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Mighty mite balanced SE classA headphone amp

Posted 5th April 2016 at 09:39 AM by abraxalito
Updated 25th April 2016 at 11:06 AM by abraxalito

I was going to call this amp 'fleapowered' but after doing some searching online I found fleapowered amps in general were much higher output power than this - single digit Watts typically. Whereas this one is more than a couple of orders of magnitude lower than that (under 10mW) so deserved a different moniker. Seeing as a mite is smaller than a flea, 'mighty mite' seemed to me as good as any descriptor for it.

The mighty mite started life in my imagination after I walked into a local headphones shop and tried out some cans that the shop assistant recommended to me - AT MSR7s. I'd brought my 'Buffalito' headphone buffer with me and some step down transformers for its output - fed from my mobile phone its way too loud for my AKGs and Superluxes. However the MSR7s were too loud even with the 2:1 step down trafo so I told the assistant I'd come back and listen again once I had a more suitable trafo. I figured it needed to be 4:1 step down, so I built a pair of those (PQ32/20)...
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Old

Supermatched JFETs

Posted 29th March 2016 at 05:10 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 18th April 2016 at 11:52 PM by rjm

Truth be told, for a self-biased jfet audio circuit like the CrystalFET the main reason we need to used matched jfets is to ensure that the signal gain is the same in both channels. The operating point of the amplifier stage (the voltages and currents) can be allowed to vary a little so long as the transconductance, g_m is the same, as this is directly proportional to the open loop voltage gain, A, as

A = g_m R_l (transconductance x load resistance)

Now, yes, ideally you would find two jfets with identical saturation current and pinch off voltages, ensuring not just the same gain but also the same operating point. In practice though you are usually binning parts that are close to each other based on some reference parameter like the pinch off voltage (V_gs0) that you hope closely correlates with the signal gain. This is not quite as good though as the calculating the actual transconductance of the particular device in the circuit it is to be used in. And since...
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Old

Pocketable headphone transformers

Posted 24th March 2016 at 02:44 AM by abraxalito
Updated 25th March 2016 at 11:54 PM by abraxalito

Seems I got a bit carried away with listening to my heavily modded XuanZu amp in the last-to-one blog post. I even considered it was superior to my current headphones - that would mean shelling out on some new ones. Before I went shopping though I did try it into my DT880s, which are 600ohms (hence I usually only use them for special occasions) - they sounded cleaner, although considerably quieter. This amp doesn't have enough voltage swing available to deliver the SPLs into such a high impedance. So was the cleanliness of these phones due to their being higher quality (they're at least 4* the cost of the others)? Or just because of listening at a lower level?

When my over-enthuasiasm for the amp had subsided a bit I decided to consider a way to answer these questions. If the amp was indeed not producing the artifacts which I was hearing on piano into the low-Z cans, then putting a 2:1 step-down transformer on its output would make no difference at all. The amp has plenty...
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Old

Sanwu FLAC and Bluetooth player has a significant flaw

Posted 16th March 2016 at 12:59 AM by abraxalito
Updated 17th March 2016 at 03:18 PM by abraxalito

I was going to write a post praising this player for the superb value for money (its the only cheap single-chip FLAC player I've found) but this morning it produced an alarming series of whistles and pops from what I presume is a corrupt file on my TFcard. So now its only recommended if you're sure you have perfect data on your card - it doesn't seem to mute the audio when an error is found.

Apart from this major howler at just 30rmb its great, providing as it does FLAC, WAV and mp3 support along with Bluetooth running from a USB power source at 5V. The audio performance is decent when run through my modified XuanZu headamp as preamp - the level is rather low otherwise and I suspect it needs a high-impedance buffer for best dynamics.

I put the TFcard which gave the player hiccups into my PC reader and uploaded the 'problem' file to Audacity. No glitches noticed there so looks like I might have to dig a bit deeper to find out what went wrong. I shall try playing...
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Old

Rant on the SET critics

Posted 8th March 2016 at 05:16 PM by DougL

I am so tired of hearing that anyone who listens to SET amplifiers "Must like distortion".

It must be comforting to be that simple.

