RMAF 2013: Benchmark and Studio Electric


I haven’t made any secret of the fact that the rooms that Benchmark Media has shared with Studio Electric over the past year have been among my favorites. The combination of the Benchmark DAC2 ($2000 for my favorite HGC version), Studio Electric’s monitors ($2450-$2750 depending on finish) and Studio Electric‘s amplifier (starting at $7350) have repeatedly shown what a simple, well-engineered system can do.

They mixed it up this time.

Benchmark has released their AHB2 stereo amplifier. Pricing is still TBA, but expected to be about $3,000. This is a very slick box indeed. While it’s shoebox sized, it’s not class D. There are apparently long whitepapers about its sliding Class-A / Class-AB / Class-H bias scheme. Benchmark is claiming a 130db signal to noise ratio. Power is 100 watts into 8 ohms. It’s able to be used as a 340 watt into 8 ohm monoblock. The Benchmark rep at the show claimed that it was safe into 2 ohm loads (in stereo mode). It has Speakon connectors on the back. This is not only a promising amp, it might be a speaker-builder’s dream come true.

That’s all provided that it sounds good, of course.

I mentioned that I’ve been a big fan of these rooms. Replacing more than $7k of smartly-crafted amplifier with $3k of assembly line shoebox is a pretty risky proposition. As far as performance at this show went, Benchmark may have a winner. If anything, the sound seemed faster and tighter than I’m used to from this room. Not lean, mind you, just tighter.

I’ll delay any real judgment until I get my hands on one of these. I don’t necessarily trust technology to deliver on all of its promises, and I never completely trust my first impressions. That said, this little thing left one hell of a first impression.