Benchmark Preamps and Amp - For real?

Has anyone here listened to the Benchmark HPA4 or LA4 preamps and the AHB2 power amp? Their specs are unreal in terms of lack of distortion and signal to noise. How do these units sound? I am intrigued. Thanks. 
Ag insider logo xs@2xkingbarbuda
I have listened to the AHB2, in mono configuration and they were spectacular. Serious drive, clarity, and dynamic headroom. They were driving a pair of Watt-Puppies, then a pair of Alexandrias. The A's bottomed them out, but the sonic result was good just the same/
Jetter, At that money these amps are a huge bargain. You won't get anything better until Parasound releases a new JC1 and that will go for over 10K/pr
I was looking at a ABH2. Instead I think I'm going to try Class D PS Audio Stellar M700 monos. 
I listened to the HPA4 at Axpona this year while auditioning headphones.  I now have an HPA4 in my home system, as it paired astonishingly well with the Audeze headphones.  It is dead quiet and just gets out of the way.  Great bass extension and clarity.  I got it to be my headphone amp, but it also ended up taking the place of my tube preamp (in front of 300b monoblocks).  The tube pre has a little more bloom and spatial sound to it, but you really have to pay attention to notice.  What was more apparent to me was the absence of a subtle distortion in the tube preamp that I did not know was there until the HPA4 did not manifest that same distortion. 
Get it with the remote control - it is absolutely worth the extra $100 at that point. 
I have an DAC3L/LA4/AHB2 setup, and it sounds phenomenal.  More clarity than I've ever had before.  Speakers are Salk Silk Monitors with a Hsu ULS15 sub.  
DAC3HGC/AHB2 (no pre) with Joseph Audio Pulsars - definite synergy there with great definition and deep, wide image. Having not heard the pre-amp, it is not a priority for me right now.

I think the extra money spent on excellent cables is probably a better investment. (Nordost is best in this system IMO, have tried mid-range AQ and Shunyata also.) Can an extra piece of equipment improve the sound of the source - in this case the DAC3?

Compared with the Rega Osiris in place of the AHB2: I believe it is a matter of personal taste, but I preferred the AHB2 for its blacker background and tighter bass to the Osiris with its incredible dynamics.
@racarlson I used to own the DAC3 + AHB2. I am curious as to the differences in your system with the new preamp. Have you compared DAC3+AHB2 vs DAC3+LA4+AHB2?
@mayordaley In what vendor’s room or table did you listen to the Benchmark HPA4 at Axpona? I think I did too and I think it was at the Innuos room. I think if I am not mistaken they had three Benchmark DAC each fed by a different Innuos streamer. The HPA4 was the headphone amp they used. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the amp as I was focused on the Innuos streamers. Was it Innuos or where did you hear the HPA4? Thanks.
The AHB2 is a spectacular amp to my taste.
 It brought a whole new dimension to my system: Triton 1 speakers, Conrad Johnson preamp.
I heard the Benchmark HPA4 at the Audeze table in the eargear room.  I also heard it in the Benchmark room (floor 6) through closed-back Audezes.  I specifically wanted to hear the Pass Labs HPA1.  Unfortunately, I did, and it was too lifeless to me.  After three hours of back and forth auditioning (including LTA, Chord, Schiit, Woo (my second favorite) and several others), the Benchmark won me over.
aberyclark the AHB2 is better than any class D amp I have ever heard.
It is also beautifully constructed and no doubt will last a lifetime.

it was too lifeless to me

If you mean not altering the music, then that’s exactly what I want. I don’t want to hear my amp, my DAC, my speakers, my cables, etc., I just wanna hear the music (with DSP to combat room modes). Some people wanna hear their gear, but I’m a eyeglasses > tinted glasses kind of guy.
I mean more in the sense that it did not feel like there was enough power.  Not that I listen at loud volumes, but the energy just wasn’t there.  The Benchmark was similarly neutral, but had enough juice to make things sound more correct than the Pass.  The Pass was designed to have just enough power, but in some cases, it feels lacking in drive.  It would likely match awesomely with the right phones, just not with what I heard it with. 

My bad, I thought you meant the Benchmark was lifeless by comparison (the same naming scheme threw me off).

