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Why I DIY

Posted 10th November 2014 at 11:46 AM by cspirou

This entry probably would have made more sense as my first post.

From my observations it seems like most people persue this from a cost/benefit standpoint. Companies will cut corners a lot of the time in order to control costs. The more expensive products don't cut corners but the result is a higher price. The DIY enthusiast is willing to put the time in that many companies won't in order to get superior sound. No matter what though it seems like the end goal is to have the best sounding system given the resources you have.

Personally though I don't do this hobby as pursuit for the perfect system, even though that is my end goal. I am more interested in building my own system from an educational stand point. My first love has always been science. Figuring out puzzles is what I really enjoy. So while I love music, what I enjoy most are the calculations and the planning involved to make this a reality.

The reason I chose audio is because a lot of the...
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Old

At last, NXP has a low-end, low-power Cortex M4

Posted 8th November 2014 at 02:46 AM by abraxalito
Updated 8th November 2014 at 03:00 AM by abraxalito

NXP's ARM offerings I find to be the most power efficient and I've searched for a long time for a current-sipping M4 which is available in a lowish pin count package. Up until now the best offering in that realm has been STM's F411 with 13mA @ 100MHz. NXP's latest offering the LPC54100 beats that by a healthy margin, turning in a sub-10mA draw at the same clock rate. There's also a dual-core variant with a 100MHz M0+ with around half the current requirement. Respect - the fly in the ointment though is only 2 SPI peripherals which don't support TI mode. Pricing looks great at $2/10k.

http://www.nxp.com/news/press-releas...ng-market.html
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Old

CD is better than vinyl, which is why vinyl sounds better than CD

Posted 2nd November 2014 at 01:40 PM by cspirou
Updated 10th December 2014 at 08:53 AM by cspirou (Added info about 24 bit audio)

For my first blog post I wanted to write about digital vs analog sources, or more specifically CD vs vinyl. The title seems contradictory but hopefully my thesis will be clear by the end of this article. I will mainly be emphasizing dynamic range.

First I want to say that from a technical stand point, the CD is superior to vinyl. The average dynamic range of vinyl is 80dB while CD is capable of 150dB. There are also many issues with recording on LP vs CD which I won't elaborate on because I believe the following article does a pretty good job.

http://www.vox.com/2014/4/19/5626058...etter-than-cds

Yet there are many audiophiles that continue to claim that records sound better than CDs. Are these people brainwashed? Is it because an LP system is introducing a pleasing form of distortion?

Well I am here to claim that these audiophiles are not wrong. I don't just mean in a way to argue about subjective experience but...
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Old

Integration and test of CS4398 / PIC based Direct Digital Synthesiser

Posted 2nd November 2014 at 05:03 AM by googlyone
Updated 2nd November 2014 at 10:48 AM by googlyone

About 6 months ago I finished off a CS4398 (DAC) and PIC32MX450 (microcontroller) based direct Digital Synthesiser.

I recently packaged this into an instrument case, and added a power supply cum interface card that allows this to all neatly plug together. As a final chapter to the development of this synth, I have tried to measure the harmonics it generates and to use it to test an example amplifier.

What does it look like? Not super fancy, but neat enough and laid out pretty reasonably I think:

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The larger home made board at the back is a power supply - well five of them in fact - to allow clear isolation between a number of digital and analogue rails.

The square board on the base of the case is the PIC board. This runs the human machine interface and more importantly does all the calculation of the waveforms. You can generate any waveform you want, provided it is repetitive and can be...
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Old

Aiming for maximum isolation

Posted 2nd November 2014 at 03:42 AM by abraxalito

Getting isolation from the mains supply is an on-going challenge for me. Here's my latest stab at getting as close to a battery as I can currently manage - a ferrite line-output trafo soon to be pressed into service as a low-capacitance isolation transformer.

The back story is that I'd heard that split bobbin trafos were the way to go for the best isolation from the mains. Having just acquired some for chipamp-drive unit interfacing I was curious to check out their credentials. I measured around 20pF interwinding capacitance which is about the lowest of any mains trafo I've checked. Of that it seems that the majority of the capacitance is directly between the windings, a smaller amount is due to coupling via the steel core (which of course is conductive). So then I figured that even if the windings could be moved infinitely far apart the steel core would be the limiting factor in reducing the capacitance.

