If the price of that exotic record cleaning machine got you depressed, the Benchmark Media room is going to raise your spirits.
Benchmark has been exhibiting with Studio Electric over the last several years, so it was only a small surprise to see them bring Studio Electric’s SE Monitor in-house. In fact, the smell of “same old stuff” nearly made me skip over the room. That would have been a huge mistake.
It turned out that the newly named SMS1 Loudspeaker ($2450) has seen some serious new engineering under the hood. Benchmark’s production capacity and buying power allowed for a number of hidden upgrades. The cabinet has been internally modified, the crossover has been redesigned, and the crossover components have been significantly upgraded. Internal components are now matched to a much higher tolerance for a more consistent product. It’s a non-trivial refinement of the old model.
Partnered here with a Benchmark DAC2L ($1795) and Benchmark’s over-achieving AHB2 amplifier ($2995), the sound was tactile, detailed, and inarguably musical. Bass transients were especially well served by the SMS1’s sealed enclosures. Sure, monitor speakers may never be full-frequency monsters, but the SMS1 showed a confidently lifelike presentation down to its mid-40hz limits. My notes here tell me “somewhere between Audio Note and Harbeth — with detail!”
While other rooms struggle to put together $20,000 budget systems at these shows, Benchmark’s sub-$8,000 package made a damn strong case for not spending more. It’s time to forget the grotty sound of the old DAC1.
If Benchmark had served coffee, I probably would have stayed here all day.