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What do you Benchmark fans/users think?

Dani123

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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
From the manual of the DAC-3B:

"At 0 dBFS, the balanced interfaces were calibrated to +24 dBu (12.28 Vrms)"
 

honjr

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I had a the original Benchmark DAC. It wasn't shielded very well, and would pick up interference from my cell phone connecting to wifi. Goes to show how useless most reviews are, only testing products in a laboratory setting. (Now I listen to music on a Motu M2, and it sounds perfect. Simply a better-engineered product.)
Agree - my DAC2 died. I will never buy another expensive Benchmark DAC (or amp).
 

radix

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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?

I had tried an exhaust fan mounted on the rear just above the amp height, but it did not do very well. The back is not enclosed at all, so I think it did a poor job of causing air flow from the bottom. Forcing air in at the bottom seems to stir things up enough to keep the top amp less warm. it's still warmer than the bottom amp, but much cooler than with the top exhaust. There's also equipment sitting over the top amp (minidsp shd), so there's not really a path to pull air out of there. The shd was getting pretty hot too with the exhaust fan, but is now pretty cool to the touch with the intake fans. So, in a nutshell, the intake fans let me force circulation where it's needed, while the exhaust fan pulled from everywhere.

Another issue is there's no bottom air vents on the rack, the amps are sitting directly on the bottom, so nothing gets sucked up near them.
 

anmpr1

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Agree - my DAC2 died. I will never buy another expensive Benchmark DAC (or amp).

Benchmark gear is not expensive. It is not on the 'cheap' end of the spectrum, but for what you get --> build quality, fit and finish, and support, it represents good value, IMO. However, if you are just looking for cheap digital conversion there are plenty of other options for less money.

For amplifiers, as far as I know, none beats the AHB2 from a specification standpoint, especially given its small form factor. You can spend a whole lot more and get less. For applications requiring high powered it would not be a good choice, unless one is willing to use them in single channel mode.

They’ve got 5 year warranties …. Seems pretty safe?
The DAC2 was first introduced in 2013. So the design is almost 10 years old. That said, it's a circuit board. If I had a blown DAC that was out of warranty I'd call the company to ask the cost of repair.
 

617

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You are not going to hear a difference in competently designed amps. Once you have reasonable SINAD, then power, aesthetics, and reliability are big differentiators. AHB2 SINAD is more for cachet than audibility...

you can send me the amps, and send the other stuff to @gene_stl ;)
This isn't discussed enough. Performance needs only be 'good enough' for components that easily deliver perfection (most electronics). Aesthetics and functionality is where most of the products we see fail in my eyes.
 

anmpr1

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This isn't discussed enough. Performance needs only be 'good enough' for components that easily deliver perfection (most electronics). Aesthetics and functionality is where most of the products we see fail in my eyes.
I would modify that. Gear that is 'good enough', but not top tier, does not provide 'perfection'. At least on an absolute scale. It might be indistinguishable from lesser priced or measured gear, for sure. But it cannot be considered 'perfection' in an absolute engineering sense.

And one has to consider the application. There is a recent ASR review of a small two-way DIY self-powered loudspeaker that was judged to be exceptional, from a measurement standpoint. Just don't get too near the speaker or you will encounter the dreaded 'self-powered hiss'.

In that case, for perfection, we could say a better amplifier is called for. But then the price goes up, and you might not be able to fit it into the cabinet, etc. Or, you can just excuse it by saying, "When playing music you won't hear the hiss, so for all practical purposes what you have is essentially two-way Klippelized 'perfection'. But deep down, you know that it is not perfect. Just pretty good.

From a DAC standpoint, a cheap device is probably as good (and might even be measurably 'better') as anything expensive. Especially in the case of something like a DAC2, which design is at least 10 years old. But then there are other considerations. For example, in addition to the DAC, the HGC version is a (pretty) full featured preamplifier with headphone amp, and multiple outputs. So you are not just paying for raw digit conversion.

And, consider this, if (for example) a Topping was designed and assembled in NY state, and if Topping provided support plus a local warranty station, then whatever they sold would be at least as expensive as Benchmark gear. As I recall, that company started out selling inexpensive but well engineered products. Some of their latest stuff, while still showing good engineering, is certainly not in the inexpensive category.
 
