Dust Settled Consensus- is the Benchmark AHB2 an Audiophile Amplifier?

As the dust settles on the time the when the Benchmark AHB2 amplifier was a hot topic in the audio world, what is the long term consensus about this amplifier?  

Has it become a mainstay in the audiophile community?  


For me it has. It is the only amp I have left after the following amps came and went in the last 2 years:

- CODA #8

- Parasound A21+

- NAD M22 V2

- D-Sonic M3a 800s

- CODA CSiB integrated (from 2019 not latest)

- LSA Voyager 350 GAN (modified by EVS much better than stock)

- KRELL K-300i integrated

- KRELL Duo 175XD

I use the AHB2 monos in my office with the Benchmark LA4 preamp and a warmish Musetec 005 DAC. I also have a tube Magnum Dynalab 108T tuner that also sounds great with the clean Benchmark combo. I have the Benchmark DAC3B but switched it out for the warmer Musetec 005 DAC. I use the DAC3B instead with a tube headphone amp.

I sold the KRELL XD amps because I continued to upgrade up the line. I will be buying a more powerful KRELL XD amp for my future Livingroom system (when the amp is released).

Another amp that I would consider with the AHB2 is the CODA #16. It has the same crystal-clear clarity of the AHB2 amps. The AHB2, KRELL XD, and the CODA #16 are my fav amps. I am no longer searching for amps. 

BTW - I listen all day and late into the night with my office system. No fatigue, just enjoyment.

Benchmark is mid-fi at best. Good enough for 2nd, 3rd or desktop / office systems. 

Never listened to a Benchmark amplifier but I did own their original Dac1 back in a day and most recently owned the DAC3 HGC. If their DACs are any indication, thr amplifiers should measure great, have good feature set, posses studio monitor like sonics and accuracy that aren’t necessarily what you’re looking for in a home audio component.

Why is this a question. What makes it a lesser amp? All the reviews have been very good and while I don't find reviews to be the way I judge devices, consitency usually indicates a good product.

Won’t call it mid if to me that’s Yamaha and NAD.

It is a very capable amplifier and I have had the pleasure to audition. Dead silent just a bit to sterile for me. The guys at ASR love it. 

It is a very capable amplifier and I have had the pleasure to audition. Dead silent just a bit to sterile for me. The guys at ASR love it. 

From what I read, I think this is accurate. 

Surprised ASR likes it.  I guess even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.


For the ASR crowd it measures very, very well. Better than any of the Class D stuff. 

"It`s Mid-Fi" - I`m being facetious.

There is no such a thing as an "audiophile" amp. It is no less "hi fidelity", than Belles, Krell, McCormack, or Parasound amplifiers. How it performs depends on the speakers, and upstream components you have teamed up with it.

There is no such a thing as an "audiophile" amp. It is no less "hi fidelity", than Belles, Krell, McCormack, or Parasound amplifiers.

@pmm If we define fidelity as, “the output being faithful to the input” then it is a true hiFi amp.


How it performs depends on the speakers, and upstream components you have teamed up with it.

“Performs” may be appropriate the appropriate word with respect to the speakers complex load.

But “Performs” may be better stated as “Sounds” with respect to the preamp and source components…


In my opinion, it is easier to have a low distortion amp, and speakers, and do any tuning of the sound with a single component like, for instance, solely with a tube preamp.

That is providing that a low distortion system may be too clinical for what people want, and that those people want some harmonic distortion signature to be rolled in.

Once we get two or three things adding together, then it gets a bit more difficult to understand what is happening… and where.

Chris Bryant and Hi Fi Critic commended it on its measurements but gave it a very low score for sound quality-mainly because of its poor musical communication.

@holmz : Funny. I was thinking "how it sounds" when I typed "performs".

Thanks for pointing that out.


Excellent comments and response.


poor musical communication

I heard the amp at AXPONA. Going from room to room, it's sometimes hard to keep up with what room you're in. I would walk out of many after a few minutes of listening. After about a minute of hearing this amp, I could not believe my ears, and stayed for quite a stretch of time. I definitely was hearing some of the best "musical communication" I have ever heard from an amplifier.



