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Old

Measurements with a sound card

Posted 13th May 2013 at 10:08 PM by alexcp (My DIY projects)
Updated 7th September 2013 at 10:36 AM by alexcp (Updated for ASIO4ALL)

I am using a USB sound card for measurements. It's a pain, but I have nothing better yet.

The sound card is the E-MU 0204. I've chosen it for the specs:
  • Dynamic Range (A-weighted, 1kHz, min gain): 113dB
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-weighted, min gain): 113dB
  • THD+N (1kHz at - 1dBFS, min gain): -101.9dB (.0008%)

The sound card is intefaced to the real world by Pete Millett's sound card interface.

The software is SpectraPLUS 5.0 by Pioneer Hill Software (PHS). (No link because my antivirus says their web site is infected.) The software runs on an old MacBook running Windows 7 in Boot Camp.

The results do not seem to be affected by nearby computers, flurescent lights, switching power supplies, etc.

The results are affected by:
  • Windows Mixer settings (levels and sampling rates)
  • Software settings (levels and sample rate)
  • Grounding of the sound card, the interface, and the device under test

The greatest source of pain is...
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Old

NE5532 power amplifier

Posted 12th May 2013 at 08:51 PM by alexcp (My DIY projects)

This is a project developed by Douglas Self and published in the Elektor in October and November 2010.

The idea is rather unusual: "An interesting power amplifier can be made by connecting enough 5532s in parallel, how about 32 for a start? This may sound like a radical course of action, but it actually works very well, making it possible to build a very simple amplifier that retains not only the excellent linearity but also the power-supply rejection and the inbuilt overload protection of the 5532, which reduces the external circuitry required to a minimum."

Elektor used to sell PCBs for this project, which I used. I modified the circuit slightly to incorporate an active volume control along the lines of Douglas Self's preamplifiers.

Here is the result:
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Old

Eternally Penultimate Zen - mod #4

Posted 11th May 2013 at 09:32 PM by alexcp (My DIY projects)
Updated 12th May 2013 at 05:24 PM by alexcp (Added pictures, links)

My first solid state amplifier build, in 2009, was The Penultimate Zen, aka Zen Variations Part 4, aka ZV4. It was built with the parts I could find back then, without knowing where to look. It ended up big, heavy with two 400VA toroidal transformers, ugly inside with some electrical tape here and there, without proper grounding, etc., etc. I was as disappointed with the sound as my wife was disappointed with that heavy black metal brick gathering dust.

My first mod on ZV4 came after I turned my disappointment into finding better part suppliers. I returned to my ZV4 and replaced the output caps with something marginally more decent from eBay. The sound improved a notch. Aha!

My second mod was to rebuild the power supply. I threw away one of the toroids, added a softstart circuit from Hypex, and put in a CRC filter with some Mundorf HC caps. One power supply for two single ended channels forced me to learn about grounding and add input transformers and balanced...
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Old

Audacity sucks.

Posted 9th May 2013 at 03:50 PM by rjm
Updated 10th May 2013 at 04:35 AM by rjm

Under windows at least, Audacity is unable to record audio at bitrates above 16 bit.

It will seem to, all right, but the data is quantized at 16 bit (30 microvolt LSB), regardless of the settings chosen.

The attached images show the same source, the first recording is made in Audacity, supposedly 24 bit, but actually only 16 bit, while the second is recorded with a program than actually supports 24 bit, exported, and imported into Audacity. The data is amplified +70dB in both cases to make the difference visible.

Audacity will happily manipulate and save high bit rate data, but as a result of licensing restrictions and on account of it being freeware, it does not support the actual recording of this data.

***

Any internet search will confirm that the Windows version of Audacity is limited to 16 bit recording. And yes, it's more of a limitation of Windows than it is of Audacity. My irritation, however, is chiefly with Audacity...
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Old

Back to passive filters

Posted 8th May 2013 at 03:11 AM by abraxalito

I didn't much care for the sound of my active elliptic filter - great dynamics in the bass for sure but the upper-end colourations were a bit unnatural sounding. So I've shelved tthat one for now and instead I'm playing with a simplified (by which I mean fewer inductors) passive elliptic.

There are two topologies for building elliptics where the zeroes are realized either by shunt series-LC networks or series paralleled-LC networks. The series created zeroes means fewer inductors are called for. In its most basic, unbalanced form there would be just three inductors for a 7th order filter. This filter though is balanced and designed to feed my Nitro desktop amp directly, without any I/V amplifier stage.
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Old

Tube-I-zator Output Cap Upgrade

Posted 3rd May 2013 at 04:23 PM by dvb projekt
Updated 15th May 2013 at 08:56 AM by dvb projekt (Sound review added)

My last dream come true!

