It’s the time of year for saving money!
Yesterday I was looking through the posts on one of the audiophile websites, when I noticed one that caught my attention. It was from someone who was looking for recommendations for a three-channel amplifier. My first thought was to suggest the most excellent Pass X-150.3 three-channel amplifier that I’ve used with my Dunlavy SC VI speakers for the past ten years, but then I thought to myself, “Why not monoblock power amplifiers?”
I’m a big fan of monoblocks for several reasons. First there’s ergonomics. Mono power amps have only one channel of amplification inside so they’re usually lighter, smaller, and easier to carry than multichannel amps. Don’t get me wrong, I love a power amplifier with a big, hefty, well-made transformers, but I’m not crazy about carrying around one with multiplicity of heavy-duty transformers. I prefer to do my heavy lifting at the gym…
I also prefer the ease of setting up mono amps to three-or-more channel amps. I can put the power amplifier for each speaker near each speaker and use short speaker cables. And if one amplifier does decide to let the smoke out (stop working), I’m only down one channel, not two, three, four or five.
Storage is easier with monoblock amps as well. I can keep them on higher shelves, because they weigh less and are easier to lift and carry. Need another channel? Just grab one from the shelf…
I currently own and use monoblock amplifiers from three firms. I have five Bryston Powerpac 120 monoblocks that I’ve been used over the last ten years for front, side, rear, subwoofers, and even as PA amps. I also own three Bel Canto M-300 monoblock amps that have also seen use in every possible situation (including as headphone amps for Stax earspeakers). Finally I have a pair of April Music S1 amps which can be used either as stereo or bridged mono. They’ve spent most of their time in my desktop rig, but I’m thinking of adding a third amp so they can handle front three-channel duties as well.
Is there any disadvantage to monoblock power amplifiers? The only two I can think of are the additional AC cords and connections required over a multi-channel unit. There have been times when coming up with enough high-quality AC cables and routing all that AC cabling properly was far more of a challenge than the multi-channel amplifier that had been in place. And if all your monoblock amplifiers run in Class A mode they could pull more power from your AC mains than a single multi-channel unit, but I consider these two nits small in comparison to the advantages gained by using monophonic rather than multi-channel power amplifiers.