Is this the same Benchmark that makes the exquisite mic pre amps?

Affirmative. IMO, I do believe almost everything they touch is exquisite.

From my experience the AHB2 should not be used with speakers that go into 2 Ohm and I feel it does not provide thunderous power with speakers it even matches well with. When I demoed the Magico A3 speaker I took along a single AHB2 stereo amp and it was awful with the A3. A Mark Levinson amp and ML 585 integrated was so much better. I attributed the AHB2's poor showing to a lack of power. 

Running the amps in mono are actually not rated for 2 Ohm while the single stereo is officially rated for continuous operation in 2 Ohm. I had monos on my hard to drive Thiel CS3.7 and it was lacking grunt. The CODA #8 and the KRELL XD line were so much better in the thunder department. The D-Sonic also had way more grunt than the AHB2 though I thought the AHB2 was the cleanest and nicest sounding on the Thiel (minus the grunt on certain music).

What I use the AHB2 monos today is really a killer setup. I have the KEF LS50 Meta + KEF KC62 sub in my small office powered by the AHB2s. I had planned on buying the Yamaha NS3000 monitors (almost $10K) from Canada but the AHB2 and KEF LS50 Meta sounded so good I decided to save my money. 

I am done in the office system. 

My Livingroom system which will be rather costly will either use the Benchmark LA4 preamp or Holo Serene preamp (both ASR wet dreams). 

The following post on ASR about the AHB2 was so right on the money and so well written.

Review and Measurements of Benchmark AHB2 Amp | Page 5 | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum




If the ASR crowd approves of it because it measures well, I’d proceed with caution. Listening tests is not something they take into consideration most of the time. 

@avanti1960 I see you have XA25 and if that’s still the case and you like the Pass sound, I would just upgrade within the Pass product line. Yes it’s more expensive than the Benchmark but I’m pretty sure Pass Labs is next level stuff. 

If you like the XA25 and go to a Benchmark 

you will need to learn for the properly perform

ritualized Seppuku

I had the stereo AHB2 with the KEFs and I was unimpressed. I think the amp is flat and without color (compared to Ayre and AGT). Also Pass A25 was much meatier. 

I think the amp is flat and without color

Generally I find when the distortion goes lower, then things sounds quieter at the same measured SPL… Some people find those situations to be not to their liking.

Irrespective of whether it is caused by the amp, speakers, or preamp… many people just really prefer some distortion.

Amps are supposed to be flat and without color…

For HighFidelity yes, but for many people… they like colour.


To be considered high end an amp must be tested and certified by Jay's Audio Lab.

Guess what? You can have it both ways. Precision from your Benchmark can be colored with euphonic tube like distortion on the days you want it for just a few bucks and a little soldering. 


And all the time I thought the purpose of a component was to amplify or pre-amplify without adding or subtracting anything!  What was I thinking? 

No component made is completely neutral from the microphone to the speakers and everything in-between adds or subtracts something, some may do it more than others. Just because a component might measure great doesn't mean it's going to sound closer to real instruments in your room, this would assume that the recording process is perfect and it is not, nor is any of the equipment, so a little color may actually make it sound closer to the real thing.

@yyzsantabarbara I have the Benchmark DAC3B but switched it out for the warmer Musetec 005 DAC.


I did a similar swap-out, and agree with @peter_s ’s comments above in similar fashion, applied to the dac as well. Measured extremely well yet boring and un-engaging to listen to. Sent it back. Had 2 dacs since, both way more fun to listen to.


I enjoy AHB2, but Paul Seydor in Absolute Sound review of AHB2,suggested it is not an audiophile amplifier:

Because accuracy allied to absolutely reliable performance is the goal of all the Benchmarks, they are not products that tend to attract cults or other sorts of starry-eyed enthusiasts, wholly lacking any of the quirks, foibles, idiosyncrasies, sonic flavorings, euphonic distortions, and so on that characterize the objects of most audio cults. Professionals buy Benchmark because they know the products work and are reliable and accurate—indeed, reference caliber. Music lovers buy them because they are neutral and accurate and thus reproduce the tonal character of voices and instruments correctly (and also, I presume, because they are reasonably priced, most musicians, like most other people, being typically not wealthy). But audiophiles? Well, the longer I’m in this racket, the less I sometimes think I understand what audiophiles really want except that a lot of dallying about with components, equipment swapping, and coloration matching seems to be what amuses them. I’m not sure I can in good conscience recommend this amplifier to them as I am not sure they are in search of what it offers: a precision instrument designed to perform the precisely defined task of reproducing music and sound accurately, which it does essentially to perfection. But to anyone else, the AHB2 gets as high, enthusiastic, and confident a thumbs up as my arm is capable of reaching.

