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Benchmark AHB2 bridge mode vs McIntosh MC462

Piatnik

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I own a MC462 for about 3 years, matched with it’s C52. Last month, I got a pair of AHB2, and couldn’t resist to match them with the HPA4. Those are feeding Wilson Sabrina. I felt I needed to challenge the 462, and I like to screw around… :rolleyes::rolleyes:

My conclusion (also heard by some friends and family) is that the AHB2s are more revealing. The high frequencies seems crispier and the voices, mainly woman voices, are more in your face (or more natural) with the AHB2. The sound stage seems also a bit more defined. We also had the feeling that the low frequencies are not well controlled with the 462, maybe a bit sloppy. To my ears, the 462 seems to show more low frequencies, but is it because it lacks higher frequencies or because it doesn’t control well the woofer? With a friend, we tried to understand why and the only thing that come in mind was the damping factor difference. (40 vs 370). But… I don’t know…

Other differences : 462 is freaking heavy compared to the Benchmark and the big VU meters are nice, but a bit ostentatious.

All the tests have been made using the same preamp (Benchmark HPA4).

As mentioned by someone today in another thread, we should not hear a difference, but I believe there’s some.

Anyone have a similar experience?

Some advices to continue my comparaison?
 

pogo

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To my ears, the 462 seems to show more low frequencies, but is it because it lacks higher frequencies or because it doesn’t control well the woofer? With a friend, we tried to understand why and the only thing that come in mind was the damping factor difference. (40 vs 370).
This will be the reason, see also here:
Link

A low DF suppresses the swing out behavior of the woofer less, which leads to a subjectively stronger bass range.
However, this has less to do with correct reproduction and can also unnecessarily excite room modes.
In bridge mode, the AHB2 halves its DF!
You will be able to hear the full potential of your speakers with a Purifi amp;)
 
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30 Ounce

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Those are both very good amplifiers! I suspect the Benchmark is not entirely happy driving the Sabrina’s 2.8 ohm load in bridged mode where the McIntosh will have no problem doing that. I think that you may find the Mac preferable in the long run. I borrowed a friend’s AHB2 for a weekend and really wanted to like it but I just couldn’t.
 

TNPFan

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So what is your long term preference in amps? I am very interested because I have been living with a pair of AHB2s for a few years and ordered an MC462 to replace them. I am not getting rid of the Benchmark amps and look forward to doing some A-B comparisons of my own. I am only driving a 4 ohm load, so I do not have the same challenges as your wonderful Wilson's. (Could not find a "jealous" emoji.) :)
 
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I believe the Benchmark will have a crisper sound. The problem is many recordings have a lot of treble, crashes are too bright, vocal sss are an issue, and you may find other recordings lack dynamics as they added too much compression to make them loud. The McIntosh signature sound can help improve the way the recordings sound with a slightly laid back sound with a touch of smoothness. This helps more recordings to have a more pleasant sound. This is why my McIntosh is my favorite amp company.
 

TNPFan

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Once I have lived with both for a bit, I will post my thoughts. All I know is the wait time on the McIntosh is driving me bananas. Appreciate your insight and look forward to some comparative listening.
 
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Piatnik

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Some weeks after my initial post, I re-tested the dual AHB2 and the MC462 with some friends, after a read something about McIntosh binding posts...

I read, in a Stereophile article about the Wilson's Sasha DAW, that the MC462 8 ohm posts were twice the DF of the 4's and that the reviewer preferred the 8 ohms, even if the Sasha's are rated at 4 ohms (same as my Sabrina's). I googled about this observation and found some people who were experiencing the same behaviour : better control on 8 ohm posts...

After some track tests, on which we preferred the AHB2's, I switched to the 8 ohms connectors and suddenly, the basses were as tight as the AHB2's... I couldn't believe it.

My conclusion is that, on 8 ohms binding post, we couldn't hear a difference between the two brands, no differences in any frequencies (@Revelation Sound). No McIntosh sound... I believe that the McIntosh sound signature comes from the valve amps and preamps, not modern power amps.

The only difference was when we turned up the volume to ridiculous volume. At some point, the AHB2 were clipping (leds turning red), but the sound was still good. We switch to the MC462 and I could raise the volume higher. But believe me, it was at VERY high volume, absolutely not regular playing volume. The MC462 power needles were oscillating past the 450W mark... and everything still super clean. Listening to Nine Inch Nails - We're in this together at this level was incredible...

I ended looking at my amps, not knowing what to do, to choose between the McIntosh or the Benchmark. For over a month, I juggled with this first world problem and decided to sell the MC462. Despite I loved the big blue meters, I think I prefer the austerity and the form factor of the AHB2. I am also selling my very nice C52 that I replaced by the HPA4 and DAC3. The footprint and look is better in my opinion, but there is less I/O compared to the C52.