The output cap upgrade to the holy grail...

Click the image to open in full size.

DUELUND´s CAST PIO Copper Cap!






Therefore the Tube-I-zator must go to the 2nd floor

Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.


Sound review


Now after ~150 hrs. burn in time, i will share my impressions with these outstanding caps.

I had a déjà vu after changing from my previous Mundorf Suprem silver/gold/oil caps to the Duelund CAST PIO Copper.
The same difference as in my 300B mono block´s.

This openness, clarity, three-dimensionality with so many more subtleties and micro informations, absolute breathtaking.
Only the Duelund CAST has the possibility to reproduce this 3D soundstage
...
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Old

J-Mo Mk. II vs. Szekeres, distortion comparison

Posted 3rd May 2013 at 09:24 AM by rjm
Updated 6th May 2013 at 12:52 AM by rjm

Two headphone amplifiers sharing the same basic MOSFET source follower output stage.

When the source current and source resistance are optimized for the given headphone load and similar maximum output power (~50 mW at 1% THD), the distortion pattern vs. output power is remarkably similar.

One plot below is simulation, the other measurements. The J-Mo 2 simulation closely matched the actual measurements, it wasn't worth my while to generate a full simulated data set when I already had the measurements on hand. No reason to suspect that the Szekeres sim is inaccurate, either.

The take home message is the distortion characteristic of a MOSFET follower is what it is, and unavoidable. Take it or leave it, as it were. However - and this is key - if you don't optimize the stage for the headphone impedance, the distortion for a given output power will increase significantly.

As an aside: Greg did his homework with the original circuit....
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Old

Szekeres Headphone Driver, distortion simulation

Posted 3rd May 2013 at 09:11 AM by rjm
Updated 3rd May 2013 at 09:15 AM by rjm

I've always enjoyed the sound of the Greg Szekeres' Headphone Driver (buffer) and derivatives sharing the MOSFET source follower output stage.

I've often wondered however, whether it's distinctive sound is because it is unusually free from noise and artifacts, or because its unusually prone to heavy second harmonic distortion.

It's not hard to set this up in LTSpice, but I haven't seen it done before. So, for your education and enlightenment, I present the harmonic distortion vs. output power data for the original "classic" circuit as uploaded to Headwize all those years ago. The LTSpice asc file is also included I you want to play along. The harmonic data is generated by hand, reading the FFT peaks for 10 or so different input voltages.
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Old

Power Up! - A Low Power Desktop Amp

Posted 28th April 2013 at 04:04 PM by BuildMeSomething
Updated 8th May 2013 at 07:38 PM by BuildMeSomething

The Amp boards arrived Saturday, unfortunately, I was just leaving for work so they'd have to wait. Everything looked OK on them.

Initial power up test was done with both LME49990 in place but only one LME49600 mounted on each channel [PSU used was a modified "The Wire" unit meant for testing the A/B Power Amp at +/-25Vdc, now set at +/-15Vdc. It was getting quite hot as it was dropping 10V per rail]. That went Ok, so the rest of the 49600 were put in place and powered up once more... Again, everything OK.

Measured offset:

Left channel: 27mV
Right channet: 8mV

Foam board speakers are progressing, and will be ordering a heatsink this week also.

Update [13-04-30]: Been a little bit worried about the higher offset value on the left channel, though it's not at a bad level overall. Once the amp has been on awhile, it appears to settle at 25.9 mV.

Made a quick SE input>volume pot AC coupled...
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Old

Force/sense shunt

Posted 24th April 2013 at 09:35 AM by abraxalito
Updated 24th May 2013 at 04:59 AM by abraxalito (Added pics of prototype fs-shunt. Added noise update.)

I'm a recent convert of the lowest possible impedance of power supply based on my experience of adding caps to my chipamp. So I figure the signal stages can't be harmed by reducing their supply impedance either, particularly at LF.

I note there are a few aftermarket regulators around - I had a look at Paul Hynes and Belleson in the past few days. They're a bit pricey for my tastes, given the cost of the components they're using can't be over single digit $ so I've had a look at "doing it at home, only cheaper".

First off, a simple TL431 is about the best bang for the buck achievable, as the part here is 0.2rmb. But the dynamic impedance is typically 0.2ohms and I was hoping and aiming to go a bit lower than this - perhaps an order of magnitude lower, to around 10mohms. Lower than this and the resistance of the PCB tracks come into play and its also very hard to maintain such a low impedance beyond the audio band as cap ESRs (for the best ones) are of...
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