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

MaxBuck

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I did a search and found this post. This is exactly what I'm looking for. I have a pair of JC-1 monoblocks. I live in a place with ridiculously hot summers, such that I do not listen to my critical system for most of the summer, given the A/C struggles to keep up with how hot we get. I'm very happy with the JC-1 monoblocks when run in high bias class A mode, but they are space heaters making the room unbearably hot in the summer, so the system is usually off in the summer. Given your screen name, we may live in the same state - so you may get what I mean by hot summers. The main speakers are Paradigm Persona 3 - the smallest persona full range floorstanders.

I was considering getting a single stereo AHB2 to use as a "summer amp" so I can listen to the system in the summer. I never thought about getting two to use in mono to replace permanently. Might it be worth to try just one and see how I like it before committing to 2?
I live in the Palm Springs area. It's 9 pm here and still 115F. Class D NAD C298 offers many benefits, many of which are especially evident now. :cool:
 

dualazmak

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I live in the Palm Springs area.

Please allow me getting out of the scope of this thread, as an interlude...

Palm Springs area!! I know you get enough clean (green) electricity from wind.

In July 2018, I drove into your place from San Diego La Jolla Research Triangle area for amateur panoramic photo challenge of the windmill power plant spectacular view;
WS003844.JPG
 
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MasterApex

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Now that I have both AHB2 and ML 536s. I use the AHB2 for lower end speakers room setup and for space efficient. AHB2 great value and good performing , better than Class D M33 in my opinion but ML536 is another higher level of dynamic performance especially when playing SACD or high resolution good recording Classical Music. The ML536s sounds more life-like than my older ML333 , or AHB2. I sold all my Class-D Amps, they are good for $ paid but NOT the same class performance as high-end ML536-like amplifiers for driving highly resolving Hi-FI speakers. If you have Klipsch high efficient horn speakers then you can go cheaper or be less stringent on Amp.
 
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xirtam2005

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Now that I have both AHB2 and ML 536s. I use the AHB2 for lower end speakers room setup and for space efficient. AHB2 great value and good performing , better than Class D M33 in my opinion but ML536 is another higher level of dynamic performance especially when playing SACD or high resolution good recording Classical Music. The ML536s sounds more life-like than my older ML333 , or AHB2. I sold all my Class-D Amps, they are good for $ paid but the same class performance as high-end ML536 like amplifiers.
Hmm..... that means I will probably be disappointed in the AHB2 vs. Parasound JC-1 (which are very good amps). AHB2 may still be better as a summer amp than not listening at all.
 

dlaloum

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Hmm..... that means I will probably be disappointed in the AHB2 vs. Parasound JC-1 (which are very good amps). AHB2 may still be better as a summer amp than not listening at all.
I would suggest that this depends on your power requirements in combination with your speaker efficiency and impedance profiles.

First step in choosing an amp, is making sure that it can provide the necessary V to achieve your desired SPL (including at least +15db headroom), into your speaker impedances at all listening frequencies.... and at your listening position, in your room.

If the AHB2 can achieve that - then the substantially more powerful JC1 or ML536 probably won't sound much different, if at all.

The easier the speakers (and room) are to drive ( the less demanding of the amp) - the more alike amps tend to sound.

Some excellent speakers are relatively undemanding - nice even impedance curve, staying above 6 ohm, SPL/wm of 90db+

Others have impedance curves from hell with multiple dips to below 3 ohm, or below 2 ohm - on those, you can hear substantial differences between many amps.

If heat/efficiency is an issue, then a Class D design is likely to be more suitable... and there are plenty of excellent contenders. (Same power / speaker impedance / SPL parameters apply of course!)
 

xirtam2005

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I would suggest that this depends on your power requirements in combination with your speaker efficiency and impedance profiles.

First step in choosing an amp, is making sure that it can provide the necessary V to achieve your desired SPL (including at least +15db headroom), into your speaker impedances at all listening frequencies.... and at your listening position, in your room.

If the AHB2 can achieve that - then the substantially more powerful JC1 or ML536 probably won't sound much different, if at all.

The easier the speakers (and room) are to drive ( the less demanding of the amp) - the more alike amps tend to sound.

