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Windows volume control settings in dB.

Posted 23rd August 2014 at 11:33 AM by rjm
Updated 27th August 2014 at 06:39 AM by rjm

I suppose everyone has at one point or another adjusted the volume sliders in Windows. The ones that go from 0-100, and you are never quite sure what whether its a boost, or an attenuation, or what.

Some years ago I measured the outputs and inputs using a fixed amplitude .wav file created in audacity and played back through the Onkyo SE-200PCI. I've taken another look at the worksheet I made and I've noticed that the volume settings correspond to very logical, even steps, namely:

100 0 dB
90 -1 dB
80 -2 dB
70 -3 dB
60 -4.5 dB
50 -6 dB
40 -8 dB
30 -10 dB
20 -14 dB
10 -20 dB

or for the mathematically inclined: 20*log(volume/100)

This scale is the same for both the output master volume and the line input, so its probably maintained throughout the operating system.

So now you know.
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Old

Onkyo SE-300PCIe sound card review part II.

Posted 20th August 2014 at 02:18 PM by rjm
Updated 23rd August 2014 at 06:21 AM by rjm

Part I is here.

Setup notes are in part I. Listening system downstream is the Sapphire headphone amplifier and Sennheiser HD-600 headphones. As the SE-300's line output routes though the Windows sound mixer, while the SE-200's bypasses it, it was not possible to keep the headphone amplifier volume at a constant setting between cards. Since I found the built-in headphone amplifier of the SE-300 to be good but not at the level of the Sapphire, only the stereo RCA output is being reviewed here.

Let me begin by saying that Windows is fundamentally an anti-audiophile proverbial dog's breakfast of setting and driver layers (quick, what's the difference between the DirectX and WaveOut sound modules?), and most soundcards are also anti-audiophile in that they cater to gamers and casual listening with a full barrel of virtualization, equalization, and reverb features enabled by default.* No surprise then that both cards require careful setup to sound their best, or,...
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Old

Onkyo SE-300PCIe sound card review part I.

Posted 11th August 2014 at 12:39 AM by rjm
Updated 28th August 2014 at 11:41 PM by rjm

When I upgraded my computer recently I accidentally bought a motherboard with no PCI slots which meant I could no longer use my SE-200PCI card, my main reference source now for some years. Rather than switch motherboards again I figured I'd try Onkyo's latest version which has been out for a while now, the SE-300PCIe. I picked up a used "R2" model for $200.

I mention the price up front because the cost of this thing outside of Japan is astronomical. I've seen asking prices of $450 US! In Japan the retail price is about $300 in most stores. That's still very expensive. Despite the good things I have to say about it, the cost/performance must be taken into account based on the particular price you are looking at paying.

This is a Japan-only product, so the web site is Japanese:

main page (gallery)

The basic specs for the stereo line output is 120 dB S/N A weighted, 24/192 capable, 0.3-88kHz -3dB for the 2 channel stereo...
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Old

How Beats Conquered The World (via The Verge)

Posted 13th June 2014 at 12:04 AM by rjm
Updated 13th June 2014 at 12:44 PM by rjm

Original article, by Ben Popper

~ my spin ~

There was the iPod. It was cool, and the distinctive while earbuds that came with it showed people you had an iPod, so they were cool, too. A few audiophiles invested in better IEMs, but they tended to be expensive and discreet and anyway were only ever a niche thing.

Meanwhile the Japanese headphone makers - JVC-Kenwood, Sony, Audio Technica - tried competing with the iPod, and they came up with a spectrum of earbuds and headphones of every shape, price, and color. They sold as commodities, but none developed any real kind of identity or reputation. Certainly there was little effort at building a brand.

On the other side, Grado, AKG, and Sennheiser continued doing pretty much what they always did, making nice, expensive headphones for home/studio/DJ use.

Neither group addressed the obvious hole in the market: non-audiophiles wanting "good" sounding over-ear...
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Old

Technics SU-9070

Posted 20th May 2014 at 12:01 AM by rjm
Updated 20th May 2014 at 02:15 AM by rjm

The Technics SU-9070 is a 2U rack mount stereo preamplifier from 1977, matched to the SE-9060 amplifier. The preamp was sold as the SU-9070II in Japan.

The circuit is shown below, for educational purposes.

The power supply regulation is quite elegant, I hope to get to that in a future post. Here, just note that there are separate regulated lines for the MC stage, the input/VAS sections of the MM and line amps, and the output sections of the MM and line amps.
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Old

Technics SE-9060

Posted 19th May 2014 at 12:04 AM by rjm
Updated 19th May 2014 at 11:58 PM by rjm

There was a series of relatively slim (2U chassis rather than 4U), upmarket audio separates put out by Technics in 1977: the ST-9030T tuner, SU-9070 preamplifier, and SE-9060 amplifier. They are two degrees of separation from the top of the line models at the time, the range went 9600>9200>90x0.

