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What do you Benchmark fans/users think?

TimF

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@stan21

You can always go rack mount to help tie everything together better. I really like the look of my front amps. Best looking and best performing amps I could hope for. If they start putting their stuff in $1k chassis, I could have never built my system as it was already stretching the budget.

Rack mount will also help with cable management. I used some butcher block and welded open frame racks by Middle Atlantic. I also made all my cables except the power cords using the same canare cable benchmark uses.

Front rack installed:
View attachment 149517

Rear rack before it was installed:
View attachment 149518
Years if not decades ago I thought Amir had shown that the "Towel Tweak" was a fraud, or maybe that it was actually counterproductive. Perhaps, I vaguely remember, it was part of his dissertation at Tomsk Polytechnic. It was a feature article in a Soviet hi-fi magazine Stereo and Video. Maybe I got it wrong.
 

Jim Matthews

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I aspire to do the same one day with the Benchmark AHB2's in the future, as I believe that they are the spiritual successor to the NAD 2200's. Please see the NAD 2200 Vintage Amplifier Review of one of my TRIPLETS (soon to be QUINTUPLETS) on this site.

This illustrates a generational divide. We older audionutz revelled in our glory when we discovered "hidden" gems that didn't have a broad marketing push.

You have kept nice examples of this overbuilt powerhouse alive (I did much the same with Adcom 555 driving Magnepans and Apogees) and that's commendable.

The young Turks taking up our hobby just browse AliBaba.
 
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Spkrdctr

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This illustrates a generational divide. We older audionutz revelled in our glory when we discovered "hidden" gems that didn't have a broad marketing push.

You have kept nice examples of this overbuilt powerhouse alive (I did much the same with Adcom 555 driving Magnepans and Apogees.

The young Turks taking up our hobby just browse AliBaba.

Yes! IMHO they waste money on Headphones and even more silly items like buying numerous expensive DACs for the headphones. Most if not nearly all have not heard a very nice speaker based system that is dialed in correctly with Speaker placement, EQ, room correction and room treatments. Headphones are ok, but they just don't even come close to a real speaker system. It might be what we grew up with. I grew up with speakers, as headphones were very cheesy back in the day. Now, everyone has earbuds and graduates to the big leagues of sound by buying headphones. Then they stop, at the very least a good 5.1 surround system will make the music sound even better than a 2 channel system. That surround sound fools the brain and makes you hear amazing music. Amir has noticed this and commented (Speaker testing and measurements video) on how in testing, surround sound covers up so many issues that you would hear in 2 channel.

Alibaba, is the scourge of western civilization! OK, really it is China.........but I'm being nice. :)
 

Jim Matthews

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Now, everyone has earbuds and graduates to the big leagues of sound by buying headphones. :)

To be fair, headphones are a way to experience privacy when private space (and free time) are precious. I Jonezed hard for Stax electrostats when I was young.

Once I could afford them, my hearing had diminished.

I think they're making financial rational choices with audio purchases.
There's no romance in that.
 

Spkrdctr

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To be fair, headphones are a way to experience privacy when private space (and free time) are precious. I Jonezed hard for Stax electrostats when I was young.

Once I could afford them, my hearing had diminished.

I think they're making financial rational choices with audio purchases.
There's no romance in that.

That is a very good point. I was just at lunch with the wife talking about the post I put up and we realized that going the $500 headphone and iPhone route is very inexpensive, down right cheap! I can't argue that it would be a big decision in my mind if I was younger. Also, she mentioned portability. Lots of people listen on the go, you can't do that with speakers! So, there ARE some advantages to headphones, but since I'm an old coot, I don't think of them right away. I don't listen on the go at all. I also do not use any noise canceling headphones at all. I do not even listen to music while on my computer! But, I'm looking to buy a computer sound system and see what I think.

So, I am behind the times as many old coots are. Adding a computer sound system will be a big deal for me! Plus I do have surround sound headphones for watching TV. But I do not use them for music. In fact Amir should be testing my headphones any day now. Gee, I have to spend more money now!
 
