"I'm asking because clearly Benchmark is a highly regarded company here, and plenty of ASR members own Benchmark amplification/DACs. We know they are top of the heap in terms of measured performance, outdoing plenty of the competition in terms of typical distortion measurements."
- @MattHooper, AudioScienceReview.com
AHB2, LA4, DAC3
Subtle aesthetics? Check.
Unobtrusive size? Check.
Solid build? Check.
Made in America? Check.
Best in class? Check.
Superior performance proven by Amir? Check.
Superior customer service? Check (and not just in audio world; best customer service I have experienced from any company, anywhere, ever).
Expensive? For me, yes. Limit of my budget, but buy once cry once.
"The afternoon before the start of the show I ran into John Siau of Benchmark Media Systems. He says to me quietly, “make sure you stop in our room, we have a surprise!” With curiosity suitably piqued, Co-Editor Jim Clements and I paid a visit ..."
"The results were pretty astonishing. A stable, enveloping stereo image that was devoid of any distortion whatsoever."
- Carlo Lo Raso, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
"Sound was extremely well-integrated and controlled, and the bass memorable."
"The Note received signal through the introductory version of the company's Liquid Cables. Each cable contains 27,000 wires. The company's introductory Elephant memory player joined Benchmark Media's AHB2 power amps, DAC3 B D/A processor, and interconnects."
"With the aid of a forthcoming DEQX HDP4 processor that's due in the fall, the system sounded super on a 16/44.1 file of the famed rendition of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, recorded by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra for Reference Recordings."
"The product under review is a stripped-down version of theDAC3 HGC."
"While it uses the same complement of ES9028PRO DAC chips as the flagship HGC and retains the USB port, the B offers a fixed output level and omits the headphone amplifier, balanced and unbalanced analog inputs, volume, mute, and polarity controls, and the remote control."
"I never auditioned theDAC3 HGC in my own system, so when I got an opportunity to borrow a sample of the DAC3 B, I eagerly agreed."
"I had been using MBL's network-connected N31 CD player/DAC ($18,680 with Roon Ready module) before installing theDAC3 B."
"The MBL offers an excellent sense of drive and low-frequency impact, but when I replaced it with the Benchmark, both these aspects of the music seemed enhanced."
"Whether it was an orchestral bass drum or a kickdrum, electric bass guitar or acoustic double bass, the MoFi speakers seemed to acquire more low-frequency weight without losing definition."
"Highly recommended for Class A+ in Stereophile's Recommended Components."
"I was led to Benchmark Media Systems through recommendations from Roger West, the designer of Sound Lab speakers. Praise from a local Sound Lab dealer and a local Sound Lab owner effectively twisted my arm to the point where I yielded to temptation to try the amplifiers ..."
"The Class-H Benchmarks give me what I wanted from Class-D amplifiers, but with the musical engagement, I found lacking in Class-D. There is the added benefit of a company that has been in business for over 36 years and has a depth of products, and offers an extended warranty."
"The highest compliment I can pay a piece of audio equipment is that it has found a home in my system. A pair of AHB2s are now part of my dedicated summertime amplification for my Sound Lab 545PX loudspeakers."
"The Benchmark performance continues to engage me, and the company gives me confidence in long-term support."
"It has already been noted in previous reviews that the professional market often offers products that may also be of interest to the 'ordinary' consumer. In Japan in particular, home systems often consist of a mix of consumer equipment and (vintage) professional items."
"Benchmark was founded in 1983 and started building professional audio equipment."
"The goal, from the outset, is to build sound-transparent equipment of the highest quality. The employees are musicians, audiophiles and audio technicians. So sound quality is top notch."
HPA4 vs. LA4
"The HPA4 and LA4 are preamplifiers and largely identical. The HPA4 also has a built-in headphone amplifier."
"The Benchmark HPA4 and LA4 preamps deliver a very high quality neutral and transparent signal."
"Developed from a professional focus on sound reproduction, they bring the essence of the recording closer to the listener."
"Before I dig into the sound of the LA4 it is important to know that it employs a wide bandwidth design. The LA4’s bandwidth is specified at 0.2 Hz to 500 kHz."
"Most of the wide bandwidth designs I have heard exhibit ... a purity in tone with superb timing and speed ... the LA4 proved to be no exception."
"The Benchmark LA4 yielded a change that was quickly apparent in several areas. Notably were; bass, upper midrange, treble, low-level listening, and the ability to distinguish the colorations of other components that were contributing to my overall sound."
"Acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica among many other instruments are presented with speed, clarity, and coherency that made them sound more “present” in the room and less like a recording."
"The Benchmark LA4 is simply the most transparent, least colored, and most revealing component I have had in my system to date. I look forward to it joining my stable of reference components."
"The AHB2 might look small and lightweight, but thanks to its clever engineering and power supply implementation, this little fellow could still deliver 190 Watts in 4 Ohms and 100 Watts in 8 Ohms, while maintaining an undetectable noise floor and distortion."
"For the craziest folks out there, you can even bridge two pieces together for ~580 Watts in 4 Ohms and 380W in 8 ohms."
