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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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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.

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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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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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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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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"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!


And with some jiggery-pockery this is taking shape as a (yet another) headphone amplifier....
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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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Audio op amp comparison NE5534A vs. OPA134

Posted 10th February 2012 at 10:49 PM by rjm
Updated 11th February 2012 at 02:48 AM by rjm

Finally got around to some more comparison listening with the Sapphire headphone amplifier. To recap: the circuit has an open loop diamond buffer output, so the op amp is just providing voltage gain. It configured for a non-inverting gain of 21 dB to match my 300 ohm HD600 headphones. Pretty much textbook operating conditions.

The op amp inputs are impedance balanced at about 1 kohm. This is about the crossover point where you start thinking about using FET input stages, but BJTs should still be fine.

I'm interested to see if there is a definite signature to a FET-input opamp. The original build called for an OPA134, which is a JFET input circuit. I tried the OPA27, which is a low-noise, high-input-current BJT design, and last night I tried the NE5534A, a classic general purpose audio opamp with bipolar inputs.

I've long been in agreement with Douglas Self on the NE5532/NE5534 : anyone who reports these op amps sound bad is either not using...
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RJM Z-reg + Pass B1

Posted 3rd February 2012 at 11:53 PM by rjm
Updated 4th February 2012 at 12:01 AM by rjm

I was asked to suggest a voltage regulator for the First Watt (Pass DIY) B1 buffer. One thing led to another and the next thing I'd sketched up a circuit board for the buffer as well as the regulator.

It's like a B-board, but with the JFET buffer instead of the diamond buffer, and with a single supply and, hence, the coupling caps front and back. Since it's using JFETs for the buffer I used a JFET for the pass device in the regulator, too.

Full credit to Nelson Pass for his design.

Eagle files do not show 2SK170 because the package is not in Eagle. All transistors 2SK170 or equivalent. Zener is 18-22V DO35 or DO41 i.e. Vishay BZX85. V++ is 5-15 V above whatever you select the Zener reference to be.
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The Z-reg

Posted 1st February 2012 at 10:58 PM by rjm
Updated 2nd April 2012 at 02:02 AM by rjm

This is a followup of sorts to the X-reg, though there is nothing original about the circuit this time around.

It's just a Zener voltage regulator with a series pass transistor. I lifted this particular configuration from the Pionner C-21 preamplifier and re-tuned it for op amp applications. My main interest here is trying to make a small and convenient board layout.

I've used this circuit block already in the Sapphire amp and come away impressed.

The output is about 1 V less than the Zener voltage, and the input voltage should be about 3-6 V above the Zener reference voltage. I'm working here with 17 V unregulated supply and 12 V Zeners, but the values can be reconfigured easily enough for any output from 4-24 V

This is a low current circuit. If you are just powering a few op amps, no heatsinks are needed. Above 25 mA small heatsinks are a good idea. The circuit is not designed for output currents above 100 mA.
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