Both the solutions proposed compromise the dynamic range. My own solution, a hybrid analog/digital approach relies on DACs being cheap - I've termed it 'LAID' which stands for 'Longitudinal Array of Inexpensive DACs'.
The B2 file is for the BOX Enclosures B2-080 case, that is used in the standard "transportable" O2
The B3 files are for front and rear panels on a BOX Enclosures B3-080 case, used in the "Baby" desktop configuration of the O2. This configuration includes mounting holes for a 1/4" headphone jack and volume control on the front, with all the rest of the jacks and buttons on the back, along with a pair of RCA jacks for input. The PC board in Baby Desktop is installed backwards.
Just finished set to work of the new DAC for the digitial crossover. This includes a PGA2320 programmable attenuator on the output of the CS4398 DAC.
This replaces the home made PCB thai I was using on the CS4398 output. I went the professionally made board mainly because PCBCART was able to deliver 16 of these to my house for $140, that includes tooling!!! The actual boards were like $3 or 4 each!
The quality of these baords is fine - though I must admit that I am not breaking any new ground in PCB technology here.
The board is only double sided - I thought about adding a seperate ground and power plance - but the routing density is so lot it would be crazy. The whole back side only has a handful of tracks on it - and is a ground plane in itself. The top side even has room for significant ground fill.
All the digital stuff is in between the connector and the DAC, with a few SPI lines up the left hand...
The prototype is listenable now, but a bit too much background noise/hum pickup to do serious listening. It needs an on-board post filter and amp, which I'm working on now. In the meantime, here's the pics - the DAC itself is built of 5 'dac-sleds' each with a stack of 4 chips. The 'sleds' are then arranged around the central tower holding the resistor ladder. A separate board handles the timing logic and 18 tap delay line.
I compared it with my Onkyo SE-200PCI sound card. This 24/192 (115dB S/N A-weighted, 0.003% THD 0dB 1kHz) PCI card sells for about $15,000 yen and is based on the VIA Envy24HT and Wolfson WM8740.
I'm listening to 16bit 44.1kHz .wav (CD rips), though VLC [sample rate converter set to sinc, best quality, resampling quality 8]. Windows 8 release preview [default format 24/192 (onkyo), 24/96 (odac)]. Line out though Oyaide PA-02TR interconnects to the Sapphire headphone amp, and Sennheiser HD-600s.
So, I was planning on writing up a big 'ol review with my impressions, but, well... there's not really a...
Here are my own modest base requirements for a line stage (similar for power amp):
1. Open loop BW of 40KHz or more (-3dB)... 20KHz min.
2. IM and THD of less than .001% at 1v rms into 30 ohms for any frequency between 20Hz and 20KHz.
3. No coupling caps on input or output or in feedback path.
4. No use of dc servo circuits to track and correct dc offset and drift.
5. No more than 6-8 transistors (excluding power supply).
6. S/N ref 1 volt rms and without weighting of at least -130dB (input can be shorted or terminated).
7. No significant harmonics above the 2nd and 3rd.
8. Closed loop gain between 12 and 20 dBv
9. Low Zout (less than a fraction of an Ohm at any audio freq).
10. Distortion not be changed by source Z.
11. Transistors should be low cost and not be exotic, hard to obtain, very expensive or no longer manufactured.
Despite the (catchy) name I'm thinking pre-amplifier rather than amplifier applications.
update: I have have a quick and dirty sim up and running in ltspice. Curiously, the output distortion is 15 dB lower when the buffer runs open loop than when it is included inside the feedback loop. Intrigued. Currently under investigation.
update: refined the sim slightly, achieved -85 dB distortion levels at 0 dB / 1 kHz / 600 ohms running the output buffer open loop. Bandwidth is just under 1 MHz, adjusted by changing the feedback resistance. As before, performance sims out notably worse with the buffer
inside the feedback loop.
It is certainly a little bit different. One might be tempted to say "gilding the lily", but come on, headphone amplifiers are just the right place for these indulgences.
Building your own long tailed pair (LTP) to bolt in front of an IC op amp has fallen out of favor in recent years. I must admit I couldn't see the point then, and still don't.
I've seen a number of headphone amp circuits with 3 paralleled pairs of output devices. I wonder if there any real advantage over simply using one pair at 3x the current, perhaps with slightly larger transistors?