Review And Images By Greg Weaver
My first taste of this remarkable new amplifier came earlier this year in April at Chicago's AXPONA where I discovered it driving a newly redesigned Studio Electric Pasadena loudspeaker, also bearing the Benchmark trademark. Now called the SMS1, the Pasadena's crossover had been reworked by Benchmark, upgraded with very low tolerance components, and the new look, more in line with the look of the rest of the Benchmark product line up, had been adopted. The subsequent sound in this room was one of the most musically engaging I encountered at this year's event, a remarkable result considering its modest overall system price of just over $7000, sans source.
The only word to describe this amplifier is tiny! Measuring just 11.04" wide by 3.88" tall and 9.34" deep, including feet, heat sinks, and binding posts, it weighs in at only 12.5 pounds! The actual amplifier circuit itself fits in the chassis space of only 8.32" by 3.88" by 7.88"! That is slightly less than one quarter of one cubic foot! Do you realize how small that is! So, just how good can such a miniscule Class D amplifier sound? That was my first completely erroneous thought too. Folks, this isn't a digital amplifier at all; it is a linear amplifier built on technology developed and patented by THX Limited, of San Francisco, California. Yes, that THX...
I had the good fortune of being able to speak with both Laurie Fincham, Senior Vice President, Audio Research and Development, and Jayant Datta, Assistant Vice President, Audio Research and Development, of THX. What I learned through several conversations with both gentlemen was fascinating, and led me to a clearer understanding of just what an achievement this new amp truly is. THX had an original design goal of building an amplifier that could afford Class A sonic performance, yet be able to provide that sound quality with ultra-low dissipation; in essence, to create spectacular sound without the consequential downside of all the heat and waste from the amplifier. The kernel of the idea was hatched back about 2006 or so, with a THX engineer toying with and developing the idea until somewhere about 2012. At that point, two THX engineers focused on its execution for the better part of another year. The collaboration with Benchmark began (it was Benchmark who really set the specification and performance goals for the AHB2), in early 2013, and they had created …..