Bryston 4B Cubed vs Hegel H360 vs Benchmark AHB2


I am likely going to get the KEF Reference 1 for my office at the end of this month. I was trying to convince myself to get something else but I always came back to the KEF Ref 1 for many factors, such as sound, cost, size, ease of setup.

I think the KEF Ref 1 speakers can use a lot of power even though they are rated at 50-200 watts at 8 ohms. My setup in the office will require a few digital inputs  and 1 or 2 analog inputs. 

I have narrowed down my list to the following electronics:

1) Benchmark DAC3 + AHB2 amp(s), I have not heard the AHB2 amp but did own the DAC2 for years and liked it a lot. Only issue with this setup is that I will likely need to get 2 AHB2 amps to get over 100 watts for the Ref 1's.  Anybody with these amps think I need 2 of them for the KEF Ref 1's in an office? I sometimes play music loud but not for long while I work. I would buy Benchmark as new gear.

2) The Bryston 4B Cubed along with the Bryston pre-amp with integrated DAC option. I owned older Bryston gear in the past and one complaint I had was a slightly smaller sound stage. I would buy the Bryston gear on the used market.

3) The Hegel H360. I heard this unit playing KEF Blade 2 at a show and I was pleased with the sound. I loved the sound of the Blades but I may be giving too much credit for the sound that day to the Hegel. Whatever, the case it was an enjoyable experience. I could go used or new with this gear. My concern about Hegel is repair work and reliability. I have never owned Hegel gear but I have read some rants here about Hegel customer service. BTW - Is there a new H390 in the horizon?

All of my choices are in the detail oriented sound camp. This is fine for my office system since I am getting a warmer sounding system later on for the living room. Some variety in systems will keep things interesting.

Anybody have any feedback on the 3 brands I have listed and the concerns I have for each.
yyzsantabarbara

In my own personal opinion and tastes, I would choose the Hegel. 

The Bryston amps are very clean and strong, but I think they have a tendency to sound somewhat flat or sterile, so your comment about having a smaller soundstage would tend to agree.  I think the Bryston preamps can be on the bright side in the high frequencies as wells.

I don't have any experience with the Benchmark BHK, but it appears to be similar to a Class D amp type circuit.  Limited listening shows the BHK to be very smooth and clean, but it may not be as engaging (like other class d amps).

I think the Hegel would "sing" the best.  It is definitely high resolution and has a lot of impact.  The only downside would be that you might get "distracted" by the good sounding music while you work in your office, lol.

Thanks for the feedback. 

The Benchmark AHB2 is not a class D but a Class AB and Class H.

"The AHB2 makes use of THX Corporation's Achromatic Audio Amplifier (AAA) technology, in which a low-power feed-forward amplifier drives a low-bias class-AB output section, the latter energized by a system of class-H power-supply rails that deliver power in response to demand—resulting in an extremely efficient amplifier capable of robust power output."

The Hegel and Benchmark are likely my 2 top choices. There are some reviews of the AHB2 amp that have me intrigued. 

I just went to the Benchmark site and noticed they have a 30 day trial for the 2 units I am interested in. Well that answers that. I will home trial these 2 first. 
I owned the KEF Ref Ones a couple years ago, and sold them as I needed the cabbage. Miss them constantly. Anyhoo, for an office I don't think you need as much power as you think. I had my Sony ES integrated on them, and they kicked. Best I heard them was with an Octave 40 tube amp on loan, almost frightening.
Yeah, more mustard never hurts, but these 1s get hugely loud for their size, and in an office? You should think hard about all the unused mustard that won't be needed.
@scott_w,

Thanks, with that info I guess I can demo just one AHB2 amp in stereo mode instead of 2 as mono blocks with 380 watts at 8 Ohms. Stereo is 100 watts at 8 Ohms. Then both DAC and amp will cost about $5300 new,
I am going to check out the new Bryston gear just so I cover all the bases. The new gear is supposed to sound more mellow than my older Bryston and the used prices of a 4B3 + BP173 is around the $6K range.
I have not personally heard the Bryston 4B Cubed amps but I have spoken with a few owners of the new amp and they are very pleased with the new improved sound. When you have an opportunity to audition them, please post your thoughts. A guy can never accumuate to much information ;-)
@lak,

I was looking for that extra Bryston info last night and went to the source. Read the complete thread.

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=151889.0

They talk about issues I had raised about the Bryston. I used to own the BP25 + MPS-2 preamp/power supply so I am very familiar with the thread's discussion points. I definitely want to consider the Bryston for my living room system when I start shopping for that. At this time I am looking for the office system. A smaller foot print for the electronics is important for the office since I have tons of computer gear (very quiet) in the office.

I am leaning towards the Benchmark setup and may order the system next week to take with me when I audition speakers at the end of the month. The Benchmark units are very small in foot print.
I should add that I heard the KEF Reference 1 at the last LA Audio show driven by the following Wyred4Soud gear:

"MS Music Server (was prototype then, it is now released), our 10th Anniversary DAC, and a pair of our SX-1000R mono block amplifiers"

this class D system sounded awesome. However, this gear is not any cheaper than what I am already considering.

yyzsantabarbara

are you able to audition the Bryston B-135 integrated? I would like to read more about that amp vs. the Hegel H360.

Happy Listening!

