 02, 2018

"Noise, Resolution & Benchmark"

"John Atkinson's measurements corroborated Benchmark's claim that the DAC3 is capable of "at least" 21-bit performance ..." 

"Benchmark created an amplifier that more than matched the DAC3's dynamic range: the AHB2. Bridged to mono, the AHB2 has a claimed A-weighted dynamic range of 135dB ... it now sits in Class A of Stereophile's 'Recommended Components.'"

"With the DAC3 HGC and the AHB2, Benchmark seems to have achieved the lowest-noise, lowest-distortion system of source and amplification on the planet. The signals this combo sends to loudspeakers should be cleaner—truer to the source—than any other audio components can achieve."

"This article is unusual ..."

"This article is unusual in that my goal was not to take the measure of a particular component but to determine whether Benchmark's entire low-noise system could resolve musical detail that a more typical audiophile system, with noise and distortion levels that are low but not as low, could not."

"The comparison system consisted of PS Audio DirectStream DAC and BHK Signature preamp and, variously, PS Audio BHK 300 and Pass Laboratories XA60.8 monoblocks."

"Through the Benchmark amps those quiet sounds were richer and more interesting. There seemed to be more going on in those quiet moments. It's harder to describe than it was to hear."

"Over the course of several days, I went back and forth between the Benchmark amplifiers and heard it every time. The difference didn't go away."

- Jim Austin, Stereophile

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AHB2 Award - Stereophile

AHB2 Award - Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems September 13, 2018

AHB2 - Class A Recommended Component - Fall 2018 - Power Amps

'Class A' is Stereophile's highest classification for recommended components. Very few components receive this elite classification. Stereophile defines 'Class A' as follows:

"Best attainable sound for a component of its kind, almost without practical considerations; "the least musical compromise." A Class A system is one for which you don't have to make a leap of faith to believe that you're hearing the real thing."

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DAC3 HGC Award - Stereophile

DAC3 HGC Award - Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems September 13, 2018

DAC3 HGC - Class A+ Recommended Component - Fall 2018 - Digital Processors

'Class A+' is Stereophile's highest classification for digital processors. Stereophile defines Class A and the digital processor Class A+ as follows:

"Best attainable sound for a component of its kind, almost without practical considerations; "the least musical compromise." A Class A system is one for which you don't have to make a leap of faith to believe that you're hearing the real thing. With Super Audio CD, DVD-Audio, and Hi-Rez PCM and DSD files now available, we have created a new Class, A+, for the best performance in those digital categories."

Read more at Stereophile →

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DAC3 Review - Jim Austin, Stereophile

DAC3 Review - Jim Austin, Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems October 12, 2017

DAC3 HGC"Astonishing Fidelity and Emotional Expressiveness"

"Benchmark Media Systems’ DAC3 HGC is evidence that an engineering-focused company—one that seems to spend more time staring at instruments than testing its devices with their ears, and that cares more about transparency than it does about whether or not you like the sound their products make—can produce a product of astonishing fidelity and emotional expressiveness."

"Science works ... never underestimate a good geek."

- Jim Austin, Stereophile

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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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AHB2 Award - Stereophile

AHB2 Award - Stereophile "2017 Class-A Recommended Component - Power Amplifier"

by Benchmark Media Systems September 15, 2017

AHB2 - Stereophile Class-A Recommended Component

"The AHB2 makes use of THX Corporation's Achromatic Audio Amplifier (AAA) technology, in which a low-power feed-forward amplifier drives a low-bias class-AB output section, the latter energized by a system of class-H power-supply rails that deliver power in response to demand—resulting in an extremely efficient amplifier capable of robust power output."

"In his listening tests, KR discovered "much more apparent low-level detail in already-familiar recordings"—a characteristic he credited to the Benchmark's evident noiselessness—and a tonal balance that "sounded more 'right' than any of [the other amps on hand].""

"In measuring the AHB2 and attempting to confirm its specified very high signal/noise ratio, JA observed nonlinearities in his testing equipment that "haven't affected the measured performance of other amplifiers I've tested, but they were detectable with the AHB2's very low intrinsic distortion and noise." His conclusion: "an extraordinary amplifier.""

"KR's last word: "bargain.""

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DAC2 Award - Stereophile

DAC2 Award - Stereophile "2017 A+ Recommended Component - Digital Processor"

by Benchmark Media Systems September 15, 2017

DAC2 HGC - Stereophile A+ Recommended Component

"Although similar in appearance to previous Benchmark models ... , 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; and provides front-panel displays for both sample rate and word length."

"It had a pleasantly forward sound, with smooth highs, a solid bottom end, and excellent image separation, said EL."

"JI noted the DAC2's good scale and sense of ambient space."

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DAC2 Award - Stereophile

DAC2 Award - Stereophile "Class-A Recommended - Headphone Accessories"

by Benchmark Media Systems September 15, 2017

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."

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AHB2 Award -

AHB2 Award - "Amplification Component of the Year 2016 - Finalist", Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems January 04, 2017

AHB2 - "Stereophile Amplification Component of the Year" - 2016 Finalist"

The AHB2 was one of only 11 finalists in Stereophile's "Amplification Component of the Year" category. The finalists included 6 power amplifiers, 2 preamplifiers, 2 integrated amplifiers, and 1 headphone amplifier. This elite selection of amplification products included power amplifiers ranging in price from $2,995 (Benchmark AHB2) to $52,000 a pair (Vandersteen M7-HPA).

