The balanced outputs have passive attenuators that control output levels and when it leaves the factory, the Benchmark's balanced output is set at 20dB which does not offer good sound quality. When set to zero, the balanced outputs will outperform the single-ended ones.
After the Siltech SPX-20 Classic Anniversary power cord (see previous post) provided some warmth and smoothness, I decided to go a step further.
I had been googling around and read that some Benchmark owners who changed the fuses had reported great changes in sound quality. Two brands of audiophile fuses were often mentioned especially by forumers in Hong Kong - Hi-Fi Tuning and Furutech.
Since I could not find any Hi-Fi Tuning fuses in Malaysia (update: a reader said they are available at Octave; another reader said Hi-Fi Tuning fuses are available at Nova Hi-Fi in Jaya One, Section 17, PJ, while Octave sells Argentech silver fuses), I telephoned Eugene Ngoh of Audiomatic in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, and asked if he had any Furutech fuses. He said he had some in stock and off I went to Amcorp Mall.
|Can this little thing improve sound quality?|
Furutech's Select Series Pure Transmission Fuses come in two sizes - 20mm and 32mm.
According to Furutech's website: "The fuse is equipped with rhodium-plated OFC copper caps and a special low-inductance copper alloy conductor, ceramic body with special damping filler. All metal parts treated with Furutech’s patented Alpha Super Cryogenic and Demagnetizing process. These audiophile fuses are engineered to withstand 1 nanosecond at a full 1,500 watts, and rated at 125mA/6.3A."
The Benchmark uses 5 X 20 0.5A fuses which cost about RM190 each.
I had never been a believer of audiophile fuses even though I have seen them in showrooms for many years. I remember seeing some German-made silver ones that cost a small fortune.
But the theory is that all links in the signal path are important and the fuse links the power supply from the wall socket to the power supply section of the hi-fi component and an improvement in that connection could improve things.
Furthermore there were lots of audiophiles reporting good results in various online forums.
Back home, I replaced the fuses that came with the Benchmark with the Furutechs which was quite an easy job.
Then I played some music. There were improvements - the imaging immediately became very stable, more details could be heard and the sound was smoother.
The forumers are correct - audiophile fuses do work. And it was another step closer to sonic nirvana for me.