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Marsanz
27-02-2011, 04:12 AM
HUG,

I have seriously been thinking about mono-blocking my SHL5s for several months now. Is the return on my investment worthwhile or should I be content with what I have? Content...does this word even exist in this hobby?

I'd be interested in hearing if any members have gone this route, what the results were and if their expectations were met.

Thanks.

M

Sebastien
28-02-2011, 02:20 AM
Hi Marsanz,

I think that some members covered this few days ago. Someone was asking about mono-blocking his Harbeth with Quad 405-2.

Plus, you'll find other opinions by searching the archives. In what I read, there are not a lot of members who mono-block their speakers. Most of them seem to prefer investing their money elsewhere. On music, for example.

Sebastien

hifi_dave
28-02-2011, 11:27 AM
Mono-blocking Quad 405's is probably not worth the effort and costs. Furthermore IIRC, the 405 design is not suitable for bridging if that was to be considered.

However, some amps are designed as mono-blocks and these are often very good designs indeed. For instance, I was listening to my new SHL5's yesterday with a pair of the new Albarry M608 mono-block amps and it sounded wonderful. These amps are only available as mono-blocks because the designer believes that this is the way to obtain maximum separation of the channels, essential for good stereo.

{Moderator's comment: wrong goal, needless complexity. It's the stereo recording that defines the width and needed channel separation not the amp. All you need is about 50dB separation (better than the best PU cartridge) which a $200 supermarket amp will give you.}

STHLS5
28-02-2011, 01:01 PM
Maybe it is a needless pursuit but a necessary rituals such as experimenting with mono blocking, cables and etc etc. If it wasn't for those unnecessary rituals in pursuit of the best sound I wouldn't have discovered Harbeth.

ST

{Moderator's comment: Necessary? Absolutely not. A personal curiosity - definitely.}

STHLS5
28-02-2011, 02:01 PM
{Moderator's comment: Necessary? Absolutely not. A personal curiosity - definitely.}


It is more than personal curiosity. It keeps your mind focused towards your equipments (NOT MUSIC!). I used to listen for four hours daily and it increased significantly in the first few months after acquiring SHL5. After, being fully satisfied with Harbeth I find there is no more motivation to sit still and listen to the speakers or amps or cables. I am now immersed in the music and often fall asleep (more of half asleep half awake state of being) if I sit quietly doing nothing while listening to the music. So much so, now I on the system for about a good an hour listening and though it is never enough but at least I enjoy every minutes of it without falling asleep. Gone were the days, when I tag along my friends to go for a listening session at other places. Harbeth became a perfect companion for my musical enjoyment that sometimes I don't even notice the system behind the music.


ST

hifi_dave
28-02-2011, 02:12 PM
{Moderator's comment: wrong goal, needless complexity. It's the stereo recording that defines the width and needed channel separation not the amp. All you need is about 50dB separation (better than the best PU cartridge) which a $200 supermarket amp will give you.}

Tell that to Krell, Audio Research, Leben, Radford, Leak, Quad, Albarry, LFD, Ayre, EAR, Rega, Sugden, Audionote, Jadis, Conrad Johnson, TE, Tron, Bryston and so many other companies I can't even list.

For the best sound and separation, many, many companies over the years have opted for mono-block operation or two complete mono amps on one chassis.

{Moderator's comment: Excellent marketing on their behalf. Bravo!}

Gan CK
28-02-2011, 04:20 PM
Erm i too do not subscribe to the idea that a mono block would automatically confer better sound. Have heard many huge mono blocks pumping out 500 to 1000 watts per channel & none the more musical. That's why i always felt that low efficiency or hard to drive speakers will never sound musical because the amps driving them are often humongous & amps as such are often less musical than so called wimpy or simpler integrateds. From my experience, all but the most musical amps have been those below 100 wpc & many British integrateds fall into these category. I have seen & heard many small UK integrateds from the 80s such as Cyrus 1, Arcam Alpha, Creek 4140, Onix OA-21 & Naim Nait beating the pants off those huge & heavyweight American & japanese counterparts in terms of subtlety, musicality & tonality.

