Benchmark Branches Out Into Speakers

After spending years pairing their DACs with components from other companies, Benchmark has opted to do it all themselves. The new Benchmark SMS1 loudspeaker ($2450/pair in black), which ships in 6 weeks, is claimed to extend from 44Hz—20kHz, with ±3dB between 50Hz and 12kHz, and a lifted treble in the top octave. These are a variation of the Studio Electric loudspeakers formerly paired at shows with Benchmark DACs, but with better parts including custom-made Clarity caps.

Together with Benchmark's new AHB2 amplifier ($2995, and shipping soon) and DAC2 L ($1795), the system delivered impressive low bass, very clear sound, and a lively top on a Patricia Barber Red Book track. Ear-opening clear silences, extreme transparency, and timbral beauty distinguished file playback of Livingston Taylor's "Grandma's Hands."

Audio nut's picture

I heard these and was pretty impressed by their sound. Strong bass and open sounstage. Makes me wonder what is a better deal, these or the KEF with the single driver for $1300/pair.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Benchmark offers a risk-free, 30-day trial in the U.S. only. Once the speakers are available, you can try them out - you'll need to burn them in first to give them a fair hearing - and pray for a dealer near you who can loan you a pair of KEFs. In the end, system synergy, including your choice of cables; room interactions; and the ultimate arbiter, personal preference, will be major factors in your final decision.

Ernst's picture

I was thinking about the LS50s, and even the much more expensive - and harder to drive - KEF Reference 201/2, before the SMS1s appeared. Considering the modifications Benchmark has done to Studio Electric's original monitor and the added Bi-Amp feature they come with, they seem like a close competitor to the LS50s, although at a higher cost.

Did Benchmark present any extra details on the Bi-Amp feature at Axpona?

I'm very much looking forward to seeing both the AHB2 and the SMS1s get a thorough review and test at Stereophile. Would be great to have such a fabulously well performing combo at roughly $8000 (including cables and stands).

P.S. Sorry for the huge picture.