"The AHB2 might look small and lightweight, but thanks to its clever engineering and power supply implementation, this little fellow could still deliver 190 Watts in 4 Ohms and 100 Watts in 8 Ohms, while maintaining an undetectable noise floor and distortion."
"For the craziest folks out there, you can even bridge two pieces together for ~580 Watts in 4 Ohms and 380W in 8 ohms."
"Thor almighty! This thing has some amazingly thick panels all around it, adding a level of confidence and refinement. It looks plain and industrial, but I really dig its minimalist body."
"You know what I like the most about it? Its bullet-proof protection systems!"
"Fault conditions silently mute both output channels in order to protect the speakers and amplifier from any damage."
"I somehow forgot ... blasting 380Watts of power into my KEF Reference 3 after pressing the play button. A microsecond didn’t pass and both AHB2 engaged their protection circuits and muted themselves without causing any harm to my loudspeakers."
"For almost a year now, AHB2 saved my speakers twice."
"The key words with AHB2 are: world-class detail retrieval, absolute transparency, lightning-fast transient response, an open wide soundstage with a very precise layering and positioning of the notes around the listener, all tightly controlled with an iron grip, never sounding too mellow, sluggish or all over the place."
"The highest compliment I can give to AHB2 is that I purchased not one, but two units with my hard-earned money. These weren’t loaner units and this wasn’t a sponsored review and you can draw your own conclusions."
- Sandu Vitalie, SoundNews.net
"When I’ve received the mighty Hifiman Susvara, I felt overwhelmed by…disappointment. I said to myself: “This is really it? This is how the world’s best headphones are sounding?”"
"Months later, I’ve received a special adapter cable so I could power them with all sorts of integrated and power amplifiers (speaker amplifiers) and that’s when I felt connected to the all known universe, turning them into a gemstone of a headphone."
"Holy mother of Thor, this is dynamics, speed, transient response, resolution and transparency incarnate into a single metal box. There isn’t a clearer, a more resolving or a more transparent sounding amplifier out there, this is a wire with gain amplifier that doesn’t add anything into the mix."
"You can’t get a more impactful, a faster or cleaner sounding amplifier.
- Sandu Vitalie, SoundNews.net
"Benchmark Media Systems Inc from Syracuse, New-York is an American company and has been one of the top pro-audio manufacturers for thirty years. In recent years they have also ventured into the consumer market with considerable success."
"In collaboration with THX came the AHB2 power amplifier and not much later they developed a suitable headphone amplifier and preamplifier, the HPA4 and LA4 respectively."
"The HPA4 and AHB2 have been a fixture in our reference set for several years now."
"In stereo mode we get a nice 100 watts (8 ohms class A/B) but in mono that goes to an impressive 380 watts!"
"We set the small switch on the back of the AHB2s to mono and connect each speaker to an AHB2."
"Is it worth buying a second AHB2?"
"We say a resounding yes."
"The extra power (380 watts!) not only gives you more control over your speakers, but so much more."
"The playback in mono is 'off the charts'."
"There's no going back really. You have been warned!"
- Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio
"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."
"Thumbs firmly aloft then for this compact, versatile, thoughtfully designed, well-built stereo power amplifier."
- Rafael Todes, Stereonet.com
Stereonet Applause Award - Benchmark AHB2
"Benchmark Media Systems is a well-regarded brand that is known for its high-quality DACs and ADCs that also find their way into professional studios."
"In 2014 they introduced the AHB2 power amplifier, using patented THX AAA amplifier technology, that brought previously unheard of low levels of distortion, and high SNR capability."
"Last year Benchmark released the LA4 preamplifier and the HPA4 headphone amplifier. Both components use an ultra-precision relay-based volume control and feature vanishingly low levels of distortion."
"The DAC3 B is an alternate version of the DAC3 DX that ... simply does away with the included volume control and headphone jacks which makes it ideal to use with the HPA4 or LA4."
"The Benchmark DAC3 B ... is a finely executed example of a modern ESS-based digital to analog converter."
"The Benchmark “stack” ... saw use with a wide variety of loudspeakers and other electronic equipment."
"Having the Benchmark stack here for an extended period also made me re-evaluate a few things about how and what I use to review equipment."
"I dare say that they produced as clean and noise-free a stereo playback chain as I have ever come across."