As luck would have it, late last year i heard a Naim Nait 5i beating a much more expensive Swissmade pre/power at a local store dealing with second hand stuff. Both amps were driving the old M40. The guy said the Swiss amp don't match well with the M40. Out of curiosity, i asked him to try another pair of speakers & guess what, the results were still the same. The Naim Nait 5i is simply more musical, natural & involving. So much for high end!

davidlovel
28-02-2011, 05:05 PM
This thread started as a simple request for user experience with mono blocks, but seems to have been diverted.

To answer Marsanz's question here's my experience reported on HUG a couple of years ago:
http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?636-My-choice-of-amplifier&highlight=

David

A.S.
28-02-2011, 05:54 PM
Perhaps I could comment.

I/we don't doubt that there are some users who in some circumstances will benefit from investing considerable amount of money in what must honestly be rated as very small incremental enhancements in their system. I/we take no issue with that. In a consumer's democracy the consumer is free to spend as he sees fit. We endorse that fully. That's the best economic system that mankind knows of. The problem we at Harbeth have is of proportionality. By that I mean the relative improvement (although degradation is indeed also possible) that could result from spending very considerable amounts of time and money on accessories.

Let's step back and be honest with each other. We all know that one characteristic common to many hifi enthusiasts is the desire to tinker. That's absolutely understandable. That's at the heart of many hobbies and interests. Our view is that we do our absolute utmost to squeeze the last gramme of performance out of our designs and as simple electro-mechanical devices, loudspeakers are by far, far, far the weakest components in the hifi chain. And hence, it seems logical to give great priority to the purchase of the best possible speakers as that is where the biggest return-on-investment can be expected.

My concern is that to use some marketing terminology, the "value proposition" of the Harbeth brand is one of solid, pragmatic, old fashioned, honest-to-goodness, real-world, high-integrity engineering and business ethics. Even hinting that there are further tangible improvement in overall sound quality by investing far larger sums in electronics, cables, spikes etc. just doesn't lie comfortably with that 'value proposition' and may well send the unintended message to the consumer that his already considerable outlay on the speakers is merely one rung on a never ending ladder of expense. It isn't and it must not be.

It is also true that as Harbeth does not sell or manufacture accessories or electronics that our view about such is biassed. I fully accept that. But when you hear, as I did these last few days, the acoustic mess that is the reality of a pair of speakers pushing sound into a small room the issue of proportionality must be taken seriously.

Here is the link to my experience at the show (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1153-Hifi-shows-and-exhibitions-feedback&p=13077#post13077), and here is what the microphone hears when walking into various rooms in the bedroom exhibition space at a hifi show: (best heard in headphones, even inexpensive ones will do)

/library/flashfiles/show_mixdown.swf

Does it sound like the performers are really there live in the room? Is it likely that a monoblock amplifier in any one of these rooms (and there may have been some) would elevate the performance from the mundane to the sublime? Is it not logical that an investment in the speakers, then the room acoustics would be likely to yield by far the biggest improvement in fidelity?

There are excellent reasons for and immense satisfaction to be achieved from investing in and owning beautiful, well conceived, well made and durable things - art, cars, homes and audio equipment amongst them. But IMHO the warm glow of ownership should not be misrepresented as a significant performance enhancement. That's a quite separate matter.

hifi_dave
28-02-2011, 08:04 PM
Quite so but my point was that I am enjoying my new Harbeth SHL5's in stunning Tiger Ebony being driven by an amplifier which happens to be a mono-block design.

The new Albarry M608 is a slight re-vamp of the well known, all British Albarry M408 first produced in the early 80's and now brought up to date. The price of a pair of these is less than you could pay for a decent integrated but they make sublime music through my Harbeths. The designer/manufacturer is a long time fan of Harbeth and his ideals coincide nicely with Harbeth.

