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 ...
"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."
- Ken Redmond, The Audio Beatnik
"This little unit will change the way you look and listen to amplifiers."
"My first taste of this remarkable new amplifier came earlier this year in April at Chicago's AXPONA where I discovered it driving a newly redesigned Studio Electric Pasadena loudspeaker, also bearing the Benchmark trademark. Now called the SMS1, the Pasadena's crossover had been reworked by Benchmark, upgraded with very low tolerance components, and the new look, more in line with the look of the rest of the Benchmark product line up, had been adopted."
"The subsequent sound in this room was one of the most musically engaging I encountered at this year's event, a remarkable result considering its modest overall system price of just over $7000, sans source."
- Greg Weaver, EnjoythMusic.com
Jim Austin wrote, "The DAC3 was all about depths, in several respects . . . I heard deeper into the music."
The concise conclusion to John Atkinson's Measurements sidebar: "All I can say is 'Wow!'"
In a Follow-Up, Jim Austin wrote of using the Benchmark processor with the same company's AHB2 power amp—a combination of high source output voltage and modest amplifier gain that he describes as "optimal for minimizing noise and distortion"—and reported hearing "richer and more interesting" reproduction of very subtle details.
- Stereophile Magazine
"Class A+" is Stereophile's highest award for Digital Processors