Stereo or monoblocks

I recently bought a pair of the JBL HDI-3800 speakers. I also own a McIntosh C-2300 preamp. Should I buy a used McIntosh mc402 stereo power amp or try to find a pair of a different brands monoblocks? The new Schiit Tyr has my interest.


I believe that the McIntosh MC402 has enough power to drive the JBL speakers effectively.  However, if you want monoblocks here are the concerns.

1.  If the speakers have internal crossovers that cannot be bypassed, it is a good idea to use identical amps or amps with the same power ratings.  If the amps have volume controls then that makes it easy to match levels.

2. If the speakers have external passive crossovers, then you can obtain an active crossover which high/low level adjustments and you then don't necessarily need absolutely identical amps.  

IN any case, you definitely want to take these home and demo them in your system in your home before purchasing.


Honestly, the mono vs stereo discussion has never really shown a clear winner. They’re good stereo designs and good mono designs. It will all come down to the particular implementation you are looking at. I have used both and the only advantage that I see in the mono is placement feasibility. The McIntosh MC402 is close to a dual mono design if that’s any consolation and is a great option, reasonably priced on the second hand market. You can’t go wrong with it. I am not familiar with the Schiit Tyr but it was reviewed favorably in Stereophile magazine and is even less expensive. So either you will have a good amp to match your speakers. Give both a listen if you can. 

I have always had stereo amps. I recently purchased a pair of McIntosh MC 611s. I will never go back to a stereo amp. The channel separation is incredible, along with the musical presentation. 

The MC402 will drive the Sh## out of those speakers. The 2300 and 402 would make a nice combo, though!

Schitt makes some very good equipment, at very good prices.

But, if I could afford the Mac, I would do it in a heartbeat.


The difference between stereo versions and mono blocks of the same amps are subtile but important. But the operative word is subtle.


I own a Audio Research Reference 160s stereo amplifier. I also have had a set of Audio Research 160m mono blocks for well over a year. I switch back an forth occasionally. The mono bocks I have used for listening 95% of the time over the last year and a half. The two amps are exactly the same design... one spread out over two chassis and one adapted to inhabit the same chassis.


There is a difference, but it is small. It is by far smaller than the overall character of the amp, compared to any other amp. You want to chose the amp you want... by the character and sound... then decide if you can afford the mono blocks. As the amps get more expensive the more important mono’s become.


If I loved the sound of McIntosh amps... I would not even consider another brand because it offered mono block. Now, if I loved the sound of McIntosh, then I would consider if I could afford their monoblocks.

Monoblocs are the icing on the cake when it comes to stereo imaging, micro-detailing, increased soundstage, and lowered noise floor. Once you mono, can't go back.

I find Mc to have distinct sound.  If you like it you like it, but for me I would do something more neutral and cost appropriate.  Parasound Halo may be a better tonal balance.

Monoblocs are the icing on the cake when it comes to stereo imaging, micro-detailing, increased soundstage, and lowered noise floor. Once you mono, can't go back.

1000% this!

@noromance Wrote:

Monoblocs are the icing on the cake when it comes to stereo imaging, micro-detailing, increased soundstage, and lowered noise floor. Once you mono, can’t go back.

I agree 2000%!


don’t worry about stereo amp or mono blocks, that decision in and of itself is a red herring 98+% of the time

focus on getting a good stereo amp that will drive your speakers well and sound the way you will like

 look a great stereo amp builder is already doing dual mono in same chassis… except IF ya implement it correctly speaker wire L goes down massively…. That’s the KEY….

