To Hans Wetzel,
I’ve been following your audio journey lately since we share some of the same equipment. My current system is: NAD M51 DAC-preamp, PrimaLuna Prologue One [integrated amplifier], KEF LS50 [speakers], a Consonance CD player, Hegel Music Systems H80 [integrated amplifier-DAC], and PMC GB1i loudspeakers. My latest purchase was the Hegel, and I was so very impressed by it that I initially looked at buying the H160 until I read about the Benchmark AHB2. I would like to ask your opinion, purely on the basis of sound quality (no doubt the Hegel H160 has very attractive features), which would you pick between the two? If going with the Benchmark, I’m thinking of the following pairings: NAD M51 DAC-preamp, Benchmark AHB2, PMC GB1i (i.e., using no preamp). Thank you.
You’re probably expecting me to go with the Benchmark, here, and you’d be right. The AHB2 is a power amplifier only, so you need to use a preamplifier with it. When I did, I found it a cut above every integrated amplifier I’ve reviewed, a list that includes: Hegel’s H160 and H300, Linn's Majik DSM, Musical Fidelity's M6 500i, and Luxman's L-550AX. Devialet's 120, which is more appropriately classified as a power DAC, is the only thing I’ve heard that comes close to the Benchmark’s noise floor, resolving ability, transparency, and ease.
For the purposes of your question, that pretty well rules the H160 out of contention. I do think you’ll find great synergy between the Benchmark and your NAD M51 DAC-preamp, and I’m betting you'll hear pretty quickly why I rate the little amplifier so highly. If you do follow through with purchasing the Benchmark, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. . . . Hans Wetzel