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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
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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Old

Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part III : The Z-reg

Posted 17th January 2014 at 04:35 AM by rjm
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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Old

Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part II : The Pass Transistor

Posted 16th January 2014 at 04:14 AM by rjm
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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Old

Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part I : Zeners

Posted 15th January 2014 at 11:34 PM by rjm
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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Old

Hakko FX-888 : ebay unhappiness

Posted 29th May 2013 at 12:12 PM by rjm
Updated 29th May 2013 at 11:59 PM by rjm

Oh, for Heaven's sake...

Just got the FX-888 soldering station I bought on ebay.

It does not power up.

Do you know why it doesn't power up?

So glad you asked...

It does not power up because - pause for effect - the fuse board that fits on the power transformer is inserted the wrong way round. That's right, the full "rotated 180 degrees" deal.

Fortunately I have another soldering iron. You know, so I can fix my soldering iron...

*****

I would just return it, but the shipping would cost me half again what I paid for it. Perhaps ebay will refund me anyway. We'll see.

I think I know what happened: The people selling these are modding them by changing the voltage and power cord. The soldering stations are officially bound for the Chinese domestic market, 220 VAC. The box, when it came, had "110V" hand-written on it, though the instructions...
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Old

A catalog of headphone amplifier circuits.

Posted 19th May 2013 at 10:45 AM by rjm
Updated 21st May 2013 at 12:12 AM by rjm

Lots of circuits out there, but most are variations of a small set of archetypes. Let's see if I can put together a list:

1. Dedicated headphone amplifier IC. e.g.(lme49860)

2. Battery powered, single stage, generic audio op amp. The ever-popular mint tin cmoy.

3. Op amp + buffer (complementary transistor pair, diamond buffer, unity gain op amp, etc, in either integrated or discrete package.)
a. closed loop connection or "compound amplifier" configuration as developed by Walt Jung.
b. open loop, two stage circuit, e.g. nwavguy o2 and my sapphire amp.

4. simple 2 or 3 transistor "introduction to electronics"-style amplifier

5. The "little big amp", a scaled back version of a transistor or vacuum tube power amplifier design. (Zen, DoZ, transformer coupled SET amps)

6. The power follower. Single-ended MOSFET or BJT, with or without CCS load, voltage...
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Old

Audacity sucks.

Posted 9th May 2013 at 02:50 PM by rjm
Updated 10th May 2013 at 03:35 AM by rjm

Under windows at least, Audacity is unable to record audio at bitrates above 16 bit.

It will seem to, all right, but the data is quantized at 16 bit (30 microvolt LSB), regardless of the settings chosen.

The attached images show the same source, the first recording is made in Audacity, supposedly 24 bit, but actually only 16 bit, while the second is recorded with a program than actually supports 24 bit, exported, and imported into Audacity. The data is amplified +70dB in both cases to make the difference visible.

Audacity will happily manipulate and save high bit rate data, but as a result of licensing restrictions and on account of it being freeware, it does not support the actual recording of this data.

***

Any internet search will confirm that the Windows version of Audacity is limited to 16 bit recording. And yes, it's more of a limitation of Windows than it is of Audacity. My irritation, however, is chiefly with Audacity...
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Old

Google+ DIY Audio community.

Posted 7th December 2012 at 10:06 PM by rjm
Updated 14th April 2013 at 11:14 PM by rjm

There was no DIY Audio community on Google+.

So I made one.

Google+ has always been a "quiet room" where like-minded people got together to talk about things, away from the noise and chaos of facebook.

The problem was that it was difficult to find said like-minded people. They were there, but for the majority you had no way of knowing that.

Well, now Google has fixed that by introducing "communities". It's a user-created hub, a digital meeting room ~ salon ~ lounge ~ front porch, a designated gathering place associated with a certain hobby, interest, or topic.

This feature is brand new, so I have no idea whether it will work. It could, like facebook, devolve into noise and spam... or it might be useful and worthwhile. I think its worth a shot, anyway.

I created the group, but it is free and open. It's not mine in the sense I don't intend to use it as a platform. I have my own G+ page for...
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Old

NwAvGuy odac 24/96 DAC review

Posted 23rd June 2012 at 07:02 AM by rjm
Updated 2nd July 2012 at 04:52 PM by rjm

I cased up my odac board (NwAvGuy via jtktam) in a small aluminum project box.

The DAC is a simple two-chip affair, with a Tenor TE7022L controller fronting the ESS ES9023 DAC and integrated line driver. A couple of voltage regulators, the clock oscillator, and an eeprom chip round out the principle component list.

I compared it with my Onkyo SE-200PCI sound card. This 24/192 (115dB S/N A-weighted, 0.003% THD 0dB 1kHz) PCI card sells for about $15,000 yen and is based on the VIA Envy24HT and Wolfson WM8740.

I'm listening to 16bit 44.1kHz .wav (CD rips), though VLC [sample rate converter set to sinc, best quality, resampling quality 8]. Windows 8 release preview [default format 24/192 (onkyo), 24/96 (odac)]. Line out though Oyaide PA-02TR interconnects to the Sapphire headphone amp, and Sennheiser HD-600s.

**

So, I was planning on writing up a big 'ol review with my impressions, but, well... there's not really a...
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Old

Project "Originality" Headphone Amplifier by Tao Kurohane

Posted 11th June 2012 at 12:35 PM by rjm
Updated 11th June 2012 at 11:32 PM by rjm

http://kstlab.web.fc2.com/pro003.html

It is certainly a little bit different. One might be tempted to say "gilding the lily", but come on, headphone amplifiers are just the right place for these indulgences.

Building your own long tailed pair (LTP) to bolt in front of an IC op amp has fallen out of favor in recent years. I must admit I couldn't see the point then, and still don't.

I've seen a number of headphone amp circuits with 3 paralleled pairs of output devices. I wonder if there any real advantage over simply using one pair at 3x the current, perhaps with slightly larger transistors?
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