Some excellent speakers are relatively undemanding - nice even impedance curve, staying above 6 ohm, SPL/wm of 90db+

Others have impedance curves from hell with multiple dips to below 3 ohm, or below 2 ohm - on those, you can hear substantial differences between many amps.

If heat/efficiency is an issue, then a Class D design is likely to be more suitable... and there are plenty of excellent contenders. (Same power / speaker impedance / SPL parameters apply of course!)

The speakers are Paradigm Persona 3F. Here is info on it - it doesn't show the full impedance curve, but says it dips to 3.49 ohms.

However, it is closely related to its bigger brother the 5F, which does have an impedance curve:

If the ABH2 will not play nicely with that, then there was a reason I got the JC1s. Nothing else for the price at the time came close.
 

dlaloum

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So relatively sensitive (89db) - not too difficult (3.5 ohm... close enough to 4 ohm that a capable 4 ohm amp should not have trouble).

Should be fine with the AHB2 I would have thought! I could do the full calculation, but with my 86db SPL speakers that are more difficult and less sensitive, the power requirement is circa 120W to provide 75db + 15db headroom - so again the AHB2 should be well within its capabilities.
 

PGAMiami

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So relatively sensitive (89db) - not too difficult (3.5 ohm... close enough to 4 ohm that a capable 4 ohm amp should not have trouble).

Should be fine with the AHB2 I would have thought! I could do the full calculation, but with my 86db SPL speakers that are more difficult and less sensitive, the power requirement is circa 120W to provide 75db + 15db headroom - so again the AHB2 should be well within its capabilities.
I’m using bridged AHB2s with TAD R1s, very similar sensitivity and impedance to your Paradigms, and they work perfectly. ABH2 s have regulated power supplies, I believe only the Levinson 32 and 32H had a fully regulated power supply. So the amps are very linear until the6 clip. Mine only clipped once, and that was really because we had the volume up way to high and suddenly there was very loud electronic bass playing.
 

Darkscience

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Having owned the AHB2 I do not think I will ever want to own another amp. It is a thing of beauty and the sound is crystal clean with my Cornwall, I can turn it up as loud as I want and never hear a hint of hiss or distortion. Idk how to describe dynamics but I have never made the amp clip so I know I have all the dynamics. The other amps being mentioned can probably do the same? Not sure, but for me I just trust what I am getting with Benchmark, and their customer service is outstanding which I care a lot about. Not trying to sell anyone on it, just saying you know what your getting with it, basically the best measuring amp I believe?
 

MasterApex

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Hmm..... that means I will probably be disappointed in the AHB2 vs. Parasound JC-1 (which are very good amps). AHB2 may still be better as a summer amp than not listening at all.
It depends on how critical you are and "what" you looking for.

To get the audible benefits of the classic class AB amp, it will have to come from its advantage of "faster response, higher reserve" power supply. Any lower end class AB with small power supply will not show the full advantage of massive power supply. Read page 13 -14 of this manual will tell you why https://www.marklevinson.com/on/dem.../downloads/No33/Mark-Levinson-No33-Manual.pdf

That is why I own both AHB2 and several Mark Levinson.

It is like cars.
My Naturally Aspirated V8 will always have better throttle response and more control in micro dynamic of throttle actuation when I drive it on race track.
My Twin turbo V6 shows better "measurement" (mpg, HP, Torque curve, etc), it is the way of future but anyone who drives the car on race track knows turbo always have "lag".
 
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xirtam2005

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It depends on how critical you are and "what" you looking for.

To get the audible benefits of the classic class AB amp, it will have to come from its advantage of "faster response, higher reserve" power supply. Any lower end class AB with small power supply will not show the full advantage of massive power supply. Read page 13 -14 of this manual will tell you why https://www.marklevinson.com/on/dem.../downloads/No33/Mark-Levinson-No33-Manual.pdf

That is why I own both AHB2 and several Mark Levinson.

It is like cars.
My Naturally Aspirated V8 will always have better throttle response and more control in micro dynamic of throttle actuation when I drive it on race track.
My Twin turbo V6 shows better "measurement" (mpg, HP, Torque curve, etc), it is the way of future but anyone who drives the car on race track knows turbo always have "lag".

