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Integrated that can subjectively compete with Benchmark stack?

itsikhefez

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Hi all,

I am very happy with the sound quality of my system but the amount of power cables and interconnects really bothers me and I'm hoping to somehow declutter / downsize my system without compromising (too much) on sound.

The main system consists of Benchmark LA4/AHB2/DAC3 and sources are RPI streamer, Nakamichi ZX-9 tape deck and Technics SL-1200G turntable which requires an external phono stage.

There are a few approaches to downsize
- an integrated amplifier that has MM phono and that would turn 3 boxes into one (preamp/amp/phono)
- preamp with MM phono and a DAC which would again reduce 3 boxes into one (preamp/DAC/phono)
- preamp with DAC and streamer and 2 analog inputs would again reduce 3 boxes into one (preamp/DAC/streamer)
One additional requirement is pre-out to integrate a subwoofer and bonus is a fixed out for the tape deck.

I could get give up on the analog source which would ease a fair amount on the requirements but while they aren't my primary source of listening they do add to the enjoyment and ideally I can find a solution which allows them to integrate.

After a few hours of searching I decided to try out a Bryston B135 (Cubed version) with MM phono card. It satisfies basically all of my requirements and they typically measure well so I didn't think that subjectively I would notice a difference with my existing system.
Unfortunately, the B135 was fairly loud mechanically (I could hear the transformer from my listening position) which is something I can't get used to.
In addition, noise at the speaker as the volume knob increases was noticeably louder than the Benchmark.
I bought the Bryston second-hand so maybe something is wrong with it but it is only about 2 years old and looks in mint condition.
After about an hour of listening I was fairly disappointed (compared to my current system) so it is likely going back.

Looking for the experienced folks here for any recommendations
Thanks!
 

RayDunzl

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radix

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I use 19" rack for my AHB2s and other gear. More of an industrial look in the living room, but no cable mess.

You can also get very short power cords and make custom-sized interconnect cables. There are also wrap-around cable sheathes.
 

restorer-john

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Unfortunately, the B135 was fairly loud mechanically (I could hear the transformer from my listening position) which is something I can't get used to.
In addition, noise at the speaker as the volume knob increases was noticeably louder than the Benchmark.
I bought the Bryston second-hand so maybe something is wrong with it but it is only about 2 years old and looks in mint condition.
After about an hour of listening I was fairly disappointed (compared to my current system) so it is likely going back.

Fair enough. Residual noise and transformer physical noise is unacceptable once you have had complete silence.
 

MaxBuck

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Integrated that can compete with Benchmark stack?
images


(J/k. Subjectively there may be several.)
 

GDK

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Zip ties are a miracle invention when it comes to reducing cord clutter.

However, failing that, a used Accuphase integrated with the added phono and DAC cards will get you a long way towards an all-in-one version of your Benchmark system.
 

ahofer

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My guess is a relatively inexpensive Yamaha integrated would do the trick, in the sense that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a volume-controlled A/B.

 
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itsikhefez

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OK thanks for the responses. Seems like I'll want to make another effort at organizing the components before looking elsewhere

My guess is a relatively inexpensive Yamaha integrated would do the trick, in the sense that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a volume-controlled A/B.

Only if it is quiet. With the Bryston I could tell the difference at low to moderate volumes. At higher volumes it didnt make a difference.
And I'm sure that objectively the Bryston measures better than the Yamaha
 

ahofer

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OK thanks for the responses. Seems like I'll want to make another effort at organizing the components before looking elsewhere


Only if it is quiet. With the Bryston I could tell the difference at low to moderate volumes. At higher volumes it didnt make a difference.
And I'm sure that objectively the Bryston measures better than the Yamaha
Around 100 S/N at 93db, comfortably beyond detectable with speakers in any normal environment. And I wouldn't be too certain the Bryston is quieter, depending on model. Great amps, tho, in terms of reliability. I have a 3B from 1987 that still runs well (but not so quiet).