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preload

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As a past/prior owner of the DAC1 HDR, DAC1 USB, two DAC2 D's, and a pair of AHB2's, I personally think the units look really nice together, either stacked or separately
In this post I will address the one criticism I have about Benchmark products and I would love to hear what others think on this topic. Please note that the intent of this post is not to knock down the products but for us buyers and users to give valuable feedback to Benchmark so hopefully they listen and incorporate in future releases. These are audio components, so obviously the most important thing is how they sound. Nothing but high praises in that regard. Top notch sound. That’s why I use them. However there is one area of secondary importance where in my opinion Benchmark is not hitting the “benchmark” not even close and I sincerely wish that they would address this shortcoming, which i think is a serious opportunity that they should not neglect as in my opinion it would substantially boost their sales and make many more Benchmark owners very happy. It’s about their design, how the products look when put together and how useful the presented information is.

From a further improvement standpoint, the sound of the LA4/HPA4/AHB2 really sets the benchmark and is far ahead of the competition and human hearing that there is really no further practical sonic benefit possible. Even if SNR of 144db is achieved, perfect 24 bits, it won’t bring improvement to anyone’s audio life because no one can possibly hear the difference. OK, once the competition starts catching up, which is years away, I get it. I could easily see the DAC3 getting updated due to pressures from other companies using the latest ESS DACs with really good SNRs (like the one below) and to fully match the specs of the LA4/AHB2 for marketing purposes, but again, it’s only for specs. No real practical sonic improvement. I would go for better design than better specs at this stage to update my Benchmark components. I am sure Benchmark are loosing potential customers because of how they look or because they don’t have a full set of offerings and sufficient product line segmentation. There are some amazing looking components out there and Benchmark need to pay attention. So I wish Benchmark would step up their design game at this stage, which would bring more real world value and pleasure to users. Just like buying a car. The design can make or break a deal regardless of performance. It should not be neglected.

Just like @John_Siau at Benchmark strives for perfection and thinks about the performance of all the components holistically from an engineering stand point in terms of how they will sound together, creates performance calculations in Excel and 3D circuits models before the first prototype is put together I wish that whoever is responsible for the design would use the same approach and attention to detail when thinking about how these components would look together.

View attachment 141817
Let’s look at the DAC3 B, HPA4, AHB2 system in a stack. Also keep in mind that the DAC3 B was designed to complement the LA4/HPA4.

Let’s examine the visual aspects. I see nice big matching feet on the HPA4 and AHB2, but what happened to the feet of the DAC3 B, why no matching feet on the DAC3 B?! They are missing and the DAC3 B sits tightly on top of the HPA4. So, there is more space between the AHB2-HPA4 than there is between HPA4-DAC3 B. Also the DAC3 B is half the height, which is not proportional to the other 2 components. It looks like it belongs to a different family of products in terms of design and form factor. Think about anyone who has 2 AHB2s and wants to put them side by side and a DAC3 on top of one and an HPA4 on top of the other. Overall different heights, widths, styles, not a aesthetically pleasing look. Now let’s look at the sides. The DAC3 B has no heatsinks. The HPA4 has small heatsinks of one design and the AHB2 has large heatsinks of a different design. So all 3 have different overall widths. It looks awful to me. It looks like the heatsinks were added based on the engineering needs of each components without regard to design. Why not use the same design heatsinks on all of them or hide the different sized ones inside the bodies and make them the same overall width?! I would love to see the AHB2 heatsinks on DAC3 and HPA4. Makes them look buffed and matching in style. There are very limited stacking options that would look decent as is. Imagine the AHB2 on top sticking out on the sides as if for rain or sun protection.

The DAC3 B looks cleaner in design than the other DAC3s with some buttons and the volume knob gone and the bigger matching Benchmark imprint looks good, but the overall design is still busy with all those lights and extra buttons. I see columns of 2, 3, 2, and 4 lights not vertically well aligned. The HGC at least has 4, 4, 2, and 4 lights and are more symmetrical, better pattern. The lights theme is very different than the AHB2 lights theme, which are horizontal. To my eyes, the design looks dated reminiscent of the 90’s. The AHB2 looks much better and cleaner. Looks like it’s from the 00’s. The HPA4 is even more clean and modern, from the digital age with its display, which I applaud. It looks like from the 10’s. If Benchmark added a display to the HPA4, and the DAC3 B was a complementing component, why not add the same display to the DAC3 B, make it of the same overall size and make it look from the same era. They would look like matching components. Just a power button and a nice big display that shows bit rate, sample rate and input source. Talking about the power button - on the DAC3 B, the label is centered below the button, just like it is for any other button. The HPA4 has no power button label. Did Benchmark forget to label it or they thought it’s the only button, what else can it be?! They labeled everything else on the other components. Look at the AHB2. The label is below the button and to the right. Why is it offset like that, it matches no other label?! The AHB2 also has only one button, but Benchmark labeled it. 3 different components, 3 different label logics. I know this is a minor thing, but it doesn’t look optically good and it tells me how much thought was put into the visuals. The same for the red model imprint. DAC3 B has it on the top left in black/white depending on faceplate and only the B is in red. Isn’t the “3” part of the model. They go DAC1, DAC2, DAC3 so the number designates the model. Shouldn’t the 3 also be in red or how about all in red if AHB2 is all in red?! The HPA4 has it on the display all in white when it’s on but what about when the display is off?! No model designation on the faceplate. Again, no consistency amongst the components, no attention to detail. On the AHB2 it’s on the center left and it’s all in red. Why not label them all with the same logic, colors and location, say for example bellow the Benchmark logo and left aligned on the right. They would look so much more professional together if they had the same size and design, just like they sound. So many examples from other companies of beautifully designed components.

