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Audio Op Amps

Posted 26th June 2015 at 02:59 AM by rjm
Updated 26th June 2015 at 07:20 AM by rjm

I'm often asked "which op amp sounds better".

The reply is usually a scowl and muttered "does it look like I care!?" Which is something of a lie... I do care about getting op amps to sound good. It's the phrasing of the question I dislike.

Op amps do not come in "good, better, best" flavors. All it is - and this is pretty obvious I would have thought but apparently not - all this is about is matching an op amp to the job it's going to do; the circuit it's going to be sitting in.

The op amp you'd choose to use as a DAC IV converter is different from the one you'd choose to back a 100k volume potentiometer in a preamp is different from the one you'd choose for an MC phono preamp input stage...

Why do you think there are like a gazillion different op amps to choose from in the first place? It's because there are about a gazillion combinations of op amp characteristics and properties ... not because companies...
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capacitance measurements with the hp 4192A

Posted 10th June 2015 at 01:10 PM by rjm

Work stuff. I was writing Labview vis for an hp 4192A LF impedance analyzer and needed something to measure to check the data acquisition program. So I stuck some of my audio capacitors I happened to have into the 16047A test fixture "just to see".

I have no idea what these measurements are telling me other than yes, the 0.47 uF capacitors are indeed 0.47 uF ... up to about 0.5 MHz anyway. Maybe someone can do some technical analysis. I was struck though by just how quickly the inductance of these big film caps kicks in. As audio coupling caps they are fine, but if you are silly enough to use them as power supply bypass for example...

There are some reproducibility issues I'm still coming to grips with, but the differences shown in the plots is definitely from the capacitors themselves and not the leads or random variations. I've measured them several times over with similiar result.
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Jenson JE-990 discrete op amp

Posted 8th June 2015 at 07:45 AM by rjm
Updated 9th June 2015 at 12:09 AM by rjm

LTSpice copy (protection diodes removed) of the original JE-990 circuit. Even with BC327/337 subbed in for all the original transistors the simulation works without further modification.

C1 seems to be critical for stability. C2 and C3 damp overshoot seen on the simulated square wave response, hinted at by the high frequency rise in frequency response shown in the screen grab below.

My impression is that this circuit is of the heavily optimized, no-stone-left-untouched variety.

Sourced from m.nats page and The John Hardy Company.
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AT-HA5000

Posted 21st May 2015 at 01:32 PM by rjm
Updated 27th May 2015 at 01:54 AM by rjm

This post, about a push-pull MOSFET output stage for a headphone amp, got me thinking again about the Audio Technica AT-HA5000, which is something of a benchmark in its class. The "basic" signal circuit (not a complete schematic, it's clearly missing some ancillary details) is attached below. Probably out of MJ originally.

I think with any circuit like this, the differences are less about the MOSFETs and the operating points and more about the front end and what tricks you do with the power supply. That, and how you make sure it doesn't go up in a puff of vaporized silicon taking your headphones with it.

The Audio Technica schematic has nice old-school Zener regulators, a discrete JFET front end, a long tailed pair + current mirror for voltage gain and "proper" BJT Vbe multiplier and driver stage. Q7 is presumably in thermal contact with Q10,11 providing overtemp protection, and the output has a protection relay (not shown in detail) for...
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Szekeres 2015

Posted 20th May 2015 at 06:00 AM by rjm
Updated 18th June 2015 at 11:26 PM by rjm (added schematic of original version)

The circuit was originally hosted on Headwize, but the site seems to have gone offline.

It was a single stage resistively-loaded MOSFET follower, a unity gain current buffer used to drive headphones.

Some updated versions provided below. As noted in the comments the "Reverso" version with the CCS on the V+ and a p-channel mosfet has better PSRR performance, especially with voltage divider network R6,R7,C4 on the collector of Q2.

So good in fact that I switched around the n-channel version to use a negative voltage rail to obtain the same result!
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Old

JLH-2005 headphone amplifier

Posted 18th May 2015 at 08:15 AM by rjm
Updated 27th May 2015 at 01:52 AM by rjm

I was perusing this thread earlier today. Which led me to what I think is the original source, at least as a modern, relatively clean headphone amp version of the original original (by way of ESP).

