It is not at all difficult to design an amplifier with better than 50dB separation, even using valves, and any more than this is of no audible benefit.
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There are many benefits to using mono amplifiers. By having completely independent amplifier channels you have zero IM distortion between channels, no crosstalk. Each amp has completely independent power supplies, not shared from a single transformer, allowing for greater dynamic range. Mono amplifiers are able to be built with larger cooling fin sections on a single chassis that allow higher power outputs than typical stereo amps are able to produce. Of course, there's the visual impact of two big amps in a system making a statement that owners of big systems take pride in displaying. Mono amps are cool.
Primarily prestige. A LOT of folks who show thier system clearly have a great deal of pride in the appearance of the system.
One pair of giant monobloc amplifiers shows clearly that this is one audiophile who means business.
You can see systems with TWO pairs of monoblocks biamping the speakers...
The line between real justification for a particular setup and the "bling bling" factor are sometimes blurred.
Just like the self justification for $250. outlets and $100 outlet covers, $100 each cable risers, $25,000. one meter interconnects... A pair of Monobloc amps are often just another pretty status symbol. Even if only to the owner and a few other crazy audiophiles who see pictures of them.
Sometimes it's just a 'I'm rich, so I can throw money at anything and have the best.. And to dealers.. the best is nearly always a pair or two of monobloc monsters.
If your look at the systems owned by folks of modest means, and see a pair of monoblocs.. they just are crazy audiophiles.. (me too! though I do not own monobloc amps).
So Monobloc amps are: A status symbol, a way to throw money away on audio equipment pressed for by dealers, a way for the insane audiophile to SHOW they are devoted.
If I had the money I can guarantee you I too would own a pair of monster Audio Research monoblocs, and maybe another quartet of MBL.
(and for all you OWNERS of monoblocs.. feel free to flame away.. Hah hah hah hahh haaaa I am just jealous as all get out!)
Monoblocks with long interconnects and short speaker cables versus stereo amp with short interconnects and long speaker cables resulted in more micro detail, lower noise floor, more expansive image, and generally more realistic presentation.
My monoblocks have ranged in price from $2000 - $6000 (used). Not exactly a display of wealth in the world of high end audio.
My main reason for monoblocks ($4000 each) is to improve midrange and bottom end from a small speaker. Single MC275 amp was used as my formative evaluation of speakers. But the audio dealer later inserted monoblocks (tubes of course) and the system presented a different flavor of dynamics and soundstage which I preferred over single stereo amp. And those mono amps were 22 watts.
In addition, if you notice in "My Office" I also use shorter ICs and speaker cable which help reduce the cost significantly.
My belief is that well designed stereo amps will sound every bit as good as monoblocks, but short ICs is a real benefit, but low capacitance cables will amount to much the same benefit even if a bit longer. I simply would not buy an amp on the basis of whether or not it is monoblock or not, there are far more important aspects to the quality of amps then the issue of mono or stereo configuration, undoubtedly, some of the finest amps ever made are not monoblocks.
First of all you get more power supply with mono amplifiers and there is a huge advantage to the left and right channels having separate power supplies.
Sonically there is a noticable improvement in separation and the soundstage is much larger with mono amplifiers. The same is true with mono or dual mono preamps.
I have achieved some of my best sounds with mono amplifiers with long interconnects and short speaker cables.
I really don't care how it looks.
There are valid engineering reasons for designing monobloc amps and I imagine that sonic benefits thereby flow. But if mono designs are really that much better then why aren't all ultra high end electronics monobloc designs? Where are the monobloc phono preamps, D/A converters or preamps?
For all those people using long interconnects/short cables, how do you deal with placing delicate, vibration sensitive electronics so close to your full range vibration creating speakers? There's also the issue of power amp transformers and woofer magnets/crossover components interacting due to their close proximity. I don't know this for a fact, but maybe long interconnects/long cables is really the way to go? Just something to think about.
What Pubul57 said.
Furthermore, I have VAC monoblocks and just bought a VAC stereo amp. Soundstage is the same and I really can't tell if there is any difference in separation. Not to mention, to me the design attributes of the cables is more important than length. In both instances of my comparison I was using 1m interconnects and 5.5m speaker cables. I have tried the other approach as well, but saw no benefit. To me, getting the equipment down farther along the sidewall was a bigger improvement over having the rack of gear or just the amps between the speakers.