@yyzsantabarbara Thiel CS3.7 minimum impedance is in order of 2.5ohm (2.8ohm specified, 2.4ohm measured by Stereophile).  Driving it by AHB2 in bridged/mono mode is equivalent to driving 1.25ohm speaker in stereo mode.  AHB2 is not rated for that and not too many amps can do that.

Paul Seydor does not listen to reference quality amps. His reference in his review is a Quad 909 and a all tube Zesto amp.....hardly a $200K pair of mono block Boulders or whatever. In order to claim something has zero sound you need to do a straight wire bypass test on it (yes,this is possible with a power amp....however, I know no one who has ever done it except my late friend Sieg Modes....and he did his testing in the late 70s). The Benchmark is not totally neutral....nothing is. Many do not hear the air, space, depth, harmonic rightness, palpable presence and micro detail they get from more expensive amps. For the money...it is really good. However, for even less money the Peachtree GaN 1 digital input class D amp is even better.....because it eliminates the DAC, analog cables, the preamp, normal amp and any feedback whatsoever from the signal path.......less is more. Volume control is done with your choice of lossless digital volume done in software.. Linear amps and analog signal paths are dead! he he. Unless they are Super expensive or tapes. Even tapes or records can be converted to 24/192 with great accuracy and sent to this amp. Of course, tubes and such are always going to be loved....coloration or not.

Everything is synergy. If the original recording is dry....lacking harmonic info....then adding a tube somewhere in the playback chain can make is sound more REAL....no doubt. But if the recording is fantastic and the medium delivering it is fanstastic then having a low distortion playback system will give you a lot of the joy of the original event.

@kijanki I discussed with John Siau (AHB2 designer) and also Tom Thiel (Jim’s brother) about the AHB2 monos on the CS3.7’s. I do not think you can find more knowledgeable folks on the amp and speakers. Anyways, they said it would work and Tom liked the AHB2 on the CS3.7 (he uses the AHB2 in his work). I also liked the AHb2 on the CS3.7. It really had the best silky-smooth sound. My observations are exactly like that great post on ASR that I linked above.

Review and Measurements of Benchmark AHB2 Amp | Page 5 | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum

However, I disagree with John Siau and Tom Thiel believing the AHB2 monos are a proper match for the CS3.7. For music like Santana’s Soul Sacrifice (Woodstock) the CS3.7 sounded better with a more capable 2 Ohm amp.

@ricevs I had a Peachtree NOVA 150 for a few years and at one time I tested out the preamp section and the amp sections separately. The preamp section was not that good (amp was not bad). Now this is not the same as the GAN amp you referenced but I cannot get my mind to think Peachtree is great after my experience with the NOVA 150.

BTW - what is an audiophile amp? A lot of amps that people rave about are not ones I could ever live with. Nice to hear sometimes but not to listen to every day like I do. For my ears, the AHB2’s are reference level gear, but with some limitations. Like all gear.


@decooney The Benchmark DAC3B | RAAL-Requisite VM-1a tube headphone amp | RAAL-Requisite SR1a earphones or CA-1a headphones are an incredible combo. The DA3B is magic with this headphone amp. Other warmer DACs, like my Musetec 005 DAC, do not match well with the 7 tubes in this amazing headphone amp.

I am trying to recreate the same level of sound with a future 2-channel system in a decent sized room. It is going to cost me some money to do so but the above sound is the benchmark that needs to be surpassed, and I do not mean the AHB2.

