"The Benchmark AHB2 solid-state stereo power amplifier immediately grabbed the audio world’s attention about 7 years ago when it was introduced."
"There are already a number of reviews, so the purpose of this one is to add another data point, another reaction to add to the knowledge base of this remarkable amplifier."
"Just looking at the amplifier’s diminutive size of about 11 inches wide, 3.9 inches high, and 9.3 inches deep, and 12.5-pound weight will not prepare one for the quality of performance delivered by the nicely finished package."
"The key to the small size and weight is the “tightly regulated resonant switching power supply”, which is claimed to be over 90% efficient. A switching power supply does not require “big iron” power transformers and large capacitors."
"One might well assume that due to these specs the amplifier is some kind of Class D “digital” tech. Not so! The amplifier has a low-bias bipolar class AB output stage which produces far less heat than most other amplifier bias schemes, especially those with high bias Class A output stages."
"Other significant technologies include patented THX-AAA feed forward error correction. This is critical to the excellent sound of the amplifier as it eliminates crossover distortion, the common bane of push-pull amplifiers."
"Immediately upon cuing up the first musical selection, it was perfectly obvious that the AHB2 has outstanding extension in the upper treble, seemingly unlimited. In this regard, the Benchmark amplifier should be compared to excellent Class A or AB amplifier technology."
"The AHB2 lacks the characteristic, almost subliminal harshness in the upper frequencies that is observed in some push-pull amplifiers, but absent in single-ended amplifiers."
"The overall sound is very true to the recording with regular 'virtual reality'-like experiences. These last for long periods of a listening session, not just as a momentary feeling of great sound. This is due to the exceptional linearity across the musical spectrum. The coherence and resolution of all sounds - which have stunning low level resolution - is special, encouraging the listener to maximally enjoy a musical performance."
"The imaging and sound stage is 3D, large and stable. It is a simple exercise to point a finger directly at a performer, even when several are present in the recording. The sonic image is remarkably focused and apparent."
"The Benchmark AHB2 is a very fine sounding, easy to live with, zero-maintenance power amplifier that has enough power for most systems. If more power is needed, two amplifiers configured for mono can provide it. The decision to purchase the review sample and make the Benchmark AHB2 a new, long term reference took over a month of listening and comparisons."
"The outstanding musicality of the Benchmark AHB2 takes some time to convince the listener of its wholly musical presentation. This subtle excellence assures long term satisfaction."
-10 Audio, Perfect 10 Award
"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
"Benchmark's LA4 is the widest-bandwidth, widest-dynamic-range, lowest-noise, lowest-distortion preamplifier I have encountered."
- John Atkinson, Stereophile
"The LA4 is probably the most transparent and revealing audio component I've ever used. It does not seem to leave any fingerprints on the sound."
- Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile
"Class A" is Stereophile's highest award for preamplifiers.