At $52,000 the Vandersteen includes a chassis milled from a solid billet of aluminum, liquid cooling and a vibration dampening suspension. It is an impressive example of mechanical engineering and industrial design.

At $2,995, the Benchmark AHB2 delivers the quietest, cleanest power available at any price.

The AHB2 proves that top-quality audio can be affordable.

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ADC1 USB Award - Stereophile A Rating

ADC1 USB Award - Stereophile A Rating

by Benchmark Media Systems September 15, 2016

ADC1 USB - Stereophile "A-Rated Recommended Component", 2016

"Housed in the same small case as Benchmark's DACs, the ADC1 is a 24-bit USB A/D converter with a Texas Instruments TAS1020B USB chip and a 128x-oversampling, delta-sigma AKM 5394 A/D converter chip."

"The Benchmark produced a natural, coherent overall sound, with clean high frequencies and weighty, extended lows, said JA, who also noted superb measured performance."

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DAC2 HGC Award - Stereophile A+ Rating

DAC2 HGC Award - Stereophile A+ Rating

by Benchmark Media Systems September 15, 2016

DAC2 HGC - Stereophile "A+ Recommended Component", 2016

"Although similar in appearance to previous Benchmark models, with a front-panel volume control and two 1/4" 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; and provides front-panel displays for both sample rate and word length."

"It had a pleasantly forward sound, with smooth highs, a solid bottom end, and excellent image separation, said EL."

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Benchmark at CAF2016 - Art Dudley, Stereophile

Benchmark at CAF2016 - Art Dudley, Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems July 14, 2016

HRA System - "I loved the open, colorful, well-balanced, and immediate sound of this system."

"I was happy to have finally heard the Benchmark AHB2 power amp that Kal Rubinson and so many others have raved about."




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AHB2 Award -

AHB2 Award - "Class A Recommended Component", Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems March 22, 2016

AHB2 - Receives Stereophile's Highest Rating!

"Class A Recommended Component, 2016"

"More apparent low-level detail" - KR

"In his listening tests, Kalman Rubinson discovered 'much more apparent low-level detail in already-familiar recordings' - a characteristic he credited to the Benchmark's evident noiselessness - and a tonal balance that 'sounded more right' than any of the other amps on hand."

"An extraordinary amplifier" - JA

"In measuring the AHB2 and attempting to confirm its specified very high signal/noise ratio, John Atkinson observed nonlinearities in his testing equipment that 'Haven't affected the measured performance of other amplifiers I've tested, but they were detectable with the AHB2's very low intrinsic distortion and noise.' His conclusion: 'an extraordinary amplifier.'"

The AHB2 shares the elite "Class A Recommended" category with amplifiers costing 10 to 20 times more.

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AHB2 Award - The Poor Audiophile

AHB2 Award - The Poor Audiophile

by Benchmark Media Systems March 21, 2016

AHB2 - "A Bargain for Poor Audiophiles"

"... the only amplifier under $3,000 to be given Stereophile Class A status."

"In our review of the Benchmark AHB2, we absolutely loved what we heard. So much so, in fact, that we gave the Benchmark AHB2 our Amplifier of the Year award."

"It seems that the April 2016 edition ofStereophile Magazine shares our view. Stereophile has just named the Benchmark AHB2 in its prestigious Class A category, meaning it's the best of the best from the products they have reviewed."

"We weren't at all surprised about the AHB2 receiving that prestigious classification.  Rather, what surprised us was that it was the only amplifier under $3,000 to be given Class A status."

"When you're competing against products costing 10x, 20x or more and you're mentioned in the same breath, that's a big compliment."

- Poor Audiophile

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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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Benchmark at RMAF 2014 by Stereophile

Benchmark at RMAF 2014 by Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems October 21, 2014

HRA System - "A beautiful midrange and well-defined extremes"

"The big news in the familiar-looking Benchmark room was ..."

"The AHB2 high-resolution power amp has been further refined, with a high S/N ratio even at minimal output and topology that claims to achieve full 24-bit resolution from digital signals."

"The crossover of the SMS-1 The Benchmark loudspeaker has been changed."

"The DAC2 DX adds pro connectors and dual output busses to familiar and well-regarded electronics."

"The sound was especially impressive from such a small loudspeaker. Keb Mo sounded great, with a beautiful midrange and well-defined extremes."

Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile

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ADC1 Review - John Atkinson, Stereophile

ADC1 Review - John Atkinson, Stereophile

by Benchmark Media Systems February 04, 2014

ADC1 - "I highly recommend the ADC1 for transferring your LPs to digital"

"Benchmark's versatile and full-featured ADC1 USB both measures superbly well and produces digital files that sound equally superb. It offers performance for which, a decade ago, you would have had to pay five times its price. It also offers better resolution than you get from inexpensive converters like E-MU's popular e404, whose nominally 24-bit A/D converter section actually has about 17-bit resolution."

"I highly recommend the ADC1 for transferring your LPs to digital."

- John Atkinson, Stereophile

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