From a design perspective, there is no proportionality, no symmetry, no visual flow, no synergy. I feel like the designer never looked at them put together.

Look at the S.M.S.L. stack - DAC, pre-amp/headphone and amp costing less than $800. Look at the clean modern design, the synergy, the beauty. They look like they were designed to be together and compliment each other.

View attachment 141816

Now let’s discuss the usefulness of the information provided. I like the big display on the LA4/HPA4, but it’s not well thought out in my opinion. Nice boot up screen with the logo but then i see a permanent big lettered “HPA4”. If I buy the product and it sits in my home for years, I know it’s the HPA4. It’s static information that is a waste of screen real estate. Why not show me more useful information instead?! Look at how small the volume digits are. Then you have 2 volume bars side by side permanently. How many people would listen through headphones and speakers at the same time?! It makes the screen look cluttered. Why not at the push of the volume button switch between line bars and headphone bars and keep them bigger (like the LA4) or if enough people care, create a cycle between the 3 choices. I feel like the designer only looked at the display from an arms reach sitting at a desk and never sat in a sofa in an actual home setting where the display might be quite far, like 14ft in my case. I can’t see those tiny volume digits and they are much more important to me than the model name. The bars are nice but they show ballpark volume. They serve as a guide. With a 128 db volume range a difference of 6db would look almost indistinguishable on the bar but in reality it’s 4 times the power. Look at the large digits in the S.M.S.L stack, so easy to read from any distance. Their designer put more thought into it.

The same with all the lights on the DAC3. From 14ft there is no way i can see which input source is selected. Especially in low light situations. I just see a light and based on the relative position i try to guess when i turn it on. Same for bit rate and sample rate. A display with large bitrate, sample rate and input would be so much more valuable and pleasant to look at. It would give me better information.

Why not add a matching display to AHB2?! Make them all modern looking. There are so many good looking examples like the Oppo HA-1 with volume indicators/needles that show you how close you are to peak power, kind of like a McIntosh. Or use digits, bars, etc. In my case, i know i have reached the limits when it clips and mutes and the red lights go on and i have to restart it. I have no idea how much headroom i have. It’s always sudden, no warning.

Why not think about adding a network streamer with the same display and form factor, showing album art. So many beautiful offerings from other companies. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful stack with 4 components all visually matching with beautiful displays… Try to imagine such a stack. It would be an absolute visual delight. It would be extremely hard to resist buying such a combo and people would be willing to buy all components from Benchmark because of the visual synergy. I use Bluesound Vault as a streamer now but would prefer a matching Benchmark. Imagine a beautiful app that controls all devices, volume, input, and your music with album art, etc. I would definitely buy all 4 such components and would be super happy with both the looks and sound. It would be an absolute end-game system.

I wrote to Rory Rall about getting an LA4 with the same heatsinks as the AHB2 because i want it to match my AHB2, but he told me the heatsinks only come with the rackmount faceplate. I don’t want the rackmount faceplate so i asked him if i could order it with both the rackmount faceplate and the standard faceplate so I can use the heatsinks and the standard faceplate but he didn’t respond. He is usually very prompt. Maybe it’s because i expressed the same thoughts regarding the visual aspects, which he didn’t like, so he ignored me. Hopefully at least he shared internally so that such input would be considered and discussed. I honestly don’t understand why there is no such option. Is this visual mismatch only bothering me? I would have bought the LA4. I would also wait upgrading my DAC2 HGC because i am happy with the sound, and the only reason i would get it so for matching design and usability. The DAC3 B doesn’t cut it for me.