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rdenney

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There is no such thing as engineering perfection, or even an “absolute engineering sense”. An engineering effort either fulfills requirements or it doesn’t. if it doesn’t, it’s a faulty design (or proof that the requirements are unattainable). If it does, it’s correct. If it goes beyond that, it’s gilding the lily (meaning: it costs too much).

The trick is in writing the requirements, which are driven by user needs. If the requirements completely and correctly satisfy those needs, they are valid.

I have a requirement that an amp not produce audible hiss. I do not have a requirement that its frequency response is flat within 0.1 dB above 12 KHz. You may not care about hiss and maybe you hear well enough to detect (let alone be bothered by) a falloff at 20 KHz of a bit more that 0.1 dB. I have a requirement that an amp produce noticeably more and cleaner power than my current amp (125 wpc into 8 ohms at its specified maximum distortion of 0.09% THD). I do not have a requirement for big analog meters—you may. I also have a budget, which is likely different from yours.

I think the Hypex Ncore amps are pretty close to perfect in light of the requirements they fulfill. To me, it represents a greater engineering challenge and demonstrates more success than many of the high-end amps relatively unconstrained by budget and unadventurous in their design.

Will its collection of compromises niggle at me? No. They might bother you. I might be bothered by a different set of compromises—it would niggle at me that the high-end amp I paid many thousands for turned out (using only my ears as a guide) to sound no better than the Ncore.

But in my engineering role I’m measured on verification outcomes, not anybody’s particular sense of perfection. I am not paid as an engineer to produce artisanal products.

That doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to buy artisanal products, but I distinguish the artistic input from good engineering.

Rick “perfection is unattainable” Denney
 

EJ3

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There is no such thing as engineering perfection, or even an “absolute engineering sense”. An engineering effort either fulfills requirements or it doesn’t. if it doesn’t, it’s a faulty design (or proof that the requirements are unattainable). If it does, it’s correct. If it goes beyond that, it’s gilding the lily (meaning: it costs too much).

The trick is in writing the requirements, which are driven by user needs. If the requirements completely and correctly satisfy those needs, they are valid.

I have a requirement that an amp not produce audible hiss. I do not have a requirement that its frequency response is flat within 0.1 dB above 12 KHz. You may not care about hiss and maybe you hear well enough to detect (let alone be bothered by) a falloff at 20 KHz of a bit more that 0.1 dB. I have a requirement that an amp produce noticeably more and cleaner power than my current amp (125 wpc into 8 ohms at its specified maximum distortion of 0.09% THD). I do not have a requirement for big analog meters—you may. I also have a budget, which is likely different from yours.

I think the Hypex Ncore amps are pretty close to perfect in light of the requirements they fulfill. To me, it represents a greater engineering challenge and demonstrates more success than many of the high-end amps relatively unconstrained by budget and unadventurous in their design.

Will its collection of compromises niggle at me? No. They might bother you. I might be bothered by a different set of compromises—it would niggle at me that the high-end amp I paid many thousands for turned out (using only my ears as a guide) to sound no better than the Ncore.

But in my engineering role I’m measured on verification outcomes, not anybody’s particular sense of perfection. I am not paid as an engineer to produce artisanal products.

That doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to buy artisanal products, but I distinguish the artistic input from good engineering.

Rick “perfection is unattainable” Denney
For me: 1. Does it meet my 'engineering requirements' (two of which involve longevity and future reparability and/or upgradability [resto-modding, if you will) 2. Does it meet what is acceptable in my 'form factor' needs 3. If it has met 1 & 2 & it has an "artisanal" appearance, is it one that is acceptable to me (for instance piano black or piano white are not acceptable for anything in my home [unless it was, in fact, a full blown baby grand or grand piano] {yes, I could fit one but some other stuff I hold dearly would have to be moved or otherwise gotten rid of & that would be HIGHLY UNLIKELY because, for me, it does not meet my requirement 2}).
We all have various engineering requirements and various aesthetic requirements. And sometimes we still cannot get both together in the package that we want & have to get creative on how to put our own audio equipment puzzle together in a way that works for us.
 

rdenney

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My point is that aesthetic features and other cost items are business decisions that are given to engineers who do the engineering design, and those engineers will treat those as requirements. The business people giving those requirements to engineers are evaluating the market to determine what the product needs to do (and look like) to attract a market at their target price point. Those are business decisions.

