14 responses Add your response
The issue is power supply modulation, which can be very difficult to prevent! If the supply has noise (IOW, if the action of the amplifier has caused fluctuations in the power supply) the result can be intermodulations with the other channel running off the same power transformer.
This is why monoblocks usually sound better than dual mono, and why dual mono usually sounds better than a plain stereo amp; intermodulation distortion is pretty audible.
Thank you Atmasphere! If a single power transformer is used, are separate secondary windings for each channel used in all stereo amplifiers or is this configuration in the dual mono or partially dual mono camp? I'm just trying to understand why some manufacturers hype separate secondary windings as complete power supply separation for each channel, despite a solitary power transformer.
Atmasphere is right. My Vitus SIA-025 integrated uses a single Vitus-designed UI-core potted "floating" transformer with separate windings for the left & right channels. Isolating the transformer in a potted, "floating" magnetically sheilded enclosure certainly helps. Also being a true balanced design with well regulated power supplies helps improve s/n ratio. But yes, as a rule of thumb mono blocks usually sound better due to separate power supplies, reduced noise and lower intermodulation distortion as Atma said.
A friend whose ear I trust owns a Vitus SS-102 and Magico Q3's. He auditioned the Q3's with both the SM-102 monos and SS-102 stereo amp & preferred the SS-102 which sounds warmer and more tube-like, yet with similar resolution. Though the SS-102 runs separate transformers in a twin mono, true balanced design. Suffice to say, there are exceptions as mentioned.
If a single power transformer is used, are separate secondary windings for each channel used in all stereo amplifiers or is this configuration in the dual mono or partially dual mono camp? I'm just trying to understand why some manufacturers hype separate secondary windings as complete power supply separation for each channel, despite a solitary power transformer.
It is better to have dual windings than to have both channels share the same supply. The weakness of this approach is that the two supplies still can 'talk' to each other through the core and primary winding of the transformer, although certainly there will be less noise than if the two channels shared the same supply. IOW this is a step to better performance; better yet would be dual power transformers.
There are a lot of variables at play here so nothing can be considered case in concrete; I am merely stating how this works strictly from the point of view of power transformers. There can be other considerations in a design that may negate this issue- ultimately audition is the best course of action.
Thank you again, Atmasphere, for your complete and well explained answer. Given other considerations in design being well implemented, monoblock amplifiers and stereo units with dual power transformers should
lead to less IMD and possibly better sound. And yes, audition is a must, as "better" is quite variable amongst audiophiles.
I was told that one negative to dual mono transformers is if there happens to be a time when the recording requires an unbalanced surge of power to the left or right channel in which one of the two smaller transformers might not be able to provide all the power to that channel that a single larger transformer can provide.
They were referring to the rare time when one of the channels have twice the output due to the recording being much louder in either channel for a short duration. In most cases the two smaller transformers should not have a problem but in the rare case where the recording is much louder in one channel or the other a single much more powerful transformer can handle the spike much easier than one smaller of two transformers can. It’s possible for a short duration the smaller of two transformers might not be able to handle the extra power on demand. I suspect this might happen in a single dual transformer chassis in which space is limited and two smaller transformers are needed to fit and not in a dual mono amplifier in which each channel has its own chassis and each amplifier can have a transformer the size of a single transformer used in a single chassis. Hope this makes more sense now...Lol.
Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. Amplifiers are specified using a specific frequency range (typically, at least 20 Hz to 20kHz), at a specific maximum distortion level, with both channels driven. If in your example the amp cannot deliver rated power to the one channel, then it is not meeting spec. One channel doesn’t magically acquire more headroom simply because the other channel is loafing along - maximum output is determined not only by the amplifier’s power supply, but also by its output devices.