I also get stunning results with some integrated amps and a couple of valve based designs but I have no need for large, expensive American amps as, to my mind, they don't bring anything extra to the sound. I've been there, done that and have several T-shirts to prove it.

I don't buy anything because of the technology, it's the sound which comes before all else.

Gan CK
01-03-2011, 08:58 AM
Quite so but my point was that I am enjoying my new Harbeth SHL5's in stunning Tiger Ebony being driven by an amplifier which happens to be a mono-block design.

The new Albarry M608 is a slight re-vamp of the well known, all British Albarry M408 first produced in the early 80's and now brought up to date. The price of a pair of these is less than you could pay for a decent integrated but they make sublime music through my Harbeths. The designer/manufacturer is a long time fan of Harbeth and his ideals coincide nicely with Harbeth.

I also get stunning results with some integrated amps and a couple of valve based designs but I have no need for large, expensive American amps as, to my mind, they don't bring anything extra to the sound. I've been there, done that and have several T-shirts to prove it.

I don't buy anything because of the technology, it's the sound which comes before all else.


Interesting to know that Albarry is still around. Like many other small british manufacturers, its an extremely low profile company as well. I recall hearing an Albarry integrated in the 90s but didn't sound very convincing. Probably has to do with the speakers it was driving.

Bodfish
03-03-2011, 10:49 AM
Some interesting points here. I use monoblocs with my P3ESR's but I had them long before the Harbeth's arrived so I cannot directly compare a stereo amplifier. While I am more than happy with the system and more importantly the music, one of the things that does 'bug' me is the number of boxes and associated cables and cable dressing that comes with it. My amplification alone consists of six seperate boxes - add to that the DAC and source and you start to get the picture!

My serious consideration this year is getting rid of the DAC and six boxes of amplification for an integrated amp with a digital input!

Gan CK
03-03-2011, 04:11 PM
Six boxes just for amplification? Wow....are those Naims btw? I'd rather u keep the DAC & just get a good Integrated. I heard that its not a good idea to incorporate a digital input into an amplifier sharing the same chassis.

Bodfish
05-03-2011, 09:32 AM
Six boxes just for amplification? Wow....are those Naims btw? I'd rather u keep the DAC & just get a good Integrated. I heard that its not a good idea to incorporate a digital input into an amplifier sharing the same chassis.

Nope, the amplification is not Naim - it's DNM; a 3C Six pre amp and PA2B mono's (each of the pre amp and mono's have their own seperate PSU). To be fair, each box is discrete and not full width either. The DAC is Naim. The (fully) integrated replacement I'm considering is the Devialet D Premier but I'm open to keeping the DAC and looking at an integrated from Karan or Lavardin.

Gan CK
05-03-2011, 04:40 PM
Nope, the amplification is not Naim - it's DNM; a 3C Six pre amp and PA2B mono's (each of the pre amp and mono's have their own seperate PSU). To be fair, each box is discrete and not full width either. The DAC is Naim. The (fully) integrated replacement I'm considering is the Devialet D Premier but I'm open to keeping the DAC and looking at an integrated from Karan or Lavardin.

Oh its DNM. Heard lots of good things about DNM but unfortunately no chance to hear them in action, esp with Harbeths. Well, would like to add another integrated for your consideration & that's the LFD NCSE.

Bodfish
07-03-2011, 09:05 AM
The DNM amplification is fantastic and does work extremely well with Harbeth - I picked up my kit from DNM directly and was fortunate to have them demonstrated in Denis Morecroft's own system which had a set of Monitor 30's on the end. They really do have a 'certain something' about them.

Thanks for your suggestion of the LFD integrated - and sorry to the OP for a slight hijack of his thread!

Gan CK
07-03-2011, 11:30 AM
The DNM amplification is fantastic and does work extremely well with Harbeth - I picked up my kit from DNM directly and was fortunate to have them demonstrated in Denis Morecroft's own system which had a set of Monitor 30's on the end. They really do have a 'certain something' about them.

Thanks for your suggestion of the LFD integrated - and sorry to the OP for a slight hijack of his thread!

Wow....too bad you reside in UK otherwise i'd love to pay you a visit & listen to your DNMs. So, Denis Morecroft uses Harbeth M30. Good to see more & more manufacturers using Harbeth to dem their products.

Jason
22-03-2011, 09:37 PM
I have the Pass Labs XA100.5 mono blocks running my Harbeth SHL5 at the moment, this system is set up using fully balanced operation as my Parmenter valve preamplifier offers True balanced input and output as Pass Labs recommends this to be the best option if available for their power amplifiers.

The EMM Labs CDSA CD/SACD player is being used for the source playback with Cardas Clear speaker cables and Jena Labs Balanced interconnects.

The Sound quality from this system is excellent, very seductive and musical playing through the Harbeth SHL5.

QChicago
27-05-2011, 12:07 AM
FWIW, I do not mono-block (nor do I bi-wire, bi-amp, tri-amp). I do use a Classe CA400 solid state amp to drive my Super HL5s. The amp is a true balanced design. I believe that true balanced equipment does provide better sound as a general matter. However, mono-blocking makes little sense to me. My amp has more power than I'll ever need, but I never worry about clipping, lack of headroom or the like. It's simply a classic tank built in Canada in the mid-1990s. Save your money, IMHO.

Macjager
28-05-2011, 03:55 AM
My journey from SS integrated amp to tube integrated to tube pre-amp with tube mono-blocks was in a sense one of getting the sound that satisfied my ears. The interesting thing was that the Harbeths completed that sound. I enjoy listening to the music through the Harbeths, with a rather self-satisfied smugness (that I keep to myself and HUG). I have found, after many years of seeking (read: trying all sorts of equipment etc) the same musical reproduction that I would hear when I was young(er) when I went into high end audio stores and just "understood" the sound I was hearing - it was just right. The mono-blocks I own are only 25 watts each so they were not purchased to peel paint, or fill Wembly or the O2, but rather to produce "the sound" at very low listening volume, mine don't go to 11...cheap, no, one monoblock equals a pair of Harbeth 7s, but perhaps that is a correct ratio...for my budget?
One of the reasons that I purchased this particular brand of mono blocks (North Audio) rather than some other make is that they are a boutique brand, custom designed, excellent quality and hand-built by the company owner in Canada. Are there better? don't know, don't care, I'm not going to buy much else except vinyl and digital downloads, (and maybe a pair of Harbeth 3s). Hey Kool Kats, its all about the music!

George

hifi_dave
28-05-2011, 10:34 AM
Mono-block does not necessarily equate to high power. There are many designs of mono-block where the power is relatively low. As an example, one of the nicest sounding amps I know of is the new Albarry M608, which is 60 watts/ 8 ohms.

The purpose of the mono-block is to ensure the greatest separation/crosstalk between channels, not to increase power.

QChicago
28-05-2011, 06:13 PM
Agreed, but isn't the same achieved by way of an amp that's a true balanced design?

hifi_dave
28-05-2011, 10:45 PM
No, it's a different thing entirely.

The mono block amp is two, physically separate amps, which needn't be balanced.

The 'true' balanced design has an amp section for the positive half of a waveform and another for the negative. These two sections can be used as a stereo amp or in mono form.

QChicago
29-05-2011, 12:04 AM
Dave, understood. What I meant was do you believe there is a sonic difference between mono-blocks and a stereo amp that's a true balanced design? If so, please explain and describe how so.

Regards, Steve

Jmohd
29-05-2011, 07:46 AM
Just to add my "2cents", just google on the subject in the web. IMo, go and listen to compare between mono and stereo.
Link to the subject http://www.avguide.com/forums/stereo-vs-monoblock

hifi_dave
29-05-2011, 11:56 AM
It's impossible to make a comparison.

