Benchmark or McIntosh....

Brain says two Benchmark ABH2 as monoblocks. Heart says Mc because meters and more power. A little background info:

Mixed-use theater/listening room. More listening versus movies. Primary source is a Hifi Rose RS150B into an Anthem AVM 70 pre/pro. Current amplifier is a Wadia A315 at 150x2. Speakers are NHT M6 monitors (a 6 ohm/ 250w sealed speaker, which is exceedingly rare and why I still have them.) I have seven 21" subwoofers so it is fairly equivalent to a live concert when everything is fired up but I need a little more oomph from the monitors.

I was set on a pair ABH2s earlier this week, but I keep getting drawn back to McIntosh - primarily monos MC601 MC611 MC1201 etc...

Do I pick Mc with more power (will probably be a second-hand model due to availability/wait times/budget etc) or so I go for the Benchmark with superior SNR (pre/pro is 110db and Hifi Rose is 117db)

TIA for any real-world feedback!


I’m still trying to understand the (7) 21" subwoofers. Where do you the Astrodome?

One each in the front Left and Right corner.  One in the back of the theater,  mid-wall. Two on the left mid-wall and two on the right mid-wall. Room is 22x12x7 in the basement on concrete foundation and it will vibrate the floor. 

You really must listen to them. These guys are on opposite ends of the spectrum. MAC is a powerhouse in midrange and bass, with little detail, benchmark heavy detail.

Both brands have lots of fans and are well respected. While I love the meters and look of Mac (typically women hate the look… not just dislike) the sound… twenty seconds of listening and it gets crossed off my list. Same with Benchmark, for the opposite reason. So, for me, neither.

But I think if you are contemplating both at once… I would find a way to listen to them.

I'd probably lean towards detail,  to be honest. Midrange would be nice.  Bass I have handled (lol!) The monitors cross over at 80, 90, or 100hz depending on the song and setting. I like the size of the McIntosh and the look. They'll run warmer,  which is a minus to me.  The Benchmark is small, but quiet and cool-running. I don't mind the sound being up front or my face. Again,  it's like a concert in here.  Almost a visceral experience. 

This is like asking if you should get a Ferrari or a Bentley and I can’t even believe this question is being asked because they’re polar opposite amps.  If you can’t decide which of these amps is more appropriate for your system and tastes I feel sorry for you — you are truly lost and really need to go out and listen more.  Seven subs???  Your room setup looks like a total mess with speakers crammed in the corners and subs all over the place.  This whole thing just seems like a prank or a bad joke.  Whatever.  Peace out. 

Mac equipment provides plenty of detail, but not the fake detail which results in brightness.


Mac equipment provides plenty of detail, but not the fake detail which results in brightness.

Based upon my listening experience a lot of audio brands touted for their supposedly “detailed “ sound are instead contrived and artificial in their presentation. In my opinion the antithesis of natural and real. Nonetheless, each individual must listen and choose for themselves.


Not a joke @soix  . Information gathering and real- world feedback before I plop the money down. Like it said heart wants one,  brain says the other. Assuming that your are also looking at a picture of the room that is very old and nowhere near current.  In think the Salamander stand and the monitors are the only thing left from back then.  Multiple subs help even the bass out in the room, just following the Harman papers and advice from acoustic engineers (Anthony Grimani and others)  for bass management. 

In all seriousness, if I’m you I’d be looking seriously at the GaN amps from the likes of AGD and Atmasphere over either of the two you’re considering as they’d probably outperform both and are upgradable as technology improves.  No brainer I’d think.  Best of luck. 

I am not a fan of MAC and love the AHB2, however, with the NHT, if it is like the NHT 2.9 I owned decades ago, I would take the MAC.

The 3 GAN amps I have owned were not better than the AHB2.

Though they were not the AGD or atmas-sphere

The AHB2 also is not the most powerful, even in mono.  Though I say this and I am looking for a used pair of AHB2's.


Wow! That's a lot of subs.

My only benchmark experiences are with my headphone amp, but I would agree with the general feeling that Benchmark is more about detail and accuracy, while McIntosh is more about midrange and lower treble roll off and liquidity of sound.

I'm more now then ever enjoying amps with warmth and depth and get my details out of my DAC's and tube selection.

So I'd personally go with McIntosh if choosing between just those two, but honestly I think a Parasound JC5 would do it for you.

I absolutely loved that amp and feel it's kinda of a auditory mid ground between those two brands you mentioned. have SEVEN 21" sub woofers in your room and you need a little more "oomph" ??? have SEVEN 21" sub woofers in your room and you need a little more "oomph" ???