In other words, the JC-1s will "sound better" for my application (400W 8 ohm, 800W 4 ohm - 25W class A), but the Benchmark would be better than nothing and sound good enough for the majority of music (most pop/rock, dance music), but would not quite cut the mustard for the microdynamic critical listening that the JC-1 Paradigm Persona pairing does so well (well-recorded classical, jazz, classic rock critical listening, high resolution Qobuz wasapi exclusive mode).
 

dlaloum

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It depends on how critical you are and "what" you looking for.

To get the audible benefits of the classic class AB amp, it will have to come from its advantage of "faster response, higher reserve" power supply. Any lower end class AB with small power supply will not show the full advantage of massive power supply. Read page 13 -14 of this manual will tell you why https://www.marklevinson.com/on/dem.../downloads/No33/Mark-Levinson-No33-Manual.pdf

That is why I own both AHB2 and several Mark Levinson.

It is like cars.
My Naturally Aspirated V8 will always have better throttle response and more control in micro dynamic of throttle actuation when I drive it on race track.
My Twin turbo V6 shows better "measurement" (mpg, HP, Torque curve, etc), it is the way of future but anyone who drives the car on race track knows turbo always have "lag".
In a perfect world.... if your amps is capable of achieving your full headroom requirements from its "continuous" power reserves - you are good to go...

The fact that the "big" amps can provide 400W+ continuous means they have headroom to spare.

at 100W @ 8ohms -if we assume 15db of headroom - we can provide this with an output of 3W

So if your listening level is 75db with average SPL speakers (say 86db/w/m) - the AHB2 should not sound substantively different - the additional power supply capacity is not used.

Or is that an understatement of the desired (and audible?) headroom? - do we need 21db rather than 15db...
If so it takes us down to a continuous output of around 0.7W @ 8 ohm - starting to get into the marginal zone? - perhaps at that point they may sound different...
 

xirtam2005

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In a perfect world.... if your amps is capable of achieving your full headroom requirements from its "continuous" power reserves - you are good to go...

The fact that the "big" amps can provide 400W+ continuous means they have headroom to spare.

at 100W @ 8ohms -if we assume 15db of headroom - we can provide this with an output of 3W

So if your listening level is 75db with average SPL speakers (say 86db/w/m) - the AHB2 should not sound substantively different - the additional power supply capacity is not used.

Or is that an understatement of the desired (and audible?) headroom? - do we need 21db rather than 15db...
If so it takes us down to a continuous output of around 0.7W @ 8 ohm - starting to get into the marginal zone? - perhaps at that point they may sound different...

The JC-1 has 25W Class A. I know my speakers never get out of Class A mode AFAIK. Very happy with the sound of the JC-1.
 

PGAMiami

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The JC-1 has 25W Class A. I know my speakers never get out of Class A mode AFAIK. Very happy with the sound of the JC-1.
I wrote earlier that the ML 32 and 32H had regulated power supplies. I meant instead the 33 and 33H.

The bridged AHB2 can deliver 500+ watts at 4 ohm with vanishingly low distortion. That is less than 3 db difference vs 800w. And the switching power supply of the AHB2 is a regulated supply. The JC1 I’m pretty sure is not regulated and it simply depends on caps to hold the voltage steady. Don’t be fooled by the physically small size of the power supply in the AHB2 as switching power supplies are much more efficient.

The Constellations Centaur mono that I switched to AHB2s also had a high class A bias and my speakers are 4 ohm. The Benchmarks just never clip into them.

I suggest you read Amir’s review of the AHB2. If they are ever driven beyond safe operation, they shut down. Note only the power supply is switching, the amp itself is not, so as Amir explained, they have enough bandwidth to be an AM radio transmitter. There is even a reviewer that uses them as headphone amps, that’s how quiet they are. These are truly engineering marvels. Bandwidth is competitive with a Spectral amp, without any of the instabilities. Crossover distortion is almost non existent and bridged it performs like a 500 watt class A amp into 4 ohms.
 
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Darkscience

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I wrote earlier that the ML 32 and 32H had regulated power supplies. I meant instead the 33 and 33H.

The bridged AHB2 can deliver 500+ watts at 4 ohm with vanishingly low distortion. That is less than 3 db difference vs 800w. And the switching power supply of the AHB2 is a regulated supply. The JC1 I’m pretty sure is not regulated and it simply depends on caps to hold the voltage steady. Don’t be fooled by the physically small size of the power supply in the AHB2 as switching power supplies are much more efficient.

