The ways we think of amps
Before the late 1960s stereo sound systems in the home were rare, typically cobbled together by hobbyists using twin mono amplifiers, preamplifiers and loudspeakers. Though stereophonic sound was invented in the 1930s, it would be another 40 years to gain household acceptance. As the public became convinced of stereo's lifelike sound and manufacturers made it easy to implement, stereo sound in the home became commonplace. For power amplifier manufacturers the shift from mono amplifiers with one channel, power supply, and chassis, was not too onerous. They simply took mono amplifier designs and stretched the chassis to hold one more identical amp channel. Power supplies had to get bigger, but it's far less expensive to increase the size of a single power transformer then add another. In this case, sharing had its advantages, not to mention opening as new market to replace aging mono equipment. And speaker manufacturers were also thrilled, their mono speaker sales doubled overnight. Giddy from the increased volume they even tried to double down by introducing Quadraphonic sound, the precursor of today's surround sound. Stereo hobbyists made the switch to stereo amplifiers much slower than the general public. Many enthusiasts were, and still are, convinced the classic mono designs sound better, though more cluttered. And when did clutter and complexity bother a hobbyist? So entrenched with their love of the past: tubes, mono, separates, they were christened Audiophiles by the media, and the name has stuck with us. Today the switch from mono systems to double mono systems, to stereo in one box systems, is complete. And yet the advantages of the mono amplifier never went away, they were quietly swept under the rug of convenience and tidiness instead. Today's engineering and product launch mindset dictates stereo amps are designed first, mono amplifiers second, if at all. The market for stereo amplifiers is 95%, the 5% scraps left for mono amps, and it is easy to see why. Two boxes powering two loudspeakers is twice the clutter and expense of one performing the same job. Yet, when perfection is the goal, the compromise of stuffing two power amplifiers in one chassis is an anathema, though often a necessary one. There are not many among us with enough real estate or funds to get it right; though I suspect that has always been the Audiophile's dilemma. How do manufacturers build mono amplifiers? There are two means: start from scratch, or leverage what already is in house. Let's start from scratch tomorrow.
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