Reviews

AHB2 Award - Home Theater Review - Best of 2017

AHB2 Award - Home Theater Review - Best of 2017

by Benchmark Media Systems December 18, 2017

AHB2 - "Best Stereo Amplifier of 2017"

 

"Masterfully detailed and transparent with spot-on tonality and some serious punch." 

- Ben Shyman, Home Theater Review

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ADC1 Review - Garrett Haines, Tape Op

ADC1 Review - Garrett Haines, Tape Op

by Benchmark Media Systems November 15, 2017

ADC1 - "Very Natural Sounding"

"The ADC1 USB is very natural sounding. What I put in, is what it captures. Should I wish to color a track, I can call upon other gear in my rack."

"In a mastering context, a neutral, flat-sounding converter is very desirable."

"Benchmark’s trademarked UltraLock clocking scheme delivers quality conversion even when slaved to a suboptimal external clock."

"The best standalone clock in the world becomes irrelevant if the receiving converter’s locking system botches the signal. Unfortunately, many manufacturers skimp on PLL synchronization. Thankfully, not Benchmark."

- Garrett Haines, Tape Op

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AHB2 - Driving Martin-Logan ESL 11A Electrostatic Speakers

AHB2 - Driving Martin-Logan ESL 11A Electrostatic Speakers

by Benchmark Media Systems November 14, 2017

AHB2 - Driving Martin-Logan ESL 11A Electrostatic Speakers

Capital Audiofest 2017

"The folks from Benchmark and Martin-Logan teamed up to do something just a little different, and entirely enchanting, in the Jackson Room!"

"The resultant sound was extremely clean and fast, surprisingly dynamic, and the space, as you'd expect with good multi-channel, was get-up-and-walk-around through. Well done!"

- Greg Weaver, enjoythemusic.com

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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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DAC3 Review - Audio-Head.com

DAC3 Review - Audio-Head.com

by Benchmark Media Systems October 03, 2017

DAC3 DX - "The DAC3 hits the mark..."

"If we had to categorize the sound of the DAC3 using three words, those words would be precision, precision and precision."

DAC3 DX with AHB2

"Partnered with the AHB2 power amplifier, the system represents a significant powerhouse in a relatively small footprint."

"Dynamics were surprisingly tight, quick and responsive in a manner that would make most audiophiles take another look at the “pro” side ..."

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DAC3 Review - Mark Marcantonio, Tone Audio

DAC3 Review - Mark Marcantonio, Tone Audio

by Benchmark Media Systems September 16, 2017

DAC3 HGC - "At the top of its class ... highly recommended."

"I’m immediately struck by the way the depth presented by the current model immerses you in the recording."

"Having put the DAC3 through its paces with a wide range of tube and solid state amplifiers for The Audiophile Apartment, as the core of a high performance, yet highly compact system, the DAC3 is a charmer, indeed."

"The three-dimensionality is the best I’ve achieved on my reference system."

"This is a special digital product indeed."

"Since the introduction of the original DAC1, Benchmark has set the industry on its ear..."

"We gave the original DAC1 our first Exceptional Value award in issue 3, and the current DAC3 HGC is an equally good value, earning this award again in 2017."

- Marck Marcantonio, Tone Audio

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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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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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