The Constellations Centaur mono that I switched to AHB2s also had a high class A bias and my speakers are 4 ohm. The Benchmarks just never clip into them.

I suggest you read Amir’s review of the AHB2. If they are ever driven beyond safe operation, they shut down. Note only the power supply is switching, the amp itself is not, so as Amir explained, they have enough bandwidth to be an AM radio transmitter. There is even a reviewer that uses them as headphone amps, that’s how quiet they are. These are truly engineering marvels. Bandwidth is competitive with a Spectral amp, without any of the instabilities. Crossover distortion is almost non existent and bridged it performs like a 500 watt class A amp into 4 ohms.
Don't quote me here but I believe something about zero 2nd and 3rd? harmonic distortion. I forget, but basically it is the cleanest, distortion free, noise free signal you can feed a pair of speakers with. It would not surprise me if someone does not immediately like the AHB2, it is next level but out brains are use to what we are use to and so it may sound bad to someone at first. Just crank it up a little more than normal, and give it a couple days and when you start to realize all the dynamics are there and the background is a black hole, the detail starts to pop out at you, and the dimensional imaging is incredible. I have two systems, both I love equally for what they do for me, but when I want to experience the best 2ch music possible, I go to my AHB2/Cornwall combo, the imaging makes it sound like the musician's are in the room with me, and I can listen for hours. Especially great for classical music too. Anyways do not want to go down this subjective route and stay on track, the AHB2 is for me the sweet spot, looks wise and performance wise. It does have a quirk for me but nothing deal breaking and in fact, its a bonus, there are no RCA connectors and the binding posts on it are super nice, I have the Benchmark Cable using neutrik connected to mine. It also had adjustable gain settings, to get the best performance you need to used balanced connections at studio powers so that it can play its cleanest.
 

PGAMiami

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I wrote earlier that the ML 32 and 32H had regulated power supplies. I meant instead the 33 and 33H.

The bridged AHB2 can deliver 500+ watts at 4 ohm with vanishingly low distortion. That is less than 3 db difference vs 800w. And the switching power supply of the AHB2 is a regulated supply. The JC1 I’m pretty sure is not regulated and it simply depends on caps to hold the voltage steady. Don’t be fooled by the physically small size of the power supply in the AHB2 as switching power supplies are much more efficient.

The Constellations Centaur mono that I switched to AHB2s also had a high class A bias and my speakers are 4 ohm. The Benchmarks just never clip into
Don't quote me here but I believe something about zero 2nd and 3rd? harmonic distortion. I forget, but basically it is the cleanest, distortion free, noise free signal you can feed a pair of speakers with. It would not surprise me if someone does not immediately like the AHB2, it is next level but out brains are use to what we are use to and so it may sound bad to someone at first. Just crank it up a little more than normal, and give it a couple days and when you start to realize all the dynamics are there and the background is a black hole, the detail starts to pop out at you, and the dimensional imaging is incredible. I have two systems, both I love equally for what they do for me, but when I want to experience the best 2ch music possible, I go to my AHB2/Cornwall combo, the imaging makes it sound like the musician's are in the room with me, and I can listen for hours. Especially great for classical music too. Anyways do not want to go down this subjective route and stay on track, the AHB2 is for me the sweet spot, looks wise and performance wise. It does have a quirk for me but nothing deal breaking and in fact, its a bonus, there are no RCA connectors and the binding posts on it are super nice, I have the Benchmark Cable using neutrik connected to mine. It also had adjustable gain settings, to get the best performance you need to used balanced connections at studio powers so that it can play its cleanest.
I cannot agree more. A pair of AHB2 cost 12% of what my Constellation monos cost. I’ve had a long list of amps, including Levinson, Cello, Spectral, Pass, MSB and more recently Constellation. Up until getting the AHB2s I would say the Constellation were the best of that lot as it was almost as detailed as Spectral, almost as smooth as Pass, almost as dynamic as Levinson and MSB … overall a great balance. But then I got the AHB2s. I would say they equal or exceed each of these other amps in every respect.
 

xirtam2005

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Interesting comments. Reading through the comments I'll make a "bad analogy" of amps with cars. Let's say amps are cars. Those who do not own cars get around just fine with their built in TV speakers. Those who have cheap entry level cars are those with soundbars. Those with mainstream vehicles, like Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, or Honda use AV receivers as amps, with various sizes and features. Entry level "luxury" such as the Acuras, Cadillacs, Lexus will go to separates and get maybe a Parasound A23 or equivalent. Those who want even more like the Mercedes, BMW, and Audi would be like Parasound A21. The JC-5 would be like the higher end Luxury/sport vehicles. I'm thinking my JC-1 monos would be like a Porsche 911. Higher end amps would be like Ferraris. Then the really high end Boulder Amps would be like Bugatti.

