In a recent interview by The Poor Audiophile, Laurie Fincham, Vice President of Audio Research at THX, describes the 9-year process that led to the introduction of the revolutionary THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier technology used in the Benchmark AHB2.
"The first thing you need to know about Laurie is that he’s an audiophile’s audiophile. He’s an engineer, music lover, and also a musician..."
"Talking with Laurie was a bit intimidating. For those unfamiliar with Laurie’s distinguished background ... Laurie’s work has garnered him several industry awards including the prestigious AES (Audio Engineering Society) Silver Award..."
"Laurie and I spoke a bit about existing amplifier topologies. “The Class A analog amplifier is a luxury,” he said. “Big, expensive, beautiful, but hot.” We talked about other topologies including recent moves to make audiophile Class D amplifiers. “Most people think Class D is a recent innovation,” Laurie said. “Class D is, in fact, as old as solid state and goes back to the late 50s or 60s.”"
"Instead of building upon existing technologies, Laurie and his team decided to design a better amplifier technology from the ground up. Laurie was quick to point out, “We didn’t invent or reinvent the amplifier. Instead, we looked at the shortcomings, the physics, and developed a technology to deal with that. We were motivated to do better. We didn’t stop.”"
“We’ve been working on the amplifier since 2006 ...
"RMAF 2018 was really good, with significant numbers of attendees, and more new-product introductions than I remembered ever seeing there."
"Led by engineer John Siau and based in Syracuse, New York, Benchmark Media Systems has built a sterling reputation for making compact, well-engineered, moderately priced electronics that challenge the state of the art, both on the test bench and in the listening room."
"What I took notice of were the specifications: total harmonic distortion of less than 0.00006%, and a signal/noise ratio exceeding 135dB from 20Hz to 20kHz."
"If those claims are true, and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t -- Benchmark gear has always performed as specified on the test bench -- the LA4 should be about as transparent-sounding a line-stage as you can find at any price."
- Doug Schneider, SoundStage! Hi-Fi
"Benchmark describes its product as a 'reference Stereo Headphone Amplifier and Reference Line Amplifier with Relay Gain and Input Control', which should give you some idea of what's going on here, but only hints at the fact that this is actually two completely separate products packed into one relatively compact unit."
"The headphone section is powered by a power amp from THX, employing the same AAA (Achromatic Audio Amplifier) technology first used by the company in its AHB2."
"Benchmark's line amplifier uses relays for input selection, gain control and muting while four independent 256-step attenuators ... feed the the headphone ... and preamp outputs."
"As PM notes in his Lab Report, this design gives the HPA4 not only outstanding performance, but also rather impressive - to say the least - signal delivery."
"All of a track or two should do the trick, as whether with revealing headphones ... or used as a preamp, the HPA4 simply drops jaws with the sheer impact, openness and vivacity of the way it plays music."
"It was one of those real 'performer in the room' experiences and I was instantly transported back to the time I spent monitoring the recording as it was being made ..."
- Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News, November 2018