Not sure what I was thinking, but looking at the resale value of the Sabrina + MC462 + AHB2, I thought I could replace them by a pair of Genelec 8361 AND a pair of W371. I ordered the 8361s and now waiting for them for the past 2 months. And thinking about ordering a pair of W371... what should I do? :)
 
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I'm glad you found audio gear that you really like and what meets your needs. That all that really matters. We all have our preferences and it's not just the sound, it's the look, and the emotional feeling you have with certain gear. No one should try to tell you your wrong or try to change your mind. Wish I could afford a C52. For now I am sticking with my NAD 658 preamp. Maybe one day I will purchase the C49.
 

Dvass13

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Not sure what I was thinking, but looking at the resale value of the Sabrina + MC462 + AHB2, I thought I could replace them by a pair of Genelec 8361 AND a pair of W371. I ordered the 8361s and now waiting for them for the past 2 months. And thinking about ordering a pair of W371... what should I do? :)
You might look into a pair of the Philharmonic Audio BMR Towers. I had a pair of the Wilson Sabrinas and a Benchmark AHB2 for a while. I ended up selling the Sabrinas and sticking with the BMR Towers. I didn't get to do any direct A/B testing between the two, unfortunately, but I'm not sad about selling the Sabrinas.
 

jae

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Lots of claims of DF changing the sound but no measurements!

I would say for passive speakers, unless one has a good reason to, buying a Purifi for $1100-2000 each (or cheaper for Hypex) is going to be the best money one can ever spend on amplification.

I think you will be very happy with your Genelecs. Most people running the Genelec subs tend to like 8341/8351 as they technically measure better and are cheaper, so I would say 8361 is maybe more appropriate for being used without a subwoofer, but you will get a great experience with or without. Then the headache of cables everywhere, choosing amplifiers or dacs is finally over.
 

jae

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I think that's the part I would be glad to end.
By the way where did you order from (in Canada?). Currently abroad but getting a pair of ones is definitely on my list for when I return, but I heard the waiting list is months out. Do you know if the "natural/raw" genelec finish is only available on the smaller monitors?
 
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Piatnik

Piatnik

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By the way where did you order from (in Canada?). Currently abroad but getting a pair of ones is definitely on my list for when I return, but I heard the waiting list is months out. Do you know if the "natural/raw" genelec finish is only available on the smaller monitors?
I ordered at Studio Economik, in Montréal.

I believe the raw finish is only for the smaller ones.

The 8361s take 4 to 6 months to have and the W371s are 6 months wait...
 

DonH56

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Note damping factor is defined as Zload/Zout so for a given amplifier if you use an 8-ohm speaker the damping factor will generally be twice that of a 4-ohm speaker. There is great uncertainty, however, in both the actual speaker load impedance over frequency and you have to deal with McIntosh's output balun/autoformer that can affect the amplifier's output impedance (similar to the output transformer of a typical tube amplifier). The autoformer supposedly removes load sensitivity to maintain the same effective damping factor at each tap, but choosing which tap works best for a particular speaker can be a matter of preference.

Glad it worked out for you! - Don
 

TNPFan

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I have had the MC462 in my system for a few weeks now and am very much enjoying it. It is mated to a McIntosh C2700 preamp and feeding a pair of GoldenEar Triton One speakers matched with a pair of SVS SB 16 Ultras. I have been listening to a pair of AHB2s for several years and am very familiar and comfortable with how they sound. Or, should I say how they don't sound. They are easily the cleaner and more transparent sounding of the two brands. The background on the Benchmark amps disappears into infinity and they are much more dynamic. The soundstage is wide and the vocals and instruments are easily picked out in various locations across a single plane. I never realized how flat that plane was until I started listening through the McIntosh. The McIntosh amp, on the other hand, sounds effortless, smooth and presents a much deeper and layered soundstage. I can listen longer, without fatigue, and music sounds good at any listening level. With the Benchmark amps, I found myself turning up the volume to get better sound. And it works. I do not need to do that with the McIntosh because it sounds satisfying at any level. The McIntosh does have a bit of noise and if I did not have the Benchmarks to compare it to, I would probably never notice. I am still in the honeymoon stage with my McIntosh amp, so I will reserve final judgement until I have had a few months to let the new romance settle in.

I will say, that my McIntosh amp arrived with one of the big blue meters malfunctioning. While that may not sound like a big deal, and it probably isn't, I am surprised that their QC is not better on something costing nearly five figures. My replacement amp is on the way. For what it's worth, my McIntosh C2700 preamp also arrived with one of the meters malfunctioning AND the left dial/knob bound up. McIntosh did swap it out with a new one, but McIntosh is 0 for 2 with their quality control and my long term confidence and trust in these components is fairly low. And after spending that kind of cash, you would think someone at McIntosh would reach out to me to offer some assurance. That never happened. Both of my Benchmark AHB3s and DAC2-HGC have been workhorses for years with never a problem. And Rory Rall (Benchmark Sales Manager) has contacted me on a couple of occasions to make sure all is well. McIntosh should take note!
 
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