Benchmark AHB2

I didn’t find a specific thread related to the AHB2 so I thought I would create one. Even though it’s a power amplifier and not a headphone amp, I’ve met many people who have started using this as their solid state amplifier of choice for the Susvara and other headphones.

Based on my experience, the AHB2 can power both Susvara and IEMs without any hiss. It presents a neutral, matter of fact sound signature that can reveal the weaknesses in your chain. It won’t enhance or color the headphone in any way which could be seen as a good thing or bad thing. Bass is grippy, nothing is overemphasized, and mids sound natural.

One thing that many people are concerned about is the THX certification that it has. I know the THX789 has created a pretty bad rep for THX but the AHB2 isn’t gimped when it comes to the amount of current and power it and provide. If you’re looking for a warm or 2nd harmonic adding amplifier, something like a Pass Labs would probably make more sense.

I was very impressed by the footprint, power, sound quality, and flexibility that the AHB2 provided. If someone is looking for something that can power both headphones and speakers (with a couple more boxes), the AHB2 is definitely an amp that should be on your short list.

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I owned an AHB2 for awhile and it was my all time favorite solid state amp. I only used it for speakers. Tons of super clean power, dead silence in the background. I saw someone write this somewhere and I agree, notes just come out of nowhere and then disappear… Extremely dynamic, and it just gets out of the way. Low power, runs super cool, easy to place, etc.

If I ever go back to a solid state setup for speakers I’m not even going to think about it, I’m going straight back to this amp.

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I first found out about the AHB2 earlier this year when trying to find a “speaker amp” for my then recently purchased HE6SE-v2. After digging through a bunch of threads about the HE6, I stumbled upon Susvara threads where folks were talking about the AHB2. That put the AHB2 on my “wait for a deal” radar, along with the Bakoon AMP-13R.

After mentally clearing the “is this actually safe?” and “what other stuff do I need to use a speaker amp for headphones properly?” hurdles and with a deal magically surfacing, I picked up the AHB2 and have been pretty happy with its performance with almost all of my sets.

The AHB2 is a great amp; stuff sounds good through it. :slight_smile: I won’t rehash what pretty much everyone has already said in other reviews/threads about the AHB2’s sound and its ability to drive any/all headphones and most speakers. My experience seems to match closely with what’s written out there. I haven’t tried moving my printer into my audio stack though, that is something worth experimenting with. :smiley:

The AHB2 has some attributes/intangibles that contribute to my positive perception of the amp… I like not having to think at all about noise. In the past if something in my audio chain had a small amount of noise it wasn’t a big deal, but when you experience no noise, it really is a game changer. The amp’s ability to power pretty much anything also contributes to a sense of confidence that no matter what I plug in to it, it’s going to faithfully deliver a clean, powerful signal. The AHB2 looks great, even though it’s on a rack under my desk and I only see it once or twice a day. I also like that the amp isn’t a space heater, and that its coming from Benchmark, a company I’ve respected since entering the hobby long ago. All of these attributes build on its appeal and my perception of its value. Maybe a better summary here is: with the AHB2, I’ve “removed amplification” from my audio chain with little compromise and a lot of confidence. This seems like a reasonable definition of “end game.”

It’s still early days, so my opinion may change, but so far I’m very impressed.

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I had an all Benchmark system for my floorstanders but broke it up last week The AHB2 was not ideal on my floorstanders that need a lot of power and run in 2 Ohm region. Even in mono block form the AHB2 was not ideally suited to the task. So I moved the Benchmark gear elsewhere.

I now have 1 AHB2 powering my RAAL SR1a headphones and the other AHB2 on my KEF LS50’s in another room. At first the AHB2 + HPA4 + DAC3B were awful with the RAAL SR1a. It was too fatiguing. I removed the HPA4 and DAC3B and put in the CODA 07x preamp and AudioMirror Tubadour III SE tube DAC with the AHB2. This pairing is exactly the sound I wanted. Crystal clear, detailed, big soundstage, NON-FATIGUING.

My KEF LS50 system now consists of AHB2 + HPA4 + DAC3B. I have had a lot of gear on the LS50’s in the past and nothing was as good as this combo.

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That doesn’t surprise me at all. I believe I’ve seen reviews where Benchmark didn’t recommend 2 ohm loads but I could be mistaken.

One thing I’ve found is that for something neutral like the RAAL, the DAC3B + AHB2 will create an extremely neutral and fatiguing sound due to the DAC. The AHB2 doesn’t really add much and neither does the RAAL so it’s really the DAC3B that I suspect to be the culprit. I wonder if using the Tubadour with the HPA4/AHB2 would still give you that fatiguing sound.

Anyways, glad you found a good setup for them and thanks for sharing your experience. It helps me and others know which synergy works and doesn’t.

I spoke with Benchmark on the mono AHB2 on my Thiel CS3.7 speakers. They said it would work even though they do not provide specs for CONTINOUS power generation at 2 Ohms. It does work and sound very good. It is just that other amps spec’d for 2 Ohm operation have more bass and a bigger sound. Though not the clarity of the AHB2.

I did try the AHB2 + AMT3SE + HPA4 and it was less fatiguing than the DAC3B but still had a bit of fatigue. I blame the RAAL SR1a on this. I love the RAAL but it is bright. Interesting thing is that the designer of the SR1a recommends the AHB2 for the SR1a though Danny at Requiste does not.

The fatiguing sound I described was not an intolerable sound but something I knew could be improved upon.

I tried 2 integrated amps with the RAAL SR1a and they were excellent though I prefer my current setup the most. The KRELL K-300i and the CODA CSiB are great with the RAAL SR1a.

What did you end up with on the Thiels?

I have the CODA 07x preamp which has dual XLR outputs. I use one set of outputs to connect the AHB2 for my RAAL SR1a. The second set of outputs connects to a a D-Sonic M3a 800s stereo amp (Class D). It is ideally suited for the power requirements of the CS3.7. It sounds very good but I like the AHB2 more.

Once I sell my KRELL K-300i integrated I will be demoing the CODA #8 amp which I will likely get for the Thiel CS3.7. That amp is also perfectly suited for the Thiel CS3.7

I also use a Gustard X26 Pro DAC. This is the best DAC of the 3 I own.

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