Sampling the amp alongside a multitude of varied speakers and partnering components, Todes put the AHB2 systematically through its paces, and was kind enough to present the product with one of StereoNET's most prestigious awards.
The Demo Arena
The Benchmark is, as its name suggests, more of a jack-of-all-trades that attempts and succeeds to do a lot very well
Todes' speaker collection ranges from the delightfully esoteric all the way to the stunningly desirable. For this review, models such as the Quad electrostatic ESL63s were included, as well as vintage Yamaha NS1000Ms, Rogers LS3/5as and in true Abbey Road style: B&W 802 D3s.
Todes commented on the surprisingly compact design of the AHB2 and its cool running temperature despite its ability to kick out 100W into 8 ohms and also touched on the involvement of AV technology savants THX in the product's design.
In listening to Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic perform Strauss Heldenleben through the AHB2 and B&W 802 D3s, Todes remarked on the pleasant and tonally rich results as well as the AHB2's applicability for professional uses:
Things were pleasant and almost tonaly rich. There was plenty of power and space and a generally broad-shouldered and gutsy sound.
I could see how the Benchmark would work in a studio...where you want to hear detail and fault find, this tonal balance would be just the job.
Musical Testing Material
Asides from Strauss via Oslo, Todes selected an appropriately wide variety of musical material spanning different genres and timbres to exercise the AHB2's range. REM's rocking Welcome To The Occupation made an appearance, as well as Haydn's 88th Symphony, conducted by Simon Rattle while testing the NS1000Ms.
During the Quad EL63s' audition, Todes remarked on the AHB2's notable talents with handling electronic material - namely Kraftwerk's Tour de France:
Driving the electrostatics, things were more impressive still...I found the sound was strong and grounded; bass was taut and controlled with nice grip and the midband was crisp and clean.
Things sounded more immersive and three dimensional than you might expect from electronic music such as this.
Summing up, Todes praised the AHB2's thoughtful design, quality of build and versatility both at home and in the studio:
"Benchmark's AHB2 is a class act that delivers an awful lot at its price. It also doubles up as an excellent do-it-all stereo power amplifier in someone's home when not being hammered by a dishevelled studio engineer. I make recordings of orchestral and chamber music, so am keenly aware of its abilities both one way and the other."
On the strength of these findings, AHB2 received StereoNET's coveted Applause Award!
Read more in the full review article found here.