Reviews

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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DAC3 Review - Alan Sircom, Hi-Fi+

DAC3 Review - Alan Sircom, Hi-Fi+

by Benchmark Media Systems July 18, 2017

DAC3 HGC - "I am confident in saying the DAC3 has hit the Goldilocks spot in tonal balance."

"Benchmark was and is a pro audio brand at the forefront of the democratisation of the recording industry and audiophiles became interested in the product line toward the end of the last decade."

"Despite looking very similar to the DAC1 and DAC1 HDR, and virtually identical to the DAC2 HGC, the DAC3 HGC brings a lot of ‘new’ to the table."

"There’s an intrinsic sense of honesty to the sound ... it always sounded, just right… in the Goldilocks sense." 

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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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    AHB2 Review - Peter Davey, Positive Feedback

    AHB2 Review - Peter Davey, Positive Feedback

    by Benchmark Media Systems June 06, 2017

    AHB2"It's phenomenal! Gobs of power, detail, finesse and control."

    "Benchmark has been around for a long time. In fact, they are one of the early Audiophile pioneers of USB DACs ... I had always thought of them as more of a digital conversion company, and not an amplifier company—until the AHB2 came about."

    "A PF colleague of mine (Steven Lefkowicz) said... Dude, you HAVE to try the Benchmark in your system (which at the time was going through a gamut of speaker changes as part of a myriad of reviews being done for PF) to which I replied, wow, they have an amp?"

    "I was immediately taken aback with the level of detail given to this unit. Just one glance at the back plate will tell you that this is a well-engineered piece of equipment. Fully Balanced = Check. Speakon Outputs = Check. Bridging Support = Check. Input Sensitivity Adjustment = Check. 12v Trigger support = Check."

    "So, how does it sound, after all of that? Well, this thing is no slouch. It's phenomenal! Gobs of power, detail, finesse and control."

    - Peter Davey, Positive Feedback

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    AHB2 Review - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

    AHB2 Review - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

    by Benchmark Media Systems May 10, 2017

    AHB2 - "It improved my listening pleasure for a song that I have probably heard 500 times."

    "As with a Class A amplifier, I could detect the muscle of the AHB2 and hear it in the sheer weight of presentation in the lower octaves."

    "The AHB2 can drive virtually any speaker load with significant power--especially in monaural mode--yet it never lacked finesse on delicate passages."

    "It is a technologically advanced and remarkable amplifier ..." 

    - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

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    DAC3 Review - Marty Feldmann, Connoisseur Corner

    DAC3 Review - Marty Feldmann, Connoisseur Corner

    by Benchmark Media Systems April 07, 2017

    DAC3 - "Musical truth"

    "So, what exactly is musical truth?"

    "The truth is when your senses receive what the artist intended to portray. When the audio quality gets to your ears at a more accurate level, the groove and emotion of the music improves accordingly, getting you closer to exactly what occurred in the studio or at the live concert, in a blood, sweat and tears kind of way…"- Marty Feldmann

    "The folks at Benchmark Media, with their background in the recording industry, are driven to get that musical truth into the home with their products. With the release of the original DAC1 models and the second generation DAC2, Benchmark has been on the bleeding edge of digital technology trends, especially from a price/performance perspective."

    "In my time with the DAC3 I kept going back to my musician days, and the time I would spend in the studio. The immediacy and intimacy of how everything sounded, from single tracks to the completed mix of a song all came to mind. That says a lot to me about this DAC…! Musical truth…"

    - Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, Connoisseur Corner

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    DAC3 Review - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

    DAC3 Review - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

    by Benchmark Media Systems March 29, 2017

    DAC3 - "The DAC3 soundstage is highly accurate, and its sound is among the best at any price."

    "Benchmark Media began in the mid-1980s providing audio equipment to television broadcast facilities. Today it is recognized amongst recording professionals and high-end audio enthusiasts for producing high-end, sonically transparent components. This philosophy is inherent in all of Benchmark's products--digital-to-analog converters, analog-to-digital converters, preamps, and amplifiers--and it plays right into the sweet spot of high-resolution audio."

    "After Benchmark announced the release of the DAC3 HGC, I was quick to contact the company and request a review sample. I was excited after reading about Benchmark's enthusiastic endorsement of the new ESS PRO SABRE chips and had a hunch that the new DAC3 could be a significant step forward in Benchmark's DAC lineage."

    "The DAC3 also possesses an uncanny ability to resolve hidden details that typically get lost in a mix. With more resolved detail, the tonality of instruments sounds more real."

    - Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

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    DAC3 Review - What Hi*Fi?

    DAC3 Review - What Hi*Fi?

    by Benchmark Media Systems March 10, 2017

    DAC3 HGC - "Expansive soundstage populated with nicely layered instrumentation."

    "Tonally things are well balanced, with no part of the frequency range gaining undue prominence. This is coupled to a good dose of refinement, so any aggressive tendencies in recordings, while revealed, are never overemphasised."

    "Like all the best products, the Benchmark manages the difficult feat of stepping out of the limelight and letting the music take centre stage."

    - What Hi*Fi?

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    DAC3 Review - Dan Worth, Hifi Pig

    DAC3 Review - Dan Worth, Hifi Pig

    by Benchmark Media Systems February 09, 2017

    DAC3 - "Produced definitions of clarity that pushed away inner walls"

    "My system felt like a dominant force when I introduced the Benchmark DAC3 HGC to the middle shelf of my rack. With the implementation of the latest ESS9028PRO chip from Sabre, Benchmark’s own team of experts, tweaking the accompanied circuitry and the feature rich design offered in this petite package, a genetically modified version of the already popular DAC2 is born."

    - Dan Worth, Hifi Pig

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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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    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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    AHB2 Review - Aleksander Radisavljevic, RAAL Advanced Loudspeakers

    AHB2 Review - Aleksander Radisavljevic, RAAL Advanced Loudspeakers

    by Benchmark Media Systems December 16, 2016

    AHB2 - "I Took a Leap of Faith"

    It's not the first time I've heard Error-Correction amplifiers, but those were prototypes that weren't working all too well. Classic feedback, TIM-free design was better, so I was afraid that AHB2 might be “wrong” somehow. It took a little bit of “leap-of-faith” to buy one, but I could not ignore the advice I was given about it, as it was given by people that are insiders in this Audio industry of ours. I'm happy to say that my thoughts of Error Correction approach being maybe wrong, could not be farthest from the truth.

    "End of the Journey"

    What can I say ... maybe the shortest way to summarize it would be this: the AHB2 is the end of the journey for me. I have no desire for ever going back to typical multi-thousand Dollar High-End amplifiers.

    - Aleksandar Radisavljević, Founder and Director of RAAL

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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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    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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    AHB2 Award -

    AHB2 Award - "2016 Golden Ear Award", The Absolute Sound

    by Benchmark Media Systems August 30, 2016

    AHB2 - Receives The Absolute Sound's 2016 Golden Ear Award!

    "Used within its 100Wpc rating, this is in any practical sense a perfect power source, with by far the lowest measured noise and distortion of any amplifier currently on the market."

    "... if you need more power, buy two and strap them for dual mono at 380 watts a side."

    "Either way, power just doesn't get any cleaner or purer than this."

    "Neutrality and accuracy are the names of its game ... a sense of being plugged right into the source."

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