The Benchmark headphone amp outputs more than double the Pass Labs’ one (at least into 300ohm), so your assessment has backing.
I've been using the AHB2 for a couple years.  I wanted an amp that introduced no coloration through noise and that's what this is.  It can be run as monoblocks or stereo.  You can also adjust the input sensitivity (gain).  I've never had a problem powering either my speakers.  More than enough juice and I run my speaker pair with one amp at the lowest sensitivity, or gain.
@yyzsantabarbara  Sorry, haven't been back to this thread. With both the DAC3 and AHB2 set for no attenuation, as recommended by Benchmark when used with the LA4, there does seem to be greater transparency.  A bit more depth to the soundstage, a bit more detail in the texture of voices, etc.  And the volume control is much more pleasant, with easily repeatable levels, and it's easy to make fine volume adjustments by remote. 
I have the HPA4 which replaced the Bryston BP26 in my system (driving the Benchmark AHB2 amp). I found the HPA4 more transparent than the BP26.
Have used the HPA4 to drive a pair of AHB2 amps in mono mode - super clarity and reveals the best in music sources. 
Had no intention to change that setup but stumbled across a good deal with some big ATC active SCM100 speakers, so now using the HPA4 to drive those directly - couldn't be happier. 
Not for people who want to use the preamp to influence the sound of sources - that's not what Benchmark are about.
After having read several reviews (Stereophile, SoundStage, etc.) as well as several online discussions (such as this one), I've taken a chance and ordered an LA4 (don't use headphones). It will be driving a dbx DriveRack 4820 which in turn powers a pair of Crown K2s (below 150 Hz) and a Yamaha P7000S (above 150 Hz). Subs are the Tannoy VS218-DR; mains are the Tannoy SuperDual T300 (with custom cabinets and passive Xovers). The curious—or crazy—part of the exercise is that the LA4 will be going up against my present preamp, the Boulder 1012 which retailed, 15 years ago, for six times the current price of the LA4. Now I've gradually abandoned audiophile amplifiers for the pro amps mentioned above, and don't feel shortchanged. Now we'll see what the ears say when the little LA4 goes up against the big Boulder. . .
@dr_joe  What was the result of your comparison of the LA4 against the big Boulder?
I'm currently auditioning a LA4, driving a Don Sach's KT88 amp. My previous experience with the Benchmark DAC2 left me with the expectation that it would be cold, analytical and ultimately un-involving. I was wrong.
It was very bright out of the box without a lot of bottom end. After a few days of burn in, it became extremely balanced and transparent. It gives a blank canvas for the amp to put down its finesse, power, and holographic imaging. I can agree with the Sterephile's review on the open window created by the incredibly wide dynamic range. The music is still very engaging. It's missing the magic harmonics of a good 6SN7 tube preamp, but I'm tempted to say the transparency more than makes up for that. I don't know if it's possible to have both attributes in spades.
@dr_joe  I'm very anxious to hear your opinion on the comparison.

I have a pair of AHB2'S, with a Tortuga Audio LDR passive preamp in front of them, and I'm really wanting to get the LA4.

I would love to hear how it sounds versus the Boulder, in your system m
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Following up on my previous post, I've now compared the Benchmark LA4 to the Boulder 1012. Nothing systematic, or scientific, I just listen to the system with one preamp for several days, then switch to the other for several days, then switch back, around and around. . .

The Boulder does have somewhat more "heft" in the lower frequencies but other than that it's difficult, really, to distinguish one from the other.

The LA4 may, or may not, have a little finer resolution in the HF. The Boulder may, or may not, have a little more three-dimensional soundstage. 

Whatever the differences, they are not great.

However, in the interests of full disclosure, a good friend, who is committed to tubed amplification, borrowed both. He described the Boulder as "the finest solid-stage preamp I've had the pleasure of using," and while he praised the Benchmark in terms of value-for-money, he did not consider it at the same sound quality level as the Boulder.

Am edging closer and closer to selling the Boulder, but haven't quite yet decided to let it go, in part because of its excellent MM/MC phono stage, which of course the Benchmark doesn't have. So now I have to compare the Boulder's phono stage with the stand-alone phono stage I have, the Ayre P-5xe. . .

[Test system details: Mytek Manhattan II DAC, Roon Rock music server, MSB Platinum Data CD IV disc transport, Luxman T-117 tuner, Revive Audio-modified Ashly XR-1001 analogue electronic crossover, D-Sonic 4-channel power amp (2 x 1500W, 2 x 800W Pascal modules); generic 14 and 12 AWG AC cables, Mogami 3173 for both AES/EBU digital interconnect and for balanced analogue connections; Mogami 3103 speaker cable for both LF and HF; dedicated 20A AC line.]