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DAC2 & AHB2 Review - Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback

DAC2 & AHB2 Review - Gary L Beard, Positive Feedback

Benchmark AHB2 Power Amplifier

AHB2 - "Could be Your Last Amp"

"It could well be the last amp you'll ever own. Yes, it is that good."

"Benchmark Media Systems Pro-centric products tout exceptional specifications, and their AHB2 amplifier--developed in tandem with engineers from THX and using their patented HX Achromatic™ Audio Amplifier technology—uses some rather unusual patented designs to get to those remarkable spec numbers. Personally, I do not subscribe to the "specs are everything" idiom, nor do I believe that just because a uniquely designed piece of gear uses a phalanx of "new" circuit methodologies that cross against the grain of normal, they are somehow better or worse than everything else available." 

DAC2 HGC

DAC2 - "Slathered in Near-Universal Praise"

"The Benchmark AHB2 is a very good amp, and the DAC2 is a very good DAC—it's no wonder that they have been slathered in near-universal praise."

"Between the two, there is a dizzying array of protective circuits, connections, and set-up choices; and both have been engineered to replay the truth and nutin' but the truth. And when discussing the two as a system, the Law of Diminishing Returns quickly comes into play, as these two partners in musical misbehavior sound great together and cost less--with Benchmark cables included—than my Pass XA 30.8 amp alone. To be sure, my reference Pass is a fantastic amplifier, but the  AHB2 has its own charms that I found played to my own listening biases."

The Sound of Two Benchmarks

"Listening to the BM system gave me many goosebump moments with its rhythmic drive and transparency to the source. The pair display excellent treble extension, wonderful midrange, and deep, well controlled bass. The presentation is spot-lit, precise, even delicate at times. I've often heard the term "lit-up" used to describe the sound of audio components—the BM system has this wonderful quality. I suppose this is a result of a very resolving upper-midrange, because I do not detect any unnatural boost of this "presence" range. The system, and especially the AHB2, is very dynamic—and there is a lithe airy quality to the amp too—until hammer comes down. Boom boom, baby… take that, says Stanley Jordan!  There is incredible separation of instruments and voices, and the system is so quiet, at times, on older stereo material, it seemed as if only one speaker was hooked up! The DAC2 HGC is not quite as dimensional as some DACs I've heard, but depth is quite good, and staging is wall to wall. Here is the best part; the AHB2 and DAC2 HGC convey naturalness that is unexpected, with subtle harmonic overtones that make music and voices come alive. They both have a musical presence that never failed to pull me in to the musical story, causing abrupt outbursts of enthusiastic, yet ill-advised, singing."

"Yep. Good stuff, those BM boys."

- Gary L Beard, Positive-Feedback

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"The AHB2 bridgeable stereo amplifier ... was the topic of a recent discussion between American electrostatic panel speaker manufacturer Sound Lab’s president, Dr. Roger West, and me."

"In our discussion, he related his highly positive experience in driving even his largest, $55k Majestic 945 panels with the $7,000 pair of Benchmark Media AHB2 monoblocks, along with the $3,050 LA4 Preamplifier and factory XLR cables."

"Dr. West described the AHB2 as a class AB design using “feed-forward distortion reduction [thus removing] any possibility of pushing the margin of safety of a standard feedback loop, used in most amplifiers, into an unstable oscillatory mode.”"

"He further shared with me that “this is of most concern on powerful musical transients. The distortion of the amplifier in the balanced mode is astonishingly low even at just below the clipping level of 380 watts.”"

"The prospect of the AHB2’s specified distortion level of 0.00015% or lower when at full volume is comical at first glance, but upon actual audition the impact of the achievement is very audible from medium-high listening levels and upward."

"It was unlike any other sub-$20,000 amplifier I have auditioned."

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"This pairing created a full-bodied sound which brought the recording to life."

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"Wow! It was deep, tight and conveyed a real feeling that the electronics were in charge of the transducers."

"Involuntary foot-tapping confirmed the timing ability and the overall presentation was spot-on, the Benchmark electronics created a fluent sound across a vivid soundstage; performers evident both tonally and spatially in an easy-to-believe presentation that brought the performance close."

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"Above all, the improved transient response performance stood out in a presentation that was not only lively but incredibly fast and revealing. The attack and decay displayed was awesome and not something I expect at this price point."

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