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Doin' a "Gilmore" : a discrete transistor headphone amplifier

Posted 10th March 2015 at 12:17 AM by rjm
Updated 13th March 2015 at 10:42 PM by rjm

Recently I spent some time updating the diamond buffer of Sapphire headphone amp circuit. Later I stumbled on Kevin Gilmore's headphone amp circuit. Well, I'd read it before, but it had slipped my mind.

On seeing the Gilmore circuit again the thought process re. a Sapphire+Gilmore went something as follows,

"Toss out op amp, convert the Gilmore dual-LTP front end to bipolar, bolt the Sapphire3 buffer stage to the back, and substitute in the Sapphire3 current sources. Wrap in a mild feedback loop."

The result is shown attached. The Vbe multiplier is still a simple resistor (R33) ... that may need to be refined to add thermal throttling. The offset servo is not shown, but the action is shown as Vadj. Alternatively a trim pot would be placed between R30 and R32 to provide a small measure of offset adjustment. Most of the open loop gain is controlled by R14,R15 ... it seems to me that some work could still be done in that area. Despite going...
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Old

Which is better, Sennheiser HD600 or AKG K702?

Posted 25th February 2015 at 12:24 PM by rjm
Updated 25th February 2015 at 11:41 PM by rjm

The HD600s.

Ok, so why donít you like the K702s?

I didnít say I didnít like them. Just that I think the HD600s are better.

Itís pretty simple really:

The K702s have a strident, hard upper-midrange "bump" that I find disagreeable. Yes, it makes tracks sound more ďliveĒ, but itís also fatiguing and a bit clinical, and - as many others before have noted - makes the sound overall somewhat thin. In direct comparison the HD600s seem full the point of boominess, but I'm willing to accept that midbass plumpness for the Sennheiser's warmer, luxurious midrange. In imaging, the K702s trend to a wide, distant, airy soundstage while the HD600s run towards a closed in, intimate presentation. In that sense the K702 are more like listening to speakers, and I can certainly see people being attracted to that.

These are both top-shelf headphones at the top of their game, I don't mean to imply that the AKGs are bad. The two...
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Old

Z-reg II improved simple Zener voltage regulator

Posted 22nd February 2015 at 01:24 AM by rjm
Updated 28th February 2015 at 06:17 AM by rjm

I've added an additional RC filter stage (R3, C4 in the schematic below) before the Zener diode, substantially reducing the amount or ripple on the transistor base by cleaning up the voltage applied to the Zener reference. (The original Z-reg is described here.)

Circuit shows C2 with a value of 300 uF. Typically much larger values are used. I kept the filter capacitance to a minimum here to show circuit working with a reasonably high ripple (1 V p-p) on the input. The rectifier diodes used here are of no particular consequence, I just wanted the simulation to generate a realistic sawtooth for the input.

***

OK, this doesn't do as much as I originally thought. The improvement is mostly below 100 Hz, whereas the ripple is mostly in the 100Hz-1kHz band. There's perhaps 3 dB less output ripple, but that's about it. You can verify this yourself in LTSpice, just cut the wire between C4 and the junction or R1-R3 and rerun the sim.
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Old

Gustard H10 Headphone Amplifier

Posted 14th February 2015 at 11:47 AM by rjm
Updated 1st March 2015 at 12:26 AM by rjm

Rhymes with "custard"...

Each channel has a BB OPA134PA - socketed - for voltage amplification and an eight transistor discrete buffer with 2 ea. 2SA1837. 2SC4793, C546B, C556B. Dual mono layout (more or less ... the circuit board itself is shared and not completely symmetric).

There's a pair of NE5532s at back for balanced-unbalanced input conversion, and a pair of transistors (TIP122 TIP127) with trim pots and circuitry between the input and the main amplifier which looks a bit like voltage regulators to me but I can't see where they fit in to the scheme of things.

Pretty decent quality for the price. (I paid $350/delivered)

First impressions of the sound are quite positive, plenty of depth and decent smoothness. Letting it cook overnight now and will put it in the main system tomorrow.