I know this was long, but let me know your thoughts.

As a past/prior owner of the DAC1 HDR, DAC1 USB, two DAC2 D's, and a pair of AHB2's, I personally think the units look really nice together, either stacked or separated. If you want "design," go buy an Apple DAC/AMP.
 

EJ3

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As a past/prior owner of the DAC1 HDR, DAC1 USB, two DAC2 D's, and a pair of AHB2's, I personally think the units look really nice together, either stacked or separately

As a past/prior owner of the DAC1 HDR, DAC1 USB, two DAC2 D's, and a pair of AHB2's, I personally think the units look really nice together, either stacked or separated. If you want "design," go buy an Apple DAC/AMP.
I could go for some better visibility of certain functions at "14 feet". Otherwise I find the "stack" aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, I believe in function over form (in this case I do not find the form in anyway truly needs changing. But, if it was changed (and the price kept within a few $100, I'd likely be OK with that, because the form is definitely secondary. Most likely I'll only be buying the amps anyway.
 

EJ3

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This illustrates a generational divide. We older audionutz revelled in our glory when we discovered "hidden" gems that didn't have a broad marketing push.

You have kept nice examples of this overbuilt powerhouse alive (I did much the same with Adcom 555 driving Magnepans and Apogees) and that's commendable.

The young Turks taking up our hobby just browse AliBaba.
I am fond of things that function at a high level for a long time. But I also take care of them. In the long run, it's cheaper to keep it out of the land fill by rejuvenating it. I live in a house built by my parents (designed and built by them & their friends) in 1964. In 1965 we moved in. It was built with a boiler (now a natural gas boiler) for baseboard heat (for quiet, fanless heat and following the efficiencies of heat rises), central air (with the vents in the ceiling, following the efficiencies of cold falls), central vacuum cleaning and a tube based, wired intercom system/baby monitor that could play mono music throughout the house (including a speaker at the front door). It received some new tubes over 25 years ago & works fine. If you bought (or built) good stuff to begin with, and take care of it, it may surprise you and last a life time.
 

preload

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Alibaba, is the scourge of western civilization! OK, really it is China.........but I'm being nice. :)

If you don't like China nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to buy products manufactured there. Hopefully you don't own any Apple products because guess where those are made.
 

EJ3

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If you don't like China nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to buy products manufactured there. Hopefully you don't own any Apple products because guess where those are made.
My wife (who is originally from mainland China but I met in Saipan) told me many years ago "that if it is made in China & it is not made from silk, it's quality is suspect". (I told her that SHE is from China: she slapped me). While the quality of some things from there has been changing for the better, overall (worldwide) the consumerist throw away (buy as cheap as you can get it) society that has been making things worse. So, if you are looking for quality (not only will it do it's job correctly but will it last beyond the warranty? [I had one piece of stereo equipment {which was given as a gift} that became landfill material one day after the warranty as the expense to repair it was higher than the purchase price. That company lost me as a customer forever, as well as others that I have told about that experience]). Due to the consumerist society, everything from everywhere has become suspect (even expensive items). So: Buyer Beware and do your research: it is up to you to check things out. Hence, the great value of sites like this.
 

PGAMiami

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I recently went from Constellation Centaur monos to ABH2s. In a nutshell, I find the ABH2s are better amplifiers. Lower noise, more detailed yet smoother, much more practical, although the Constellations are surely much, much better looking. And they should be at 10x the price.

I started out with a pair of ABH2s in mono on my TAD R1s, never tried the ABH2s in stereo. Then went to 4 ABH2s in a simple, vertical biamp configuration, with no active crossover. And now I’m using a Pass XVR1 as an active crossover, the LPF in the TADs are bi-passed with the woofers connected directly to an ABH2. The coax in the TADs is connected to another ABH2 using both this internal HPF and a HPF in the Pass XVR1. The original designer of the TAD R1 helped with selecting the settings on the XVR1 so the drivers would all blend nicely. This is by far the best sound I’ve ever gotten from my R1s. Could 4 Centaur monos have sounded better? I expect not since a pair of ABH2s for me were better than a pair of Centaurs. Either way, 4 Constellation amps are totally impractical from any reasonable perspective .
 

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I went the rackmount route. I plan on doing a built-in rack mount in some shelves I have, but for now the gear is in an inexpensive 8U unit. I added to rails to the rear so I could mount fans. I found without the fans, the top amp runs much warmer than the bottom amp. These AC Infinity fans are super quiet. I run them on their lowest speed. This photo shows the miniDsp SHD being run via RCA unbal -- at the time I was working on the DIRAC so the usb port was taken by the computer doing the adjustment. I'm driving it via USB now.

