Zen and the Art of Gaincloning
For the uninitiated, the term Gainclone is used to describe a copy of the Gaincard; an Audio Amplifier designed by Junji Kimura of 47Labs. The web is full of DIY communities revolving around this fascinating device. A full review can be found here.
The Gaincard uses a minimalist design philosophy with only 8 components per channel, the chief of which is the LM3875 shown below. The advantage of this design approach is not only ease of production but also that there are fewer parts in the signal path to alter the audio signal.
The problem with the original Gaincard however great it was, was that it was not exactly available to your average hi fi enthusiast. The single supply version weighs in at $3300 US or $5100 for the dual mono version, not exactly consumer friendly especially considering the cost of the components involved.
Few components, small size, and low parts cost resulted in a revolution of DIY “cloned” amplifiers whose reviews were surprisingly good for a chip amplifier of such simplicity. The small size allows for the creative design and construction of these amplifiers and the sonic performance is such that even hardcore audiophiles have a hard time ignoring this phenomenon. A well-made DIY Gainclone can compete favorably with amplifiers many times it’s cost.
If you’d like to get started, here are some great links for more information: