• Marcus Miller – Untamed
  • Marian Hill – Talk to Me
  • Art Blakey – Pensativa
  • African Head Charge – Dervish Chant
  • Rosa Passos – Fol ela
  • Paul McCartney – Band on the Run
  • The xx – Stars
  • Ed Sheeran – Sing

Now, this is what I consider a “musical” amplifier. I thoroughly enjoy the tonality of this amp. The Benchmark AHB2 power amplifier is easy to feel “at home” with. It has this immediate warmth and body that just captures the soul of a performance. Voices particularly sound very buttery and dense. And a bit “gravitational” if you will. It’s romantic with a rich bloom around the outlines – while preserving the naturalistic tone and texture of the recording.

It moves with a heavier coat but never sounds dark or veiled. This usually means a more fuzzy and grey background. But the Benchmark AHB2 is surprisingly quiet. You’re able to perceive the void between performers and their instruments. I don’t hear many amplifiers that are able to shape this aspect so dimensionally – while keeping the background so black. Very impressive.

On the flip side, the Benchmark AHB2 is far from hyperactive in its articulation and tone. It is calmer, more weighted, and imparts a softer top-end. High-hats, tambourines, and violins have a smooth roll-off in the treble. It’s not an excessive amount of sparkle or air – but it still works out beautifully.

Vs. Chord Electronics TToby ($4,395)

While the Benchmark AHB2 is the richer and denser, the TToby breathes out more clarity and energy. The TToby sounds cleaner, more vivid, and snappier. It also unravels details and presents a deeper depth in the soundstage. Silhouettes are also well-defined and the music just layers out in a more obvious manner. In regards to resolution, I feel the TToby is more transparent to the DAC it’s attached to.

As far as perspective, the AHB2 is more forward while the TToby sits further back. One thing I do enjoy more about the Benchmark AHB2 is the meatier midrange and low-end. There’s also a sense of ease with the AHB2 (probably due to the extra headroom). It sounds more “chocolate-dipped” and grounded while the TToby is more expansive and reaches further into the room.

In addition, the AHB2 also runs much cooler when driving my 84db ATC SCM7 V3. It’s barely warm to the touch.

In the end, I found myself sleeping with the Benchmark AHB2 but going home to the Chord Electronics TToby. Sometimes I’ll want that seductive intimacy (AHB2) – and other times, I’ll prefer something with a more free-spirted personality (TToby).

These are two very different sounding amplifiers. Both with their strengths and weaknesses. Which one you’d prefer will depend on what you’re looking to change in your system. Need more solidity and weight? AHB2. Want more shine and air up top? TToby.