Paul Seydor of The Absolute Sound interviews John Siau, VP and chief designer at Benchmark Media Systems. The interview accompanies Paul's review of the LA4 in the December, 2020 issue of TAS.
"At Benchmark, listening is the final exam that determines if a design passes from engineering to production. But since listening tests are never perfect, it’s essential we develop measurements for each artifact we identify in a listening test. An APx555 test set has far more resolution than human hearing, but it has no intelligence. We have to tell it exactly what to measure and how to measure it. When we hear something we cannot measure, we are not doing the right measurements. If we just listen, redesign, then repeat, we may arrive at a solution that just masks the artifact with another less-objectionable artifact. But if we focus on eliminating every artifact that we can measure, we can quickly converge on a solution that approaches sonic transparency. If we can measure an artifact, we don't try to determine if it’s low enough to be inaudible, we simply try to eliminate it."
- John Siau
A benchmark is a standard or point of measurement to which other things can be compared.
As our name implies, we are committed to excellence. Our products often define the current state-of-the-art in terms of audio performance.
Benchmark products are designed and built by audio enthusiasts. We are musicians, audiophiles and audio professionals who are passionate about audio quality. We also are passionate about the durability and build quality of our products. Most of our products are designed, assembled, tested, and shipped worldwide from our headquarters in Syracuse, NY, USA, where we have been for over 30 years.
Our goal is to build top-quality sonically-transparent products that you will enjoy for years to come.
- John Siau, VP, Benchmark Media Systems
Over 33 years ago (in 1983), Benchmark's founder, Allen H. Burdick, began building analog audio distribution amplifiers for television networks. This application demanded an audio amplifier with a very wide frequency response, very low noise, and very low distortion. The Benchmark DA101 distribution amplifier had a 160 kHz bandwidth, THD+N of 0.00044%, and a SNR of 130 dB, but the power output was only about 40 watts in bridged mono.
For many years, we used our distribution amplifiers to drive the speakers in our listening room. We couldn't buy an amplifier that came close to the performance of our distribution amplifiers, and Allen had often talked about building a bigger amplifier that could match the performance of the DA101.
In 2011 we began to talk about making Allen's dream for a power amp a reality. The goal was to meet or exceed the performance of Allen's DA101, while scaling up the power by a factor of 10.
- John Siau
The AHB2 power amplifier is named in honor of Benchmark's founder, Allen H. Burdick. Allen had a life-long passion for audio, and became one of the leading innovators in the pro-audio industry. Allen was a perfectionist and a prolific engineer. Most early Benchmark schematics bear the initials A.H.B.
Allen's DA101 distribution amplifier helped define the performance goals of the AHB2 power amplifier. The result is an amplifier that Allen would have been proud to call a "Benchmark".
In loving memory of Allen H. Burdick (June 29, 1942 - September 27, 2013).
- John Siau
Since 1983, Benchmark products have been designed, assembled, and tested in the USA. Our products are now shipped to every continent, but we are firmly committed to keeping our manufacturing in the USA.
Watch us transform a solid bar of aluminum into a finished Benchmark faceplate. Learn how sheets of metal are formed into finished enclosures. Watch as hundreds of tiny electronic components are accurately placed on circuit boards. See the chassis and electronic components converge at final assembly where each product is hand assembled. Watch our techniciansrun a comprehensivesequence of performance and safety tests.
- John Siau