Aikido Preamp Bass & Treble Controls - diyAudio
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Old 7th February 2013, 01:23 AM   #1
kouiky is offline kouiky  United States
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Default Aikido Preamp Bass & Treble Controls

Hello DIYers,
I was looking to build a line-stage preamp and was considering the Aikido 9-pin or 5687 from Glassware Audio. Something I miss having at my disposal is a preamp with tone controls, particularly a bass control that operates more at the extreme lows rather than muddying up the midrange. From what I understand, the volume pot would feed the Aikido gain stages board, then feed the tone control circuit, and finally feed a buffer output stage. I wanted to consult other hollow state builders to get some advice to avoid noise, hum, instability or what other issues may or may not present themselves in a build like this, as I was a solid state guy. What I would need is about +8dB bass boost at max at 10--30Hz with little effect above 100-200Hz, and -6dB treble cut max at 12kHz with little effect below 2kHz. Thank you for your consideration.
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Last edited by kouiky; 7th February 2013 at 01:27 AM.
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Old 10th February 2013, 08:37 PM   #2
Loren42 is offline Loren42  United States
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I think the idea of using tubes and tone controls is a very difficult adventure. To do this requires stages with enough gain to compensate for the loss of gain in the tone circuit and then adequate drive at a low enough impedance to drive what you have as a power amp (which is another bag or worms - trust me).

To do all this requires a lot of tubes and the more tubes you throw to the circuit, the more noise, hum, and distortion jump on the band wagon. Designing with tubes is also far more technically challenging because there are far more variables that need to be done right, not just adequately.

While you may be able to use the Aikido line amp as one of those stages, you will still need additional gain stages to make up for the loss of the signal as it passes through the tone network. Figure on at least 15 dB of gain if not more, depending on how much compensation you want in the tone circuit.

While doing all of this you lose fidelity in the signal chain. Ultimately, you will compare your results with a good solid state preamp as a benchmark, with the idea of not being able to tell the difference in a blind test between tubes and solid state (i.e., OPA134 or equivalent). If you get that, then you really have something worth while - while the tubes last (remember, they change with age). Also, if you get less than 0.1 % distortion that would be amazing, but chances are you are looking at closer to 1% distortion. Even a bad solid state op amp design can do that.

However, that begs the question of why would you go through all of those hoops to get equivalent performance when you can just use op amps and be done with it for far less cost, less heat, lower complexity, and far better longevity and reliability?

On the other hand, if you are doing this for the love of a challenge, then why start with someone else's design (i.e., Aikido)? Why not just become an expert in valve design so you can turn your own?
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Old 10th February 2013, 09:17 PM   #3
tinitus is offline tinitus  Europe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kouiky View Post
What I would need is about +8dB bass boost at max at 10--30Hz
that one you build into you woofer amp, active xo, or sub

Quote:
Originally Posted by kouiky View Post
and -6dB treble cut max at 12kHz with little effect below 2kHz.
relatively simple, its a resistor and cap mounted on input of your tweeter amp

its is a bass Eq, and treble cut, not tone controls

but as said, you don't need tubes for that
actually, I'm not really sure tubes are the best for bass Eq
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Old 12th February 2013, 01:04 AM   #4
kouiky is offline kouiky  United States
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Thank you for the replies gentleman.
Hello tinitus, this is a preamp for passive speaker systems powered by one stereo amplifier. I have passive speakers that I like and I listen at low levels but more or less wanted the ability to change the tonal balance at a moments notice, depending on what I was listening to. Otherwise, I would never need bass gain or treble control.

Thanks Loren, I really took the consideration into hollow state for odd reasons. I actually like the low order harmonics that tubes sometimes provide in the midrange and bass regions on headphones. I was using a 6N3 tube headphone amplifier and digital eq via PC and it was a good experience. I have also listened to several tube preamps at a friend's residence and one sounded a bit light but crystal clear at all frequencies, until a component had a bad day and then it sounded rather lifeless in all regards. I cannot recall what the builder said went bad. I chose the Aikido as a start point to ask because it appeared to have a good reputation for sound and it offers a straight forward build with the cumulative design work finished and PCBs ready to populate. The Aikidos are stereo and supposed to offer about 20dB of gain, and the attenuation through the tone control circuitry could be at about 15dB and feed into a buffer from the same maker, to drive the power amplifier, if you think that could work. At this time, I do not really need a lot of gain, as I do not listen loud and currently use a passive attenuator. If you think this simply would not work and a solid state pre with tone controls would yield better sonic results, I appreciate your opinion and experience.

Last edited by kouiky; 12th February 2013 at 01:10 AM.
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Old 12th February 2013, 01:26 AM   #5
Loren42 is offline Loren42  United States
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Have a look at Rod Elliot's Preamp 97 for a comparison. The cost and performance should be a good bit better.

Rod Elliot Hi-Fi Preamp

I would substitute something like the OPA134 or OPA2134 for the TL072 chips.
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Old 16th February 2013, 08:21 PM   #6
kouiky is offline kouiky  United States
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Thank you very much Loren42. I wonder why Rod designed the output buffer to operate inverted rather than in phase? Along with the OPA2134 I would feel inclined to try the LME49720, too just to give it a try.
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Old 16th February 2013, 08:31 PM   #7
tinitus is offline tinitus  Europe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kouiky View Post
I have passive speakers that I like and I listen at low levels but more or less wanted the ability to change the tonal balance at a moments notice, depending on what I was listening to. Otherwise, I would never need bass gain or treble control.
ok, I understand now, fair enough

you could look at a loudness control for the low part
have even seen one that was built into the volume pot
and maybe a Quad style Baxandall tilt control

normally they might be considered worthless
but the sweet thing is, being DIY we can tailor it to suit our needs much better
and all the info is there now, and software calculators etc

or maybe just the Baxandall tone control will be all you need
and that one can be done perfectly and fully passive between your input gain tube and output buffer
but with the Aikido...I have no idea, sorry
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Old 16th February 2013, 09:09 PM   #8
Loren42 is offline Loren42  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kouiky View Post
Thank you very much Loren42. I wonder why Rod designed the output buffer to operate inverted rather than in phase? Along with the OPA2134 I would feel inclined to try the LME49720, too just to give it a try.
The last stage of the tone controls also inverts, so the final stage inversion just brings everything back into phase.

Everything I read about the different chips leads me to believe that the difference in op amps is too little to be audible.

I know people can swear they hear or think they hear a difference, but until you do a real blind or even a double blind test, I just take those statements as subjective chatter.

The other thing is that different chips need slightly different circuits to sound their best, so simply transposing another chip may actually and more often than not, lead to a degradation in sound.

That being said, the TL072 is getting a little old.
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Old 18th February 2013, 06:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Loren42 View Post
That being said, the TL072 is getting a little old.
LOL
So is the EF86 but people still use them to great advantage.
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Old 21st February 2013, 06:21 PM   #10
kouiky is offline kouiky  United States
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Thank you for your reply tinitus, the center points on stock preamp's tone controls has always been a point of contention for me because they modeify too much of the midrange, and modelling them myself has helped considerably. They're not overly complex and it leaves one wondering why designers do not offer more options for slope points on their preamps. I would find it strange that glassware withholds specifications on their products, the absence of which leaves many questions unanswered by the audio industry is rife with this.

Hello Loren42, thank you very much. Do you know of any other preamp boards available with provisions for tone control circuits? Can you recommend a good source for standard width cases/chassis or at least a faceplate with several rotary controls? Thank you kindly.
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