A little late on this chain, but I recently changed from a stereo amp to mono blocks. I have power hungry Magnepan 20.7's.  I had a McIntosh 462 stereo amp that supplied 450 wpc.  It worked well.  However, I decided to go mono blocks more out of curisoity than anything.  I bought Sander's Sound Systems amplifiers.  Magtech Monoblock amps.  They supply 2000 wpc!   I was blown away by the difference in clarity of sound.  It made my Maggies blossom.  I even contemplated selling my REL subwoofers because the bass was coming out of the Maggies like I had never heard before.  In short the amplification of the mono blocks was remarkable.  I am a believer in mono blocks.  I heard instruments and sounds from CD's and LP's I had listened to for years that I had never heard before.  It was truly amazing.  I am a big fan of Sanders Sound Systems amplifiers.  Roger Sanders has been in the biz since 1974.  As an engineer he is meticulous in his work, has written many white papers on audio issues and has top service.  Best of luck in your adventure.

Agree with the earlier sentiments. Assuming you have found a stereo amp you already like, if you upgrade the set-up to mono w/the same type amps...prepare yourself for even more music.

@normantaylor Since you went from 450wpc to 2000wpc, isn’t it possible that’s the reason for the improvement you described? It may have nothing to do with mono vs stereo.

I started out with the Mc462 and then went with the C2700 pre and 611 mono blocks. Will never go back. Yes it is expensive but when the boss says it is ok, you do what the boss says...!

@chocaholic I know the increased wpc had everything to do with why my music sounds better on my system.  The mono blocks in my case provided greater wpc.  To your point, I have seen mono blocks that have quite low wpc, but I think that is the exception.  

I am a mono block fan... I have my reasons but I love the visual of the two units and mental framework of two channels being separately amplified.

As for the 402... Looks impressive, maybe over powered... Not that you could have to much power, but certainly the 3800 could do with less.

I am completely amazed with my Schiit Aegir mono-blocks. I'm powering KefLS50 Meta's and have been just enamored with them and the sound.

The 3800 at 92db and 4ohm, LS50's I run are 85db and 8ohm and believe it or not the Aegir do a great job powering them in mono (I was nervous and considering the Vidar mono's). With the Aegir's I'm filling my entire 1500sq/ft workshop/garage with tons of rich and highly detailed sound (+subwoofer).

Give them a try... You could be very impressed and save a few bucks.

I would love to have a set of mono blocks if I had the room and the means to purchase.  I have an all PS Audio system with a BHK250 driving a set of Focal Sopra's so I would love to plop a set of BHK600's or maybe the 300's down near them but the price of admission is way out of my league for now, so I will just have to be happy with the 250 for some time to come.

If you can, mono blocks are the way.  Which ones is a different story.  If you like the Mac sound, you can double down and get Mac’s. If you want dilute the Max sound, there are many amps that sound good with your preamp.  Last year I was at a friends house and he had a Mac preamp and PS Audio BHK 300 mono blocks playing through KEF Blade speakers.  I didn’t want to leave!

Just buy the best amp(s) you can afford with an appropriate amount of power for your needs. Mono doesn't automatically mean magic, it means separate left and right chassis and the imaging will be better, everything else being equal. 

The MC402 runs around $4500-4900. Just get the best amp you can find in that price range. @normantaylor liked the Magtech amps better not just because they are monos, but because they are better amps and they really lit up his Maggies. 



It is interesting to see the enthusiasm with monoblocks and if you like monoblocks you will love active speakers which typically have hand picked monoblocks... for each driver. My active speakers have a 150 watt monoblock for the woofer and a 50 watt monoblock for the tweeter that were handpicked by the speaker designer, saves $$$ on speaker cables too.. 

@kota1 Wrote:

It is interesting to see the enthusiasm with monoblocks and if you like monoblocks you will love active speakers which typically have hand picked monoblocks... for each driver. 

I love monoblocks and active speakers.  The speakers below have an active crossover with no power amps built in and are excellent speakers. Also, my home audio speakers are actively bi-amped with 4 mono block amps, no built in power amps and sound great. A speaker, with built in power amp(s), is called a powered speaker, active or passive is in reference to a speakers crossover topology. In my opinion, amps inside speakers is not a good idea because the amps are subject to all the vibrations and air pressure inside the speaker cabinet. FWIW, my speakers are JBL 4435's. 😎





Congrats, that sounds like an ideal setup, I love JBL’s 😍

and own the Studio 2 series in the mancave home theater.