My office system with the KEF LS50 meta and the AHB2 stuff cannot approach the level of sound as the RAAL VM-1a. Even if I spent $100K more on gear for my office system. Room acoustics dictate that it will not sound as good as the SR1a earphones. Now in a bigger room I believe I can get better than the VM-1a + SR1a.

Stereophile will be reviewing the VM-1a and SR1a and likely going to say the same as me.

  • AHB2 monos | LA4 preamp | SR1a earphone | RAAL amp adapter box | Musetec 005 DAC is very good. Though not as good as the VM-1a + Benchmark DAC3B.
  • AHB2 monos | LA4 preamp | SR1a earphone | RAAL amp adapter box | Benchmark DAC3B is awful.


The Peachtree Nova 150 is not even anything today. The latest GaN amps from Peachtree are another level. The Peachtree GaN 400 is the exact same amp as the LSA Voyager.....same boards inside a different box. You heard the Voyager stock and modded.....so you know how good that is. The GaN 1 is a completely different thing. It is a fully digital input class D amp.....It eliminates your DAC, your preamp, your analog interconnects, all forms of feedback. This is the revolution we have all wanted. No more heavy boxes. This amp will drive your new Kefs like crazy....200 watts a channel. Of course, the execution in the GaN 1 is still not super serious. You heard what my mods did to the Voyager......even more could be done to this $2000 amp. The glory of great sound for little money. We need to rejoice! 30 day money back trial. You need a great digital source.....(not the Blue sound) for best sound....and of course, a great digital cable, great footers, mass damped weight on top.....and Inverter power so you are off the grid. Such a system will simply blow your mind.

It seems clear that the AHB2 is system dependent.  In my system it is perfection.  
However, I believe all those who find it terrible.  Their ears are not deceiving them.


@ricevs I do remember reading about this GAN 1 amp now. Now that you have compared it to the Voyager, I will believe what you say. Ric's mod of the Voyager was great. It was almost like the AHB2 for my ears, with more power than the stereo AHB2. Since I had the AHB2 I decided to sell the Voyager.

BTW - the AHB2 monos (what I use) are close to 400 watts (or maybe 500) without increased distortion as you usually see when you switch a stereo amp to mono.


The GaN 400 is the same as the Voyager......the GaN 1 is the new digital input only amp. The Kef Blade 2 Meta’s do not have that low of impedance and are 87db sensitive, so 200 watts will get you at least 107db. How loud do you listen?

Nice to see folks are enjoying their Benchmark amplifiers and that there is not a ton of mud slinging here. 

I am driving Fyne F702 floorstanding speakers (92 db efficiency) with the Benchmark AHB2, with a Rogue Audio RO-7 preamp, Schiit Bifrost 2/64 DAC, Ifi Zen Stream with upgraded power supply, NAD C568 CD player (thru Schiit DAC), and the system sounds great, not at all sterile in our rather “dead” 13 x 20 living room.  Indeed, just last evening I fired up my recently-refurbed Thorens TD 126 MKII thru a Schiit Mani 2 and I was stunned by the realism from some MFSL and Sheffield records from the 1980s that have been stored for nearly four decades.  Excellent imaging, dispersion, clarity, tonal qualities, and the harmonics produced by the instruments all provided a realism that nearly placed the performers in my living room.  Even further from sterile than from digital sources, and I may have to invest more in vinyl and associated equipment.  Might I replace the AHB2 with something that some people consider truly “audiophile?”  Perhaps, if I had a rich uncle that passed away and left me a modest fortune, but, alas, no rich uncles in my case.  So, the AHB2 gives me superb sounding music with a vibrant sense of realism … which, after all, is what it really is all about … in my view.  So, again in my view, the answer is yes.

@ricevs I just sold a KRELL Duo 175XD (175-watt Class A) amp that I know will not be ideal for the Blades in my Livingroom. The room is rather open with a 25+ foot ceiling. The AHB2 monos which have more power than that will also not be really powerful enough with the Blade. Contrary to the Stereophile review that used the AHB2 monos with the Blade 2 Meta. 

I am getting a big boat anchor Class A amp for the Blades because these speakers will use that power and current to make better sound than the AHB2 or the 175-watt Class A amp I just sold.