Mono blocks maximise separation and interference between channels and power supplies. True balanced as opposed to 'balanced' via transformers or op-amps on the output stages, can give other improvements if done properly. However, I don't know of any amps where you can compare 'true' balanced against single ended or stereo v mono-block. They are completely different designs.

davidlovel
29-05-2011, 12:27 PM
Dave and Steve

The Alner-Hamblin SA400s allow some of these changes to be assessed for sound quality as they are bridgeable stereo power amps. Furthermore while the amp is a 'truly' balanced design it can use either single-ended or balanced inputs. In my earlier posting on this thread:

To answer Marsanz's question here's my experience reported on HUG a couple of years ago:
http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/s...ier&highlight=

I did not address these aspects directly.
I did try both type of inputs: I decided to go with balanced as the sound was marginally better and I felt there should be less susceptibility to noise.
On the question of stereo vs monoblock I very strongly preferred the monoblock setup BUT of course because I bridged a pair of the stereo amps to get my monoblocks I had twice the voltage swing and current capability of a single channel of the stereo amp. OK the output impedance also increased but I'm sure the former effects accounted for the improved sound quality (to my ears). To answer your question properly you would need compare a stereo amp with monoblocks that were identical to a single channel of that stereo amp. For this to be a meaningful comparison you would also need the monoblock power supply to be half the size of that of the stereo amp. Very unlikely that you will find this (particularly the latter).

Happy listening!

David

STHLS5
29-05-2011, 02:21 PM
I was a believer in balanced connection in the early stage of my " high end" journey. To preserve the signal integrity I used to have very short interconnects. However, after few years I found out unbalanced connections offered better sound in my system.

There are many technical papers on this ........

Below is what Lavry Techinical support said.

For relatively short signal connections, unbalanced (http://www.lavryengineering.com/lavry_forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=939) connections may offer a slight advantage over balanced connections due to the nature of balanced signal connections. Because an ideal balanced input only amplified the difference between the signal on the two signal conductors, any difference between the signals (or the inputs of the balanced input itself) become part of the signal. For this reason, some audio "purists" actually prefer unbalanced connections.

That being said, in situations where a large amount of gain is applied to a signal, any noise or interference signal that is picked-up by the cable and input are also amplified. This is typically in the case of very low level signals such as microphones or phono cartridges or level-translation such as line level to speaker level.

"So unless you are running long cables, have a ground difference between the line level source and amplifier, or have a particularly "noisy" environment (in terms of RF and EMF), you would not necessarily benefit from having balanced inputs on your amplifier.

If part of the change would be more than 6 dB's of additional "headroom" in the amplifier's maximum input level, you could benefit from a small amount of additional adjustment range being available on the DA10's Volume control; but this would also relate to the difference in gain using the unbalanced and balanced inputs.

For example, if the balanced input had the same gain, the result would be the same with the DA10 set to unbalanced, and there would be no difference in the available settings on the DA10. On the other hand, if the input was 12 dB's less sensitive, you would gain 6dB's of adjustment on the bottom of the DA10's adjustment range. This is because when the DA10's output is balanced, the signal is already 6 dB's louder than when it is unbalanced (12dB minus 6 dB gives you the resulting 6 dB's of additional range).

Brad Johnson
Lavry Engineering Technical Support"


ST

A.S.
29-05-2011, 03:29 PM
Mono blocks maximise separation and interference between channels and power supplies. True balanced as opposed to 'balanced' via transformers or op-amps on the output stages, can give other improvements if done properly. However, I don't know of any amps where you can compare 'true' balanced against single ended or stereo v mono-block. They are completely different designs.I cannot see any advantage at all in a balanced amplifier unless it is on the end of perhaps 100m of audio cable in a noisy electrical environment such as in or near a metal welding factory with high energy sparks (and their generated EMF).

