Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M

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DBT AUDIO

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Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« on: 18 Mar 2023, 05:42 pm »
Has anyone compared the Benchmark AHB2 amp(s) and the Bel Canto REF600M or the current REF601M amps, paired with their Spatial Audio speakers?  I sold my X5s late last year and will be ordering the X4s when Clayton starts taking orders soon.  So, I’m using my KEF LS50 speakers at the moment until the stork arrives with the X4s at my camp!

Last week I had the VTV Purifi amp with the Sparkos 2509 Opamp in the house and it was shockingly good!  They removed distortion in songs that my Luxman L-509x integrated could not do. Unfortunately, the VTV amp would not power up when I first took receipt of it.  I returned it and received the second VTV amp and it played the first song and stopped playing music in the middle of the second song, so I returned it for a refund.  VTV amp customer service is wonderful and we’re not sure why the amp failed twice?  My chain is as simple as can be with good quality gear, so VTV and I don’t believe the amp failure has anything to do with my gear.

I’m familiar with other class D offferings; Apollon, Nord, Merrill, Orchard Audio, Mini Gan5, etc., but I haven’t heard any of these class D amps.  I owned and sold the PS Audio M700’s and S300 amps, but never heard them with my X5s.  I’m only interested in your thoughts on the Benchmark vs. Bel Canto if you heard it.  I’ve read tons of forums and reviews about the Benchmark’s no nonsense approach to no color and straight forward sound.  Some love it some hate it because they want a little color to make their listening more enjoyable.  I don’t know which camp I fall into until I hear it?  I just don’t want to hear unnecessary distorted instruments and vocals if it’s not already in the original recording.  If my gear is causing the unnecessary distortion, it’s a problem. 

My gear is as follows;
Mac mini w/external SSD > English Electric 8Switch > Lumin U1 mini Streamer > Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE DAC > Holo Audio Serene KTE preamp > Luxman L-509x (using amp as a separate) > KEF LS50 > Cardas Clear cable loom > Audioquest PC’s > Audioquest Niagara 3000.

Lastly, share any unreliable experiences you had or someone you know may have had with class D amps or the Benchmark amp.  I owned Benchmark DAC’s since 2008 and they’ve always been solid.

Thanks in advance!

So,

Cloud.sessions

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #1 on: 27 Mar 2023, 05:02 am »
@DBT audio

With the holo audio gear I would choose to purifi as it’s a good synergistic match. You have a preamp that can drive the purifi to clipping without an input buffer. I would recommend getting an offering like Apollon where you can bypass the buffer stage.
https://apollonaudio.com/product/apollon-1et400a-mini-stereo-amplifier/
If it comes down to the benchmark or bel canto. I would get the benchmark before the bel canto. With class D the biggest difference is using the best modules and bel canto sill uses hypex. The benchmark has more resolving power then the bel Canto.
That being said Comparing the benchmark to purifi with both the holo audio May and Holo audio spring three. The purifi has a bit sweeter treble, bigger soundstage, and deeper bass then the benchmark.

DBT AUDIO

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #2 on: 27 Mar 2023, 12:07 pm »
@DBT audio

With the holo audio gear I would choose to purifi as it’s a good synergistic match. You have a preamp that can drive the purifi to clipping without an input buffer. I would recommend getting an offering like Apollon where you can bypass the buffer stage.
https://apollonaudio.com/product/apollon-1et400a-mini-stereo-amplifier/
If it comes down to the benchmark or bel canto. I would get the benchmark before the bel canto. With class D the biggest difference is using the best modules and bel canto sill uses hypex. The benchmark has more resolving power then the bel Canto.
That being said Comparing the benchmark to purifi with both the holo audio May and Holo audio spring three. The purifi has a bit sweeter treble, bigger soundstage, and deeper bass then the benchmark.
I would really like to consider the Purifi amp offerings, such as Apollon, but after my bad experience with the VTV Purifi amp, I’m not comfortable with the the myriad of small amplifier companies using the Purifi based amp with their own twist on the final build.  I’m leaning towards reputable companies that have solid quality control like Benchmark and Bel Canto. 

Apollon was next on my list to demo, but they are overseas and I wasn’t willing to deal with the lengthy shipment timeframes and concerns about quality control from a small company overseas.  However, the brief experience I had with the VTV Purifii amp while it was working was really good and I could hear exactly what you described in your post and I don’t think the Bemchmark will provide that sound that I heard and liked from the Purifi amp, but I simply need to get the amps in house for a demo and let them earn their way into my system.  So, I need to think about it and decide if Apollon is an amp I want to try because I really like the specs on their build quality and I want to hear it.