"The Benchmark Media Systems HPA4 preamplifier, AHB2 power amplifier, and DAC3 B are, individually, exceptionally transparent and well-designed audio devices."
"When used as a system the resulting synergy was even more revealing."
"I liked them so much that I purchased them for my reference system. Nuff said!"
- Carlo Lo Raso, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
"When the folks at Benchmark suggested a review of their HPA4 for Tape Op, my first reaction was, “Isn’t this aimed more at the audiophile market?” Benchmark’s Rory Rall replied that I should consider its use as a reference-grade monitor controller, with a world-class headphone amp built-in. He recommended I pair it with my Benchmark DAC3 B digital-analog converter and use it to drive my Benchmark AHB2 power amp."
"When I previously reviewed the Benchmark AHB2, I described it as being as close to a straight wire with gain as I’ve ever heard – “a silent transmitter of musical energy.” I stand by that description after four years of living and listening to it."
"The HPA4 is built on the idea of avoiding any sort of bit-stripping volume control in the digital realm. So a full-output DAC sends it line-level audio."
"The volume knob is a 256-step precision encoder, driving relays that engage resistors, in 0.5 dB steps."
"Allow me to rave about the HPA4’s built-in headphone amp. Designed using similar technology as the AHB2 and licensed from THX (Benchmark calls it the THX-888 Amplifier), this is the cleanest, quietest, most neutral headphone amp I’ve ever heard."
"The HPA4 has no trouble playing music dynamically and precisely through any headphones I own."
"I can’t think of anything else that will get you closer to the sound coming out of your sources."
"Combined with Benchmark’s DAC and power amp with excellent speakers and headphones plugged in, this is quite the monitoring chain."
"When playing music you love, it will fire all the pleasure synapses."
- Tom Fine, Tape Op
"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
"Much more apparent low-level detail in already-familiar recordings"
"Sounded more 'right' than any of [the other amps on hand]."
- Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile
"An extraordinary amplifier"
- John Atkinson, Stereophile
"In measuring the AHB2 and attempting to confirm its specified (very) high signal/noise ratio, JA observed nonlinearities in his testing equipment that "haven't affected the measured performance of other amplifiers I've tested, but they were detectable with the AHB2's very low intrinsic distortion and noise." His conclusion: "an extraordinary amplifier.""
"Class A" is Stereophile's highest award for power amplifiers.
"The benchmark combination offers a full range of equipment that can hardly be topped, leaves nothing to be desired in terms of sound, and meets professional requirements without any ifs or buts."
"The HPA4 has the HIFIMan one hundred percent under control, eliciting neutral timbres, tons of spatial information and crisp dynamics."
"I connected everything the household had to offer in terms of speakers - Spendor S3 / 5, Ayon Seagull / c, Quad ESL57. It goes without saying that the American coped with the dynamic boxes with ease. But even the quads, which have some meanness on the part of their impedance, did not pose a challenge for the amp."
"There are many things that come into play when putting together a hi-fi system, one of which is synergy."
"After the arrival of the Benchmark Media Systems AHB2, I immediately thought of the matching HPA4 that colleagues Jaap and Yung were very pleased with."
"The key question, of course, was whether the HPA4 would really provide an audible improvement."
"Well you bet! The synergy between preamp and power amplifier is nothing short of magical, not to mention the DAC3 B that I got from importer Helios for the occasion."
"Not only a few curtains disappear, the whole window is gone."
- Geoffrey Vanhouwaert, Alpha-Audio
"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
"Prior to reviewing these Benchmark components, I had heard the company’s products powering some of my favorite-sounding rooms at several audio shows. Based on what I’d heard at these shows, I was eager to hear how this equipment could perform in my own listening room."
"Listening to the Benchmark gear in my own room, I felt an immediate and gratifying emotional connection to the music I was hearing."
"The LA4 and AHB2 tear down so many of the usual walls that come between the listener and the music."
"If you value transparency and accuracy, the LA4 and AHB2 will perform beyond your highest expectations."
- Drew Gagliano, The Audio Beatnik
"With DAC, preamplifier and power amplifier, Benchmark knows how to build a bridge between the professional sector and home hi-fi. Very beautiful."
"If you value transparent, precise sound, but at the same time want a certain level of comfort and at least a little elegance, you are in good hands with the Americans."