****

Comparison notes vs. Sapphire (with Sennheiser HD600s)

H10 immediately impresses...
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Old

Headphone Sensitivity: AKG K702 vs. Sennheiser HD 600

Posted 7th February 2015 at 06:47 AM by rjm
Updated 14th February 2015 at 09:13 AM by rjm

I recently obtained a pair of AKG K702 headphones to complement my long-standing reference Sennheiser HD 600s. I figured since I'm building headphone amplifiers it would be a good idea to have a reference grade low impedance model as well as the high impedance HD 600s to use for evaluation.

First though, a note on sensitivity:

K702: 62 ohms, 105 SPL/V
HD600: 300 ohms, 97 dB/mW

Different units. Grrr!

At the same volume position I quickly discovered the HD 600s play slightly louder than the K702s. The datasheet values predict the K702s should be about 3 dB louder, so it seems the sensitivity is off by as much as 6 dB.

In numbers,

K702: 62 ohms, 105 SPL/V ... 93 dB/mW from datasheet, 87~89 dB/mW (99~101 SPL/V) in practice.
HD 600: 300 ohms, 97 dB/mW ... 102 SPL/V.

The K702 requires as much as ten times more power to drive than the HD 600s. The voltage sensitivity is about 3 dB lower than...
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Old

Refining the Open Loop Diamond Buffer Headphone Driver (RJM Audio Sapphire 3.0)

Posted 31st January 2015 at 12:28 PM by rjm
Updated 18th March 2015 at 01:52 AM by rjm (add photo of finished amp)

A couple of years ago I built a standard op amp + diamond buffer headphone amplifier, called the Sapphire.

My original circuit (Sapphire 1.x) was the simple four transistor four resistor diamond buffer of the LH0002. Later small resistors (Sapphire 2.0) were added to the emitters of the driver transistors to boost the output bias current.

In this next go-round (Sapphire 3.0), I've replaced the emitter resistors with current sources. This provides a significant improvement in PSRR, over 20 dB in simulation. The output pair has been reinforced in a Sziklai configuration for lower distortion, and the primary output transistors five-way paralleled for improved thermal stability. The output impedance is 1~2 ohms, limited primarily by the output resistor.

It simulates to <-100 dB harmonics for 0 dB (1 V rms) output into 60 ohms. The total circuit standing current is less than 50 mA per channel.

LTSpice files below. R5,R6 on LTSpice...
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Old

MUSES premium audio semiconductors from NJR

Posted 14th January 2015 at 11:29 AM by rjm

Have I just been living under a rock or why the hell haven't I heard about this before now!?

http://www.njr.com/MUSES/index.html
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Old

Portable headphone amplifiers

Posted 14th January 2015 at 06:07 AM by rjm
Updated 13th February 2015 at 04:11 AM by rjm

The shift of the center of gravity of the high end from component, rack systems to portable continues. Exhibit A

I've also noticed that over the last couple of years the basic blueprint for a portable headphone amplifier as defined by the Sony PHA-1 has now been taken up by all of the major Japanese audio companies.

Sony PHA-1, PHA-2, PHA-3
Denon DA-10
Onkyo DAC-HA200 and TEAC HA-P50 (variants of the same basic unit)
JVC SU-AX7 (report) (seems to be mostly Kenwood DNA)
Audio Technica AT-PHA100
and Fostex hp-p1

For all the above you are looking at a battery powered, slim-cased DAC + headphone amp typically with some sort of guard around the controls. They all feature a good variety of analog and digital inputs, offer switchable gains, and are priced over a range from $200 to nearly $1000.

You are looking at the convenience of having the DAC built in, the small size, and the rechargeable lithium...
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Old

Denon DL-103

Posted 14th October 2014 at 12:55 PM by rjm
Updated 14th October 2014 at 12:57 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

Phonoclone noise measurements

Posted 3rd October 2014 at 12:40 AM by rjm
Updated 3rd October 2014 at 09:27 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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