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My humble review of the Benchmark AHB2 and LH4

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Tone?, Jun 1, 2021.

  1. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    The idea behind the Benchmark products is to provide a noise free signal from source to amp output. I don't want to sound critical, but I don't understand injecting tube sound (noise) into the chain.
     
  2. krambigmac

    krambigmac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bellingham MA
    Really just to have the option and to learn about different flavors of sound. I've never really experienced tubes so it would give me a chance to easily listen to both styles. Maybe I'll enjoy some genres or even specific masters more with pure solid state and others with the tubes inserted.
     
    rednedtugent and timind like this.
  3. Bryan T

    Bryan T Forum Resident

    Location:
    L.A.
    I wish I had had the budget to do the DAC, pre, and amp from Benchmark this upgrade cycle.
     
  4. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    I purchased my DAC3 HGC over a year ago. I’m just adding the AHB2 now. If I decide to add the LA4, it probably won’t be until later 2022 or 2023. Adding one piece at a time makes it easier on the wallet.

    (I’m curious why Benchmark named their preamp “LA4”, since that’s also the name of the UREI LA4 compressor, which isn’t really a great compressor like the UA 1176. Guess I’ll never know!).

    [​IMG]
     
    timind likes this.
  5. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Well, in Benchmark's product lit., "LA" stands for "Line Amplifier." I don't know if they produced a LA1, LA2, LA3 previously.
     
    timind likes this.
  6. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    Line Amplifier! How obvious! How did I miss that? :confused:
     
    timind likes this.
  7. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    I've been buying hi-end gear since 1977. I've had the AHB2 for five years. It's my last power amp.

    You have to use very good preamp/source with it.

    Last year I added the HPA4 to the system. The combination is staggeringly good. My Quad's have never sounded better.
     
    recstar24, Helom and timind like this.
  8. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    They also not very imaginatively but with great clarity named their various iterations of DACs, DAC1, DAC2, DAC3...
     
  9. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    And then they go and name their power amp for Benchmark’s founder Allen H. Burdick (AHB2). So inconsistent!
     
  10. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    The dac3 is getting pretty long in the tooth. I wonder when the dac4 will show up?

    I heard a dac3 at home not too long ago - it was very good. I preferred my Chord but I can see many people would prefer the Benchmark. I could live with either.
     
  11. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    It may be long in the tooth, but it can’t be that bad even by 2021 standards. It’s still on Stereophile’s 2021 Recomended Components List with an A+ rating:

    Recommended Components 2021 Edition Digital Processors
     
    timind likes this.
  12. Bryan T

    Bryan T Forum Resident

    Location:
    L.A.
    I was moving from an integrated with a built-in DAC, so my minimum purchase with Benchmark would have been about $5k. Unfortunately, more than I wanted to part with. Still long for the amp!
     
  13. tIANcI

    tIANcI Wondering when the hifi madness will end

    Location:
    Malaysia
    Used the Freya+ with the AHB2, it’s fine. Sounds good but better when you tube roll. Get a couple of Sylvania 6SN7GTAs.
     
    Kal Rubinson and krambigmac like this.
  14. tIANcI

    tIANcI Wondering when the hifi madness will end

    Location:
    Malaysia
    Tubes have a certain ‘magic’ about them. It’s just different. You get that tube holographic sound. As much as they produce distortion it’s the even harmonics that gives it the tube sound which is pleasant to our ears.

    My favourite is still the Cary Audio SLP-05. It’s so good.
     
    timind likes this.
  15. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    I've heard the tube "magic" in my system; it didn't do all that much for me. At this point I don't miss it. Getting holographic sound is not difficult with proper speaker placement and low noise electronics in my experience.
     
    macster, Helom and Tone? like this.
  16. tIANcI

    tIANcI Wondering when the hifi madness will end

    Location:
    Malaysia
    Well … to each their own. I can understand why you might not be into it. Fair enough. Just apples and oranges.
     
    timind likes this.
  17. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    The AHB2 arrived earlier today and I hooked it up to my DAC3 HGC and Harbeth M30.1. The first thing I noticed was it has much more power, more headroom and greater dynamics than the amp it replaced (Dynaco ST-70 Series III). I think the Harbeths just want more power than the Dynaco can provide. I still feel the Dynaco is a great amp (when fitted with good quality tubes), I just think it’s better suited to more efficient speakers. Really enjoying the AHB2…
     
    Kyhl, johnnypaddock, timind and 3 others like this.
  18. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    Location:
    U.S.
    The great thing about the AHB2 is it doesn’t remotely sound strained until it reaches actual full-on clipping. That can’t be said for many SS amplifiers of similar power ratings. For this reason it sounds more powerful in practice than most SS amps I’ve tried/owned in the 80–100 WPC range.

    Of course, if you do enter clipping, the AHB2 will let you know with the indicator. I’ve only triggered it once while playing an incredibly dynamic piece through my Maggie .7s in a large room.
     
    timind likes this.
  19. recstar24

    recstar24 Senior Member

    Location:
    Glen Ellyn, IL
    don’t forget that it’s distortion levels are essentially consistent across power output levels - so it sounds exactly the same at 1 watt all the way to 100+ watts
     
  20. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    Sounds like it's time to order a second one to run in bridge mode then! :winkgrin: :hide:

    Indeed, and those interested should check John Atkinson's measurements: Benchmark Media Systems AHB2 power amplifier Measurements

    The distortion vs power characteristic essentially looks like this _|

    Impressive! And the noise level in the _ section is at the limits of the Audio Precision measuring equipment!!
     
    recstar24 likes this.
  21. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    I understand you were only partially serious, but I’ve been watching the CLIP lights on the AHB2 for much of the past two days and I have yet to see the CLIP lights illuminate. I’m thinking I just don’t play it loud enough to create distortion. And, the Harbeths are spec’d at up to 150 watts at 6 OHMS, and the AHB2 puts out 130 watts at 6 OHMS, so the AHB2 can put out nearly at the limit of what the Harbeths can safely take. I think I’ll stay with one AHB2 (for now).
     
    Helom and Tone? like this.
  22. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco

    Wait till you pair it with an LA4 preamp.
     
    rednedtugent likes this.
  23. DaleClark

    DaleClark Forum Resident

    Location:
    Columbus, Ohio
    I would love to try the AHB2 and compare it to my Firstwatt J2. Two totally different amps.
     
    Tone? likes this.
  24. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco

    It’s got a 60 day return policy. Why not.
    You might like it.
     
  25. rednedtugent

    rednedtugent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Funk, Ohio
    IMHO, I would go pre & amp. There is lots to choose from afa DACs go. This assumes you can live with 100 watts of power as well.
     

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