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 have never heard the Benchmark amps, but what you describe is exactly what their preamp sounds like.

I’ve owned both the amp and preamp and currently still have the preamp. That’s not really the case at all if the LA4 preamp is matched to a synergistic amp. It will reveal weaknesses upstream though, and unlike many FET and tube preamps on the market, it won’t compensate for a lean or unrefined source.

The AHB2s, OTOH, do indeed sound less refined than some designs but that’s really because most A/AB amps produce enough 2nd and 3rd order harmonics to give them a sort of false refinement. But when paired with the right speakers and sources this isn’t really an issue.


Switched the speaker outputs from the 4ohm to 8ohm (speakers are 6ohm.) Completely changed the sound of the amp (in a good way) MUCH more to my liking now. Absolutely wild.

@emergingsoul The Paradigms I had were all mis-matched (see previous comments in this thread about the room looking bad) so I upgraded to 18" PSA subs. I was having some noise issues during certain parts of songs so I decided to try their new(ish) 21. I like the 21 more versus the 18s, so I ended up with the two up front and one in the rear. The sidewalls have a dual-opposed 21 on each side. It works well since I don't have to push them hard to get decent output in the room so it keeps the distortion low, which is the goal. Also, the McIntosh is dead quiet. The Wadia had a little noise if you got very close to the monitor. With the Mac, nothing but silence. 

Holy crap those are big subwoofers you have and you have two of them.

How did you make a decision to buy such huge monsters for this room? I have a subwoofer that's 12 inches in a comparable sized room and it is set at 20% volume and still very very dramatic.

@emergingsoul The monitors themselves are not bi-ampable. With the bass modules attached, they would be. Also, $38,000 for a pair of mc901s versus $6400 for the pair of the MC601s

Why not go for biamping using the mac mc901 monos.

They have the MC 611 monos and the mc 2301 monos combined. That’s the ideal world in my view.

@overthemoon I did get a chance to listen. They are 

definitely not in your face. Laid back, detailed, and musical. Rolled off for sure. As others said, easy to listen to. I will have to do some room measurements/ correction before I make a final verdict. They look absolutely gorgeous though!

Good luck!

I think based on your choices I'd go with McIntosh.  I've owned them and they are fun to listen to and with the mixed use I think they'd shine.

Just picked up the MC601 monos yesterday. I might be able to listen to them later tonight. 

@mrdecibel The B6 modules are currently removed from the system (and for sale!) The photo is now current, I deleted the old one with the "sub array" Currently, it's the M6 monitor on an IsoAcoustics Aperta stand which is on top of a single sealed 21" sub.

Looked at some options...just going to have to deal with the fact that the mains are going to have to be ported,


I have never heard the Benchmark amps, but what you describe is exactly what their preamp sounds like.

To the op, I am very familiar with the NHT monitors ( with the B6 bass modules ). If you are looking to move some air ( more oomph ) out of the monitors, you need to upgrade them. I will not comment on the room, as you say, the photo is outdated. I am not a Mc fan, as I prefer the presentation of dc coupled, class A designs, and I have some experience with the Benchmark amps ( the LA4 preamp is the star of their show, imo ), but I believe, you will come to realize the NHT monitors will be the weak link, and need to be changed. If you want to discuss what to change to, I am sure you will get many opinions, some stated here. I have my own thoughts on the subject. Good luck, and Enjoy ! MrD.

I had two Benchmarks in my system for a while but just did not get along with them. They did not sound as refined as I prefer in the treble and were extremely midrange forward because they had such a dynamic range.  The midrange content like horns and vocals were so high in volume level that the system had to be turned up quite loudly to get good bass.  

I tried several other amps like Parasound JC5 and Pass Labs XA25 and 30.8 but settled in on a new McIntosh MC 312.  

The Mac sounds specracular in my system, excellent clear midrange and the highest level of treble refinement.  The newer Macs have plenty of detail.  

For a system geared more towards music, I would choose different speakers, electronics and speaker placement. But at least you are a good sport about all this.

75 percent music/ 25 percent movies.  But everything in this game is a compromise. Nothing wrong with some hybrid action. 

I never owned Mac's or Benchmarks. It seems to me that the whole purpose of this room is for home theater.. Wouldn't the meters from the Mac's be a distraction while watching a movie...

I never owned Mac's or Benchmarks. It seems to me that the whole purpose of this room is for home theater.. Wouldn't the meters from the Mac's be a distraction while watching a movie...

Room and components are still indicative of home theater. When you try to do both in one room, compromises will be made. And you have obviously compromised music for movies. No problem with that as long as you are ok with it.

Love my Benchmark amps, they are vertically bi-amped to my 20.1 Maggie’s and play concert levels in my home with crazy lifelike detail. I only have 4 subs but it sounds wonderful. I don’t think you could go wrong with Benchmark. . . 

- Steve

That pic was so outdated that the only component remaining is the CD player and the Salamander stand. 

@ozzy62 thanks for your feedback.  You missed the part where I said that picture is from AGES ago.  Everything has been switched over to Power Sound Audio subs. You should not so hastily write off the 21. Very musical.  Will measure flat up past 1000-2000hz, not that one would normally cross over that high,  but it shows the capability and background of the driver. I guess I'll go update the pic. 

I agree with @soix  The room looks like a joke. I guess it might be a good home theater situation. But serious music listening? Nah. With that in mind, just get the cheapest, most powerful amplifier you can find. It will be perfectly fine for explosions and Dino stomps.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but sometimes tough love is what’s needed.

@ditusa I've seen his videos before, the first youtube link definitely. Sharp dude for sure. 

@ditusa Going with McIntosh monoblocs for now. I think it ticks a few boxes for me and as others suggested, I can unload them if the fit isn't right. It does feel a little surreal - after years of seeing/dreaming about McIntosh gear, I'm finally a McIntosh owner. I hope my expectations are not let down. 


I agree 100% with @panzrwagn, replacing your main speakers with the JBL 4367's will be a bigger improvement in sound quality then the subwoofers or amps.  Let us know what you decide. Mike

See articles below re subwoofer integration:


@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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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.

@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...

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 

@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

@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.


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!


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)

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.


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.

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. 

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.

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!

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?


@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.

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.

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