"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
"I was led to Benchmark Media Systems through recommendations from Roger West, the designer of Sound Lab speakers. Praise from a local Sound Lab dealer and a local Sound Lab owner effectively twisted my arm to the point where I yielded to temptation to try the amplifiers ..."
"The Class-H Benchmarks give me what I wanted from Class-D amplifiers, but with the musical engagement, I found lacking in Class-D. There is the added benefit of a company that has been in business for over 36 years and has a depth of products, and offers an extended warranty."
"The highest compliment I can pay a piece of audio equipment is that it has found a home in my system. A pair of AHB2s are now part of my dedicated summertime amplification for my Sound Lab 545PX loudspeakers."
"The Benchmark performance continues to engage me, and the company gives me confidence in long-term support."
AHB2 - "I Purchased Two Units With My Hard-Earned Money"
"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."
"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."
AHB2 - As a Headphone Amplifier - "My Daily Driver V2.0"
Hifiman Susvara Headphones - Driven by Benchmark AHB2
"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.
AHB2 - Mono Mode - "The Playback in Mono Mode is Off the Charts"
"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."
"The playback in mono is 'off the charts' ... there's no going back really. You have been warned!"
"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."
"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 theAHB2to 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'sSpeakOn connectors on the output side."
"Thumbs firmly aloft then for this compact, versatile, thoughtfully designed, well-built stereo power amplifier."
HPA4 - "Cleanest, Quietest, Most Neutral, Dynamic and Precise"
"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."
"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."
AHB2 - "A Silent Transmitter of Musical Energy"
"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."
DAC3 B - "The HPA4 Allows the DAC to Run Wide Open"
"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."
"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."
DAC3, LA4, AHB2 - "Matched My Idea of Reference Sound"
"Benchmark is an audio brand that started in Texas in 1983. The company then moved to the founder's hometown of Syracuse, New York, and all products are still designed, assembled, and tested at the Syracuse factory. This benchmark has officially arrived in Japan."
"I had the opportunity to listen to all the products of the American audio brand Benchmark Media Systems, and I was very impressed by how well they matched my idea of reference sound."
"The biggest appeal that all the five models we tested have in common is their sound quality, which you can absolutely trust as a reference."
LA4/AHB2 System - "HiVi 2020 Grand Prize" - Amplifier Category
"A compact amplifier with outstanding high performance that is compatible with AV systems."
"In the areas of tonal neutrality and transparency, the B sounds like every other Benchmark I’ve heard, which is to say neutral and transparent. But the DAC3 also has new conversion processing, which is said to make for a 3.5dB increase in headroom above 0dBFS, in turn preventing the DSP intersampling overloads."
"This increase in headroom ... is said to result in subtly improved sound."
LA4 - "Line Amplifier"
"Benchmark prefers to call the LA4 a line amplifier (which may be the more correct term because that is what preamplifiers in fact do: amplify the signal) and offers it in two versions: linestage only, and the identical linestage with an onboard headphone amplifier, called the HPA4."
AHB2 - "A Genuinely Innovative Design"
"Before properly introducing the preamp, however, it is worth the while to recall that the AHB2amplifier is a genuinely innovative design, even, if you will, revelatory, and it set new standards in having by a wide margin the lowest noise and distortion and the widest bandwidth of any amplifier on the market then or now."
DAC3 B, LA4, AHB2 - "The Presentation is Uncanny in its Purity"
"There’s a complete absence of any sort of artifacts or noise; on very clean recordings, the presentation is uncanny in its purity."
"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."