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Wide-band RF filtering for mains - part III

Posted 18th February 2011 at 05:19 AM by abraxalito
Updated 2nd March 2011 at 12:09 PM by abraxalito

OK, slight change of plan. Due to a ****-up on the ordering front with the iron wire, I ended up with some wire which is a bit too thin (0.5mm inner diameter) as they specified the outer diameter on the ordering page, rather than the conductor diameter. On reflection of course, that makes perfect sense since this isn't wire for electrical purposes at all, what use is the 'conductor' diameter? Wire with an external diameter of 1.8mm's on its way, which I hope will have ~1.2mm diameter conductor.

So, in the meantime I've been experimenting with wire I have been able to get hold of, which is shiny steel. It turns out that only 30 paces from my home is a hardware store which sells it - so I've tried winding chokes with it, just to see what happens. I've also acquired an LCR meter to see what kinds of values I'm getting at different measuring frequencies.

The first pair of chokes I wound with some really thick stuff - 2.8mm. Having aimed for 20 turns...
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Wide-band RF mains filtering - part II

Posted 14th February 2011 at 05:24 AM by abraxalito
Updated 2nd March 2011 at 12:10 PM by abraxalito

I've been actively researching via Google on this project since the last posting and found out a few interesting things which I'll share here.

Firstly I checked out piano wire as the material for making the L1 & L2 input side chokes in my original schematic. I couldn't find any consistent figure for what the permeability of piano wire is - it seems steel comes in so many variants that its hard to tell. So I continued to look for alternative materials which have reasonably high permeability. Remember, its the high permeability which gives rise to skinny skin depths and hence higher losses as the frequency climbs. Normally this is really undesirable, but for our purposes its exactly what we're looking for.

Other elements which have high permeability include nickel, cobalt and iron. Nickel wire is available, but its expensive and not widely sourced. Cobalt is even more expensive with even fewer sources. Iron is the cheapest option and it turns out that iron...
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Wide-band RF filtering for mains

Posted 5th February 2011 at 05:07 AM by abraxalito
Updated 2nd March 2011 at 12:10 PM by abraxalito

Since Ostripper asked about mains filtration on the RF & Audio thread, here are some notes and ideas. I haven't built any of this yet - if you decide to, I'll be interested in any results - photos and listening reports. Be careful with this stuff, its at mains potential.

Pre-built mains filters are of some use in audio, but they're not really optimised for high-end sound. For audio source components, the draw is normally under 100W and so the current (assuming here 230V supply) is under half an amp. Few if any off the shelf mains filters are designed for such low currents.

Second, the commercial filters assume that we wish to stop conducted interference getting out as much as prevent muck getting in. The internal noise would normally only come from the rectifiers in a linear power supply (SMPSUs are a totally different matter). Once we've snubbed them (you have done that already right, or are using soft-recovery or schottky diodes?), with a linear...
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D1080 MkII 08 actives - mod summary and listening

Posted 1st January 2011 at 12:41 PM by abraxalito
Updated 2nd March 2011 at 12:12 PM by abraxalito

Before describing the changes brought about by the mods I've described, here's a summary of what they've been:
  • Crossover tweaked to flatten the lower end bass hump and knit the handover to the tweeter more tightly
  • Power amp sensitivity reduced to allow the volume control operate closer to maximum with my Asus soundcard or a standard CD player output.
  • Rectifier snubbers and additional filtering to the regulators fitted to reduce RF ingress on the power supplies.
  • Power amp supply decoupling improved at both LF and HF.
  • Signal grounds are now separate from power grounds and a star point established on the amp PCB. A ground loop between the two PCBs has been eliminated. The input signal ground is no longer connected to the tone control PCB ground - instead given its own dedicated wire to the star. Decoupling to ground on the tone control PCB has been removed.

Listening impressions

OK, so on to the part that you've been...
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D1080 Mk II 08 actives - initial listening and some refinements

Posted 23rd December 2010 at 01:49 PM by abraxalito
Updated 2nd March 2011 at 12:14 PM by abraxalito

Having disassembled the amp board from its backplate once and got heatsink compound in various undesirable places, I was hoping that the first round of mods would also be the last. No such luck

However, first listening was extremely promising, so I was definitely up for a second round of extreme messiness to gild the lily. I did notice that my grounding changes had introduced a slight hum (50Hz fundamental only it seems) which was only audible when no music was playing and was independent of volume setting. The main gripe I had was that the stereo image was shifted over to one side - this I decided was because the volume pot was being used towards the lower end of its range where the matching is poorest. The chip amps have rather high gain (32dB in bridged) and this can't be reduced. So the solution had to be modding the resistive dividers between the XO and the amp chips - in effect reducing the power amp sensitivity. I went for about a 9dB reduction, determined by the...
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D1080 Mk II 08 actives - XO mods