The reality of the situation is a single ended tube amplifier is a very specific solution to a very specific problem.

The topology results in an implementation that has vanishingly low distortion at very low power levels.

This is a direct result of three factors,
Low distortion of the audio triodes used, the lack of multiple devices and the avoidance of the non-linear magnetic behavior around zero crossing.

FWIW, this only works in the tube world for very low power on very efficient speakers.

I still have memories of listening to a Klipsch horn with a Phase Linear 400. I could not stay in the room at any power level. It was near class B and arguably the worst amplifier ever made. Still, it took an efficient speaker to highlight its faults.
...
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Old

Matching JFETs

Posted 8th March 2016 at 12:29 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 6th May 2016 at 09:27 AM by rjm

with only two resistors, a 9 V battery, and a voltmeter...

The current-voltage relationship for a jfet device is approximately a quadratic expression defined by just two parameters, the saturation current, I_dss, and the pinch-off voltage, which I'll call V_gs0.

I = I_dss (1-V/V_gs0)^2

In principle, therefore, to characterize the device all we need is two data points (I1, V1) and (I2, V2) to solve the expression above for I_dss and V_gs0. We don't need to measure I_dss or V_gs0 directly.

All you need to do is connect the jfet device-under-test (DUT) as shown, and measure the voltages across two different source resistances. That's it. The excel worksheet computes the I_dss and V_gs0 values for you (or you can do it by hand, the formulas are provided.)

The math is a bit messy, but if you can solve a quadratic expression it's easy enough.

*****

Note: I found it was important to include...
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Old

V-FETRON 75 UPDATE #1

Posted 6th March 2016 at 03:05 PM by Michael Rothacher (Audiohobby.com)
Updated 6th March 2016 at 10:34 PM by Michael Rothacher

Achievement Unlocked: 75 Watt Class A Zero Feedback SIT Circlotron

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Soft clipping at 75W

Because of the high input capacitance of the 2SK180’s and the gain of this circuit, we have to pull out all the stops to get our 75W beast to make audio bandwidth. Here you can see that each SIT is getting its own transformer and buffer.

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Old

CrystalFET Phono Stage

Posted 3rd March 2016 at 04:55 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 22nd July 2016 at 10:52 PM by rjm

Development thread here.

CrystalFET is a J113 jfet-based two-stage phono preamp, with passive equalization and on-board MOSFET-based shunt voltage regulator.

Jfets Q1 and Q3 should be matched between channels, and for best results the value of drain resistors R2 and R9 should be selected based on the jfet pinch off voltage of Q1 and Q3 respectively.

rev. 1.4e (final version) removes some unneeded resistors and tidies up the board layout a little. The resistors have been renumbered.
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Old

Upgrading the XuanZu portable headamp

Posted 26th February 2016 at 11:22 PM by abraxalito
Updated 14th March 2016 at 06:23 AM by abraxalito

This device is a steal on Taobao, but having had a quick listen last night it could sound clearer. When connected to my smartphone (Meizu MX4 pro) and compared side by side with my 'Buffalito' (not a blind comparison mind) into my SuperLuxes, there were a few notable deficiencies.

First the soundstage air was less apparent. Second there's some sibilance noticeable on voices. And third the background hiss is slightly more apparent and a slight whine comes from the power supply. So I figured - open her up.....

Inside its fairly simple, the more or less standard configuration of a pot, then opamp gain stage then discrete diamond buffer. Which is great because I already have experience with this topology. The power supply is a built in LiIon cell with a boost converter supplying 12V in a single rail and there's a passive rail splitter. The dual opamp is an EL2244, one I've not seen before in such a setup.

First up - the input pot is too low a value at...
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Old

Chromecast Audio Output Noise

Posted 26th February 2016 at 11:11 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 27th February 2016 at 12:18 AM by rjm

Measured at 24/96 with my Asus Xonar STX soundcard (~ -147 dB noise floor)

The Chromecast Audio output noise powered with the included USB wall wart supply is -130 dB at 1 kHz, rising gradually at lower frequencies and showing some switching power supply noise peaks at 4763 Hz and higher multiples, never exceeding about -120 dB.

This is respectable performance given its price point.
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