A bit more oomph? All these amps are within less than 2 dB of each other and 3dB more than your current amp. A bit is about all you’ll get. All you can get. While you may rightly love your NHTs, you need to take a jump up in speakers to even begin to match up to your subs. JBL 4367s come to mind.


McIntosh 100%, build quality, sound, resale, warranty, etc. you won’t regret it! 

7 subwoofers... what for... you'll probably go deaf before much longer so which one you pick doesn't matter. Anything higher than 95db starts moving you towards hearing loss.

I have MC611's and love them. Going on three years now. They are used with the C2700 preamp. The majority of my listening is vinyl. 

With 7 subs, you'll need an eighth to even out the bass for your neighbors in the next town.

Between the brain and the heart, heart always wins in the end. Save yourself some grief and go with Mac. 

If the main goal is to drive the monitors you have harder, squeeze more performance out to try and keep up with the rest of your system, sound signature aside, I’d roll with the Mac’s.  If your heart is set on sticking with your current speakers, I’d also look at some other brands, amps.  Krell would come to mind, Parasound is another, brands known to really drive speakers, it’s not just about watts when it comes to how well an Amp drives a speaker, certain brands, designs will drive and control speakers with better results than others.  Mac is one of the brands that routinely is praised for punching far above the wattage rating with most of their models being able to drive the vast majority of speakers to their potential.  The flip side is if you aren’t a fan of their sound signature, it won’t matter that they can drive the speakers.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Mac’s hold their value, you could likely buy used, try them out and if you don’t like them, sell them with little loss, risk.  There are also some online dealers, not many for Mac’s that offer a trial period regardless of brand, you could take advantage of the trial period. 

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This whole exercise seems the equivalent of shoehorning a V12 into a Pinto. The NHT’s at their very best won’t be exceptional. Your $$$ though.


@curiousjim Room is 22x12x7 give or take a few inches.

@mm1tt77 100% agree on the McIntosh resale. It would be a pretty easy proposition. Krell on the other hand...would probably make the room into a sauna.

@panzrwagn You are spot on. I just am reluctant to change everything out. I could probably just change the front LRC and live with it. Something with more efficiency would help. 86/87db on the current monitors.  

Definitely considering Parasound monos, Musical Fidelity monos. Wadia monos. I looked at some others (Krell, Mark Levinson, Theta, Mola Mola, Wyred 4 Sound and others.

It appears some of you are not buying into the concept of multiple 21" subwoofers.  Isn't being an audiophile about taking it to extremes?

Sell the NHT's and buy the biggest pair of Sound Labs ESL's! Nothing as realistic as having square feet of sound radiating surface!

My MA8900 never runs hot. I don’t think it lacks detail either. I find it to be an excellent balance of smooth and detailed. I’ve heard the 611 and 1.2 in a dealer room and I’m sure they would be an upgrade but I’m really happy with my setup at the moment and honestly they would be overkill in my small listening room.  I remember hearing some NHTs years ago and really liked them a lot.  Listen to all of them, buy what you like.

Hah - older Krell gear for sure.  The new Krell Amps don’t run hot at all.  For what I think you are looking for out of the amp, Krell and Max’s are the 2 American Made brands that really built their reputations on being able to drive almost any speakers, even 4 ohm or speakers that dip into the sub 4 ohm realm.  They went at if in different ways, Mac with their proprietary process that promises to deliverer stable power across the spectrum, automatically matching the need of the speakers, Krell designs their Amps to double down on power as Ohms drop.  By no means are these the only 2 that offer Amps are designed to drive difficult loads, they are the 2 most well known for it.  Hegel would be another great option.  Music Fidelity would be another along with Parasound.  If it’s drive and power, as others mentioned, the new Clas D amps deliver that in spades, run cool, more compact footprint and efficient.  No experience with the new Class D and not everyone falls in love with them, seems to be you either really love their sound or prefer Tube or old school SS Class A or AB amps. 


Your room size is your limiting factor. It seems you don't even have enough headroom to begin with. There is simply not enough " air volume" for 21 ft. of subs to breath properly in 7' ceiling room, never mind your eardrums. Your own skin maybe the only thing saving your nirvana.

@roxy54, @jasnobourne71, @ghasley  have all nailed it for you.

Best regards, Chris.

I love Tube sound I.have 4 Tube amps EL 34....KT 88 and 845’s...and Decware Zen Triode.......The new Aavik Amps ( Denmark).....have the warmth of tubes and the detail of SS with an EXPANSIVE soundstage. The Best of all worlds....High End Class D is the best sounding Musically of Any format at any $ IMHO. AGD is also a great amp....Peachtree ganfet 400 is a very musical class D amp for a Budget minded person w/ a tube pre.