The input stage of the amplifier will have to unbalance the balanced input as it will internally be unbalanced and that required more circuitry than with just a phono unbalance input. Also, the balanced sending preamp (or whatever) will need more circuitry to generate the balanced output (sending) signal, because internally the preamp (or whatever at the sending end) will be working as unbalanced.

However you look at it, 'going balanced' involves more circuitry, in practice all unnecessary and cannot conceivably improve fidelity. Complexity and sexiness - yes, but not fidelity. It's another marketing trick to coerce the user into parting with his money and in the relatively noise free home environment with very short cable runs, an inappropriate, over complicated technical solution chasing a user without technical understanding. It may indeed sound different, but hard to believe that passing the precious audio signal through even more circuitry could make it sound better.

QChicago
29-05-2011, 05:21 PM
A suggestion: I've read (and posted) various concepts that many of us believe are audio myths / hype. They are peppered throughout the HUG. It would be valuable, IMO, to have a new thread devoted to the subject. I'd especially appreciated Mr. Shaw's "take" on these issues. Regards, Steve

HUG-1
29-05-2011, 07:34 PM
A suggestion: I've read (and posted) various concepts that many of us believe are audio myths / hype. They are peppered throughout the HUG. It would be valuable, IMO, to have a new thread devoted to the subject. I'd especially appreciated Mr. Shaw's "take" on these issues.Interesting concept. Our only mission is just one thing. We assume that Harbeth users have finally escaped the orbit of equipment mania. Many say this to us. It is senseless then to provide a platform here on HUG to give voice to further significant investment in equipment. See the contradiction? It is not our job to debunk the entire industry and to take meat and bread off the table of those selling hardware, which includes our speakers. We must walk a fine line. Surely more common sense and incredulity would benefit many audiophiles.

Any other thoughts about this??

EricW
29-05-2011, 08:25 PM
... Surely more common sense and incredulity would benefit many audiophiles.

Any other thoughts about this??

I think it might be possible to do what Steve (QChicago) suggests if the information is presented in a simple, positive way rather than as a debunking of others' beliefs. So for example, on cable, explain the job that a cable has to do, and say that once a cable meets certain basic parameters, nothing much more is going to happen to the signal. Importance of room damping, and how it swamps most other issues. Basics of amplification. Importance of speakers. The focus could be on providing a basic primer on what's truly necessary to achieve satisfying music reproduction in the home, without explicitly taking a run at those who want to make things unduly complicated, difficult, esoteric and expensive.

It won't reach everyone, but those who have ears to hear, will hear.

QChicago
29-05-2011, 08:34 PM
I agree with Eric; well said.

I'm new to the HUG and haven't seen the link to start a new thread. If someone would point me in that direction, I'd be happy to do so.

In the interim, here are a few "mythical" topics that might be of interest (again, some have been discussed or alluded to in various posts, but if we consolidate them...):

1. speaker cable and interconnects
2. balanced v. unbalanced
3. Hi-Rez v. 44.1/16
4. Ripping format (computer based systems, like mine)
5. bi-wiring, bi-amping and other assorted BS
6. ETC, ETC, ETC

Someone please take it away ...

QChicago
29-05-2011, 09:38 PM
@ Alan: Respectfully, I see no contradiction at all. There's no need or point to identify brands, manufacturers, or the like. We are addressing concepts. One listener's "myth" may be another's "truth."

The value of expressing such opinions far outweighs any slight some anonymous snake oil salesman might absorb, IMO.

A.S.
29-05-2011, 10:26 PM
OK, we've created some space for this type of discusion here ....

http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/forumdisplay.php?51-The-absolute-basics-debunking-hifi

I'm a little apprehensive because I do not want to be pilloried as accelerating the demise of this industry. I hope that my input will be occasional, just to keep the subjects fresh and on-target. Over to you folks.