Benchmark AHB2 Impressions (vs. Vidar)

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by purr1n, Sep 24, 2017.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Pictures or it didn't happen:
    IMG_20170924_162459.jpg

    Thanks to @Daveheart for this loaner.


    I'll play with it a bit more, maybe let it bake for a day, tweak the sensitivity switches, but so far I am disappointed.

    The good:

    1. clean, fast, crisp transients
    2. great driver control
    3. very nice smooth honest treble - more forgiving than Hegel H2, which can be a bit zippy and takes some work / tweaks to get good synergy.
    The not so good:
    1. very flat soundstage - if you guys think the Jot headamp is flat, this is just like it. Very wide, but upfront (slighty in front of speakers).
    2. rather poor microdetail - on the level of lower end gear, I am dead serious here.
    The OK:
    1. ok microdynamics - ok, saving grace not as bad as others I've heard, but still on the flat side
    Thoughts and compared to other amps and Vidar:

    The tonal balance of the AHB2 tends towards lean. It's not bright. From the mids on up, the balance is excellent. The bass volume is like the D-sonic class D amp recently reviewed, lower in level compared to Vidar. This helps add a sense of clarity. I am unsure whether VIdar or AHB2 is clearer sounding at this point as the AHB2 seems to simplifies music (and simplification sometimes lends itself to a clearer sound). Will try out more tracks; but currently as it stands, I'd give the AHB2 the benefit of the doubt and a slight nod in clarity.

    Where the AHB2 totally falls apart is in the plankton, layering, texture, microdynamics, soundstage, and immediacy department. Upon a switch back to the AHB2 for the Vidar, my 9 year old son was like "that other one (Vidar) was WAY better!" The difference to me was immediately apparent (like in two seconds) on the initial and first switch to the Vidar.

    The stage and the music along with it just got sucked in to 2D plane, much like a how an NOS DAC would do it. But worse, because not just that, musical information that was abundant with the Vidar, the guitar and vocal textures, smack of lips, breaths, mix overlays, ambient information, reverb, etc. suddenly dropped away. It was pretty dramatic of a change. Don't get me wrong, Vidar is competent but hardly the bee's knees (which I still consider the Hegel H2 or Pioneer M22 to be). TBH, I'm not going to pull the H2 out to compare because it would be a waste of time.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  2. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Thanks for the review Marv. I'm kind of shocked that it was that poor with staging in your setup. I'll need to do some back to back volume matched comparisons with Zana Deux but when I wasn't critically listening I was really impressed by the staging, not loosing much to Zana Deux, and it crushed Jot. This was using HE-6, HD800 and HD650.

    Now I kind of want to get a Vidar in for myself as I only had about 20min with @gbeast Vidar before we blew the fuse when using ZD as a preamp and turning it off and on when switching out a tube.
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I would probably attribute the differences to the following:
    1. Headphones and speakers. Soundstage is very very different from headstage.
    2. Different driver types: planar vs traditional dynamics, not only that, but possibly the most resolving 6" drivers on the planet right now as @JK47 can attest.
    3. Using Saga, minimally colored preamp. Maybe pushes stage location back a little, but not a lot.
    4. Using TT as source instead of digital. Typically better staging than DACs, including mega-combo-burrito-filter.
    The AHB2 is so good in certain ways that it fools you... until a direct comparison... reveals that it's mediocre or poor in others.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  4. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    seems like my post wasn't far off the mark.

    If you paid that much for the Benchmark and you are thinking about the Vidar I would skip right passed both of those and pick up the M22. A classic like that will hold its money as well. hey what do I know though. I haven't heard it.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I missed it. Always love reading what you have to say.
     
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  6. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    @Marvey Do you have any recommendations for an excellent solid state amp that is still in production? It seems ridiculous to have to buy vintage gear to get the best sound. I have a Pioneer Spec 2 that works but starts to smell after a while when in use or just in standby. I also found the sound quite good but not head and shoulders above Jot when comparing the two.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Nope.

    So far my search has been pretty barren right now in terms of GREAT current production solid-state amps (for decent cost). The market is pretty skewed toward insane prices. There is a reason why I referred to the Pioneer M22 as being from the GOLDEN AGE OF AMPS. (Just as there was a GOLDEN AGE OF DACS - some people still feel the more organic sounding Theta Gen V is better than the current Yggdrasil.)

    Given the age of the vintage stuff, I can't recommend them, or at least make it clear that these things are ancient and highly subject to failure. The Japanese stuff can be kind of scary because replacement transistors might be impossible to source.
     
