"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."
"Succeeds to do a lot Very Well"
"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."
"I'm asking because clearly Benchmark is a highly regarded company here, and plenty of ASR members own Benchmark amplification/DACs. We know they are top of the heap in terms of measured performance, outdoing plenty of the competition in terms of typical distortion measurements."
- @MattHooper, AudioScienceReview.com
AHB2, LA4, DAC3
Subtle aesthetics? Check.
Unobtrusive size? Check.
Solid build? Check.
Made in America? Check.
Best in class? Check.
Superior performance proven by Amir? Check.
Superior customer service? Check (and not just in audio world; best customer service I have experienced from any company, anywhere, ever).
Expensive? For me, yes. Limit of my budget, but buy once cry once.
"The afternoon before the start of the show I ran into John Siau of Benchmark Media Systems. He says to me quietly, “make sure you stop in our room, we have a surprise!” With curiosity suitably piqued, Co-Editor Jim Clements and I paid a visit ..."
"The results were pretty astonishing. A stable, enveloping stereo image that was devoid of any distortion whatsoever."
- Carlo Lo Raso, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
"Sound was extremely well-integrated and controlled, and the bass memorable."
"The Note received signal through the introductory version of the company's Liquid Cables. Each cable contains 27,000 wires. The company's introductory Elephant memory player joined Benchmark Media's AHB2 power amps, DAC3 B D/A processor, and interconnects."
"With the aid of a forthcoming DEQX HDP4 processor that's due in the fall, the system sounded super on a 16/44.1 file of the famed rendition of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, recorded by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra for Reference Recordings."