My second VAC 300.1 made my VSA VR-7se's come alive. That's "why monoblocks", at least for me. The amps are not working as hard as just 1 was, so presentation is more relaxed with lots more dynamic range. Additional benefits include a lower noise floor, wider soundstage and of course no crosstalk. I also now have the ability to tweak speaker output individually if necessary to overcome speaker/room placement issues.
The amps are just jammed into my available space for now, but the system will be reconfigured hopefully this summer to give them some "breathing room". When that happens, the system will look much better than it does now, although the 2nd amp purchase was purely for better sound.
There are tons of Dual mono Dacs, Preamps, & amps obviously.
However Dual mono does not mean they have to be in different chassis, just completely separate power supplies, transformers, and discrete components to each channel. I own a dual mono preamp right now, one chassis, and they are rarer however there are also several designs using separate chassis for dual mono in both Dacs and preamps, and your right they are mostly in the real nose bleed components like Gryphon audio. Some of these designs have up to 4 Chassis!
So your talking ultra hi end, yes almost every ultra hi end is dual mono designs for sure, as a matter of fact I can't think of any that are not... We are not talking Levinson, Conrad, Mcintosh, BAT, Audio research or even Krell... We are talking like Dartzeel, Gryphon, FM Acoustics, Boulder etc... All in dual mono, and even every one of them I think have versions with up to 4 chassis just for one 2 channel preamp.
But Levinson, Conrad, BAT, Audio research do in fact make many dual mono amps in one chassis and dual mono preamps, and DAC's as well.
Is it better? I don't agree its always better, but on a top of the line basis they are considered the top tier.
As for amps I agree Monos are far easier to deal with in moving them, and even sometimes hookups, minus having to purchase or build an extra power cable.
Sonically you can for sure achieve lower distortion running dual transformers in one chassis or separate especially if they are on separate dedicated unlimited current outlets. Many Single chassis mono blocks have dual power cords on one unit as well... So you guys might be shocked how many there actually are out there.
And a final note, especially if your running pure Class A amplification, "OR TUBE" amplification for sure Mono two separate chassis can in fact add DOUBLE to Triple the Heatsinking and bring temps down to near room temp vs. running very hot in one and lossing some further efficiency. Thats just the facts in nature, putting it all in one box no matter what you will not cool as well as in 2 in this case, or liquid cool them could be the other way :-)
Uuummmm.....just to name one reason: a lot of amps are only available as mono-blocs: most VTL's, CJ Premier 8's & 12's, many large Krells, the biggest Bryston's, etc. etc.
To get the watts & current of many of those in one stereo amp, you'd need a forklift to get it into your house. At any rate, to get the precise sound quality & power of VTL 450's say, or CJ Premier 8's, or some Cary monos, you need to buy those, because they don't make 1-unit versions.
But if you don't want mono-blocs, don't need them, not interested, then don't buy them. Personally, I've always lusted after big VTL mono-blocs, or Cary 805's......
Audiofiel's association of mono amps with mono records strikes me as dubious, though I will tell you that you would never see a stereo amp on the Springfield Monorail and with good reason.
I use MBL monoblocks as doorstops. Let me tell you one thing - those doors are staying f'in open when I want 'em to.
In all seriousness, monoblocks do not guarantee a bigger soundstage and images, better dynamics and better overall sound.
Any recommendation to that effect would be the voice of inexperience speaking.
A well engineered and implemented stereo amp will smoke its' poorly designed counterpart. Given the choice of 300B products would you choose a pair of Ming Da monoblocks over a VAC Renaissance stereo amp? I think not.
I have no financial interest in either line.
Undertow, since when did dual mono become monobloc? All I'm saying is if monobloc designs were the end of and be all, then why aren't there a substantial number of monobloc preamps and converters?
It may be that, at least historically, that monobloc amplifier designs came about not for any sonic reasons, but instead due to engineering/construction practicalities. In a high powered design, especially one using output tubes, a single chassis would have to be so large as to become impractical. It's probably cheaper to manufacturer two smaller cases than one humongous case of equal rigidity.
"But if mono designs are really that much better then why aren't all ultra high end electronics monobloc designs? Where are the monobloc phono preamps, D/A converters or preamps?"