I was going to go with silver, but then I figured that most of the other gear in the rack will be black, so went with black AHB2.

You cannot really see it here, but I put 2 tiny pieces of duct tape over the Furman's green LED to make it pretty dim.

Marc

IMG_2928.jpeg


IMG_2923.jpeg


IMG_2920.jpeg
 

Dani123

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Hi Guys,

amazing products .value for me - is crazy . i have the full set of : LA4/2 x AHB2 in bridge mode/DAC-3B.

I have a question for you guys- using it in the low gain setting - i only starting to hear something at about - 30dB(about 3/4 of the full bar) at the pre screen . normal listening level is at about -15db .are you experiencing this also ? speakers sensitivity is about 90 db

thanks
 

restorer-john

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I went the rackmount route. I plan on doing a built-in rack mount in some shelves I have, but for now the gear is in an inexpensive 8U unit. I added to rails to the rear so I could mount fans. I found without the fans, the top amp runs much warmer than the bottom amp. These AC Infinity fans are super quiet. I run them on their lowest speed. This photo shows the miniDsp SHD being run via RCA unbal -- at the time I was working on the DIRAC so the usb port was taken by the computer doing the adjustment. I'm driving it via USB now.

I was going to go with silver, but then I figured that most of the other gear in the rack will be black, so went with black AHB2.

You cannot really see it here, but I put 2 tiny pieces of duct tape over the Furman's green LED to make it pretty dim.

Marc

View attachment 155866

View attachment 155864

View attachment 155865

The benchmark has vertical fins on the heatsink and I just cannot see how blowing or sucking air at the rear of the units will be terribly effective. You have no gaps in the rack face to get airflow either.

Why not mount them at the top of the rack (heat rises) and put fans directly above them pulling air out into the room?
 

walt99

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Hi Guys,

amazing products .value for me - is crazy . i have the full set of : LA4/2 x AHB2 in bridge mode/DAC-3B.

I have a question for you guys- using it in the low gain setting - i only starting to hear something at about - 30dB(about 3/4 of the full bar) at the pre screen . normal listening level is at about -15db .are you experiencing this also ? speakers sensitivity is about 90 db

thanks
I have the same setup with Revel 328 (about 90db sense), normal listening level is around -45 on the LA4. At -15 it’s very loud.
You may want to check switch settings and input/output connections.
 

Dani123

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I have the same setup with Revel 328 (about 90db sense), normal listening level is around -45 on the LA4. At -15 it’s very loud.
You may want to check switch settings and input/output connections.
Thank you for your reply!
input sensitivity at the AHB 2 is 9.6 vrms - lowest setting, which recommended by Benchmark. (Speakon to banana speaker cables)
I have change cables few times and checked with 2 different speakers.
I use only XLR connectors - input 1 at the LA4. (no boost at the VOL settings)

haven't verified DAC 3B settings though, which should be at default and optimized for the LA4.
loud is subjective , but the fact that you tell me the at -45 you can hear something - tells me that either we use different settings or something is wrong with my setup.

if you or any one can share more info or ideas that will help.
source is JRIVER via WIN 10 platform (using internal volume at max level and USB connection)

many thanks
 

walt99

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Thank you for your reply!
input sensitivity at the AHB 2 is 9.6 vrms - lowest setting, which recommended by Benchmark. (Speakon to banana speaker cables)
I have change cables few times and checked with 2 different speakers.
I use only XLR connectors - input 1 at the LA4. (no boost at the VOL settings)

haven't verified DAC 3B settings though, which should be at default and optimized for the LA4.
loud is subjective , but the fact that you tell me the at -45 you can hear something - tells me that either we use different settings or something is wrong with my setup.

if you or any one can share more info or ideas that will help.
source is JRIVER via WIN 10 platform (using internal volume at max level and USB connection)

many thanks
Is it safe to assume you have the stereo/mono switch set to ‘mono’ and have input to #1 mono in and using the bridged mono output?
 

rdenney

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I’m a bit lost in model numbers, but if the DAC output is the usual line-level 2 VRMS, and the preamp is passive (meaning: no gain), won’t it under drive an amp with an input sensitivity of 9.6 VRMS? I would think that needs a preamp with active gain.

Rick “gain structures” Denney
 
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