 I am looking at a KRELL Dou 300XD, KRELL Duo 375XD mono, or KRELL KSA i400. The KRELL XD line is closer to the PASS in that it is warmer than the AHB2. No thoughts of Seppuku on my part. I can have both AHB2 and KRELL and enjoy both.


@ricevs Many claim that amps like AHB2 reduce harmonics. I don’t know how it is possible if amp has flat amplitude and phase response in audio band.
Adding even harmonics to create "warm" sound or bit of distortion to create illusion of dynamics seems to be what people are looking for. Warmth of the sound is assumed a virtue. Do you still hear clarinet (only odd harmonics) when you add even harmonics? Do you hear real piano sound when you add even harmonics that beat with stretched piano overtones? One person claimed that Benchmark DAC plays instruments separately while he preferred them all together (sound blob?). Another person asked how to make sound warmer and less detailed (I recommended blanket over speakers). Perhaps we need to learn to listen. We know that sound at the concert is different but at home we follow sound that we got used to. I took me a while to get used to clarity of the Benchmark DAC.

Most here do not realize that everything has a sound.....everything makes a difference.  I have spent over 45 years listening to wires, solder, resistors, caps, damping, shielding, etc into infinity.  You can lose harmonics or add juiceiness, etc. from a solder joint.....a single one.  The measurement people think that as long as it measures flat and has low distortion then it is neutral.  Simply is not the case.  I can take any amp....including the Benchmark and make is sound all over the place by modding it in different ways........and none of these things I do will change how it measures.  Only those that have done these kinds of tests understand this. There are many audio companies that know some or much of what I say.....other companies and designers simply do not believe in parts and execution.  What I believe in is what I BE LIVE......that is, experience.....and in audio that means how it sounds.

I could make the Benchmark amp sound more detailed and more warm and more holographic (more neutral, to me and most).  No problem.  However, it is too dang cramped to work on.  Next!......and now we have a pure digital amp.....so, no need.

Most people who own the Benchmark amps have never heard an amp over $10K.....so they have no reference as to what is possible.  If it beats their current $2K or $4K amp then they think it is perfect.  Sorry......there is a big world out there. When the Hypex NC400 module was first released it became the darling of the measurement crowd "nothing will ever be better".  Well, I modified it with better caps on the output filter (you can look up the sonic results still posted by several people on Audio circle)...and it sounded much better.  So, was it "perfect" before or after I did the mod?  Neither.  Would not want a modded NC400 now.....yesterdays toy.

The guy at 10 audio.com loves his Benchmark.....However, he changed the fuse to a $150 fuse and he liked it much better (still his reference).  I doubt he has ever listened to mega buck amps......but in the price range he plays in (under $7K for an amp).....he likes it best out of the very few he has heard.  If I made a list of possible competitors under $10K.....I would have to type for a half an hour.....he he.  There is soooooo much out there.  Please try the $2000 pure digital amp from Peachtree......sooooo pure sounding....no dac, no analog cables, no preamp, no feedback or non feedback normal amps......less is more....

While I've not heard the amp in question, I'm very familiar with their mic pres. I loved them because they were so incredibly transparent and accurate.


I liked the AHB2 very much when I got it. It was very clear, clean and noiseless, but when the Coda 16 arrived it made the AHB2 sound thin, anemic and lacking weight. I now have tube mono blocks so maybe I like distortion.

The older now discontinued Benchmark mic preamps used discrete transistors.  They now use op amps for most of the analog signal path in their current products.

You can lose harmonics or add juiceiness, etc. from a solder joint

You are absolutely correct (but I’m not sure that helps the person with OCD sleep better at night 😉). Have heard it and fixed it numerous times. It’s crazy what audio improvements can be heard from just reheating solder joints sometimes (even ones that are functional). It definitely helps if you know some basic electronics, and know how to solder, while partaking in this audio hobby.

The measurement people think that as long as it measures flat and has low distortion then it is neutral.

...or, as long as it sounds great to you, it must sound great to the rest of us. Audio reproduction has always been, and will always be, subjective. What sounds good to you, may not sound good to me, and vice versa. It’s as simple as that.