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X-reg Evaluation Boards

Posted 7th April 2012 at 12:15 AM by rjm
Updated 9th April 2012 at 03:37 AM by rjm

Once in a while I get emails asking after the X-reg evaluation boards. These are handy little 5x8 cm test boards for the X-reg voltage regulator - or they would be, if I had ever bothered to get a set made.

Since the circuit is built into the VSPS300 and Phonoclone 3, it wasn't really a big priority.

Anyhow, yesterday I re-drew the evaluation boards and I'll be getting a batch made in the near future, along with some of the stereo VSPS that people were also asking after recently. They won't exactly fly off the shelves, but I started to feel bad for those few people who actually wanted them.
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Old

Headphone Amplifier Gain

Posted 2nd April 2012 at 08:45 AM by rjm
Updated 2nd April 2012 at 11:43 AM by rjm

I posted this earlier today, but I think it deserves to be put in the blog - if nothing else so I can find it again next time ... and there always seems to be a next time when it comes to calculating headphone amplifier gains.

Starting at the beginning, the encoded data on a CD goes from 0 to 1 in 2^16 steps, but in a typical CD player or soundcard, the DAC output is -2.8 V to 2.8 V or 2 V rms or 6 dB. Many sources, such as phono stages and portable audio, are lower, perhaps as low as 250 mV.

How loud the sound is depends on the source signal amplitude, the position of the volume control, the circuit gain, and the impedance and sensitivity of the headphones.

As a practical matter, most people would want the volume control at the 9-10 o'clock position for "normal" listening.

For standard "line level" source, the gain required to keep the volume control at a 9-10 o'clock varies depending on the impedance...
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Old

Pimp My Board Contest Results

Posted 31st March 2012 at 12:20 PM by rjm
Updated 31st March 2012 at 12:28 PM by rjm

I did get a couple of responses to my invitation. Well, two, actually.

So congratulations! Free boards will be heading your way in about a month, and I'll throw in most if not all the parts, too.

First was simonov's entry. He's clearly done this several times before. His confident layout ticks all the right buttons: ground plane (check), thermal isolation (check), clean, geometric layout (check). One jumper required, but that's a very minor offence.

Click the image to open in full size.

While I allowed modifications of the circuit, simonov went and redesigned pretty much the whole thing. CCS replaces the source resistor, current limiter and capacitance multiplier blocks added. The BOM was starting to spiral, and no longer uses my standard parts set so I'd have difficulty supplying kits based on his design. His modifications, although certainly improvements, ended up counting against him....
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Old

Conduction Angle, Or Why You Need a Bigger Power Transformer Than You Think You Need

Posted 29th March 2012 at 04:35 PM by rjm

I tell people: "Buy a nice, heavy power transformer. It will sound better."

They are skeptical, because the circuit only draws a couple of watts, and less than 100 mA current.

The image below shows how the power transformer, and rectifier diodes, actually work much harder than you would estimate from looking at the output power.

It shows a zener regulated supply with a load drawing 100 mA at 20 V. That's 2 W.

As a result of the capacitor input filter directly after the diodes, however, the diodes and transformer do not conduct current all the time, but instead for just a couple of milliseconds twice every cycle of the AC wave. They have to supply all the output current in just that short space of time. As you can see in the simulation, the diodes are pushing peak currents well in excess of 1A or 10x the output current. This is a typical "normal" power supply with a initial ripple ratio of a modest 1/40, things...
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Old

Chigusa Modern Jazz and Coffee

Posted 28th March 2012 at 07:41 AM by rjm
Updated 28th March 2012 at 07:57 AM by rjm

I was fortunate to stumble across this place on a trip to Yokohama earlier this week.

http://g.co/maps/nzebr

I was walking around the area near Sakuragicho Stn. after dinner, and, through the windows I could make out a back wall filled with LPs, two turntables built into the bar countertop, and a pair of giant multi-way speakers. The sign out front said "Modern Jazz and Coffee". So, naturally, I went in.

First, the history of the place as it was explained to me:

First opened in 1933. Destroyed by American bombs during the war, 6000 SP records gone, re-opened, and was in business until the owners death in 1994, then taken over and run by the owners younger sister until 2007, when, at the age of 77 (!) she gave it up. Volunteers somehow managed to preserve the records and furnishings, including the sound system, and, some 5 years later, decided to relocate and reopen at a nearby location just, if I've got this right, a...
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Old

Pimp my board contest

Posted 19th March 2012 at 09:51 PM by rjm

I just remembered I hadn't announced it here on the blog. Time to change that.