Your "engineering requirements" are really design features that you want to support your particular use cases, which include the hobby of digging around inside the box. There are lots of amps I might fool around in, but a Benchmark (the topic of this thread) wouldn't be one of them. Requirements to support that use case might avoid the use of IC's, or surface-mount components, or microprocessor control with internal software. My fooling around in an Ncore amp would be related to adding features not provided by the company that cased it for me, including, for example, the clipping indicator. At the price point of that amp, I might not expect it to be the amp that lets me play around inside. I'll enjoy that with my vintage amps, and I have several. But all that, as you say, is just how your use cases might differ from mine, or from the use cases supported by any given product.

Rick "a systems engineer by experience" Denney
 

anmpr1

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There is no such thing as engineering perfection, or even an “absolute engineering sense”.
With a 'black box' inserted into an electronic circuit or signal path, perfection can be defined as no pass through signal degradation. Can this 'ideal' be achieved in practice? In an amplifier? But regardless, the ideal remains something to strive for, if only because it is an ultimate goal.

With the AHB2 one can argue that its electrical performance is closer to the absolute or ideal amplifier than any other commercial amp within its power output (at least as far as I know). Something 'better', something that more approaches this ideal, might come along tomorrow, and then it's back to the drawing board. We also admit that from a listener's perspective all this probably means more as a number on a sheet of paper than it does in any practical 'in the living room' experience. From a listening perspective, minuscule sets of numbers may not matter much, if at all.

All that said, once you get past the 'black box' stage, things become more confused. Loudspeakers, for instance. A loudspeaker is fundamentally a different kind of device than an amplifier. The latter stays in the electrical domain, whereas a loudspeaker transforms voltage into sound. Strictly speaking, we don't 'hear' amplifiers (unless their transformers buzz, or the fan makes noise).

Some have argued that the goal of the loudspeaker is to 'reproduce' the sound of a live instrument (or instruments) accurately, albeit from a recording. Harry Pearson argued that way. But to me, that's not an actual goal, since in my living room I don't want the actual sound of the instrument, as if it were playing live. In fact, I don't think anyone really wants that. Instead, I want a smallish 'picture' of the sound event, one that is more or less believable to my ears--one that represents a facsimile of the event. If you want the 'real thing', buy a piano and learn to play it. Your loudspeaker is not going to ever fool you into thinking it is a piano.

I will admit that subjectively, after I put my Benchmark chain into my system, my fairly sensitive loudspeakers sounded better than I'd ever heard them. But I know enough about A/B blind tests to know that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the AHB2 and any other competently designed amp. Maybe they would sound even better with backlit blue meters? Possibly. But in order to get that you have to travel south from Syracuse about an hour, and have more money in your pocket than whatever Benchmark is charging.
 

EJ3

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My point is that aesthetic features and other cost items are business decisions that are given to engineers who do the engineering design, and those engineers will treat those as requirements. The business people giving those requirements to engineers are evaluating the market to determine what the product needs to do (and look like) to attract a market at their target price point. Those are business decisions.

Your "engineering requirements" are really design features that you want to support your particular use cases, which include the hobby of digging around inside the box. There are lots of amps I might fool around in, but a Benchmark (the topic of this thread) wouldn't be one of them. Requirements to support that use case might avoid the use of IC's, or surface-mount components, or microprocessor control with internal software. My fooling around in an Ncore amp would be related to adding features not provided by the company that cased it for me, including, for example, the clipping indicator. At the price point of that amp, I might not expect it to be the amp that lets me play around inside. I'll enjoy that with my vintage amps, and I have several. But all that, as you say, is just how your use cases might differ from mine, or from the use cases supported by any given product.