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  8. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    When I was switching around amps for my ATC speakers, I actually preferred my Lab Gruppen over the AHB2. The Lab seems to offer more body and bloom which helped out the low end of the ATC.

    On headphones (ok so I'm one of the nuts with the HE-6) I am wholly satisfied with the AHB2.

    One thing I did note with both speakers and headphones, I did not like using a preamp with the AHB2. Going straight from my dac (w/vol control) was like taking a layer of haze off the music.
     
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  9. JK47

    JK47 Guest

    @Marvey something that's being naggin' me from a previous pic or two of your setup... Are those speakers on a lazy suzy, or the equivalent poached from a late night drinking endeavor at Chinese restaurant? If so, that is slick as phuck. I tried a cheap lazy suzy after I saw that the first time with my speakers, but they were too big/heavy. Otherwise it would have made playing with precise toe in a breeze.
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Just pine discs. Inside the stands are large bricks that happen to fit in tightly between the stands. The stands are coupled to the pine discs with screws. And the discs to the floor with three pennies. Would have used screws to couple to floor. Basically just mass loaded stands with the discs to avoid ruining floor.

    There is also a sub in the corner. Not shown. Sub is fed signal from the power amp outputs.
     
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  11. Dino

    Dino Friend

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    From some other posts on your subwoofer/power amp/crossover setup, it reminded me of Richard Vandersteen's original concept for his subwoofers. Where the subwoofer amp would receive their signal from the main speaker's amp, in order to maintain the main speaker amp's voicing going into the subwoofer. Is your's similar to or inspired by that?

    http://vandersteen.com//media/files/Manuals/2wqmanual.pdf
     
  12. frenchbat

    frenchbat Almost "Made"

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    Kudos to you @Marvey for trying it out. Synergy didn't happen in your setup, shame it is.

    I do agree on the FR assessment, and as I said before this is not an amp that will give you midrange or bass quantity, so people searching for that should look elsewhere.

    As @cskippy, I do disagree on soundstage though, as it did tie up and more with the soundstage from EC speshal dht eating system on my mkIV, especially with the speshal psu tubes that were sold later on to a few lucky guys. But well that won't take from my enjoyment anyway, (and others apparently ;) @Armaegis)

    EDIT: totally hoping it triggers a wave of cheap second hand units. I'd love a cheap second one for biamp or double mono. One can only dream...
     
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    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
  13. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    @Marvey how did you send balanced to AHB2 vs single ended to Vidar? Freya or a different preamp? Was gear exactly the same between them? Cables?...just thinking out loud here.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Yeah. Mentioned in several other threads. Really no other way to do it for a music system. BTW, HT guys think this method is utterly retarded.

    It's actually very well known technique dating back decades.

    Used SE to XLR to AHB2 from Saga. Vidar was fed SE. Will try Freya next before shipping it off to @atomicbob.
     
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  15. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    With Freya, especially in tube mode, try and use the lowest gain setting on the AHB2 as long as it gives you enough volume.
     
  16. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Some brief experimenting today...my usual setup is Prism Lyra -> AHB2 -> HE-6
    The cable from Lyra is TRS to XLR. Gain on the AHB2 is at the lowest setting. Volume on my Lyra usually hovers around the halfway point.

    So I tried switching to a TS (single ended) to RCA cable, and used an RCA to XLR adapter into the AHB2. Now the Lyra has a "bootstrap" circuit on the output that adjusts things so even though the TS grounds one side, the levels will shift so the differential voltage remain the same.

    The result? Things got squashed. Both dynamics and staging felt flatter. Maybe it was the bootstrap circuit, maybe it was the AHB2 input, I dunno. So I tried moving up to the medium gain setting and turning the Lyra volume down. It felt slightly better, but only a bit.

    Switched back to the TRS->XLR cable. What the... why do things sound sharper now? Oh right, flipped the gain switch down to low... Back to normal now.
     
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  17. frenchbat

    frenchbat Almost "Made"

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    Cool experiment, thanks Armaegis. Intuitively, it only makes sense that an amplifier designed for balanced use wouldn't work at its best in SE.
     
  18. murphythecat

    murphythecat Self Imposed Exile

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    Shocked by how poor the benchmark perform.
     
  19. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    You should hear their DACs.

    Sabre fake oversharpened detail + fluffy amp = sonic Nirvana??
     
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  20. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Why does this bootstrap circuit sound like an opamp summer run in unity gain?
     

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