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Benchmark ABH2 Replacement

Joesax

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Nov 18, 2019
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I've owned the ABH2 for the last 3 and half years. It has been the best amplifier I've owned to date and I have been an audiophile for more than 40 years. As we all know it is one if not the best objectively and independantly measured amplifier on the market. It is a neutral amp: Clean, noise free, non-fatiguing and light weight and relatively inexpensive. It sounds neutral with no coloration with an impactful bass and smooth highs. If I had any criticism it's that to me the upper mid-range and lower treble is slightly bright and voices seem more forward than I prefer. But for the size and cost I don't think you can find a better amp under $5k.

So why the replacement? Well I bought new speakers. Then decided to get a dedicated streamer which led to a new DAC and the ABH2 was the only component I had not upgraded. So I decided to audition different amps to see if anything could out perform it. I listened to the Bryston 4B3 which is a very powerful clean sounding amp and while somewhat better in the highs it wasn't enough to make the change. I tried Hegel and even Macintosh which was very nice but the overall sound was a little too mid centric for me. Then I considered the Pass Labs AB amps which were very nice as well but way to large and heavy and to be honest they didn't really sound that much better either.. It was then I decided to audition the new Accuphase P-4600 amplifier. I alway admired this company's products. They are very expensive but I wanted to at least hear one to see what they sound like. After a few demos it was clear to me that Accuphase has a sound and presentation that perfectly matches what I have been striving for these past years. It just had a beautiful presentation that was very different from the other SS amps I had auditioned. And in my opinion one that was noticeably better and more engaging than the ABH2. Soundstage width and depth were exceptional and the midrange and treble were just wonderful. However the price was high. It was the most expensive amp I had considered to that point.

Since my wife past a few years ago whatever plans we had with our retirement fund were gone. That was one of the reasons I originally decided to spend money on an audio system instead. So I decided to get what II really wanted. So after dealing with my guilt ridden extravagance I ordered the Accuphase. It took 2 months to get it as I missed the April shipment from Japan. Accuphase has been designing and offering audio components for almost 50 years and they have limited their product in total to 5,000 units per year. They state that they have no plans to expand production. And that covers their amps, integrated amps, pre amps, CD players, etc. And only 30% of production is sold outside Japan. Anyway not many units of their products get to the US as they are very much in demand everywhere.

During this waiting period I continued listening with the ABH2 and it continued to sound really good in the new system to the point where I started to have buyer's remorse. I started to question my purchase. I had to remind myself of how much I loved the sound of the Accuphase when I auditioned it. Well it finally arrived and I no longer have any doubts it was the right decision. It offers a stunningly beautiful presentation that in my opinon is somewhere between a very good SS amp with smooth highs, impactful bass and plenty of detail and a very good tube amp with a wide and deep soundstage and a slightly warm midrange. Voices are beautifully rendered and upper strings are very smooth. It's a totally relaxed and non fatiguing sound you can listen to for hours. I love it!

BTW the amp is impeccably built. Everything about it is first class with quality materials as it should be at that price.. The attention to detail both in its physical appearance and sound quality is very evident. If you are interested visit the Accuphase Labs website and read about their design and production philosophy. They are a very unique and unusual company especially in the typical corporate climate of continued expansion and growth.

As to specifications the Amp's stated specs are excellent. I run it in it's lowest gain setting with a SNR of 130db. It's dead silent with a black background that's easily apparent whenever there is a stop in the music. I was unable to find any independent objective reviews of the amp and to be honest at this point it doesn't matter. I love the sound of this component and how it has elevated my system. It also shows how difficult it is to better the ABH2. You have to spend a lot more money. So was all the money worth it to me? Well I can tell you I do not want to go back to the ABH2 now. So yes it was as I could afford it. To those who can't or won't spend this type of money on an amplifier you can't go wrong with the ABH2. It is an excellent amp as well.

Anyway that's my story.
 
I have to ask but does the Accuphase actually add any audible distortion, I imagined they were pretty well engineered.
Keith
 
I can't see how you could go wrong with any of those splendid amps, at that point it comes down to taste and preference. I'm glad that you found the one right for you, may it give you many years of enjoyment. May Heaven have a place for your wife.
 
Keith

Of course there is no audible distortion. You can check the specs on their site. They’re fairly detailed.
 
Pogo

You may be right. Only briefly listened to that amp. It’s very nice but sounded similar to the ABH2 an every other SS amp. But a lounger audition maybe warranted for those interested.
 
Ron Texas

Far from a loss. This is now the best system I’ve ever had in my life and this Accuphase was the cornerstone component.
 
Ron Twxas

Sorry I misinterpreted your response thinking you were referring to the ABH2 and not losing my wife.
 
Keith

Of course there is no audible distortion. You can check the specs on their site. They’re fairly detailed.
Specs are one thing measurements another, my point was that two amplifiers without audible distortion will sound identical if they can both properly drive the loudspeaker in question.
Keith
 
Pogo
Not did not listen to the NAD in bridged mode.
 
Pogo
Not did not listen to the NAD in bridged mode.
And if you did, wouldn't make one iota of difference, except more power.
You bought an Accuphase, your amp journey is likely done, with no doubt left over.

Just as importantly, Accuphase reliability and support is legendary. They will service your unit until the end of time, with inventory of all the components and bespoke parts for their entire product line. Bryston, which you tried, is another company with legendary support and reliability. NAD doesn't even come close.
 
Yes Keith in my experience I auditioned several amps at the same dealer with the same speakers I own and each delivered a different presentation and sound. None of them were objectionable just different. These amps were all well known high quality components with excellent reputations and a history of customer acceptance. There are fan bases for each. So while we can take measurements as a guideline the proof is in the listening. I could have been happy with any of these amps but the Accuphase delivers a sound that is exactly what I’ve been looking for. BTW I recently saw a YouTube video Paul McGowan posted that stated that amps that measure exactly the same can and most likely will sound different all else being equal. Bottom line whatever the Accuphase amp design is doing I love it.
 
Like you I've always been a fan of Benchmark Media. Kudos to you for finding something better, at least what is perceived to be better. But at what cost? In other words, for the incremental performance difference, compared to the substantial price difference, seems legitimate to ask whether that incremental benefit is worth the magnitude of cost differential. Sorry, that's my practical (cheap?) side coming to the fore. Of course, when resources are more or less unlimited only the best will do, I get that.
 
@Joesax

You had a great amplifier you replaced with another, good amplifier. I am certain they sound the same once you match the level. IOW no perceptible difference... You are happy with your purchase, but .. the justification is difficult to swallow here. in ASR-land... ;)

Enjoy your system.

Peace.
 
Last edited:
Accuphase and Benchmark will not sound the same:

Accuphase
Damping Factor 4 Ohm at 63Hz/1kHz/14kHz:167/142/84

Benchmark
Damping Factor 4 Ohm at 63Hz/1kHz/14kHz:48/45/19
 
Accuphase and Benchmark will not sound the same:

Accuphase
Damping Factor 4 Ohm at 63Hz/1kHz/14kHz:167/142/84

Benchmark
Damping Factor 4 Ohm at 63Hz/1kHz/14kHz:48/45/19
Where are those numbers from? I think it might be true some Accuphase amplifiers have higher DF than the AHB2, but I thought the AHB2 DF is about 300 at the low end frequencies (for 8R). So 150 ballpark calculated for 4 ohms.
 
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