On two completely different sides of the spectrum. The Pass Labs is warmer, slightly romantic and will highlight the performance as a whole and show the room/hall size. The Benchmark is extremely transparent and detailed, highlighting the individual performers and expose them more than the room. It’s not that one is good and the other bad but I bet you’d like one much more than the other. Which one is up to you and your ears
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Thank you, audiojan. Some answer! I've listened to XA25 in a very close field session. Transparency and details were just awesome. The only comparison was with 300B tubes. Alas the speakers were rather small and I couldn't really imagine how 25 wpc XA25 would sound with my floorstanders even if they are 91 dbs. So my interest in Benchmark based on same details/transparency characteristics + 100 wpc But you add up individual performers vs soundstage features in the mix. Thanx anyway! I do appreciate it.
They represent two very different designs of solid state amplifiers. The AHB2 is very transparent or neutral I would say. It's specification is hard to beat. Pass Labs on the other hand is more optimized with respect to the musical experience. I listened to the AHB2 in my system for a weekend and that was not what I wanted. Now I have a tube amplifier instead. This is in the musicality aspect closer to Pass Labs.
I am hesitant to post as my experience is limited. However, I own the XA25. It is a very transparent amplifier. Search the forums and your will find that those with much experience note that it should not be compared in sonics to other Pass products. I have not heard the AHB2, however was interested in it and from my searches I gather it might be more analytical in it's presentation. Unless you have a very large room and listen very loud the XA25 has the power. I use mine with 91dB speakers (Tannoy Sterlings).
You can use 2 AHB2 for much more power without degrading sound as compared to a single AHB2 in stereo. Some posters on here say mono is worse than stereo. I disagree on that view with regards to the AHB2.
I do not recommend the AHB2 in mono or even stereo for very difficult speakers going down to 2 Ohm. This is in-spite of what Benchmark says on the matter. I have 2 AHB2s and speak from my experience with a difficult speaker.
I have a CODA 07x preamp that is warm sounding. I pair it with a single AHB2 for my RAAL SR1a headphones and I love it. Prior to this pairing I disliked the AHB2 with the SR1a. I blamed that on the SR1a because the AHB2 does not add or subtract. So what I am hearing now out of the uber detailed SR1a is only the CODA 07x + AudioMirror Tubadour III SE tube DAC sound signature. I actually had a 3rd AHB2 which I tried to make work with the SR1a and never could. I sold it before I got the CODA 07x, a big mistake on my part.
The AHB2 is also a very smooth sounding amp. It is not warm though so some may say it is analytical.
With my KEF LS50’s I love my all Benchmark gear on it. I plan on replacing the LS50s with the much bigger Yamaha NS5000 and use an all BM stack in mono (need that 3rd AHB2 again).
@vad58 This will answer your question about a tube preamp and the AHB2.
How Should I Buy an Audio System? - Benchmark Media Systems
I use a CODA 07x SET preamp (warm) and AudioMirror Tubadour III SE tube DAC (warm) with an AHB2 to tame my RAAL SR1a headphones. I realize now after a lot of tests that I am not taming the AHB2. It has no sound to it. It just gives you the cumulative sound up the chain. I disliked the AHB2 on the SR1a with other DACs and preamps and wires until this current combo.
I also have an all BM stack and I think that is where the AHB2(s) really shines. It is different from the warm sound most like.
I’ve had my ABH2s now for a couple months. Hands down, these are the best amplifiers I’ve had. Most recently I had a pair of Constellation Centaur mono, but prior to that I also had Pass, MSB, Spectral, Levinson. Cello …. I’m using 4 ABH2s, two per side, all in mono to power TAD R1s. One ABH2 drives the woofers and one drives the coax mid/tweeter of each speaker. The ABH2s are connected directly to a Berkeley Reference DAC. The level of transparency is astonishing. Detailing and smoothness of the sound is superb. Imaging is razor sharp. Bass control is also excellent. Dynamics with the TADs and 4 ABH2s are truly explosive. And 4 ABH2 are 1/4 the price of the amps they replaced.