HRA System - "I loved the open, colorful, well-balanced, and immediate sound of this system."
"I was happy to have finally heard the Benchmark AHB2 power amp that Kal Rubinson and so many others have raved about."
SMS1 - "Airy mids, confident and powerful bass, spacious soundstage"
"I was impressed by the broad nature of the SMS1 soundstage. Clarinets and strings had a beautifully resonant aspect, letting the ear know that all of these instruments had a specific character. Another feature of the soundstage was the piano’s ability to make itself heard."
"The space and air around the midrange helps these speakers to tackle even the most complex of arrangements while the allied meaty bass means that they will be a good performer within any genre of music."
- Paul Rigby, The Audiophile Man - audiophileman.com
AHB2 - "An immediacy that makes for uncanny realism"
"Orchestral dynamics were also well served, as the amp has considerable speed and an ability to deliver serious power with alacrity, and there's no sense of overhang in the bass."
"Dr. Feelgood's 'Roxette' [Down By The Jetty, United Artists] raised the hairs on the back of my neck. The Benchmark has an immediacy that makes for uncanny realism, so a track like this is more intense and vital, more powerful in fact."
"The Benchmark SMS1 had been supplied with the amps with a view of doing a whole system eview, a state of affairs that came to pass with gusto when I discovered just how well the combination gelled."
"The Benchmark pairing proved analytical (in typical studio style) but not dry - just very revealing of recording style and balance."
HRA System - "I was impressed with the sense of space"
"I was admittedly quite cruel with my initial choice of listening material ... Vladimir Homyakov playing Bach organ works on the Eule organ at St. Alexander Church in Cheylyabinsk. Yes, we're going to try playing organ music on a modestly-sized pair of bookshelf speakers! And my jaw dropped. Unexpected depth there is, and natural it sounds too. I was also impressed with the sense of space the system created; it felt uncannily as if I was in the church"
"Benchmark ... has managed an impressive feat. If you want a large-scale yet musical sound but don't have the space for big boxes, they're well worth checking out."
HRA System - "My favorite true sub $10,000 system"
"The best 'budget' system at the show ... my favorite true sub $10,000 system was a great offering from Benchmark Media Systems, at just $7,500 dollars for a very capable system cables and all, this system takes the cake."
- Rick LaFaver, Enjoy the Music.com
SMS1 - "I easily preferred the Benchmark"
"I easily preferred the Benchmark SMS1 to the other three loudspeaker systems, for both the classical and the popular recordings. It provided the largest and most spacious soundstage, the most precise imaging, with solo vocals accurately placed in the center of the stereo image."
"If you’re in the market for a small, accurate monitoring system, the SMS1 deserves serious consideration."
- Gary Galo, Audioxpress
SMS1 - "Voices sounded genuinely lifelike, with a blessed absence of sibilance"
"There was no compromising of the vocals’ clarity, no clouding of the space."
"The SMS1 has a high crossover point, so the larger driver is acting as a true mid/bass unit. Suffice it to say, voices sounded genuinely lifelike, with a blessed absence of sibilance."
"What made it so involving was the way the harmonies meshed, the resolving power of the tweeter ensuring that each singer could not only be heard clearly, but defined in their own space."
"This classy monitor has a distinct character, leaning toward the rich at the bottom and the analytical at the top, rather than the totally neutral ‘studio’ sound I might have anticipated. If the balance suits your taste, you'll find it sounds bigger than a small two-way, it’s easy to drive and the perceived value suggests a price of at least a grand more."
- Ken Kessler, Hi-Fi News
HRA System - "One of the most rewardingly clean, natural, and engaging sounds at the show"
"At under $10,000 total, this system offered one of the most rewardingly clean, natural, and engaging sounds at the show."
"From the soup of the DAC2 HGC, AHB2 amplifier, and SMS1 monitors to the nuts of the speakers stands and system cabling, everything in the room was produced and sold by Benchmark. This was my first experience of listening to how the company actually intends their gear to sound."
"AXPONA presented me with my first chance to sit down and listen to something familiar. A neat Bruce Brown reworking of Neil Young’s “Old Man” hit the hard drive, and we took the system for a tear-jerking spin."
"Hearing it all put together makes clear just how massively Benchmark has refined their skills."
- Mal Kenney, Part-Time Audiophile
SMS1 - "An excellent pro-caliber passive monitor"
"The SMS1 is an excellent pro-caliber passive monitor. It’s what I expect from a Benchmark product."
"The compact Benchmark SMS1 is an impressive, two-way crossover speaker with Benchmark’s typical attention to quality. Its compact size makes it easy to place, and it is suitable for many kinds of listening environments. Standout characteristics include vocal clarity and imaging."
"The Benchmark SMS1 is a first rate speaker. It goes on my list of recommended small speakers and recipient of the Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award."
- John Gatski, Everything Audio Network
SMS1 - "Just really good sound"
"After just a couple of minutes of Thrasher Dream Trio, a jazz album featuring drummer Gerry Gibbs, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter, I realized, "I'm really enjoying this!" I didn't hear any of the kinds of flaws that would normally distract or discourage me when first "meeting" a speaker. No obvious "cupped hands" coloration from the woofer. No boom in the bass. No major frequency response anomalies. No edge, grit, glare or grain. Just really good sound."
"If you're looking for a high-end bookshelf speaker -- or even just for a good speaker, period -- you should give this one a listen. I think you'll realize, as I did, that after the first couple of tunes, you're blown away not by how spectacular the sound is, but how good it is."
- Brent Butterworth, Stereos.About.com
HRA System - "A beautiful midrange and well-defined extremes"
"The big news in the familiar-looking Benchmark room was ..."
"The AHB2 high-resolution power amp has been further refined, with a high S/N ratio even at minimal output and topology that claims to achieve full 24-bit resolution from digital signals."
"The crossover of the SMS-1 The Benchmark loudspeaker has been changed."
"The DAC2 DX adds pro connectors and dual output busses to familiar and well-regarded electronics."
"The sound was especially impressive from such a small loudspeaker. Keb Mo sounded great, with a beautiful midrange and well-defined extremes."
- Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile
SMS1 - "Pulled off the tough trick of sounding neutral yet very detailed and spacious"
"Benchmark is known for digital-to-analog converters (DACs), but it's recently been expanding into other products, including the first amplifier to use THX's new high-efficiency, all-analog technology, and the new SMS1 minispeaker."
"The SMS1 is a rebranded and somewhat improved version of the Studio Electric SE Monitor. As designer David Macpherson, owner of Studio Electric, told me, Benchmark's engineers were able to refine the circuit-board layout and acquire parts with tighter tolerances."
"I thought the SMS1 pulled off the tough trick of sounding neutral yet very detailed and spacious."
- Brent Butterworth, Sound Stage
HRA SYSTEM - "The whole system was under $10,000 and just killed."
"I've enjoyed the Benchmark Media Systems rooms over the past few shows when they've shared their room with Studio Electric using their excellent sounding speakers."
"This time around, Benchmark were showing not just their excellent DAC2 L, but also their new AHB2 100 wpc amp and SMS1 speakers. With the exception of real deep bass (though certainly more than you would expect from speakers this size) this system the sound was smooth, expressive, dynamic and rich."
"The whole system was under $10,000 and just killed."
- Steve Lefkowicz, Positive-Feedback.com