Going the active route like you did is OTT. 

I have a C2300 that I'm running with MC601 mono blocks. I had an MC352 before, and the difference is there but it's not day and night. Like someone else said - it's very subtle. The reason I upgraded other than that subtle difference, is the design and look of the 601's. Personally, I really don't care for the cosmetic design of the MC402. In any case- you can't go wrong with a C2300. It's my favorite.

Unfortunately, all things being equal will not include price. I am listening to a pair of ARC REF160m monoblocks… they sound slightly better… nuances only, than my ARC REF 160s… but the difference in cost is $12K. So, yeah, the monoblocks are better… it comes down to is it worth $12K’s worth?


your post got me thinking...

people will post asking ’hey, what about this one factor in hifi?’ (e.g. stereo vs mono amps... r2r vs d-s digital conversion... single ended vs balanced... metal vs soft dome tweeters... 6dj8 vs 6h30p... fine line vs elliptical styli... belt drive vs dd )

people then chime in, we have lengthy discussions... but this is talking ad nauseum about one particular variable... in a pursuit where multiple multiple variables are constantly at work, to produce the end result of the music playing

so all else equal, sure, we say this or that... but the key to remember is... all else is never equal... and the better question to ask is just how important is this particular factor among all relevant factors in the whole result being achieved?

perhaps a useful framework here may be something like maslov’s hierarchy, but applied to hifi..."mono vs stereo amps" to me have got to be several levels down below ground, deep in the ol’ basement...

Back in the 1990s I was using a Naim based system 72/Hicap/250, and decided to try a pair of Naim’s 135 monoblocks (based on the 250). The differences were noticeable immediately. The Naim house sound remained but all sonic aspects improved. Most notably, separation. The 135s also had better control of the bass, improved sound staging: depth, width, layering of instruments. In other words, everything that I liked about the 250 and more.

I read posts by others to try to gather information and get educated on a variety of subjects. I own two mono blocks, but I don’t know how to use them. They are Bob Latino brand, and I would like to use them, but I don’t know how. I have  JBL speakers and they all have internal crossover’s.

@ rbrantlysteele

One per speaker. A mono block is the same as stereo only each amp is on a single chassis. One for right and one for left. Many moons ago before stereo you only needed one amp and one speaker. When stereo came out you needed two speakers and two amps. Hence the stereo amp. I don’t know when the mono amp was coined mono block?

It really depends on the designer/builder and your budget. For example the better stereo amps are "split down the middle" designs- isolated R &L channel amps on one chassis and often with separate transformers. Cheaper stereo amps share power supplies, caps, etc. 

I have a buddy with no budget at all and he has  4 monoblocks. I can't really hear the difference at all. He can't either. He just likes the cool factor. 

ARC's Reference line of stereo amps is so good you'd be hard pressed to hear the difference between them and their monoblocks. 

Put another way there is a law of diminishing returns.  80% more money for 20% more improvement - but over what baseline? If your quality baseline is already a 9 out of 10 $50,000+ more for monoblocks is just tinkering and geeking out- not really a transformative action.  

FWIW I wouldn't use a non-Mac upgrade if you're into the Mac sound. You could change the personality of the system and not for the better. Demo at home before you buy ALWAYS.

Stereo or Mono, it does not matter other than it is easier to physically move the mono amps And the mono amps can be placed nearer the speakers. I am the owner of Quicksilver, PrimaLuna(stereo/mono) and Bedini(stereo) amps. Some amps are only available in mono or stereo. Just listen to the amps. Then choose!

I get enjoyment out of either of my main system amps-custom 125W tube monoblocks Class A/B 6 or 8db of global feedback and 70W tube EAR 890 stereo amp Class A zero global feedback.  My best friend has an RM9 stereo Class A/B amp which sounds great as well.  I wouldn't choose one type over another on the basis of mono or stereo construction as there is so much more involved just as I wouldn't choose a DAC based on it's DtoA converter chip.  

