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Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part IV : The Error Amplifier

Posted 18th January 2014 at 06:05 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 20th January 2014 at 10:21 PM by rjm

Part 4 for a series.

At the end of Part 3 I promised to introduce feedback, and I will, but what we are really talking about here is the addition of the error amplifier, the heart of all modern series pass regulators. The error amplifier is a non-inverting DC signal amplifier, and its function is simple: amplify and buffer the reference voltage. The twist is that the amplifier output is connected to the base of the pass transistor, while the feedback connection is taken from it’s emitter. The pass element is thus placed inside the feedback loop of the error amplifier, improving the ripple rejection and output impedance of the regulator dramatically.

So here we are, the three building blocks of a voltage regulator are in place: the reference voltage, the error amplifier, and the pass device. In the LTSpice circuit I’ve cheated, deliberately, in order to make the operation easier to follow. Instead of building a practical voltage reference I’ve...
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Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part III : The Z-reg

Posted 17th January 2014 at 04:35 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 20th January 2014 at 10:21 PM by rjm

Part 3 of a series.

I’m going to have to make a detour to point out what we are doing here is learning how these circuits work, and get a very rough idea of their relative merits. We’re not trying to minimize the output impedance, or maximize the ripple rejection. Three reasons immediately come to mind for why it would be bad practice to try and do that:

1. Any such contest will be easily won by the largest capacitor placed on the regulator output.

2. There are clear limits on these parameters after which further “improvement” is unlikely to serve any useful purpose.

3. There are other considerations such as the output noise of the regulator and the stability under dynamic loads, which are equally if not more important.

Clear? No cookies for the “most bestest” circuit in LTSpice. The great utility of LTSpice is it allows you, the designer, to easily check if you’ve left performance...
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Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part II : The Pass Transistor

Posted 16th January 2014 at 04:14 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 20th January 2014 at 10:21 PM by rjm

Part 2 of a series.

Instead of pulling the output current through R1, we add an npn pass transistor, Q1. The output current now "passes" through the transistor, while the Zener diode still regulates the output voltage by being connected to the transistor base.

The output impedance falls to a few ohms, but the ripple rejection improves only slightly.

This is a useful basic circuit block for audio, but the ripple rejection can easily improved by the addition of a couple of additional components, as we'll see shortly.
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Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part I : Zeners

Posted 15th January 2014 at 11:34 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 16th January 2014 at 04:40 AM by rjm

This is the first of a series, where I will be investigating the output impedance and ripple rejection of various voltage regulator circuits using LTSpice.


Today, for the first "lesson" (I'm teaching myself, as much as anything) we will look at the very simple zener voltage regulator.

The load is 1 kohm, and the Zener breakdown voltage is 12 V. The load current is about 10 mA, and to avoid gross inefficiency we will limit the current flowing through the Zener to about 5 mA, by adjusting R1 accordingly. The input voltage is fixed at 18 V.

To measure the ripple rejection, we perform an AC analysis with the voltage source AC set to 1 and the current source AC set to zero. The ripple rejection is the negative value of the signal at Vout: so -20 dB means 20 dB ripple rejection (1 V ripple at Vin generates 0.1 V ripple at Vout at a given frequency.).

To measure the output impedance, again the AC analysis function is used but...
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A "music cafe", Kyoto.

Posted 13th January 2014 at 09:45 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)

A small corner of audio heaven, for anyone willing to pay the 500 yen cover charge.
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Hakko FX-950

Posted 20th December 2013 at 10:29 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)

Earlier this year I had a really, really bad experience attempting to get a new soldering iron. This time around I made my purchase through a reputable Japanese online retailer, and am now the proud and happy owner of a Hakko FX-950 soldering station.

Its an analog unit, and was discounted quite a bit as a result. Personally I'm happier with a rotary dial temperature control anyway.

This thing rocks! I've dragged my heels on getting a decent iron for so long its ridiculous. In my defense, I could always borrow a semi-decent one from work, so the pressure to buy my own was not as great as it otherwise might have been.

Top five reasons to spend the extra cash:

1. 70W, variable, closed loop temperature control. As much heat as you need, whenever you need it: the feedback loop means that the power is proportional to the conductance load: the tip will not cool down when heating up a large thermal mass.

2. Heats up to...
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Upgrading the Sapphire headphone amplifier (photos)

Posted 17th December 2013 at 10:10 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 20th December 2013 at 10:14 AM by rjm

Straightforward transplant. Out with the old (anyone want them?) in with the new. Re-used the OPA134 op amp and my dog-eared pair of 0.47uF Multicaps.

On powering up I discovered that with the specified 10 ohms in R9,10 the output bias current was upwards of 200 mA and things were getting a bit toasty. I paralleled a second 10 ohm resistor, dropping the resistance to 5 ohms and dialing back the output bias current to about 70 mA. Latest schematic revision has R9,10 values edited to match.

Currents stable. Heatsink temperatures around 50 C. Output offsets around 15 mV. No noise or hum.

Presently giving it some burn in time.
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Sapphire Headphone Amplifier rev. 2.0

Posted 21st November 2013 at 11:45 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 5th January 2014 at 08:17 AM by rjm (update schematic to 20f4)

Update: I've ordered parts for small number of Sapphire 2.0 kits. The normal price will be $125, but as an introductory offer the first batch will be available for $100. Kit includes a set of boards and all the parts for the board. You need to supply the transformers and diodes, as well as a volume control, and the chassis hardware.

Update: boards are in stock, see photo.

Original here, diyaudio thread here.

November. That time of year for finally getting around to advancing some of my audio projects a little.

The Sapphire has remained in "rev 1+" for some time now, partly because of time constraints, partly because of the lack of popularity, and partly because it was already a re-spin of the beta version and worked just fine.

There were a few housekeeping things I wanted to add though, which have been included in the 2.0 revision.

- added a dedicated ground (GND) pad to connect to chassis...
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Marantz discrete op amp (line stage or headphone amp)

Posted 10th November 2013 at 11:00 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 10th November 2013 at 01:11 PM by rjm

Last one for today.

I was having problems getting this to work, the key seems to be adjusting R6 to null the voltage offset. Works fine now, but this is just a rough reverse engineer of the diagram, the parts values and the type of transistors are essentially placeholders.

The input jFET is shown as a dual package. The output bias current is most likely much lower than the 100 mA I configured, so the class A output power is proportionately smaller. For the rest of the currents and the types of transistors used, your guess is as good as mine.

edit: R7 should most likely be closer to 47 ohms, while another 5p capacitor should go in parallel with the feedback resistor, R17.
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The Pentamond

Posted 10th November 2013 at 05:17 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)

A rainy and cold afternoon here in Kyoto. The mind turns to audio circuits... headphone amplifiers... diamond buffers...

This is an answer to the question of how you scale up the basic diamond buffer circuit to higher output currents without making any modifications to the driving transistor pair.

You just add more outputs in parallel.

It seems to work pretty well under simulation.
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