If the Benchmark AHB2 were a car, I'm seeing the Benchmark AHB2 as a Tesla Model S Plaid. :cool:

Now, is a pair of AHB2 in bridged mono better than using 1 stereo AHB2? Has anyone tried this and hear a difference?
 

PGAMiami

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Interesting comments. Reading through the comments I'll make a "bad analogy" of amps with cars. Let's say amps are cars. Those who do not own cars get around just fine with their built in TV speakers. Those who have cheap entry level cars are those with soundbars. Those with mainstream vehicles, like Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, or Honda use AV receivers as amps, with various sizes and features. Entry level "luxury" such as the Acuras, Cadillacs, Lexus will go to separates and get maybe a Parasound A23 or equivalent. Those who want even more like the Mercedes, BMW, and Audi would be like Parasound A21. The JC-5 would be like the higher end Luxury/sport vehicles. I'm thinking my JC-1 monos would be like a Porsche 911. Higher end amps would be like Ferraris. Then the really high end Boulder Amps would be like Bugatti.

If the Benchmark AHB2 were a car, I'm seeing the Benchmark AHB2 as a Tesla Model S Plaid. :cool:

Now, is a pair of AHB2 in bridged mono better than using 1 stereo AHB2? Has anyone tried this and hear a difference?
Power increases significantly in bridged mono but other than that I would expect them to sound the same. If you have a very low impedance speaker, especially if it’s inefficient, then you may find them running out of current when playing loud. I checked with Benchmark and they said my 4 ohm TADs would be fine in bridged mono. I’ve have not had any issues whatsoever.

When an amp is bridged, the voltage swing is doubled, which quadruples the power, but the current availability remains the same, therefore the caution on using bridged amps on very low impedance speakers. Note either the voltage or the current or both will eventually reach a limit with every amplifier, it’s just that when one bridges, the weaker link is likely the current. AHB2s have enough current to deliver 500 watts into 4ohm, which is more than enough for most.
 

PGAMiami

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It depends on how critical you are and "what" you looking for.

To get the audible benefits of the classic class AB amp, it will have to come from its advantage of "faster response, higher reserve" power supply. Any lower end class AB with small power supply will not show the full advantage of massive power supply. Read page 13 -14 of this manual will tell you why https://www.marklevinson.com/on/dem.../downloads/No33/Mark-Levinson-No33-Manual.pdf

That is why I own both AHB2 and several Mark Levinson.

It is like cars.
My Naturally Aspirated V8 will always have better throttle response and more control in micro dynamic of throttle actuation when I drive it on race track.
My Twin turbo V6 shows better "measurement" (mpg, HP, Torque curve, etc), it is the way of future but anyone who drives the car on race track knows turbo always have "lag".
While I agree that my naturally aspirated cars were generally more fun to drive than my turbos, I don't see how this applies to ML vs. Benchmark amplifiers. The bandwidth of the AHB2 is extraordinary and the regulated switching power supply is at least as stiff as anything I've seen in a Levinson, other than the 33 and 33H, which were incredibly overbuilt (gorgeous) amps. A 500w Levinson will surely have more power than a single ABH2, but a pair of ABH2s should be very much equal in terms of dynamics. In terms of micro dynamics, given the unparalleled noise floor and distortion levels of the AHB2, I don't see how it would not at least equal the Levinson's. The AHB2 is a very smart, efficient design, but I would not equate that with cheap.
 

Darkscience

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Off topic but while we are on analogies. If you like Star Wars, when a friend of mine saw my AHB2 amp, he said it looked like the amp Vader would own. Which ironically enough is exactly why I love how it looks, stealth black with the blue and red led. Anyways off topic here, but really its a beautiful looking amp and build quality is perfect.
 
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