Has anyone mentioned the little bit about monoblocs allowing you to get the amps (much) closer to the speakers? For some, a not unimportant consideration. 

@unreceivedogma Good point. I have mine underneath (ESL57) or beside (Spendor) my speakers with 24" or 30" of speaker wire.



Yes… locating monoblocks within a foot or two (and shortening the cable) is supposed to make a big difference. A friend / dealer has done this repeatedly to good effect. Unfortunately, I have not… the interconnect / speaker cable cost is way too high for me to do as an experiment.

I don't know for certain, but if someone would send me a pair of ARC 750 monos, I will be pleased to compare them to my current stereo amp.  Message me for my address...



I simply don't have room for a stereo amp in my main system, so monoblocks are a must.  They sit behind my speakers, and yes, I've been able to use very short speaker cables.  Of course, your interconnects between the preamp and amp will be longer, but if everything is fully balanced, that probably won't matter.  

Typically, a stereo amp is going to cost less than the equivalent monoblocks and will take up less space.

For me, the decision had more to do with my available space than any sound quality or performance issues. 

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the input. I still haven’t decided yet, Im taking my time. I doubt I’d ever get to listen to them before purchasing. I like the mc402 because it’d match the c-2300. I could get one used around $4500. However it is big and heavy. Im very interested in the Schiit Tyr because of the great reviews I’ve seen so far. It’s also two smaller/lighter units which is easier to place in rack, plus I’m curious about the mono sound (imaging etc.). They’re also a little cheaper and brand new. I wish I could test them side by side. Once again think you all for your opinions……..keep ‘em coming.

Very interesting the Tyr is not listed as Class AB it lists as "continuity" I believe Long Dog Audio P6100 monoblocks are also heavily biased into Class A before switching back to Class AB. The LDA monoblocks are also in your price range based on the Sterling to Dollar currency convertor at Coinmill, good luck! Cheers

I forgot to mention what got me to this point. 
I’ve been using a Mac ma6600 integrated for the last 5. I’m completely happy with it. I’ve never had anything as good before. Never owned anything than old receivers before. However I’m going to separates now snd the C2300 checked all my boxes. Just looking for my power section now, trying to stay under $4500 budget. Thanks 

Monoblocks for the win. 

plus, it,makes a statement. You like nice things.



@thbullard3 while I personally run monos on my main system as my primary amps, the next level stereo version amp id want would be too heavy. I also rotate in a secondary stereo amp with lower power and less weight yet it’s a true full Class A amp. So, "it depends". In your case you’ve outlined two scenarios. A few more questions...

While the Tyr amps are nice, and IF I owned a c-2300 preamp, I’d see some value in owning the matching 402 stereo amp understanding the designers voice and match some components to work together nicely. It’s more of a crapshoot with the Tyr more so than the 2300/402 combo. What’s interesting is that MC 402 is 110lbs. Each of the Schiit Tyr amps are 55lbs each, exactly half the weight. Yes, a consideration. My former stereo amp was just under 100lb, not as easy to move. So think about it - how often do you plan to move the amp(s) once in place.

Looking closer at your speakers, seems like either amp(s) would be fine for your JBLs. I wonder if the MC 402 is going to sound a little darker than the Tyr monos.

Do you prefer a darker/richer sound like most MC is known for, or do you prefer a little more detail and transparency you might get out of the Tyr amps?

10yrs down the road, or if you resale again later, its a toss up which will bring better return. How long are you planning to keep the amps, a few years, ten years+, or ?

I have monoblocks though it’s due to sound performance per dollar. There are excellent stereo amps and crappy monoblocks. 

If you can audition - I recommend it. 

You can probably get a better stereo amp than monoblocks at the same price. If you compare monoblocks amps to a stereo  amp of the same design and watts per channel then monoblocks will have the better performance, but at a higher price tag.