AXPONA 2015: Benchmark


I spent last year being embarrassingly over-impressed with Benchmark‘s gear without ever remembering to use any of my own demo music. Fortunately, AXPONA presented me with my first chance to sit down and listen to something familiar. A neat Bruce Brown reworking of Neil Young’s “Old Man” hit the hard drive, and we took the system for a tear-jerking spin.

The simple takeaway? Benchmark’s decade-long reputation for presenting an inaccurately dry and sterile sound can be safely tossed out like last week’s leftover Chinese take-out.

From the soup of the DAC2 HGC ($1,995), AHB2 amplifier ($2995), and SMS1 monitors ($2650) to the nuts of the speakers stands ($239) and system cabling, everything in the room was produced and sold by Benchmark. This was my first experience of listening to how the company actually intends their gear to sound. Rather than go into detail here, my impression is that we should all rejoice that small, British monitors and their simpatico analog gear no longer seem to be the only reasonable choice at this price point. At under $10,000 total, this system offered one of the most rewardingly clean, natural, and engaging sounds at the show. My only regret is that I only listened to one song.

This system has been dribbling out for two years. Hearing it all put together makes clear just how massively Benchmark has refined their skills.