I use three mono blocs for two front channels plus dialogue. This in my dedicated stereo, plus home theater system. I use two stereo amps for the rear run in bi wire plus bi amp.
Yes, it is overkill but it makes a huge improvement in sound. In my opinion, surround needs all the help it can get .
Worth it to you? Only you can make that decision.
I just finished putting together a secondary theater in the family room of my new house and I got a little carried away. I had 5 Antique Sound Labs Wave mono amps on hand and was curious what a low powered tube home theater system would be like. I have another dedicated theater upstairs and a seperate 2 channel system in my den so I didn't want to spend a lot of money because the family room system is mainly for my two daughters (ages 2 and 5). After trying a few different things I ended up using 3 ASL Wave amps for the 3 front channels and 4 channels from a Pioneer reciever for the rear and side surrounds. I needed to have the rear speakers in the ceiling and 8 watts just wasn't enough for any in-wall speaker I am aware of. The Pioneer reciever was a great find because it has preamp outputs for all channels and it looks cool in the silver finish with my Wave amps and silver Pioneer SACD/DVD-A player. The front speakers are a pair of Axiom M22tis and a VP150 center speaker with a HSU VTF-2 for the low-end. All told I only spent about $2000 for all of the audio related components (including paying an electrician to run 4 speaker lines for the surround speakers). It sounds different than my higher powered solid state system upstairs (using a single 5 channel amp) but I have been using it way more than I expected. I never listen to music on the upstairs theater but the new system downstairs has been on constantly. This probably has more to do with the tubes and the multi-channel SACD playback than the fact that I am using mono amps (neither of which are in my upstairs theater).
Now that I have written this, I am not sure how much of my experience will be useful to you since you will most likely not be using low powered tube amps but I love my new tube home theater system. Funny how it is now "my" system but I still let the girls watch their Willy Wonka and Power Puff Girls DVDs - just had to make sure that the tubes were out of reach of little, curious hands.
I personally think, unless were talking about some massive powered mono's for a lowish sensitivity speaker systems, and you are running the speakers as "large" on the pre/pro, I say are really not where most should concentrate their intentions. I think the deminishing returns kicks in REAL FAST, and you don't get that much back. Could it improve? Sure, depending greatly on the associated speakers and application.
Since I'm a huge personal advocate of setting the vast majority of home audio passive speakers to "small", and letting powered subs handle the demanding bass, I double that statement!
I think most people would be served just fine, with superb potential results using either strong high/quality multi channels or 2/3 channel amp combos, etc. I think they do the jub superbly set up correctly. If you're thinking that you'regetting WORLDS OF IMPROVEMENT OVER THE SONIC SPECTRUM going mono's, think again. ESPECAILLY WITH MOVIE MIXES, the area's of potential improvement, for the most part, in most applications, are going to be small to negligable.
MAYBE do mono's, if you must, for your main 2 channels for music, and do a multi for the rest. I just don't see most people needing (it's all good though...whatever floats your boat) to go that extreme for such little payback. You'll get all they dyamic ability that's capable from most speaker systems by doing proper bass managment, possibly bi-amping large speakers when necessary improvments dictate there, and/or just use quality sounding higher end amp's through out. I think mono's make little difference in and of themselves one way or another.
I just don't think people should be goign out of their way to fiddle with "mono's" as the solution to "sonic excellence" from their HT system. Probably we're potentially, all things equal, talking small percentages of differnce, if any in most situations. But,I'm sure many would sware otherwise.
I think upgrading elseware would better serve. Concentrate on set up/acoustics, pre/pro selection, video/audio sources, cabling, power conditioning, tweaking/calibration, overall system matching, BASS MANAGEMENT, sub/seating/speaker placement(huge), etc. Get the best amp(s) you think makes LOGICAL sense, and makes the speakers do what they'r capable (within reason for HT, considering they should laregely be running only uperbass/mid/high's, etc).
I think I would be looking to "bi-amp" most full-range speakers that I was considering full range before powering with monoblocks. But that's me....just don't see the need mostly. The mono's would have to sound WAYYYYYYYY BETTER before I went there. But knock yourself out otherwise. I've heard all the big Krell mono dedicated HT's, driving massive Class A rated JM Utopias, Wilson SLAMMS, Dunlavy's, etc. And for the most part, I just don't find the improvements THAT PRESSING..even for the most ambitious set up's. There are other ways to skin the monkey if need be.
Get Parasound JC-1 monos if you can afford them.
I keep reading over and over from members that theatre / movies do not need the care and attention to components that a dedicated two channel rig needs . This depends on a couple of important factors as far as I am concerned. First , what is your level of involvement and enjoyment in your own personal movie going experience? Recording engineers have improved dramatically over the years and there is some incredible work out there that a high end multichannel theatre can expose to someone dedicated to the ever improving movie experience . I for one am as interested in theatre as I am multichannel music presentation or two channel reproduction. I get different sensations from each but quite frankly do not put less effort or money into my theatre in relation to my main two channel rig. . Second would be that your theatre can double as an effective multichannel music system making the investment more critical . It is all in what you perceive as important to you. Going the monobloc route is simply another way to improve your soundfield which in turn will make movies and music better. That is essentially what it is all about.