I recently acquired the tuner (more on that some other time) and have the others in my sights.

For educational purposes, the amplifier schematic for the SE-9060 is shown below. The input stage and voltage amplifier was driven from regulated 55 V supplies (Va+ Va-), while the driver stage was powered directly by the rectified DC at about 50 V (Vb+ Vb-) filtered with 18,000 uF per rail per channel.

Note that there were 9060 and 9060II as well as 9070 and 9070II models in Japan, but the export model of the preamp which sold as the 9070 was actually the 9070II rather than the 9070 domestic version. Likewise the SE-9060 shown below (from a European...
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Old

Gemini Amp - and an idea for yet another headphone amp output stage

Posted 25th April 2014 at 10:13 PM by rjm
Updated 26th April 2014 at 07:19 AM by rjm

As a companion post to the GeminiPS I thought I'd throw the amplifier circuit out there too...

It's not something you'd have any reason to built today I think, but some of the ideas are worth revisiting.

The output stage is what is normally referred to as a complimentary Sziklai pair. The LTSpice circuit below uses the same output, but with the diamond buffer type bias, with it all scaled down to headphone-amplifier voltages and loads. It would be interesting to compare it against i.e. the conventional diamond buffer used in the Sapphire headphone amp. Maybe I'll get around to it. The simulation shows a bit more transient peaking than the straight diamond buffer, ideally there could be some way of adding compensation / reducing the bandwidth to more reasonable levels.
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Old

Voltage regulators for (line level?) audio: The GeminiPS

Posted 22nd April 2014 at 01:40 AM by rjm
Updated 23rd April 2014 at 11:40 PM by rjm

Part of a series.

The GeminiPS is another discrete series voltage regulator, with a Zener reference and bipolar pass transistor. It's an old circuit, published in Practical Electronics in 1970-71, and written by D.S. Gibbs and I.M. Shaw. I happen to have a reprint, but there's a nice overview here.

For reference it might be worth checking back to the two transistor regulator. The GeminiPS circuit is related in the sense that it is a more sophisticated take on the same basic principle. With just a handful of components we have a stabilized, 30 W output with soft turn on and short circuit protection. The circuit can be scaled up and down relatively easily, and the complimentary (negative output) version is an easy modification.

The pass transistor (TR2/3, Q2/3) is between the circuit common and the rectifier anodes. This may seem odd, but it was relatively common back in the day when high voltage transistors were both expensive and rare. The...
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Old

Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part 10 : Simple Shunts

Posted 11th April 2014 at 06:59 AM by rjm
Updated 15th April 2014 at 11:52 PM by rjm

Part of a series.

I've been meaning to take up shunt regulators for some time. I've never got around to building one myself to try, so I'll have to make do by playing in simulation.

Today's circuit is the shunt analog of the Z-reg series regulator: no feedback, Zener reference, single transistor regulation. The output impedance and ripple rejection-characteristics are similar too, with about 40 dB of RR and an output impedance of just a few ohms. It can be built equivalently from either an pnp or pnp transistor. (See attached LTSpice .asc files.)

The difference between shunt and series regulation can best be explained by considering the upstream power supply: In a series regulator an increase in current demand by the load causes the regulator to increase the current to compensate. In a shunt regulator an increase in current demand by the load causes the regulator to decrease the shunt current to balance, so there is no net change in current flowing...
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Old

The case of the crazy Sapphire amp.

Posted 3rd April 2014 at 01:24 AM by rjm
Updated 3rd April 2014 at 11:07 AM by rjm

Case report:

A set of Sapphire boards gave the proper V+, V- voltages out of the Z-reg, providing about 10.5 and -10.5 to op amp power pins. The output offsets were unusually high however, apparently at about 2 V in one board, and somewhat less in the other. Typically the offsets are in the order of +/-15 mV.

Changing out transistors and op amps did not help, and to all inspection the passive components were installed correctly and working properly. The offset voltages were extremely temperature sensitive. Measurements for the various circuit voltages were just screwy enough to be inconclusive.

I could ask for no more tests, so requested the boards be sent back to me. I found the circuit basically worked as expected, but the offsets were indeed high on both boards, though I measured 0.6 V max rather than 2 V.

***** stop here and make a guess *****

Blowing on the board through a soda straw, the offset shot up when I blew on...
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