"I can't think of many amps with dual hi-fi and pro functionality. Maybe Bryston and the odd ATC, but there aren't a lot. However, to this shortlist, we can add Benchmark."
"Two things strike you upon first seeing it – it's surprisingly compact, and it also has the sort of features that make it more at home in a studio than a listening room lounge space."
"You can bridge the AHB2 to make it a monoblock, or bi-wire it to a single speaker; there are only balanced connections incoming, as well as a choice of gain to match the speaker. You get normal speaker binding posts plus a pair of Neutrik's SpeakOn connectors on the output side."
"It runs very cool all the time yet provides a quoted 100W RMS into 8 ohms, both channels driven, and nearly twice that into 4. It's an interesting design, developed jointly with THX. The company says the AHB2 shows no traces of the crossover distortion and delivers less than 0.00011% total harmonic distortion in stereo mode – which is extremely low, if you were in any doubt. It uses a switching power supply – explaining its light 6kg weight and small size – and runs in Class H, with a novel Class AB output stage and multiple power supply rails to improve efficiency."
"I initially gave the amp my pair of B&W 802D3s to play with, appropriately enough a cousin of the speakers than can be found at Abbey Road Studios, just down the road from me."
"Perhaps surprisingly for a pro audio product, it was pleasant and quite detailed, but in no way the type of analytical character I'd expected. I rather liked the even-handedness and general 'considerateness' of the sound; it was grown-up and polite without any artificial edge."
"I then moved it upstairs to my other system, where I've been running a medley of classic monitors of late – Yamaha NS-1000Ms, Quad ESL63s and a recently acquired pair of Rogers LS3/5as."
"Driving the Quad electrostatics, things were more impressive still. These speakers can be a tricky load to drive, but the AHB2 just shrugged them off, apparently not in the least bit bothered by what it was being asked to do. I found the sound was strong and grounded; bass was taut and controlled with nice grip and the midband was crisp and clean, with plenty of detailed information that a sound engineer would find helpful."
"Reviewing the AHB2 was interesting for me, as it reminded me of just how quirky and eccentric my own hi-fi systems have become. The Benchmark is, as its name suggests, more of a jack-of-all-trades that attempts and succeeds to do a lot very well. It's a great leveller because whether I was playing classic rock from REM in the shape of Welcome to the Occupation, or a Debussy prelude, it had a consistent, even, ordered and mature sound backed up by lots of loudspeaker load driving ability."
"Thumbs firmly aloft then for this compact, versatile, thoughtfully designed, well-built stereo power amplifier."
"Benchmark's AHB2 is a class act that delivers an awful lot at its price."
"It also doubles up as an excellent do-it-all stereo power amplifier in someone's home when not being hammered by a dishevelled studio engineer. I make recordings of orchestral and chamber music, so am keenly aware of its abilities both one way and the other."
- Rafael Todes, Stereonet.com
Stereonet Applause Award - Benchmark AHB2
"I don't think it is sterile sounding at all ... it is very neutral."
"In the studio, neutral, flat and detailed are on the top of my list."
"The HPA4 is speeding up my work, helping me make better decisions."
- Ken Jacobsen, Ken Jacobsen Music
"It has already been noted in previous reviews that the professional market often offers products that may also be of interest to the 'ordinary' consumer. In Japan in particular, home systems often consist of a mix of consumer equipment and (vintage) professional items."
"Benchmark was founded in 1983 and started building professional audio equipment."
"The goal, from the outset, is to build sound-transparent equipment of the highest quality. The employees are musicians, audiophiles and audio technicians. So sound quality is top notch."
"The HPA4 and LA4 are preamplifiers and largely identical. The HPA4 also has a built-in headphone amplifier."
"The Benchmark HPA4 and LA4 preamps deliver a very high quality neutral and transparent signal."
"Developed from a professional focus on sound reproduction, they bring the essence of the recording closer to the listener."
- Ruud Jonker, FWD Magazine, fwd.nl
"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