Some comments from our own Nelson Pass are seemingly relevant.

AC coupled, and simplified to a single supply voltage, the circuit can be run at +5 V operation (USB, etc) with fairly decent performance.

The circuit is optimized for 16 ohm headphones.
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Standard Resistor Values for RJM Audio Projects

Posted 11th May 2015 at 09:15 AM by rjm
Updated 14th May 2015 at 10:40 PM by rjm

From now on every effort will be made to consolidate to the following values, 1/4W metal film:

1, 4.75, 10, 47.5, 100, 150, 221, 475, 1000, 1500, 2210, 4750, 10000, 22100, 47500, and 100000.

Also, the 1/4W 47 ohm and 68k carbon comp. resistor is widely used as damping and bleeder functions, respectively.

Exceptions will be made for the RIAA eq. of the Phonoclone and VSPS circuits, and the business end of the X-reg, where specific, non-standard resistance values are required.

*****

On resistor selection-

I honestly don't know if one resistor sounds better than another. I do know, however, that one resistor can be more expensive than another. At Mouser your basic 1/4W metal film resistor can run between 5 cents and 2 dollars in 100 unit quantities. Setting aside sound quality, it's not at all clear that you are getting any kind of material benefit at all by getting the expensive parts. Instead, it really...
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Old

Commentary on the TDK Life on Record A33 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker

Posted 10th May 2015 at 03:23 AM by rjm
Updated 11th May 2015 at 04:58 AM by rjm

There is something freakish about a brick-sized block that sits there and plays room-filling music ... with no wires attached whatsoever and no obvious moving parts. It gave me the same "I'm living in the future!" sense of wonder I got buying my first 1 TB hard drive.

It doesn't take too much searching the internet to discover that among wireless portable (bluetooth) speakers, the TDK A33 is highly recommended for its exceptionally good sound quality. That comes with a massive caveat, however: Most of the people writing these reviews only have Bose, Beats, and the internal speaker of their iPhone as references for comparison.

So does the A33 sound good in a hifi context?

Read on to find out...

No, okay don't bother. The answer is "no".

But it doesn't sound bad. I'm listening to it now as I type this, hooked up via the AUX input to my Onkyo PCI-200SE sound card, with the A33 tucked under the...
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A headphone amplifier gain calculator

Posted 2nd May 2015 at 05:30 AM by rjm
Updated 2nd May 2015 at 05:33 AM by rjm

You input the headphone sensitivity and impedance, and it spits out what I think is the ideal amplifier gain.

Even if you disagree (personal preference, difference input levels, etc.), the difference will be consistent regardless of headphone as long as the specified parameters are correct.

The gain value setting is tailored to normal line level input and listening fairly loud with the volume control at 9~10 o'clock. The output series resistance is assumed to be zero ohms.

Adjust as desired, and note that 3~6 dB either way will still be a usable. If your amp has a large output series resistance the gain Av should be scaled up as,

(Routput + headphone Z)/(headphone Z)
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Old

I've been cloned!

Posted 29th March 2015 at 12:26 PM by rjm
Updated 31st March 2015 at 09:31 AM by rjm

Back at the dawn of time one of the first audio circuits I worked on was the Gainclone, followed closely by The Dac of the Klones (Oh my, the nostalgia!) and of course the Phonoclone.

The VSPS was a side-project that grew out of the Phonoclone, and actually ended up first out of the gate as a working circuit.

Apart from the general design philosophy (low parts count, simplicity, careful layout and grounding) it has no particular link to 47 Labs. While the concept of a non-inverting op amp active phonostage is nothing original the circuit is mine, particularly the configuration and values of the RIAA filter which I calculated and simulated myself. The rest is an amalgam from a dozen or so different sources, textbooks, datasheets and application notes &c. All the values are quite carefully chosen.

That said I've always put the circuits and everything else on the internet, with source attribution as I felt necessary. The boards and kits came...
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