I'm holding a little contest, to encourage people to get into circuit board design, and to showcase the talent on tap here at diyaudio.

The idea is pretty simple. I hand out a circuit schematic, you design a circuit board based on the schematic. It's all done in Eagle CAD software, which is free to download and available on Mac/Windows/Linux platforms.

The circuit is a headphone amplifier of my design, and fairly simple. It's easy enough to come up with a workable layout, the trick is to come up with a really good one, that is small, convenient, clear, logical, good looking and that follows sound electrical design practice.

Winner will get a pair of boards, complete with all components, built by me. Runners up get sent pairs of the winning board design.

Deadline is the end of the month, so get on it!

All the info is here....
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Old

B-boards line/headphone buffer stage up and running!

Posted 25th February 2012 at 11:43 PM by rjm
Updated 1st March 2012 at 01:29 PM by rjm

The B-board line buffer is back from the fab and running on the bench.

Cute little board. Diamond buffer with BD-135/136 transistors and a built in Z-reg. Designed to buffer the output of op amp circuits to help drive cables and otherwise isolate the op amp feedback loop from the big bad outside world. It can also be used as a unity gain preamplifier, or, with by changing a couple of resistors and adding small heatsinks, to drive headphones.

Development thread here.

UPDATE: Also finished a second set of boards, configured as a headphone driver (5x bias current, heatsinks).
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Old

Voltage regulators and ... something almost as good?

Posted 17th February 2012 at 09:55 PM by rjm
Updated 6th March 2012 at 04:21 PM by rjm

A real, honest-to-goodness voltage regulator has three parts: a fixed voltage reference, an error amplifier, and a pass element.

Most people only put eyeballs on the final, all-wrapped-up-in-a-tidy-IC-package version, typified by the LM7812, or with a couple of extra gain-set resistors, the LM317. These chips have a working bandwidth about about 2 kHz, as they are designed to 1) reduce 120 Hz ripple and 2) be rock stable no matter what abuse they are subjected to. As a result at audio frequencies and above they are pretty much noise generators...

Knowing this, many people have set out to build better regulators for audio work.

The most obvious route is to build a high performance LM7812 from discrete components. (Most excellent review here.) AD797 for the error amplifier, high stability, low noise voltage reference, etc. The trick though, is stability. The LM7812 is low bandwidth not because it's too cheap to manage anything better, but because...
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Old

"Activator 2" FET preamp for .. guitars and basses?

Posted 13th February 2012 at 10:48 PM by rjm
Updated 2nd April 2012 at 02:04 AM by rjm

I have been doing a web-dredge, searching for simple, single supply, transistor buffer/gain stages, preferably FET-based.

This one seems interesting.

The designer, Henry Nurdin, has kindly posted a full schematic.

Ignore the fact for a moment that it's designed as a tiny battery-operated module to retrofit into electric guitars, the basic circuit block with 5-6 dB non-inverting gain could be used as a front end for a headphone buffer stage like, I'm thinking especially, the Szekeres MOSFET buffer.

That's if the bandwidth is sufficient for high-end audio (should be!?) and, slightly more worrisome, acceptable gain matching between channels can be achieved without resorting to trim pots.

This circuit reminds me of something. ... Sziklai pair? Time to do some more dredging...

Ah, bingo!

Update:

And with some jiggery-pockery this is taking shape as a (yet another) headphone amplifier....
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Old

Converting Eagle printed circuit board layout files to Gerber format

Posted 10th February 2012 at 11:20 PM by rjm
Updated 26th November 2013 at 11:39 PM by rjm

File this under "things-I-should-have-learnt-to-do-many-years-ago-but-was-too-lazy-to-bother".

Many pcb fab outfits that do business with hobbyists and DIYers choose to accept Eagle .brd files, which means they do the conversion to Gerber output so you don't have to. I've relied on that for far too long, but when an error showed up in one the .pdf proofs on the last batch of boards I sent out for fabrication, they asked me to send the Gerber files instead. So I bit the bullet and after a couple of false starts managed to give them what they wanted. Looking back at it, it was easy and something I should have learnt, as I wrote up above, years ago, but, for posterity, here's how it's done:

Eagle 6.1~6.5 on Windows
  1. Make a working folder for the Gerber files.
  2. Copy the Eagle board (.brd) file to this directory.
  3. Open Eagle (version 6.1)
  4. Select menu item "file/open/CAM job"
  5. The open file dialog appears, defaulting to the Eagle
...
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