Posted 23rd December 2010 at 12:21 PM by abraxalito
Updated 5th March 2012 at 03:53 AM by abraxalito

Here's the schematic showing the component value tweaks I made to the tone control board. I'll list the changes in detail - only the first three are depicted in the schematic. The remainder aren't as they don't show up on the sim plots

1) The original input stage has attenuation followed by gain. I have removed both, its now a unity gain stage and also no longer rolls off the HF response.

2) The low-end high-pass filter originally had a rather too high Q for my taste. It's been tamed.

3) The bass-mid low-pass filter was rather too low Q, so I've brought this up, making the response flatter across the band - now the hand over to the tweeter is tighter. The tweeter high-pass is left unchanged.

4) The decoupling regime has been changed so as not to contaminate the local ground. Thus the original 100nF ceramics to ground from either supply rail have been moved to decouple between the positive and negative rails. Ground is thereby...
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D1080 MkII 08 actives - power supply mod details

Posted 17th December 2010 at 04:34 AM by abraxalito
Updated 5th March 2012 at 03:54 AM by abraxalito

When considering how to hot rod a particular piece of electronics, my first attention always goes to power supplies and layout rather than the somewhat more popular approach of swapping out components for boutique variants. This is because so far I'm not sure that I notice the differences between audiophile grade caps (for example) and the bog standard ones. But I am sure of the differences brought about by improved grounding - to my ears these aren't subtle changes at all. So if I turn out to be dissatisfied with the sound of my layout mods, then I'll turn to tweaks on individual parts.

On examining the layouts of the two PCBs (XO layout already shown in a prior post) it turns out the amp PCB is the one with the relevant power supply components. In more detail, it has two independent supplies coming from separate windings on a standard EI-core transformer. The higher current one is unipolar, unregulated and feeding only the TDA8947s, the small-signal supply is bipolar,...
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D1080 MkII 08 actives - crossover schematic

Posted 15th December 2010 at 03:28 AM by abraxalito
Updated 5th March 2012 at 03:54 AM by abraxalito

Here's a somewhat simplified schematic I entered to model the response curves in LTSpice. The volume control isn't shown (as LTSpice doesn't have the symbol) but happens before the first opamp. I've fudged up symbols for the bass and treble controls - they're simply variable resistance in the HF and LF feeds to the power amp board. LT1057 isn't actually used in this unit, its just the nearest library part to the TL084

<edit> I've added the response curves now - look and weep
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D1080 MkII 08 actives - under the hood

Posted 14th December 2010 at 12:46 PM by abraxalito
Updated 5th March 2012 at 03:55 AM by abraxalito

I've been spending my free time these past couple of days reverse engineering these speakers, as a prelude to devising the mods. The first stage in doing that is to photograph the PCBs both sides and have both images up on the screen at once, the underside is flipped horizontally so its as though I'm looking through the board. I then annotate the components by hand with the mouse drawing tool. Sometimes I'll write the values in this way too, other times just paste text for the value next to the component. Most of the time though I'm too lazy to add any annotation.

Here's the result for the volume/tone control PCB - one of two PCBs in the design. There are two quad opamps, TL084s - they're marked up in magenta. Interestingly there's no tone control circuitry as such, the bass and treble controls just act as volume to the woofer and tweeter respectively! I've never seen tone controls implemented in this way before...
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How low can you go in active speakers?

Posted 12th December 2010 at 12:54 AM by abraxalito
Updated 5th March 2012 at 03:57 AM by abraxalito

On one of my regular pilgrimages to the computer plaza a couple of days ago, I noticed these little puppies. The price apparently was a shade over $80 the pair so I was indeed very curious. A quick peek around the back showed they were not using a standard speaker cable, rather a custom 4-way umbilical between the two boxes. Whenever I see this, my heart misses a beat because what floats my boat is genuine active speakers, not just powered ones which still sport passive crossovers.

Click the image to open in full size.

Not wishing to ask to disassemble the powered unit on the spot (and doubtless be turned down) I went back home to do some online research. I was pleased to discover these were indeed true actives, and what's more they're powered by TDA8947 chip amps. I'd not come across this part before but its cool at least on paper because its 4 channels in one package - they're using two...
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