"Thor almighty! This thing has some amazingly thick panels all around it, adding a level of confidence and refinement. It looks plain and industrial, but I really dig its minimalist body."
"You know what I like the most about it? Its bullet-proof protection systems!"
"Fault conditions silently mute both output channels in order to protect the speakers and amplifier from any damage."
"I somehow forgot ... blasting 380Watts of power into my KEF Reference 3 after pressing the play button. A microsecond didn’t pass and both AHB2 engaged their protection circuits and muted themselves without causing any harm to my loudspeakers."
"For almost a year now, AHB2 saved my speakers twice."
"The key words with AHB2 are: world-class detail retrieval, absolute transparency, lightning-fast transient response, an open wide soundstage with a very precise layering and positioning of the notes around the listener, all tightly controlled with an iron grip, never sounding too mellow, sluggish or all over the place."
"The highest compliment I can give to AHB2 is that I purchased not one, but two units with my hard-earned money. These weren’t loaner units and this wasn’t a sponsored review and you can draw your own conclusions."
"The Benchmark Media Systems HPA4 preamplifier is an exceptionally transparent and well-designed audio device."
"I found it to be an extremely neutral reference point that allowed me to hear more of what a connected speaker or headphone was actually doing and, in turn, how much my existing electronics were adding to the sound that I was hearing in my reviews."
- Carlo Lo Raso, Co-Editor, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
"When I’ve received the mighty Hifiman Susvara, I felt overwhelmed by…disappointment. I said to myself: “This is really it? This is how the world’s best headphones are sounding?”"
"Months later, I’ve received a special adapter cable so I could power them with all sorts of integrated and power amplifiers (speaker amplifiers) and that’s when I felt connected to the all known universe, turning them into a gemstone of a headphone."
Benchmark AHB2 Power Amplifier – My Daily Driver V2.0
"Holy mother of Thor, this is dynamics, speed, transient response, resolution and transparency incarnate into a single metal box. There isn’t a clearer, a more resolving or a more transparent sounding amplifier out there, this is a wire with gain amplifier that doesn’t add anything into the mix."
"You can’t get a more impactful, a faster or cleaner sounding amplifier.
"Benchmark’s HPA4 is the first item of audio kit I have encountered that peels apart the ying and the yang of audio to expose the fault line between those of us for whom measurements are all that matters… and those of us that approach audio from a more emotional, less scientific direction. But in another sense it might also bridge the divide."
HPA4 Driving the Audeze LCD-5
"It had been the arrival of Audeze’s latest flagship planar headphone the LCD-5 that had prompted me to ask if I might borrow an HPA4."
"With the LCD-5 being a statement 14 Ohm/90db design, I felt I owed it to Audeze and myself to try driving the headphone with an amplifier whose specs suggested that it could easily cope with the requirement for current."
"The LCD-5 and HPA4 made an impressive partnership."
"On more energetic material, such as Marcus Miller’s M2 album from 2001, and the aptly named track Power, the LCD-5 showed that the HPA4 couples deep reserves of low-end grunt with a good level of dynamic expression. At loud but not silly volumes, the boom and snap of Miller’s slap bass technique had timing and tonal qualities that to my ears – alas, I do not have Miller’s talent but I do play bass – sounded uncommonly real through the LCD-5 headphone."
"I’d encourage anyone in the market for a high-end headphone amplifier to audition an HPA4."
"It is a device that achieves stellar measurements, yet sounds excellent too; evidence that the science-based approach can deliver high musicality."
"The HPA4 can drive pretty much anything, its resolution is truly remarkable, and you will likely hear your music with an acuity as never before."
"Benchmark Media Systems Inc from Syracuse, New-York is an American company and has been one of the top pro-audio manufacturers for thirty years. In recent years they have also ventured into the consumer market with considerable success."
"In collaboration with THX came the AHB2 power amplifier and not much later they developed a suitable headphone amplifier and preamplifier, the HPA4 and LA4 respectively."
"The HPA4 and AHB2 have been a fixture in our reference set for several years now."
Testing an AHB2 pair in Monoblock Mode
"In stereo mode we get a nice 100 watts (8 ohms class A/B) but in mono that goes to an impressive 380 watts!"
"We set the small switch on the back of the AHB2s to mono and connect each speaker to an AHB2."
"Is it worth buying a second AHB2?"
"We say a resounding yes."
"The extra power (380 watts!) not only gives you more control over your speakers, but so much more."
"The playback in mono is 'off the charts'."
"There's no going back really. You have been warned!"
"I can't think of many amps with dual hi-fi and pro functionality. Maybe Bryston and the odd ATC, but there aren't a lot. However, to this shortlist, we can add Benchmark."
"Two things strike you upon first seeing it – it's surprisingly compact, and it also has the sort of features that make it more at home in a studio than a listening room lounge space."
"You can bridge theAHB2to make it a monoblock, or bi-wire it to a single speaker; there are only balanced connections incoming, as well as a choice of gain to match the speaker. You get normal speaker binding posts plus a pair of Neutrik'sSpeakOn connectors on the output side."
"Thumbs firmly aloft then for this compact, versatile, thoughtfully designed, well-built stereo power amplifier."