The AHB2 received Stereophile's top "A" rating for power amplifiers.
"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."
HPA4 - "Has the HiFiMan 100% Under Control"
"The HPA4 has the HIFIMan one hundred percent under control, eliciting neutral timbres, tons of spatial information and crisp dynamics."
AHB2 - "First Choice for Driving Difficult Boxes"
"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."
"In short, it is the best tool and therefore the first choice for everyone who wants to drive difficult boxes to maximum performance without going into personal bankruptcy."
"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."
"From top to bottom, the design of the LA4 was meant to do one thing; preserve the sonic integrity of the material that passes through it."
AHB2 - "Unrestricted Dynamics"
"Two words immediately came to mind — unrestricted dynamics."
LA4 and HPA4 - "Immediate Emotional Connection to the Music"
"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."
"With DAC, preamplifier and power amplifier, Benchmark knows how to build a bridge between the professional sector and home hi-fi. Very beautiful."
HPA4 - "A Whopping Six Watts into 16 Ohms"
"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."
AHB2 - "A High Degree of Precision"
"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."
"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."
"TheHPA4combined 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 BenchmarkHPA4exhibits virtually no noise, whether employed as a stereo preamp or headphone amplifier, and his highly transparent, with no audible colorations."
197 Rooms - Benchmark Room Makes the Audio Beatnik "Top 3"
"The overall sonic signature of this room had a remarkable sense of ease and purity. Minute details such as a breathy initial saxophone note or a solo vocalist parting her lips and taking a breath before singing were easily discernable. At the same time, they presented all of the musical energy and rhythm contained within the source material. 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."
"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."
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.
AHB2 - 2018 Editors' Choice Award
"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 AHB2is deadly silent, musically revealing, surprisingly compact, and quite powerful."
- Kalman Rubinson
DAC3 HGC - 2018 Editors' Choice Award
"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, theDAC3, is no exception, and excels at presenting the unvarnished truth, as the artist intended."
AHB2 - Top 3 Finalist - "Amplification Component of the Year"
The competition in the amplification category was very tight. There was a two-way tie for first place between two amplifiers that cost $30,000 a pair and $13,500 a pair.
The Benchmark AHB2 was just two points behind the leaders when the Stereophile reviewers cast their final votes. In all, there were 13 amplifiers that made Stereophile's select list of finalists. The Benchmark AHB2 was the least expensive amplifier on the list, yet it received top scores from the reviewers. The list included amplifiers with stratospheric prices. Six amplifiers were priced between $25,000 and $118,000 a pair!
At Benchmark we believe that a great audio system shouldn't set you back by the cost of a sports car.
"In my September 2018 column, I wrote of my discovery of miniDSP's U-DIO8, which converts multichannel data fed to its USB port to eight S/PDIF or AES-EBU outputs at resolutions of up to 24-bit/192kHz. Armed with a U-DIO8, you can use three or four of your choice of stereo DAC."
5.1 - Three DAC3 Converters and Three AHB2 Power Amplifiers
"I went commando with the DAC3s directly connected to the three AHB2s. All three DAC3s were set to Home Theater Bypass, and I used JRiver Media Center's volume control."
"For the first time I can recall, I heard no noise from my system, even with an ear flush against a tweeter."
"I know that we audiophiles can obsess about small changes and make them seem more important than they actually are, but that's what this hobby is about: Eliminating as many audible flaws as possible, however tiny. In this case, the effect was striking at first listen, and endured through everything I played, even tracks that had troubled me before."
"RMAF 2018was really good, with significant numbers of attendees, and more new-product introductions than I remembered ever seeing there."
"Led by engineer John Siau and based in Syracuse, New York, Benchmark Media Systems has built a sterling reputation for making compact, well-engineered, moderately priced electronics that challenge the state of the art, both on the test bench and in the listening room."
"What I took notice of were the specifications: total harmonic distortion of less than 0.00006%, and a signal/noise ratio exceeding 135dB from 20Hz to 20kHz."
"If those claims are true, and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t -- Benchmark gear has always performed as specified on the test bench -- the LA4 should be about as transparent-sounding a line-stage as you can find at any price."
"John Atkinson's measurements corroborated Benchmark's claim that the DAC3 is capable of "at least" 21-bit performance ..."
AHB2 - "135 dB A-Weighted Dynamic Range"
"Benchmark created an amplifier that more than matched the DAC3's dynamic range: the AHB2. Bridged to mono, the AHB2 has a claimed A-weighted dynamic range of 135dB ... it now sits in Class A of Stereophile's 'Recommended Components.'"
Benchmark System - "Richer and More Interesting"
"Through the Benchmark amps those quiet sounds were richer and more interesting. There seemed to be more going on in those quiet moments. It's harder to describe than it was to hear."
"Over the course of several days, I went back and forth between the Benchmark amplifiers and heard it every time. The difference didn't go away."
AHB2 - "Class A Recommended Component" - 2018 - Power Amps
'Class A' is Stereophile's highest classification for recommended components. Very few components receive this elite classification. Stereophile defines 'Class A' as follows:
"Best attainable sound for a component of its kind, almost without practical considerations; "the least musical compromise." A Class A system is one for which you don't have to make a leap of faith to believe that you're hearing the real thing."
AHB2 - "Ideally Suited for Hard-to-Drive Speakers"
The Benchmark Media AHB2 showed the highest level of audioperformance in all metrics. Despite being a half-rack-sized compact product, it provided a constant voltage across a wide range of loads. In stereo mode, it performed well into a1Ω impedance load at phase angles of 0, ± 30, and even ± 60 degrees which is a very harsh operating environment. The amplifier is ideally suited forlow-impedance and phase-shifted loudspeakers, which are commonly referred to as "hard-to-drive speakers."
In SNR and THD measurements are very impressive,exceeding some of the measurement limits ofthe best measurement equipment available. The stereo-mode output of100 W into8Ω and 400 W into2Ω ismore than sufficientoutput under mostconditions. If you need more power, you can use the bridged-mono mode.