"The DAC3, HPA4 and AHB2 are all characterized by their wonderfully transparent sound and their high degree of precision. At the same time, sufficient amenities are offered to offer adequate comfort. A successful mix."
"I ended up visiting this room more than any other room at the show. I couldn’t help myself; I had to keep coming back for more!"
- Drew Gagliano, TheAudioBeatnik.com
"The HPA4 combined with the Benchmark AHB2 power amplifier ranks as the quietest rig I've heard (or not heard). Even with the gain up to full with no signal, there is no hiss, hum, or buzz, even when I placed my ears within a in inch of the drivers on 89 dB sensitive loudspeakers."
"As a headphone amplifier, the HPA4 was first rate. Whether it was my most power-hungry headphones, which currently are the new Abyss Diana Phi, or my most sensitive IERs, such as the Empire Ears Phantoms, there was no added noise or lack of adequate gain."
"The Benchmark HPA4 exhibits virtually no noise, whether employed as a stereo preamp or headphone amplifier, and his highly transparent, with no audible colorations."
"If you are looking for a preamplifier/headphone amplifier that you can live with happily for a long time, you should consider the Benchmark HPA4 at the top of your must-audition list."
- Steven Stone, HomeTheaterReview.com
"The AHB2 easily outperforms the DIY Hypex NC400 I had tested before which used to be the best amp I had tested."
"THD+N versus output level looks far cleaner than anything I have tested before."
"Intermodulation distortion versus power level shows the same story of clean power."
Signal to Noise Ratio:
(unweighted, 22.5 kHz BW)
Ch1: 130.286 dB
Ch2: 130.180 dB
-0.3 dB at 20 kHz
-3 dB down at 200 kHz!!
"Since this is not a switching amplifier, there is no filter there allowing the bandwidth to go to 200 kHz and beyond."
Stereo Power into 4 Ohms:
"We have 185 watts of power at incredibly low distortion of 0.00016%, besting the company specifications."
Bridged Mono Power into 4 Ohms:
"500 watts into 4 ohm! Stunning 0.00026% distortion at 500 watts!!"
"It goes without saying that the Benchmark AHB2 breaks new ground ... gets my strongest recommendation."
- Amir Majidimehr, AudioScienceReview.com
"The AHB2 power amps ... are fantastic."
"I use them as mono blocks due to my power hungry speakers."
"I hear clarity, precision and an openness in the treble that I haven't heard in my speakers before."
"The HPA4 line and headphone preamp and the power amps are made for each other..."
- Ulrike Schwarz, Anderson Audio NY
"The effortless and free-flowing nature of the Martin Logans paired up nicely with the transparent AHB2 amplifiers."
"The tonality and realism of the instruments were spectacular. An alto saxophone sounded as if it was in the room with me, and the pitch and timbre of both male and female vocals were absolutely spot-on. It was clear that nothing in this system was getting in the way of the music."
"Their room had a remarkable degree of transparency that made every listener feel closer to the music."
- Drew Gagliano, TheAudioBeatnik.com
"Aleksandar Radisavljevic used this American amplifier as his reference during R&D of the Raal Requisite SR1a earfield monitors(tm)."
"He's tried ... Bryston, Pass, Krell, McIntosh, Classe and more ... to him and on his own recordings, the AHB2 still sounds the most like live music."
"With Product of the Year 2014-2017 awards from various high-profile publications, our Benchmark amplifier has been comprehensively covered many many moons ago - on standard loudspeakers. But nobody yet thought to review it on headphones."
- Srajan Ebaen, 6Moons.com
Stereophile's editors chose 10 products to receive their top award, the "2018 Product of the Year - Editor's Choice Award". Two Benchmark products made this exclusive list - the AHB2 power amplifier and the DAC3 HGC D/A converter.
"I was impressed by this revolutionary stereo amplifier but it became an obsession when I mated three as monoblocks to a trio of Benchmark's DAC3s."
"The AHB2 is deadly silent, musically revealing, surprisingly compact, and quite powerful."
- Kalman Rubinson
"Benchmark has created a long line of DACs (several of which I've purchased) that present recordings with as little embellishment as is possible at their price points. The latest incarnation, the DAC3, is no exception, and excels at presenting the unvarnished truth, as the artist intended."
- Jon Iverson