Rick "a systems engineer by experience" Denney
At the moment (& for some time now) I have 5 NAD 2200's resto-modded by Peter Williams at Quirk Audio (you can see a test of one of my personal NAD 2200's right here on this site: Please check out AMIRM's NAD 2200 review (for those that are unfamiliar with them, NAD 2200's are CLASS G amplifiers [a more efficient version of class A/B amps]). I run my main system Tri-Amped. (One 2200 running in stereo into a pair of 2 ohm subs crossed over at 80 Hz, the other two 2200's are running bridged mono each into a 4 ohm L & a 4 ohm R channel.
I DO like meters, so I hope to get a couple of bridgeable not quite identical sisters to the NAD's, the PROTON D-1200's. I would also like to build 2 more subs to go with them. Then I could have the 2 PROTONS running four 2 ohm subs with meters dancing a bit. And I would also like to get 2 Benchmark ABH2's (CLASS H amps [the most efficient incarnation of AB yet) to run bridged mono (I too, want to mod the ABH2's with a clipping indicator [but nothing more] {and hope that I never need to go into them for repairs or mods) in place of the NAD 2200's (which would be relegated to one of my secondary systems). Perhaps, if the day ever comes that it would be time to dig into the ABH2's for any reason, then I might consider the long term reliability of the CLASS D's to make them a viable choice for me. Right now, for me, they are not.
 

rdenney

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Good amps. My main amps are B&K Reference 125.2 (two of them, biamped but not really--the crossover is still in the speakers--so mostly wasting power). I have no intention of getting rid of them--they are still really fine amps. But sometimes you gotta scratch the itch, so I ordered a Buckeye NC502MP. That should actually put more power into those speakers and really reduce the space and heat concerns I have with the B&K amps. I'll move those to another system--running stacked Advents with these two amps was a lot of fun, but unworkable in my space if I want decent placement.

The Benchmark amps would be my end-point choice, but to get the same power, I'd want to get two and bridge them, so that would nearly an order of magnitude more than that Buckeye (or what I paid for the preowned B&K amps).

Rick "who still misses his old Spectro Acoustics amp--200 wpc with a transformer the size of a melon but limited ability to contain its magic smoke" Denney
 

EJ3

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Good amps. My main amps are B&K Reference 125.2 (two of them, biamped but not really--the crossover is still in the speakers--so mostly wasting power). I have no intention of getting rid of them--they are still really fine amps. But sometimes you gotta scratch the itch, so I ordered a Buckeye NC502MP. That should actually put more power into those speakers and really reduce the space and heat concerns I have with the B&K amps. I'll move those to another system--running stacked Advents with these two amps was a lot of fun, but unworkable in my space if I want decent placement.

The Benchmark amps would be my end-point choice, but to get the same power, I'd want to get two and bridge them, so that would nearly an order of magnitude more than that Buckeye (or what I paid for the preowned B&K amps).

Rick "who still misses his old Spectro Acoustics amp--200 wpc with a transformer the size of a melon but limited ability to contain its magic smoke" Denney
Yes, I discovered with a 1990 DENON AVR (the only AVR I've ever had) that one of what I knew as an automotive mechanic applied to electronic gear too: when the smoke is let out of the wiring and/or circuits, the magic goes away (and sometimes, simultaneously, there is fire TOO!). DAAANG, I hated it when that happened.
EJ3
 

richard12511

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I understand you like the aesthetic of this brand (I think it's a bit silly, and a bit out-there if I had people over wondering wtf I got set up in my living room). But I'm just confused. Where are the SINAD comparisons? Maybe I'm just illiterate, but looking at some of the measurements on Stereophile, I'm not seeing how this is as superior.

The new stuff on the site is just a big question mark.

The DM88 (the supposed top spec of the time), I took a look at measurements quickly to see what I can compare with in terms of Amir's metrics

THD+N into 4 ohm for example (since I'm not seeing straight up SINAD comparisons):

806H88FIG05.jpg


index.php


Likewise the IMD of 19+20kHz doesn't seem to be there either (though I don't think it can be directly compared between the two measured strictly as I'm not sure what level Amir measured it.

Even the Frequency Response isn't better, down more than -3.5dB at 200kHz compared to -3dB for the Benchmark. Granted the newer stuff on their site claims it's down 3dB between 7Hz-215kHz, so I suppose it wins there. Though the Benchmark is only down .03 @ 20Hz, so perhaps better (don't know since Halcro claims -1dB for (7-90kHz)

SNR seems close with the new stuff (based on website claims, not actual measurements though), though the older DM88 flagship doesn't seem like it matches the Benchmark tbh.

Maybe you can help me, but I'm just not seeing it in a few metrics I felt I could somewhat look at and compare.. Excuse me if I misread anything and skipped over something obviously superior.