Crutchfield will take it back. It it has enough power, worth a try. Can really open your eyes.

btw, in my main setup I use a March Audio p252 (hypex-based predecessor to this) powering Harbeth SHL5+(AE) speakers. Similar specs+price, more power, but not integrated.
 
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itsikhefez

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Around 100 S/N at 93db, comfortably beyond detectable with speakers in any normal environment. And I wouldn't be too certain the Bryston is quieter, depending on model.
My listening room is about 22x13x10 and is at the lower floor of my home, which is in a very quiet neighborhood.
3/4 walls are concrete and the room is reasonably treated with GIK acoustics panels.
If nothing is playing you can "hear the silence" if you know what I mean.
I guess I never realized how quiet the Benchmark components were until I got something a bit noisier.

This was a B135 cubed version, 2019 manufacture so fairly new and has good measurements from what I could tell.

Get some nice looking cables so you never wanna take your eyes of them.
I should have thought of that sooner!
 

ahofer

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My listening room is about 22x13x10 and is at the lower floor of my home, which is in a very quiet neighborhood.
3/4 walls are concrete and the room is reasonably treated with GIK acoustics panels.
If nothing is playing you can "hear the silence" if you know what I mean.
I guess I never realized how quiet the Benchmark components were until I got something a bit noisier.
Still not going to be a problem with 100Db S/N. Studios measure 20-30db. If you are hearing noise with working equipment spec'd at that level, from speaker listening distance, something else is going on in your system.

 

DSJR

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You know, I was going to be incredibly cheeky and suggest even a Rega integrated amp (none of which will come remotely close in the SINAD race) would 'subjectively' sound ok if heard blind in comparison at moderate levels, such is our awful hearing acuity usually. Having said that, I'd urge the OP to look at the Yamaha amps, in this case especially the 1000 series upwards (no idea how much 'better' they are over an 801 but they do have the knob-feel factor).

The Benchmark 'system' I'd have thought is very close to state of the art still and if there's an issue with wires, I'm sure there are ties for the mains cables (there used to be a kind of 'hydra' system with one master cable into a simple 'styled' junction box and several coming out from that and get some custom interconnects just the right length for safe non-strained connection (I believe Benchmark make them).

Apologies if I have the OP all wrong here.

As for transformer noises, I think this varies from country to country and maker to maker (even today!). As Bryston have such a lengthy guarantee, I bet they'd be happy to have that unit back to check and sort out in all honesty (they charge enough these days for their stuff...). I can't speak for the Yamahas mentioned above, but tranny hum noises must be something that this large organisation would eliminate from all their higher end gear at least?

One final make, which may well 'measure' OK and way better than human perception and that's Accuphase. I gather some of their amps have optional digital input cards (at a high price and visual complexity) and the mid-range tested and criticised here, the worst input (XLR) was still way better than most cheaper 'commercial' amp's performance and the RCA performance was very good from memory for a traditional design of amp. I'm sure the basic performance of most or all of their models is transparent and with a huge 'luxury' aspect which must never be underestimated. Just a thought while I'm here ;)
 
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Gorgonzola

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To be accurate, its not the amount that bothers me but the visual mess around my media cabinet
I don't get it. If you have a Benchmark LA4 + AHB2 now, what will you eliminate in terms of cables? Looks to me like one pair of balanced, XLR => XLR cables and one power cable.

No offence, but it looks to me like you grasping at a rationale for churning equipment to no practical advantage.
 

ahofer

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Plcamp

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Minidsp 2x4 flex driving a power amp does everything except the phono preamp?
 

JiiPee

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Maybe something like Michi P5 plus Your favourite Purify-based power amp.

I also like the Norma Revo IPA-140 integrated amp that can be equipped with a phono pre amp and a dac. It has all the features in one good looking box. I have not seen any measurements, but I'd be willing to bet that You can't hear the difference.
 
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