I was going to go to a place in Calabas, CA to hear the Bryston with KEF when I go for my original KEF demo in Newport Beach. However, the Bryston guy in Calabas, CA no longer has KEFs. Check out the Bryston cubed units for sale on A’Gon. The prices are not too bad. Bryston amps used is a risk free purchase in my opinion (regards to quality and reliability, sound is a personal choice).

This afternoon someone emailed me with an offer for a AHB2 amp and I bought it. I will now do a home trial with the Benchmark DAC3L and likely be happy with the results. I am taking a chance on buying the AHB2 today when I can get a 30 day trial but I am saving money with a used unit.

My reason for the KEF demo is actually to hear KEF Blade 2 with some Luxman gear. I cannot afford that yet nor do I have the space but the KEF Ref 1 is doable this month along with one of the electronics I was asking about on this thread.

This is one reason I am looking for a very detail oriented office system. My KEF Blade system will use warmer SS components.
I thought I would update this thread if anyone was curious how the AHB2 system went.

I have had the following new system setup now for 3 days with about 30 hours on it. It is still breaking in but I can already conclude I love this system.

I wanted a detailed system for the office and was willing to live with a little edginess if that was what it took. However, my new office system has none of the harshness I was thinking that may occur. The speakers sound the best I have ever heard it. Just a pleasure to listen at any volume. It is now 2 AM and I am working in the office with the music playing rather quietly. I can hear everything  clearly and with the same toe tapping effect as when I play louder. I was looking for that in my next office system.

The system now sounds like a live performance on most of the music I am playing. It certainly sounds different than anything I have heard before on this speaker. I was playing some live concerts of groups I have seen live, Rush and Santana, and I was taken back to the show but with better seats. The fact this system is maybe the quietest system one can setup could be why it sounds a little different (better) to me.

Best compliment I can give it is that is sounds a lot like the http://www.resonessencelabs.com/ Mirrus DAC that I have been so enamored with. The DAC3L direct to the AHB2 sounds so much better than when I had the Benchmark DAC2 direct to a Parasound A23 amp. The difference in quality is ridiculous. At one time I had that older Benchmark DAC2 running into a BAT VK-42SE preamp and it did not sound as good as the new system. It is the lack of noise that is the secret sauce.

Benchmark DAC3L
Benchmark AHB2 amp 
Sony HD Radio
Bryston XLR between preamp and amp 
Audience AU SE speaker cable
Assorted inexpensive power chords
Torus RM15 power conditioner
KEF LS50 speakers

I will be replacing the Bryston XLR with an old Audience AU24e XLR next week. I will also be replacing the KEF LS50's with Audience 1+1 speakers next week. The KEF's move to the bedroom to be powered with my existing PeachTree Nova 150. I decided on the Audience because it is a crossover less speaker and it has had great reviews for my type of office application. I will eventually be running that on dedicated stands but will have to put it on my desk (on Isoaccustic stands) until I move.

I finally found a reason not to buy the KEF 1. I wanted to have some variety in the speakers since I hope to also get the Blade 2 at some future time for the living room.

I have been saying how great the PeachTree Nova 150 sounds with the KEF LS50;s. I still think this is the case and that is why I am keeping it for the bedroom. However, I do feel that the all Benchmark system is at another higher level in terms of sound reproduction.

Now back to work.
Thanks for the update.
I would hope that the Benchmark is at another level or maybe 3 or 4 above the Nova 150 or 300. These amps to me define mediocre. I have auditioned them against less expensive A/B amps as well as amps around their price and they sound very veiled and 2 dimensional as if there's a haze over the music. Perhaps that works well for some people's systems but I'm kind of shocked that someone that loves the Benchmark amp could also love the Nova. 
@clarinetmonster2 I don't love the Nova 150 but I like it a lot for what it does and the price I paid. I even use this with an iPhone input so you can see I am not looking for the last word in audio quality. Saying all of that it is better than average in my opinion. It is veiled on top but that was actually a good thing prior to me buying acoustic treatments.

I had the Benchmark AHB2 and DAC3 for a year and sold them and kept the Peachtree Nova 150. I felt the same way when I compared the Benchmark to the Nova 150. I was bummed for about a week when I sold then but then I get used to the sound and I just enjoy the tunes now. 

I sold  Benchmark gear to buy some lottery tickets to fund my future system. It looks like that was a smart move.

yyzsantabarbara


Are you still enjoying the Audience cabling? Any newer cables/power cords headed your way?  Happy Listening!

My current Audience Ohno III speaker cabling is good enough for my modest system. Certainly not a weak link. 

No new cables until I buy my replacement office system. The waiting seems to be taking a long time. 
yyzsantabarbara

Much Thanks! for the update.  Happy Listening!
sorry for my grumpy post. I'm having ...issues with my system right now so...actually the issue is my system is non-existent right now and I'm trying to rebuild almost from scratch and things are not going as I had hope so far. You are right though, gear that can just help us forget HIFI and enjoy music is really what it should be about. 
Post removed 
@jetter I sold because I moved and did not have room for 2 small systems. I have a toddler so things need to be controlled. I also wanted to to raise some cash to buy some stocks and the office gear (Benchmark(s) + Audience 1+1 speakers) were sold for that purpose. I am considering buying back the AHB2 soon just to have that amp in the stable.
Hi yyzsantabarbara, I think I deleted my post above that you are answering just before you answered it, only because I believe I came across another thread where you said you would buy it back.  So I knew you liked it.  Sorry for the confusion.