Every amp I've had has been SS. Several Adcoms, Sunfires, Musical Fidelity, and the Wadia...which someone just bought, so I'll definitely have to do something and soon. 

@onhwy61 Yes, exactly. Pushing boundaries and the limits of this system. The 21s are surprisingly musical...they come from the sound reinforcement/live sound realm. I would say more musical than the 18's they replaced and the 15s before them. 

@jastralfu It's my third set of NHTs, I 've owned since new back in the early 2000's. Stereophile Class A limited back in their heyday. Only work that I had to do was replace the crossovers a year ago (I think room correction "adjusted" a little too much and they went out)

SEVEN 21-inch subs? OK, here’s my tenuously related old-audiophile anecdote.

When I was a kid in the early 70s, some friends dragged me to an attic bedroom in an old hippie house to smoke weed with two older Haitian guys that I didn’t know. The room was something like 25x6 feet, long & narrow.

At either end they had one of those giant metal horn speakers you see mounted on towers at rock festivals. Almost as tall as me. I should have run as soon as I saw them.

These guys were really proud of their system, but were also very scary. Without saying a word, one of them cued up Mountain’s first album. Mountain.  Of course.

The lead-in groove surface noise was deafening, but when the music started, I couldn’t hear anything at all. The only thing I remember is an intense sheet of pain bisecting my head. No sensation of hearing sound.

And to complete the mind-f**, the second guy put on a strange display while the music was playing, furiously dancing around the room waving a big-a** knife under our noses & grasping a humanoid cloth doll, as if to psych us out with some sort of drugged-up faux voodoo ritual. I’m sure they thought it was funny.

We left as soon as we recovered enough to rub two thoughts together. Even today, decades later, I still can’t hear "Mississippi Queen" without flashbacks to that terrifying experience. The wages of sin.

And that’s why I became an audiophile!


@cundare2 I think most people on social media responded with the GIF from the original Back to the Future with Marty over a Doc's with the guitar. This tale tops that for sure.


@onhwy61 Wrote:

It appears some of you are not buying into the concept of multiple 21" subwoofers. Isn’t being an audiophile about taking it to extremes?

I agree! I would not use 7 21" subwoofers. I WOULD use 7 32" subwoofers! LOL 😎 Mike

I love my Mac gear but not sure you need more Mac with 7 subs. Never personally heard Benchmark but the discussions here about that line have usually been positive 

@ditusa the 32s are not budget friendly. $22k+ a pop. There's always their 50 inch offering at almost $60k. And the unpriced (as far as I can see) 80 inch model...

Enough with the fixation on his subs. I own the Benchmark amp and preamp and love them, but, BUT, always go with your heart. The MAC stuff is also great. If it's those meters and size/weight that thrill you, you won't get it from the Benchmark. You could throw the AHB2 across the room, while the MAC would crush your foot when you dropped it.

Benchmark if you place higher value on resolution. Mac if you have inefficient speakers that require headroom. 

Or if you want to split the difference go with a Pass X amp for details and a decent midrange with very good rhythm and pace and lots of power, or XA amp if you want even warmer midrange with details and great rhythm and pace.

I have owned both a full benchmark system and a McIntosh 462 but not at the exact moment for a direct AB. I highpass at 60-70hz which should be noted

….I still own the Mac and own nothing from benchmark at the moment. For music the Mac is more enjoyable to my ear. I just want to turn it up louder and louder and it just get better. With the benchmark it sounded fine, maybe a hair thin and I found myself turning it down after a few hours then off…. The Mac never gets turned off early into a listening session.


I don’t notice any loss of detail on the Mac vs the benchmark. The details are just not forced on you. I don’t like contributing soundstage to electronics but the system does seem “bigger” both in width and depth on the Mac  

benchmark has a 30 day trial. No harm in trying them but I don’t see myself owning them again.

maybe the older Macs were a tad rolled off on top but not the newer ones. At least not in my experience I have a mac preamp and power amp. Also Mac has the best resale value of any audio components in the business. The newer mac SS amps are all above 120db SN. 

@helomech Yes, need the headroom. 86/87db for the monitors. 

@james633 Very good info. I cross over at 80 or 90 or 100 (depending on the song - I have three profiles in the preamp that I can change on the fly.)


I am going to give McIntosh monoblocs a go. As many stated (and I agree) if they aren't a good fit for me - I can resell fairly easy (or even trade-in for that matter) 

Was REALLY considering those Parasound JC5s. 1200w at 8ohm. They aren't the prettiest girl in the room, by far, but the performance looks top-notch.