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Is the Benchmark AHB2, in mono mode, really better than my Mark Levinson No. 536 monoblocks?

JasonH

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I have two Benchmark AHB2s ordered. I'm driving Revel F328Be speakers with the Mark Levinson No. 536 monos. I have a Pass XA25 sat aside. I bought the Revel/ML gear thinking that Samsung/Harman would have a lot to offer in their top products. They talk about their blind testing as has Amir. They are great. But, maybe I heard more detail when I ran the Pass XA25? I heard about the AHB2 and looked at John Atkinson's measurements of all three amps. It looks like the Benchmark's are better in all but peak output wattage. Maybe the XA25 is quieter at low levels. Anyway, have any of you had the experience of replacing expensive monoblocks with less expensive Benchmarks? The retail on the ML amps is 5x that of the Benchmark. (I bought used)
 

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Oilman

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I replaced mono Parasound JC-1s with mono AHB2. I didn’t blind test the amps, but my subjective, sighted, and biased impression is that the AHB2s sound better and are my end game amps. Compared to the JC-1s, I hear into the room more (the reverb of the space). I was warned that the Benchmarks are “analytical and bright.” This is not the case at all. They sound smooth, completely neutral, yet I get more detail in the music. An added bonus is how cool they run. The JC-1s were like space heaters which was a real problem in my room.
 

alex-z

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Maybe the XA25 is quieter at low levels. Anyway, have any of you had the experience of replacing expensive monoblocks with less expensive Benchmarks? The retail on the ML amps is 5x that of the Benchmark. (I bought used)

First off, if you are not comparing the amplifiers level matched, there is zero point in doing so. .5dB in extra output is not immediately noticeable, but can easily sway blind listening tests.

The Benchmark AHB2 is the one of of the best amps currently available, if not the outright best. This is simply objective truth, if you fall into the camp that believes amplifiers should have a certain sound signature, there are plenty of poorly designed options available for you.

It is important to remember that your speakers and room produce far more distortion than even a $50 chip amplifier. There is no point in trialing an amplifier with .0001% distortion vs something with .01% distortion when your speakers might be contributing 1%, and your room 5%. And those numbers are realistic, not some exaggeration.
 

jae

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If buying new, Purifi, Hypex, and Benchmark are really the only ones that matter these days in terms of the objective best, and thankfully they have comparatively sane prices compared to overpriced audiophile grade junk. Win/win. Also the new upcoming Chinese products like Topping for lower power outputs are making their appearance. Buying one of these according to your power needs and you will be happy, period, and they will all sound the same as long as it can provide the power. There are few exceptions to this suggestion, but any deviation from this is buying for looks, vanity, brand/reputation, warranty, etc.- NOT sound quality and engineering up to modern reproducible standards. While the Benchmark is a great product, I generally suggest Purifi or Hypex as they are top tier performers and you will barely pay more than $1-2k for stereo amplification, unless you want to buy from a premium brand with a premium chassis which may cost more. Dual mono benchmark or maybe the Mcintosh is the only real "upgrade" from Purifi from the things we have 3rd party measurements for, and these still have some cons over a cheaper Purifi/Hypex amp such as costing 6-8x the price and larger/heavier units to deal with.

Shift your time, energy and wallet to measuring your room with and worrying about DSP/EQ, proper sub integration, and potential room treatments if possible. These things will actually better your sound, and it will be significant. Spending 5, 10, and even 20 grand on power amplification is passé unless you're running some sort of cinema in your home or running a venue, and at that stage you would want to be upgrading to something like Genelec active speakers/subs at which point what amplifier you're using ceases to matter anyway.
 
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Mnyb

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If one has this kind of money VERA audio , has very good purify and hypex implementations , with finely adjustable gain .
If we talk about perceived hiss from amps it’s often about to much gain . And amp sensitivity is all over the place and there is no real standard . Why not all amps have adjustable gain is a mystery to me ?
So just by getting the gain structure rigth I.e. be able to use the volume control where it’s most linear and have a healthy signal level from the source ( pre amp or DAC ).