Nope, nope, nope...to an extent, that is.
I could see the very best mono's giving some advantage POTENTIALLY in refinement of sound, all things equal. But considering bass managment, powered subs, more efficiency in amp/speaker combo do to bass managment, the only real areas of practical improvment for you money would be in overall sonic purity and such indeed...all things equal, again. Still, that said, we're talkign movies here! I have yet to hear any movie that has the refinement of a good music recording! Movies are mixed, and mixed, and processed, and scored, and over-dubbed, and voiced over, etc, etc! yes, they sound plenty detailed often, dynamic for sure, pretty clear mostly, with cool effects, stearing, and soundstage potentially. But, refinement is not the case, and things are generally more synthetic and manufactured! You consider the unavoidable "boxy dialoge" that is in the mix, faux effects, re-dubbs, edits, etc, and you just aren't getting some magical depth and refinement taht can be pinched out with the finnest music production/recordings!
I've beeen around high end audio for 20 years plus, worked in 6 audio stores as sales/install/custom, and been and avid 2 channel and HT junkie in as much. I have yet to hear some system on "mono's" that I thought was "the end all" for HT! Infact, I think certain much more important considerations are more pressing than finding the baddest amps you can to dive your home audio system...better speaker chioces for one. It's all good though.
I'm just saying that hearing large massive JM Grand Utopias, and Wilson SLAMMs and such on mono's wasn't any better than a well thought out high end system with multi's or stereo amps in general!
I think money's better spent delegated elsewere for most. Still, whatever floats your boat.
I recently acquired two Theta Enterprise monoblocks to power my Thiel CS3.6's, and a Theta Intrepid for the center and surrounds (still trying to decide if I'll use the extra 2 channels for zone 2, or move from 5.1 to 7.1). My reasoning for this approach is that I do my critical listening in 2-channel, and I want my soundstage and imaging to be as good as they can be, so monoblocks do deliver in these regards. I had considered either a 5-channel Dreadnaught II for the whole deal, or a 2-channel Dread for the mains, but once I heard my Thiels with the Enterprises, I was hooked. The multi-channel Thetas still had the "Theta sound", and were very balanced and nice sounding, but the imaging, detail, separation, and depth of soundstage couldn't match the monoblocks. That said, I find that when I listen to multi-channel music or movies, much of the refinement of the monoblocks is not as evident. If I were going to do multi-channel only, I probably would have gone with one or two Dreads, or a Dreadnaught/Intrepid. However, I do feel that monoblocks can interface well with a system that pulls duty as both a 2-channel and a HT setup.
There's one point that everybody has been forgetting, or they're unaware-of, so far...
There is another advantage to using monobloc amplifiers, if they are located appropriately. With a multi-channel amp, some people are running long lengths of speaker cable, perhaps of questionable quality, to save money. Long runs of speaker cable result in signal loss, vulnerability to RF interference and compromised sound. It's better to run a long SHIELDED interconnect to an amp located right beside the speaker, and a short high quality speaker cable to the speaker.
Of course, this kind of set-up is not for everybody, but there are definite advantages!
I am in the process of asking the same question right now. Should I mono block everything, or just the front three, and stereo the surrounds? I am just in the begining stages of this adventure. I am looking at getting an eVo6,a 6 channel amp, and mono blocking the front 3 channels (350wpc) with it. Then I can run another eV02 in stereo or run a eVo4, and mono the surrounds to have 350 wpc through out my 5.1 system. Just trying to get the best 2 channel/HT system I can get. I also looked at Classe, but it would take 3 amps instead of 2, and wpc would be different into each speaker if that makes any difference, I don't know, but it should be fun finding out. Love this stuff :)
i have just this setup. three large mono blocks up front and one stereo amp for the rear. i use a very large full range center channel speaker, which is a basic assumption for such an amplifier setup. balanced cables from source to amps. 1.5 meter speaker cables. many dedicated circuits, including one for each amp.
this systems doubles as my critical listening system, so at least two of those big mono blocks are "justfied". having a full range center channel with some current behind it, makes a big difference for dialogue and everything else that gets mixed into the center channel. i think i "wasted" some money with the quality of amplification and full range (22-20KHz) speakers for the rear channels, given the lack of information typically present.
true full range speakers (18-20kHz) sound way way better than subwoofers, but again it's a cost/size/performance/cost/cost trade-off thing.
i do not listen to multi-channel music, with the exception of some Meridian trifield occasionally. the pre/pro is piped through a high quality 2 channel analog pre-amp for L/R front channels. the pre/pro directly drives center/LR/RR via balanced.
i have yet to hear any HT system, anywhere, even come close. it does make a big difference, and it does require a room big enough to hold all this stuff, HVAC, and people too.
was it worth the expense?????
that's a very personal qualatative question.