This is your quote exactly. And exactly why I said DUAL mono is all over the place, yes they are identical in design to MONO block, but sharing one chassis. So to your point, its in fact the way "Ultra high end" does work.
Now if we are going to debate over A) mono topology, or B) whether the 2 channels can be placed across the room from each other and not in one spot are two different points.
Honestly it does not make much of a difference as I clearly stated as long as they have their own discrete power supplies etc... Per channel.
Only Real advantages are physical beyond that, not topology, as stated different cable configurations, and possibly heat retention for specifically class A components, which most pure class A designs in large monos do in fact for the most part use 2 chassis.
But further there is no reason to do always more than one chassis for a preamp or dac, they don't get that hot, and they don't take up nearly as much room for circuits or transformers as an Amplifier, however they are still mono designs so to speak, but not mono "Blocks" which I guess is the word your hung up on. But again as you stated why would ULTRA high end not do it, almost guaranteed they do at their top levels.
Which by the way I am not defending "Mono Blocks" are the end all be all... It will completely be based on the systems needs, well speakers for the most part, of course a 50,000 dollar stereo amp, yep they exist can in fact be perfectly fine on most everything, accept possibly that real crazy load speaker and somebody needs bigger and heavier which in one chassis is not as marketable.
Again it was mainly based on your first post which was not clear you were looking at the topology MONO and not realizing that does not mean it has to be in two units, so I just clarified it. You said nothing about Dual mono either, I just pointed it out. Which it looks like in your system you have a Rowland amp that acutally is a dual mono, but a step further in 2 chassis separating just the power supplies? Thats even a rarer approach!
Very often the motivation for *buying* monoblocks is that there is no choice if one wants a certain amplifier or manufacturer. There are many great stereo amps that cannot be had as monos and vice-versa.
In very high-power and/or class-A designs, practicality in terms of size & weight is indeed the driver. Imagine a 600W Pass stereo amp, or a parallel-845 SE stereo amp (wait - there really is one of those).
Some of the best amplifiers I've had in terms of stage, imaging, and channel separation have indeed been stereo amps, and not always dual-mono either! (True dual mono, with two power trannies, is extremely rare.)
For people that swap gear a lot (not me - but I know some of them) - going back and forth between stereo & mono amps can be a real pain because of the different speaker cables and rack requirements.
The smartest approach if absolute performance with yet with some salute to economy is desired may be a stereo amp with the HV supply in its own chassis - think ASR.
I agree with Audiofeil's last note completely. Like I said before, monoblocks can be great or mediocre, stereo can be equally great or mediocre, sound quaility is simply not the reason for choosing one format over the other, though there are plenty of ergonomic reasons for doing so - one can't make a blanket statement about whether one should choose one approach or the other for best sound IMHO -- you can find great sound either way.
Well, as this topic applies to my system in my admittedly limited experience running a few stereo amps and a few sets of monoblocks, when comparing the sonic results given a choice between 30 foot balanced interconnects and 6 foot speaker cables, or 30 foot speaker cables and 3 foot interconnects (either balanced or single ended), I have heard clear improvements using the former, which is the monoblock configuration.
Now, I did not compare amplifiers in both stereo and monoblock versions from the same manufacturer, nor did I compare the different cable lengths of the same model cabling. The expense to do so was prohibitive.
Nor did I try uber-expensive cabling of either type for the 30 foot run. Again, this would have been cost prohibitive.
I imagine, given no ceiling on cost, one could likely run 30 foot speaker cabling from an outstanding stereo amplifier with no discernible sonic penalty, but this was not the recommendation of the speaker manufacturer at the time of my decision to go with monoblocks. In fact, the manufacturer was adamant about avoiding long speaker cable runs.
With the constraints of installation and cost, monoblocks became the appropriate choice for my system.
This thread is great! I actually owned a stereo amp, Audio Research Classic 60. I turned around and traded it in for a pair of the Audio Research Classic 120's monoblocks. What surprised me was not only was there more power, the amps were aesthetically easier to place in the room. But for the first time I was able to finally hear 3D imaging with the ability to hear some of the instuments "float in space" depending on the recording.Same room, same equipment just different amps. I do plan on returning to a pair of monoblocks again to complete my system. Just need to sell my stereo amp again!
Statman, This is exactly what I was talking about. The Classic 120s actually have twice the power of the Classic 60. I have owned both and both are great amps. You forgot to mention the soundstage was bigger with the monos.
