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Benchmark Amp, Preamp


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Hi, I know several m number are using Benchmark gear. I’m interested in their extremely low distortion numbers coupled with their vey “engineer centric” philosophy.

My only concern is wether Benchmark may bring out some harshness that Klipsch can have.  Any comparisons to  Benchmark vs Class A amps and how your sound changed with Benchmark?

thanks 

I know Roy @Chief bonehead is always repeating “low Distortion “ and he obviously know what’s what. 

 

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I haven't heard the Benchmark amp, but I did own the LA-4 preamp. It is very clean, quiet and dynamic. I wouldn't say it brings out harshness, but it is somewhat "clinical" sounding. In the end, it didn't engage me in the music. I know that sounds like a subjective copout, but that's the way I heard it. Even though it's pretty transparent I can't say it doesn't add anything to the signal. Maybe a bit of "sheen". I can see where some people would like it, it's a "just the facts" piece of gear. But it just didn't move me.

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18 minutes ago, Shakeydeal said:

I haven't heard the Benchmark amp, but I did own the LA-4 preamp. It is very clean, quiet and dynamic. I wouldn't say it brings out harshness, but it is somewhat "clinical" sounding. In the end, it didn't engage me in the music. I know that sounds like a subjective copout, but that's the way I heard it. Even though it's pretty transparent I can't say it doesn't add anything to the signal. Maybe a bit of "sheen". I can see where some people would like it, it's a "just the facts" piece of gear. But it just didn't move me.

That’s my concern.  I wish there was a way to describe “clinical” and “musical” with measurements.  Maybe there is, I’d like learn to interpret data better.

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Well to give you some history about me. I'm not someone who likes "euphoric" sounding gear. I have owned and loved both tube and passive preamps in the past. But I don't want an overly "tubey" sounding piece. So when I say it sounded "clinical" to me, don't mistake that as it didn't have enough pleasing colorations. That wasn't the case at all. I like preamps to deliver the signal intact because I try to build my system so that it sounds good without embellishment at the preamp stage. So that means a tube amp that gives me just enough tube goodness to realize I'm not listening to SS, and a preamp to allow that signal to come through unscathed.

 

Not sure if I made things more clear or muddied the water.

 

 

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25 minutes ago, Shakeydeal said:

Well to give you some history about me. I'm not someone who likes "euphoric" sounding gear. I have owned and loved both tube and passive preamps in the past. But I don't want an overly "tubey" sounding piece. So when I say it sounded "clinical" to me, don't mistake that as it didn't have enough pleasing colorations. That wasn't the case at all. I like preamps to deliver the signal intact because I try to build my system so that it sounds good without embellishment at the preamp stage. So that means a tube amp that gives me just enough tube goodness to realize I'm not listening to SS, and a preamp to allow that signal to come through unscathed.

 

Not sure if I made things more clear or muddied the water.

 

 

That makes sense.  I’m not calling anybody out, it’s just l that language is a poor metaphor for describing sound. 
I think I’m like you, my ideas is to stay as clean as possible for as long as possible, maybe using the power amp as a tone, or coloration control. My idea is that once you lose information or transparency in the chain, it’s gone forever.  Wether this is a good idea in real sound IdK.

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I have never personally owned a Class Amp like the Pass Labs etc. I come from a background of numerous vintage receivers, I have tried some tube amps and like I said currently own the Benchmark system.

 

Here is how I look at it concerning the system, (sound aside). I had seen the data from the Benchmark DAC/Pre/Amp and saw that it was highly rated for incredibly low distortion, good beyond what we can even hear. As far as I am concerned I just want my Amplifier to feed power to my speakers with no distortion to my listening levels and a few DB more, (I want the amp to go more so I can get headroom for dynamics). This appeals to me because I know Horns and Klipsch preach low distortion as a key ingredient to good sound. Well, when I hooked it all up, I was in heaven with it, I can't describe the sound to you other then saying imagine a crystal clean signal, you will hear all the details, and they will sparkle in your room when you get your speakers properly set up in your room. I can turn up my amp loud and have ZERO hiss coming from the tweeter or anything, total blackness of a background. What I am now hearing is the sound of the Cornwall IV, uncolored by distortion. There is no harshness that I find, and think about it, does that make any sense that there would be harshness? Why would Klipsch design a speaker that sounds harsh because it is playing at extreme low distortion, it does not make sense. 

 

Now that being said, there is nothing wrong with people liking anything else, regardless of how it "measures". Tube Amplifiers have the tons of distortion and color the sound, some people really like that sound and that is perfectly ok! For me though, I find that yea that sound is cool sometimes, but I do not want it in all my music, and again, once you come to the conclusion, as I have, that it is colored and you then learn to listen to what the recording actually sounds like, that colored sound starts to come off as a muddy sound, in other words, it is hard for me to ever go back, amplification wise to amps that have distortion and color the sound, I prefer the detail and the texture that you extract from a clean signal, (distortion hides detail and smooths out texture). The soundstage and imagine etc, that all comes directly from your speakers and how you set them up in your room, reflections, reverberations, resonance etc, and of course the CW IV delivers amazingly here, the voice is centered, the instruments are detailed and 3D imaging is excellent again that does not come from the amp, comes from the speaker.

