Bryston 4B Cubed vs Hegel H360 vs Benchmark AHB2

I am likely going to get the KEF Reference 1 for my office at the end of this month. I was trying to convince myself to get something else but I always came back to the KEF Ref 1 for many factors, such as sound, cost, size, ease of setup.

I think the KEF Ref 1 speakers can use a lot of power even though they are rated at 50-200 watts at 8 ohms. My setup in the office will require a few digital inputs  and 1 or 2 analog inputs. 

I have narrowed down my list to the following electronics:

1) Benchmark DAC3 + AHB2 amp(s), I have not heard the AHB2 amp but did own the DAC2 for years and liked it a lot. Only issue with this setup is that I will likely need to get 2 AHB2 amps to get over 100 watts for the Ref 1's.  Anybody with these amps think I need 2 of them for the KEF Ref 1's in an office? I sometimes play music loud but not for long while I work. I would buy Benchmark as new gear.

2) The Bryston 4B Cubed along with the Bryston pre-amp with integrated DAC option. I owned older Bryston gear in the past and one complaint I had was a slightly smaller sound stage. I would buy the Bryston gear on the used market.

3) The Hegel H360. I heard this unit playing KEF Blade 2 at a show and I was pleased with the sound. I loved the sound of the Blades but I may be giving too much credit for the sound that day to the Hegel. Whatever, the case it was an enjoyable experience. I could go used or new with this gear. My concern about Hegel is repair work and reliability. I have never owned Hegel gear but I have read some rants here about Hegel customer service. BTW - Is there a new H390 in the horizon?

All of my choices are in the detail oriented sound camp. This is fine for my office system since I am getting a warmer sounding system later on for the living room. Some variety in systems will keep things interesting.

Anybody have any feedback on the 3 brands I have listed and the concerns I have for each.
I should add that I heard the KEF Reference 1 at the last LA Audio show driven by the following Wyred4Soud gear:

"MS Music Server (was prototype then, it is now released), our 10th Anniversary DAC, and a pair of our SX-1000R mono block amplifiers"

this class D system sounded awesome. However, this gear is not any cheaper than what I am already considering.


are you able to audition the Bryston B-135 integrated? I would like to read more about that amp vs. the Hegel H360.

Happy Listening!

I was going to go to a place in Calabas, CA to hear the Bryston with KEF when I go for my original KEF demo in Newport Beach. However, the Bryston guy in Calabas, CA no longer has KEFs. Check out the Bryston cubed units for sale on A’Gon. The prices are not too bad. Bryston amps used is a risk free purchase in my opinion (regards to quality and reliability, sound is a personal choice).

This afternoon someone emailed me with an offer for a AHB2 amp and I bought it. I will now do a home trial with the Benchmark DAC3L and likely be happy with the results. I am taking a chance on buying the AHB2 today when I can get a 30 day trial but I am saving money with a used unit.

My reason for the KEF demo is actually to hear KEF Blade 2 with some Luxman gear. I cannot afford that yet nor do I have the space but the KEF Ref 1 is doable this month along with one of the electronics I was asking about on this thread.

This is one reason I am looking for a very detail oriented office system. My KEF Blade system will use warmer SS components.
I thought I would update this thread if anyone was curious how the AHB2 system went.

I have had the following new system setup now for 3 days with about 30 hours on it. It is still breaking in but I can already conclude I love this system.

I wanted a detailed system for the office and was willing to live with a little edginess if that was what it took. However, my new office system has none of the harshness I was thinking that may occur. The speakers sound the best I have ever heard it. Just a pleasure to listen at any volume. It is now 2 AM and I am working in the office with the music playing rather quietly. I can hear everything  clearly and with the same toe tapping effect as when I play louder. I was looking for that in my next office system.

The system now sounds like a live performance on most of the music I am playing. It certainly sounds different than anything I have heard before on this speaker. I was playing some live concerts of groups I have seen live, Rush and Santana, and I was taken back to the show but with better seats. The fact this system is maybe the quietest system one can setup could be why it sounds a little different (better) to me.

Best compliment I can give it is that is sounds a lot like the Mirrus DAC that I have been so enamored with. The DAC3L direct to the AHB2 sounds so much better than when I had the Benchmark DAC2 direct to a Parasound A23 amp. The difference in quality is ridiculous. At one time I had that older Benchmark DAC2 running into a BAT VK-42SE preamp and it did not sound as good as the new system. It is the lack of noise that is the secret sauce.

Benchmark DAC3L
Benchmark AHB2 amp 
Sony HD Radio
Bryston XLR between preamp and amp 
Audience AU SE speaker cable
Assorted inexpensive power chords
Torus RM15 power conditioner
KEF LS50 speakers

I will be replacing the Bryston XLR with an old Audience AU24e XLR next week. I will also be replacing the KEF LS50's with Audience 1+1 speakers next week. The KEF's move to the bedroom to be powered with my existing PeachTree Nova 150. I decided on the Audience because it is a crossover less speaker and it has had great reviews for my type of office application. I will eventually be running that on dedicated stands but will have to put it on my desk (on Isoaccustic stands) until I move.

I finally found a reason not to buy the KEF 1. I wanted to have some variety in the speakers since I hope to also get the Blade 2 at some future time for the living room.

I have been saying how great the PeachTree Nova 150 sounds with the KEF LS50;s. I still think this is the case and that is why I am keeping it for the bedroom. However, I do feel that the all Benchmark system is at another higher level in terms of sound reproduction.

Now back to work.