Air core trafos are a possibility but then they're hopeless...
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Posted in Mains filtering
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Old

My latest infatuation - transformers

Posted 25th October 2014 at 09:11 AM by abraxalito
Updated 6th November 2014 at 11:51 PM by abraxalito

I've found that some of the el-cheapo trafos (18rmb each) at a shop at the local electronics market are of split bobbin construction. This makes bodging up an audio OPT from two mains trafos a fairly straightforward matter.

I bought some with 9-0-9V and others with 0-12V secondaries. Then I disassembled them (fortunately they're not varnish dipped) and swapped out the 220V primary bobbin for the secondary of the other one. This gives me a trafo with 18V on the primary and 12V on the secondary, a step down of 1.5:1, impedance ratio of 2.25:1. So it makes a 4R drive unit appear as 9ohms to the chipamp.

And when I applied this to the output of the bass/mid of my chipamp (residing in the Phenix active speakers, its a TDA7265), apart from it sounding quieter I suddenly realized how much power supply noise I was still listening to. Incredible

So if you want to know if your chipamp PSU decoupling is really up to snuff, see how much difference a 1.5:1...
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Old

Taobao has a TDA1387 DAC (apparently)

Posted 23rd October 2014 at 03:33 AM by abraxalito
Updated 15th January 2015 at 02:19 AM by abraxalito

Its rather difficult to work out whether there's a line-level output here or if the phono sockets are inputs to the LM1875 amps. The TDA1387 is a plug-in module for the USB-input DAC section which might feed only the amps. Anyone who's good at reading Chinese, please contribute in the comments

http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=...8-3f2abc0f8bd9

Update - seems one particular vendor has quite a range of TDA1387 DACs now, all very affordable. The cheapest is this one (48rmb kit, 88rmb built in my limited understanding) - http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=2013.1.20141002.7.yoDoCx&scm=1007.100 09.2083.i41769520252&id=41937738376&pvid=402c7a10-8221-4bca-82c0-99c1c511877f.
This one has 8 chips, I guess its a tribute DAC to the DAC-AH - http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=...cket=17#detail...
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Old

Denon DL-103

Posted 14th October 2014 at 01:55 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 14th October 2014 at 01:57 PM by rjm

Eye candy.

My fourth. Each one comes packaged the same, with a serial number and individual calibration sheet.

This little guy is no. 2096, .39/.40 mV. Signed off by Mr. Nemoto (根本さん、ご苦労様!)
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Old

Repair of a vintage driver (Richard Allan)

Posted 6th October 2014 at 11:30 AM by googlyone

Over the last 6 or so months I have built a nice little sub plus satellite system that comprises:
- The "Ikea Salad Bowl Speakers", with some really nice vifa premium line drivers in them, making these 1980's vintage
- A Richard Allan subwoofer, in which I used a 1970's (I guess) HP12B driver, in a complex cubical enclosure with a corner cut off for the driver, and
- A ridiculously complex amplifier built to drive this lot, with DSP, multiple channels, optimised even to the point of addressing the fact the HP12B is 16 Ohms, and running bridged for that output.

So imagine my reaction when last night I settled back and ran the system up "properly" for maybe the second or third time, and CRACK!!!

My initial thought was that I had over "excursioned" the sub, and the voice coil was hitting the magnet backplate. I dug into the amplifier and programmed a subsonic filter, as you do, and settled back in again. CRACK!...
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Old

Phonoclone noise measurements

Posted 3rd October 2014 at 01:40 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 3rd October 2014 at 10:27 AM by rjm

What we are looking at here is the Fast Fourrier Transform (FFT) of the line output from my b-board buffer recorded at 24 bit, 96 kHz by an Onkyo SE-200PCI sound card. Upstream from the b-board is the Phonoclone 3 MC phono stage, connected to a Denon DL-103. The tonearm is Denon DA-307, and the deck is a Denon DP-2000.

Four recordings, taken 1) with music playing, 2) with the tonearm raised 3) with the phonoclone powered off and 4) with the b-board and all upstream components powered off.

True 24/96 data was obtained, measurements out to 48 kHz are possible, with -130 dB noise floor. (I was using Digionsound 6 to do the recording as Audacity truncates 24 bit recordings to 16 bit in Windows due to licensing issues. The FFT was generated in Audacity however.)

The soundcard's line input may have an impressive-looking low noise floor, but it's still useless for measuring line level audio devices like the b-board because the noise of the preamp/ADC...
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