I understand Bel Canto is using the older Hypex design, but if it sounds good and is a solid build, it doesn’t matter to me.  Once I get the X4s in house and broke in, I plan to buy the Benckmark and Bel Canto to do a shootout. 

I got a curveball for you, I’m also considering the Gryphon Diablo 120!

Thanks for your input!

Mr. Big

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #3 on: 27 Mar 2023, 02:33 pm »
The way the circuit is designed and used around any class D module used is what counts you can no way say all one module sounds crappy be it ICE,  hypex or the others used. The power supply is key.  Which is why Class A/AB rocks. And I am not talking about wattage ratings.  Gryphon Diablo 120 and enjoy.

Delta77

Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #4 on: 27 Mar 2023, 03:03 pm »
With your Holo front end, I would think your system "Might" sound a little more comfortable with some tubes in the mix.
Whether it be a Tube amp or a Tube Buffer in front of a Class D.?
In my system I use a Decware (ZROCK2) bass restorer.
Even though I have a tube preamp, with a nice tube amp , If I pull the ZROCK2 out of the system the system sounds flat with a smaller soundstage width, and slightly less dementionallity.
Usually takes about a day or two before I MUST but the Zrock2 back into the system.

The ZROCK2 is something I really didn't think much of until I bought it.
Really thought it wouldn't do much (which it doesn't), but it is one of my most NEEDED/Prised pieces, to make me happy with the music coming from my speakers.

I would easily sell my preamp before I would remove my Zrock2.

Not that this paticular piece is for you, But this has been my experience.
Just passing my experience along YMMV.


DBT AUDIO

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #5 on: 27 Mar 2023, 04:11 pm »
The way the circuit is designed and used around any class D module used is what counts you can no way say all one module sounds crappy be it ICE,  hypex or the others used. The power supply is key.  Which is why Class A/AB rocks. And I am not talking about wattage ratings.  Gryphon Diablo 120 and enjoy.
” Gryphon Diablo 120 and enjoy.” Lol….  Thanks Mr. Big!

DBT AUDIO

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #6 on: 27 Mar 2023, 04:20 pm »
With your Holo front end, I would think your system "Might" sound a little more comfortable with some tubes in the mix.
Whether it be a Tube amp or a Tube Buffer in front of a Class D.?
In my system I use a Decware (ZROCK2) bass restorer.
Even though I have a tube preamp, with a nice tube amp , If I pull the ZROCK2 out of the system the system sounds flat with a smaller soundstage width, and slightly less dementionallity.
Usually takes about a day or two before I MUST but the Zrock2 back into the system.

The ZROCK2 is something I really didn't think much of until I bought it.
Really thought it wouldn't do much (which it doesn't), but it is one of my most NEEDED/Prised pieces, to make me happy with the music coming from my speakers.

I would easily sell my preamp before I would remove my Zrock2.

Not that this paticular piece is for you, But this has been my experience.
Just passing my experience along YMMV.
” With your Holo front end, I would think your system "Might" sound a little more comfortable with some tubes in the mix.” Have you heard the Holo Audio gear with tubes vs. SS?  I had tubes before and prefer SS.  I don’t have an issue with SS that would cause me to feel I need tubes in the chain.

I appreciate your thoughts!

timind

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #7 on: 27 Mar 2023, 04:58 pm »
I've been running an AHB2 for more than a year now and believe it's my final amp. Although I haven't compared it to the Bel Canto, I have compared it to an Orchard Audio Starkrimson, as well as a Parasound A23. The Benchmark was better than Orchard Audio, and much better than the Parasound.

DBT AUDIO

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #8 on: 27 Mar 2023, 05:13 pm »
I've been running an AHB2 for more than a year now and believe it's my final amp….   ….The Benchmark was better than Orchard Audio, and much better than the Parasound.
Are you using Spatial Audio speakers and what preamp and DAC are you using?

Thanks

Freelance22

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #9 on: 22 Mar 2024, 09:10 pm »
I'm hoping to soon take delivery of a pair of 600Ms, and I have a use question that Bel Canto chooses not to answer (sent an email to tech support the other day):

-- My current class D amp, the Wyred4Sound ST-500, works quite well with a single ended interconnect that is connected to its balanced inputs with RCA-to-3pinXLR adapters.

-- I later on got my favorite interconnect with a single-ended terminations on the preamp side and a balanced termination on the amp side. This works perfectly well, also.