And yes power , modern amps , the best of them are all good used within there limitations.
So even a quite poor amps will be the best if it’s the one that can actually power your speakers :)
 
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JasonH

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First off, if you are not comparing the amplifiers level matched, there is zero point in doing so. .5dB in extra output is not immediately noticeable, but can easily sway blind listening tests.

The Benchmark AHB2 is the one of of the best amps currently available, if not the outright best. This is simply objective truth, if you fall into the camp that believes amplifiers should have a certain sound signature, there are plenty of poorly designed options available for you.

It is important to remember that your speakers and room produce far more distortion than even a $50 chip amplifier. There is no point in trialing an amplifier with .0001% distortion vs something with .01% distortion when your speakers might be contributing 1%, and your room 5%. And those numbers are realistic, not some exaggeration.
I ordered the Benchmarks because I don’t want personality from the amplifier, just clean amplification. I suppose the difference between them and the ML 536s will be much smaller than improvements that may come from improving my room. If the AHB2s sound as good as the MLs, I’ll sell those and have cash to spend on room upgrades.
 

Ambientwks

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If you are truly after clean amplification, I think the Benchmark is probably the best way to go. I currently have a single AHB2 driving a pair of Amphion Argon 7LS and I genuinely have no interest in looking at amps anymore. The nice (to me), well-integrated and natural characteristics of the Amphion's can do their thing, and the amp doesn't get in the way.

I would not want to guess at how many hours I have saved by not needing to shop for amps anymore :)
 
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JasonH

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If you are truly after clean amplification, I think the Benchmark is probably the best way to go. I currently have a single AHB2 driving a pair of Amphion Argon 7LS and I genuinely have no interest in looking at amps anymore. The nice (to me), well-integrated and natural characteristics of the Amphion's can do their thing, and the amp doesn't get in the way.

I would not want to guess at how many hours I have saved by not needing to shop for amps anymore :)
That’s what I want. I’ll leave the character, tone, and sound to the artists and their music.
 
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The choice we make has a lot to do with personal preference and how music sounds in our room. Having an amp with some 2nd harmonic distortion can sound pleasing to our ears. In the same way engineers in recording studios like Rupert Neve and API audio gear that adds a gentle rounding to the signal.

With that being said, a lot of recordings can sound either harsh, or too bright on cymbals and ssss on vocals. This includes many remastered albums where they over did it with adjusting the EQ. Having an amp that gentle smooths out these recordings (gently, while still being clean and detailed) can allow you to enjoy the music more.

I have limited experience with Parasound but I have heard the A21+ and JC5 and the 2nd harmonic distortion on these amps for my taste sounds pleasing. More so, the JC5 has more straight Class A on seveal watts before getting into Class AB. A different approach is the McIntosh designs. Their newer amps are cleaner and more neutral than their older ones and they gentle smooth out the signal while having extremely low distortion that many people including myself love...especially their solid state amps.
 
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Ambientwks

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The choice we make has a lot to do with personal preference and how music sounds in our room. Having an amp with some 2nd harmonic distortion can sound pleasing to our ears. In the same way engineers in recording studios like Rupert Neve and API audio gear that adds a gentle rounding to the signal.
100% :) That's what makes a horse race for sure! I've actually got a really soft spot for old-fashioned console radios with paper jensen drivers, but afraid my domestic situation does not permit this in addition to two other large systems ;)
 

Ambientwks

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That’s what I want. I’ll leave the character, tone, and sound to the artists and their music.
That's exactly what I want as well - and I do at least want to hear a hint of the production choices (call it forensic detail if you want) even on my living room system. I am no fan of the Absolute Sound, but their AHB2 review rings true (and is a bit of a throw-down to that readership, to be honest!) :)
 

Mnyb

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Recordings vary so wildly so using the amp as a tone control is futile use actual tone controls or EQ .

You know your getting close (IMHO) when you system sound very different with different recordings. If there is a sameness to everything even if it’s pleasant it ain’t rigth a s I see it ?

But it’s a kind of daft argument regarding the amps in question none of them seems to reach audible levels of distortion anyway :)
 
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