Audiofeil, I did the 300B thing and decided it didn't work since those amplifiers are not capable of driving real world speakers.
And speaking of inexperience, you may think VAC amplifiers are something special, but it wasn't that long ago VAC was not a well received product because of competition like the Audio Research Classic 120 which was a much more flexible and better sounding amplifier on a broader range of speakers.
At the same time, VAC was marketing Chinese tubes under the name Golden Dragon. These are the tubes that were used in VAC products. We called them Chinese firecrackers because of their short life expectancy.
I always buy equipment from reputable companies and as a rule mono amplifiers will give superior sound and that is a fact.
I'd have to say Kevin Hayes is one of the good guys in this business and is always a pleasure to deal with. I have enjoyed my VAC amps greatly and they have worked extremely well with my Audiokinesis Jazz Module and Tonian Labs TL-D1 speakers. The Golden Dragon tubes that I received from VAC have been just fine and I run the amps a good 5 hours a day on average since I listen to KUNV on my FM tuner while working. I have enough experience to know that not every manufacturer is perfect (including Audio Research), and I'm sure VAC has its share of unhappy customers, but I'm not one of them.
You can make the argument that monoblocks as a rule will be better than stereo amps, but in this hobby I have quite surprisingly found a number of exceptions to the standards. One of which is that stereo amps can sound every bit as good as monoblocks. If that makes me inexperienced then I can accept that because the end result is I'm enjoying whatever experience I do have.
My comment was not negative toward VAC or Mr. Hayes. I was commenting on the market regarding specific products. I have no personal interest in any product at this time.
What was I thinking? I thought we were comparing apples to apples. I'm not talking about comparing $800 monos to an $8,000 stereo amplifier. I am referring to comparing like products.
Most audiophiles buy stereo amps because they are less expensive and manufacturers reserve their best for mono amplifier designs which dramatically increases the price.
I understand there are exceptions to every rule, but I believe today's audiophile would rather spend money on a dozen expensive power cords and power conditioners than a pair of high quality mono amplifiers in an effort to improve the sound.
If this was not considered an advantage why do we have dual mono designs in amplifiers and preamps? I realize there is such a thing as personal taste, but when a system sounds good everybody agrees.
Mono block amps vs stereo amps? Well, this subject has been addressed before on this site and I have added my responses. However, here are some issues. Do mono block amp operate and ultimately sound better than stereo amps? Depends on the amps, period. It is always (electrically) better to have the amps situated such that the speaker cables are as short as possible. I x I x R (I sqared R, or power losses) in wires dictate that the longer the wires, the more power is lost due before the signal reaches the speakers. this is why power transmission lines are of significantly higher voltage than local distribution lines. Less power losses. Basically, the signal will degrade and have losses if the wires are long. It is better to have short speaker wires and longer interconnect wires. Also, if you are comparing mono vs. stereo. You have to compare apples to apples. You can't compare using a speaker that really is a difficult load and say go to amps that really can't drive the load. what mono amps do is to take the burden of driving both amps away and splits it within two separate amps. Most (not all) stereo amps use a single power power cable and power supply to drive both channels. Take away the fact that you eliminate crosstalk between channels, you also relieve the amp's power supply of the burden also. And, if you have separate power outlets that run back to your panels on opposite sides of the incoming power (different phase), then the power supply in the panel doesn't get overly burdened. Get matching specs amps, one is a stereo amp and two mono amps that have the same specs and the mono amps will definitely produce a better sound. but, use a massive stereo amp vs two very small mono amps that probably couldn't handle the speaker load by themselves anyway and the sound would suffer. This is not the haves vs the have nots at all. It is the same logic as why you use separates in the first place. Just step back and ask why you use separates and you answer your own questions.
the last part of my message was flipped. I meant to write. Use a massive stereo amp vs. two very small mono amps that probably couldn't handle the speaker load by themselves anyway and the sound would be better with the stereo amp. Again, it depends on the amps that you want to use and the loading of the speakers. Monos are better electrically if you are talking apples to apples. but, a 500 watt Nelson Pass amp vs two 50 wpc mono amps? I'll take tne pass amp anyday, if my speakers were a difficult load. But, if they were extremely efficient speakers, then the 50 wpc mono amps are the way to go.