 

It is not something that you might instantly love, psychoacoustics say you will likely think it sounds weird at first because your just not use to hearing something so clean, but trust me, crank up the volume and omg the sound, that is how you will get over that right away. Just crank it up loud and bath in glory. On the flip side, try cranking up something like a tube amp/SS amp that has distortion and it will sound muddier the more you crank it and the more you will hear distortion and hiss and all that. (Class A amps have tons of distortion IIRC, don't quote me). The type of amp is not the problem it is how much distortion does it produce.

 

Here is a sample for you, from yesterday: (Trust me the Youtube does not do it justice, this particular track is well recorded and I have it cranked quite loud here, louder than I listen but listen to the cleanliness of it, I also have my some room correction to further flatten the frequencies in my room full range).

 

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I would like to add, I am not advocating for Benchmark, I personally love it, but there are plenty of other gear out there that should get you a clean signal. What I am advocating is that you listen to the speakers, not the amp/pre/dac etc, and you can't do that without a baseline to reference from, and when you mix for example tube amps with the speakers, you never really know what is doing what, you might like it, (probably not on all music only certain kinds, I know because I have been there), and so your just mixing and layering distortion on top of each other. Get a strong, crystal clean signal fed to your speakers and you will start to hear what your speakers sound like, and know which ones you like the tone of and which ones you don't. From there you can mess around with gear that colors your sound if you please, I dabbled with a McIntosh tube pre but it was just terrible for me. 

 

Also, this is all my method, my opinion on my way to look and hear it, I will never advocate it is superior to anyone else's method, I just want to be clear on that too. I do strongly advocate it though, because like I said, how else do you really know what your speakers sound like distortion free, unless you feed them a distortion free signal. 

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Okay, I currently own a Benchmark, a First Watt F3 (Class A of course) Hypex nCore nc400 monoblocks and some other stragglers. According to AudioScience “statistically” speaking the nCores and Benchmark provide the lowest distortion ratings tested. To say either of these ratings highlights or exaggerates any perceived brightness or “sheen” in my Klipsch speakers - they do not. They both provide a blacker background than the F3, barely. I have owned other First Watt and Pass Labs amps which fall the same. 
For reference my current Klipsch in house are Jubes, LS, H3 and 396. 
I have owned numerous, and still have single ended monoblocks, tube amps and without question all the above SS amps provide a quieter and far blacker background than tubes. For this reason I rarely run tubes although when I do they sound great. For my ears quality solid state provide the immediate, live sound Klipsch horns offers. 

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6 hours ago, VDS said:

Hi, I know several m number are using Benchmark gear. I’m interested in their extremely low distortion numbers coupled with their vey “engineer centric” philosophy.

My only concern is wether Benchmark may bring out some harshness that Klipsch can have.  Any comparisons to  Benchmark vs Class A amps and how your sound changed with Benchmark?

thanks 

I know Roy @Chief bonehead is always repeating “low Distortion “ and he obviously know what’s what. 

 

 

 

Don't know about Benchmark but you seriously should take a look at the First Watt amps. Super clean sound, but they are holographic sounding exactly like tubes, except they are very dark sounding. I carefully compared them with tube amps and was amazed. Sometimes I feel they are a bit too analytical and clean sounding but I'll be doing a review of the SIT3 and have already reviewed the F3 and F6.

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I can not contribute to the Benchmark, just some thoughts about amp design and sound impression.

The question of whether a preamp, for example, actually transmits a lot of music information undamaged is an important prerequisite for me. In my experience, a preamp that delivers a lot of unaltered signal doesn't have to sound "cold" or "antiseptic." Since a few months I have rediscovered the transistor after 20 years with tubes only, not the too colored sort but Mcintosh gear. Regarding the transistors I remembered my youth and bought out of curiosity used what I had then and because I was looking for a reliable inexpensive system for an active system with two power amplifiers. It is the British Quad 34 pre and two Quad 306 power amps. I am more than very positively surprised. Perhaps my hearing has also changed with age. Due to its circuit design, the Quad 306 power amplifier is known to reproduce very low tones with very low distortion. The so-called current dumping circuit by Peter Walker.
Back to my point all resistors of the pre amp are older carbon film types. I have at the output out of curiosity replaced these resistors against modern Vishay metal film types. It was shocking how the whole presentation became shrill, too analytical and unmusical (I speak only for this case, in other amps these resistors may sound very good)...only due to this change in the voltage divider at the output. This is of course only my subjective impression but it is considerable. My question, does the Vishay metal film resistor sound more distortion free and objective? the old carbon film resistor with more harmonic distortion and therefore "unrealistic"?  Very likely this is the case. But I'm walking a line where I couldn't say that the carbon film resistors mask and dull. I think in the end, the highest resolution and clarity without distortion like those Benchmark amps you're talking about deliver are a great thing. I would only be bothered if it seemed to me that the highest purity didn't sound comfortable to my ears...so if paradoxically the highest purity added something I didn't like. Sometimes it can also happen that the highest resolution is very unforgiving to bad recordings. Maybe there should be switchable filters to make the sound softer and more forgiving on the bad recordings. And with very good recordings, the very high resolution amp can perform really well and impress.

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