The AHB2 was one of only 11 finalists in Stereophile's "Amplification Component of the Year" category. The finalists included 6 power amplifiers, 2 preamplifiers, 2 integrated amplifiers, and 1 headphone amplifier. This elite selection of amplification products included power amplifiers ranging in price from $2,995 (Benchmark AHB2) to $52,000 a pair (Vandersteen M7-HPA).
At $52,000 the Vandersteen includes a chassis milled from a solid billet of aluminum, liquid cooling and a vibration dampening suspension. It is an impressive example of mechanical engineering and industrial design.
At $2,995, the Benchmark AHB2 delivers the quietest, cleanest power available at any price.
The AHB2 proves that top-quality audio can be affordable.
The Benchmark DAC3 is the first product to ship with the new ESS Technology ES9028PRO D/A converter chip.
"Via headphones I definitely could hear more space around the instruments and an increased precision in transients — like cymbals and upper-register piano notes."
"In terms of new functions, the DAC3 switches a lot faster between inputs, and gone is that audibly phasy transition when you initially switch between two digital sources."
- John Gatski, Publisher, Everything Audio Network
"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."
"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."
"Yep. Good stuff, those BM boys."
- Gary L Beard, Positive-Feedback
"Housed in the same small case as Benchmark's DACs, the ADC1 is a 24-bit USB A/D converter with a Texas Instruments TAS1020B USB chip and a 128x-oversampling, delta-sigma AKM 5394 A/D converter chip."
"The Benchmark produced a natural, coherent overall sound, with clean high frequencies and weighty, extended lows, said JA, who also noted superb measured performance."
"Although similar in appearance to previous Benchmark models, with a front-panel volume control and two 1/4" headphone jacks, the new DAC2 HGC uses four 32-bit ESS Sabre DACs, run in balanced configuration, for a significantly lower noise floor; has a new Hybrid Gain Control (HGC) for volume attenuation, which combines active analog gain control and passive low-impedance attenuators in the analog realm with a 32-bit digital DSP gain control for digital signals; and provides front-panel displays for both sample rate and word length."
"It had a pleasantly forward sound, with smooth highs, a solid bottom end, and excellent image separation, said EL."
"Used within its 100Wpc rating, this is in any practical sense a perfect power source, with by far the lowest measured noise and distortion of any amplifier currently on the market."
"... if you need more power, buy two and strap them for dual mono at 380 watts a side."
"Either way, power just doesn't get any cleaner or purer than this."
"Neutrality and accuracy are the names of its game ... a sense of being plugged right into the source."
"In his listening tests, Kalman Rubinson discovered 'much more apparent low-level detail in already-familiar recordings' - a characteristic he credited to the Benchmark's evident noiselessness - and a tonal balance that 'sounded more right' than any of the other amps on hand."
"An extraordinary amplifier" - JA
"In measuring the AHB2 and attempting to confirm its specified very high signal/noise ratio, John Atkinson 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.'"
The AHB2 shares the elite "Class A Recommended" category with amplifiers costing 10 to 20 times more.
"... the only amplifier under $3,000 to be given Stereophile Class A status."
"In our review of the Benchmark AHB2, we absolutely loved what we heard. So much so, in fact, that we gave the Benchmark AHB2 our Amplifier of the Year award."
"It seems that the April 2016 edition of Stereophile Magazine shares our view. Stereophile has just named the Benchmark AHB2 in its prestigious Class A category, meaning it's the best of the best from the products they have reviewed."
"We weren't at all surprised about the AHB2 receiving that prestigious classification. Rather, what surprised us was that it was the only amplifier under $3,000 to be given Class A status."
"When you're competing against products costing 10x, 20x or more and you're mentioned in the same breath, that's a big compliment."
- Poor Audiophile