-- I would like to continue using this interconnect once I put the 600Ms in the system. But I wouldn't do that if doing so would harm the amps, or in some way degrade the sound.

-- The 600M's manual is silent on this question.

Should I keep using the same interconnect or not? I hope someone here can advise me... (thanks!)

morganc

Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #10 on: 23 Mar 2024, 04:34 pm »
I have the Spatial X-3s and I do not have experience with the two amps you mentioned but I have listened to and owned a half dozen or more Class D amps including the Atmasphere, Orchard Audio, VTV, etc and then I tried the AVA 225 Mono blocks and have owned these for longer than any class d.  They are about the same size as Class D amps and have the same heat output as class d but are A/B. They are as fast and as transparent as Class D and are just as dynamic and also have a good bit of the Class A Magic…..just saying you may want to add them to your demo list. AVA has a 30 day trial and great customer service and shipping these guys is easy and cheap as they are small…

rollo

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #11 on: 23 Mar 2024, 04:53 pm »
I've been running an AHB2 for more than a year now and believe it's my final amp. Although I haven't compared it to the Bel Canto, I have compared it to an Orchard Audio Starkrimson, as well as a Parasound A23. The Benchmark was better than Orchard Audio, and much better than the Parasound.

The Benchmark in bridged mode is even better yet. Running with a pair of Benchmark preamps, one for each ch. The only other amp that came real close was the Warp-1 Amp. BTW in balanced mode. Cables and Powercord choices matter here.


charles

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #12 on: 28 Mar 2024, 03:04 pm »
If you are considering the X4 or the Q3 consider that they are 88db and 90db efficient and a low 4ohm impedance. This will not work too well with many of the great sounding tube amps that were such a good match with the X3/5 series. I would look at something closer to 100watts which will probably mean an SS amp to get a good grip on them in anything but a small room or for near-field listening.

I am sorry to see the move to lower efficiency products as the previous 96db speakers were a match made in heaven with tube amps like LTA.

minatophase3

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #13 on: 28 Mar 2024, 05:33 pm »
I have a pair of Spatial Audio M4 Sapphires, 90db 4Ohm and just upgraded my amp to a Coda S5.5.  Have only had it for a couple of days but the sound is absolutely incredible.  I had been using an Accuphase E-380 which sounded really good.  Am still using the Accuphase as the preamp right now, but the Coda S5.5 has so much better control of the bass and high notes, sounds extremely musical and has a lot more detail and clarity. 

Would highly recommend putting this amp on the short list for Spatial speakers.  The amp is 50W (8ohm) / 100W(4Ohm) in pure class A. 

Freelance22

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #14 on: 28 Mar 2024, 05:51 pm »
Well, my Bel Canto 600Ms are finally installed (a real job on my crowded desktop). Must say I'm impressed. Tonally the 600Ms aren't different to any real degree from the Wyred4Sound ST-500 they replaced: they're both quite musical, which is a relief. But the 600Ms clearly have more resolution, which for some reason I hear most readily at low volumes (always a welcome thing) and in the entire bass range.

These are very good amps, and from what the seller tells me, it's likely they have no more than a couple hundred hours on them (various reasons), which would indicated they're not even fully burned in. I play the amps 12-14 hrs/day (low volume classical streaming), so any remaining burn-in will take place in coming weeks. But so far, so good. I can confirm that both these class D amps are musical and don't exhibit the obnoxious edgy/thin harmonic quality some attribute to class D.

Daryl Zero

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #15 on: 30 Mar 2024, 03:21 am »
If you are considering the X4 or the Q3 consider that they are 88db and 90db efficient and a low 4ohm impedance. This will not work too well with many of the great sounding tube amps that were such a good match with the X3/5 series. I would look at something closer to 100watts which will probably mean an SS amp to get a good grip on them in anything but a small room or for near-field listening.

I am sorry to see the move to lower efficiency products as the previous 96db speakers were a match made in heaven with tube amps like LTA.

Don's amps drove the X4s just fine (the Valhalla and his new 300b monoblocks) at Pacific Audio Fest last July.

dls123

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Re: Amps: Benchmark AHB2 vs. Bel Canto REF600M/601M
« Reply #16 on: 30 Mar 2024, 11:07 pm »
Don's amps drove the X4s just fine (the Valhalla and his new 300b monoblocks) at Pacific Audio Fest last July.

Also, the production version of the 300b drove the new Q3 to screaming levels without any strain at the SW Audio Fest in Dallas a couple of weeks ago.  It depends on the tube amp....