Oh one thing to mention. The cost of these amps are lunacy, I'm not sure why this is even a comparison. I guess I was intrigued since you said there was a better SINAD measured amp out there (I haven't seen one) so I was interested. In reality though, you'd have to really be pulled by the aesthetics to get this thing over a Benchmark or two. Because the supposed performance being as superior as you postulate isn't as evident as one would assume a lower 4-figure product would be compared to a middling to upper end 5-figure product.

Also fair to point out that no matter who has slightly better measured results, we're already talking levels that are orders of magnitude better than what the human ear can hear. At equal volumes, these amps will sound exactly the same. Unless you need the extra volume, the Halcro seems like a pretty big waste of money imo(as is the case with all crazy expensive amps tbh).

That said, I would like to see third party AP measurements of the Halcro to see who wins the measurement battle, regardless of audibility. I don't trust promotional measurements at all, and even those are still not clearly better than the Benchmark.

In terms of audible performance(what really matters ;)), the top of the line Purifi/Hypex amps actually beat the Halcro :oops:, for a fraction of the price. Both are perfect to beyond human hearing limits, so sound quality at quiet to very loud will be identical, but the class D boys should sound a bit better at the very loudest levels, due to having more power.

I do like the aesthetic of those Halcro amps, though
 
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JCollins

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My apologies if this is not the right thread to ask the following question/s. If not, please ignore. I recently acquired the March Audio P701M which are based on the Hypex NC 1200 module. These are very good, class D mono blocks. Plenty of clean, low distortion power. A similar assembler Nord was tested on ASR https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...e-nc1200dm-signature-stereo-amp-review.10261/ a while back using one chassis for both channels. While no concerns with the P701M amplifiers, I have slight buyers remorse not due to what I am hearing (as I haven't compared between the two) but knowing that the Benchmark AHB2 technically measures better. Both amps are considered to be in the top quartile of amplifiers tested to date. The question is, would I likely even be able to hear any difference in the amplifiers based on the measurements alone? Has anyone listened to the AHB2 and NC 1200 to compare? Would you bother trying to A/B comparision?
 

radix

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My apologies if this is not the right thread to ask the following question/s. If not, please ignore. I recently acquired the March Audio P701M which are based on the Hypex NC 1200 module. These are very good, class D mono blocks. Plenty of clean, low distortion power. A similar assembler Nord was tested on ASR https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...e-nc1200dm-signature-stereo-amp-review.10261/ a while back using one chassis for both channels. While no concerns with the P701M amplifiers, I have slight buyers remorse not due to what I am hearing (as I haven't compared between the two) but knowing that the Benchmark AHB2 technically measures better. Both amps are considered to be in the top quartile of amplifiers tested to date. The question is, would I likely even be able to hear any difference in the amplifiers based on the measurements alone? Has anyone listened to the AHB2 and NC 1200 to compare? Would you bother trying to A/B comparision?
I have not done a side-by-side. I would really doubt you'd hear a negative difference between the two. Your speakers and room will mess things up way more than that difference. I don't mean to say they would not sound a little different, but not a negative difference. Maybe they have different tonality? I'm not sure. I think at those THD and SINAD levels, you are way down in the weeds below human discrimination.

I think the main issue is making sure you have enough watts per channel for your desired headroom and SPL at the listening distance for your speakers. I went with 2x AHB2 monoblocks to make sure I had the headroom and power for my speakers.

Did you look at https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...son-333-listening-impression-conclusion.23853 ?

Marc
 

JCollins

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Thanks for your reply. Yes, I had a good look at that thread. Interesting. I would also likely go with 2 x AHB2 bridged if I went down the Benchmark path. I certainly considered the AHB2 at the outset but they are double the price to go with a mono block configuration, though likely worth the investment. I also had concerns with them being bridged with speakers that can dip to 0.7 Ohms at 20Khz, but I think my concerns were not well founded. I have Martin Logan (ML) 13a, in a 20 sqm room or circa 200 square feet room, with two ML BF210 subwoofers. The speakers are about 3.5m or 12 ft back from the listening position. I generally listen to music between 65db and 80db, so I doubt I am using any more than 5 watts on 92db sensitive speakers at the best of times, even when listening to recordings with broad dynamic range. The P701M can cleanly deliver 500 watts into a 4 Ohm load. I also have minimum noise levels of 17db, even late at night that I can't remove in the current environment, so this can all play into the end result.
 
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