"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 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
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
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
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.
AHB2 - "This stable and load-independent behavior ... is something not often encountered"
"AHB2's output power ... easily confirmed the specs given by the company itself."
"Based on this performance, the amplifier seems more than capable of driving difficult loads."
"Damping factor was estimated above 200, therefore, no system frequency response discrepancies, due to loudspeaker's impedance variability, should be expected."
"In distortion measurements, AHB2's behavior was impressive ..."
"The amplifier's spectral behavior does not seem to change significantly with a 4-Ohm load at its outputs."
"This stable and load-independent behavior of the output stage is something not often encountered."
"This performance clearly shows that the Benchmark/THX design approach works ... the result is a power stage with very low distortion, indeed."
"The noise performance of the amplifier was, also, top-class ... there is an apparent absence of noise components from the power supply ... this is a remarkable behavior, especially with the output stage under load conditions ..."
- Dimitris Stamatakos, AVMENTOR.net
DAC2 HGC - "Offered a very high level of performance, with very low distortion"
"The noise spectrum shows that the DAC2 HGC is indeed a very quiet device without problems of interference or hum."
"Frequency response is flat across the entire range of measurement without a visible cut-off towards the lower frequencies, and with a rather mild roll-off at very high frequencies close to 80kHz. The differences between the two channels are small, in the range of 0.2dB."
"The THD+N Vs Frequency graph does not hide any unpleasant surprises. The curves (for an output level of 1Vrms) are below 0.003% with an apparent increasing trend from the 10kHz upwards but with minimal level-depended variation, an indication for a good analog stage design."
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
DAC2 DX - "had some of the lowest distortion of any DAC we have ever tested"
"Listening to my music collection via USB was a pleasure with this DAC. It had a very musical sound, reminding me of a Class A triode tube amplifier. When you check out the bench tests, you will see why."
"For my money, the Benchmark DAC2 DX represents one of the best values in high end audio today."
- John E. Johnson, Jr., Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
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
HRA System - "I was impressed with the sense of space"
"I was admittedly quite cruel with my initial choice of listening material ... Vladimir Homyakov playing Bach organ works on the Eule organ at St. Alexander Church in Cheylyabinsk. Yes, we're going to try playing organ music on a modestly-sized pair of bookshelf speakers! And my jaw dropped. Unexpected depth there is, and natural it sounds too. I was also impressed with the sense of space the system created; it felt uncannily as if I was in the church"
"Benchmark ... has managed an impressive feat. If you want a large-scale yet musical sound but don't have the space for big boxes, they're well worth checking out."
DAC2 HGC - "Better performance than DACs ten times its price"
"I have analysed the test results of a half-a-dozen of the world's best DACs, most of which sell for more than ten times the price of the DAC2, and across almost all parameters tested the performance of the Benchmark DAC2 HGC equals or exceeds that of every single one of those DACs."
"This is digital audio engineering at its very best."
- Steve Holding, Newport Test Labs
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 - "Voices sounded genuinely lifelike, with a blessed absence of sibilance"
"There was no compromising of the vocals’ clarity, no clouding of the space."
"The SMS1 has a high crossover point, so the larger driver is acting as a true mid/bass unit. Suffice it to say, voices sounded genuinely lifelike, with a blessed absence of sibilance."
"What made it so involving was the way the harmonies meshed, the resolving power of the tweeter ensuring that each singer could not only be heard clearly, but defined in their own space."
"This classy monitor has a distinct character, leaning toward the rich at the bottom and the analytical at the top, rather than the totally neutral ‘studio’ sound I might have anticipated. If the balance suits your taste, you'll find it sounds bigger than a small two-way, it’s easy to drive and the perceived value suggests a price of at least a grand more."
- Ken Kessler, Hi-Fi News
AHB2 - "I was struck by just how much focus and clarity was on offer"
"This is an amplifier with very serious slam, and – even better for those with less sensitive speakers, big rooms or just a hankering for ‘just in front of the PA stack’ listening levels – it keeps it all together however loud you decide to play things."
"If that doesn't make you smile every time you listen, I don't know what will."
- Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News
"... the widest A-wtd S/N ratio of any amplifier I've measured in some 30 years."
- Paul Miller, Hi-Fi News
AHB2 - "Dynamic, open, with quick, taut bass - yet with the silky ease of the best tube amp"
"Like the Benchmark D/As and A/D, the company believes that great measurements correlate to great sound. In the case of the AHB2 I totally agree."
"The AHB2’s sonic character is dynamic, open, with quick, taut bass - yet with the silky ease of the best tube amp. But tube amps don’t have the energy and speed in the transients, nor bass, that the Benchmark possesses."
"I can’t wait to get two more for a full-high-end home cinema amp test in my big A/V room. For now, based on mostly stereo listening, it receives, with certainty, an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award."
- John Gatski, Everything Audio Network
AHB2 - "Lowest noise and distortion power amp I have measured"
"The new Benchmark AHB2 is the result of considerable research and patents on its resultant circuitry. The intent was to make it an ultra low distortion design. I would have to say they succeeded as it is the lowest noise and distortion power amp I have measured and I have measured a LOT of power amps in my career."
"The S/N ratio was about 131.6 dB. Pretty impressive, and this is the lowest output noise level I have seen in any power amplifier I have measured! (Editor's note: Benchmark measured 3 dB better when input was terminated with 60 Ohm impedance input.)"
"When connected in bridge mode, power was close to 400W into an 8 ohm load."
- Bascom H. King, BHK Labs
DAC2 HGC - "Offered one of the highest resolutions I have measured"
"Note that I've had to extend the vertical scale to –160 dBFS to reveal the noise floor. The drop in the level of the noise floor with 24-bit data indicates that the DAC2 offers 21-bit resolution, which is state-of-the-art performance."
"With the very low level of noise and superb linearity, the DAC2's reproduction of an undithered 16-bit tone at exactly –90.31 dBFS was essentially perfect."
"Even driving a very demanding 600 ohm load, the DAC2 offered very low levels of analog distortion, with the third harmonic the highest in level, at –116 dB (0.00015%). Other than the second and fifth, all the other harmonics lie at close to –130 dB. Intermodulation distortion was also superbly low, again even into 600 ohms."
"Summing up the Benchmark DAC2 HGC's measured performance is easy: It's simply superb."
- John Atkinson, Stereophile
ADC16 - "Numbers that we come to expect from this engineering-driven company"
"The noise floor is an impressive approximate -120 dBFS but the distortion takes quite a reduction of input level to get there – approaching 0.0001%!"
"All in all, the basic measurement parameters of the Benchmark ADC16 are in or near the top of A/D converter performance standards — numbers that we come to expect from this engineering-driven electronics company."
DAC1 - "A clean, lean digitizing machine"
"The DAC1 was created with three target users in mind: the professional studio, home use by audio professionals, and audiophiles. Indeed, the DAC1 has been well received by studios and has made inroads into the audiophile community. It is feature-laden and smartly laid out."
"It’s more than a DAC, it’s a pretty doggone good preamp too!"
"It presents hyper-nuanced, super clean sound."
"The Benchmark is a clean, lean digitizing machine. It does set the standard at its price point for pure, unadulterated digital signals coming to your nearest amp(s)."
"If you’re after the most measurably perfect CD sound and endless detail, put it on your own test bench – your audio rack."
- Doug Schroeder, dagogo