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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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Old

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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Old

Oh, MY!

Posted 23rd January 2012 at 06:51 AM by rjm

Denon DL-A100

Transparent DL-103 for Denon's 100th anniversary.
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Old

The new system, up and running.

Posted 22nd January 2012 at 10:52 AM by rjm
Updated 25th January 2012 at 07:57 AM by rjm

So now we have the model 0247 DAC/preamp/headphone amplifier and model 0347 power amplifier in the main system. That's the old Denon DP-2000 TT, Phonoclone 3, and Onkyo D-605SR speakers.

The gain of the 0347 is 30 dB, so with the 0247 doing duty as a preamp the overall gain is a tad high, but it's perfectly useable. I'll look at the passive preamp options (including the model 0447) at a later date.

Anyhow, the big news is it completely destroys the non-inverting LM3875 Gainclone I have been using for the last decade, so badly, in fact, I'm starting to wonder if my Gainclone was busted. In comparison with the 0347 it sounds like a distorted, uncontrolled mess.

Since my speakers are really very modest in quality (though at 82dB and 6 ohms, a bit of a rough load) I wasn't expecting much difference one way the other, so this comes as a severe shock.

Unfortunately I'm not within reach of a good reference system to give the 0347 a real evaluation....
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Old

47 Labs Treasure 0347 : trials and tribulations

Posted 20th January 2012 at 11:48 AM by rjm

And not even sure what a tribulation is, but I'm sure I've had at least one building this amp.

Like the 0247 it's not so much difficult as it is painstaking hard work. The output transistors have to be mounted "just so" so the boards screw to the case properly, the wiring of the thermal protection transistors and gluing them to the output devices is tricky and easy to mess up.

I triple-checked and was rewarded by, it seems, error free boards. I messed up and wired the mute switch incorrectly though (the photos show it wrong, in case you come across this blog post looking for help) and I think the switch has a fault somehow as L and R channels appear to me mixed together. Taming the offsets gave me considerable grief but I think its all OK now.

Tomorrow I'll hook it up to the speakers and see what happens.
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Old

A different design aesthetic.

Posted 17th January 2012 at 10:52 AM by rjm
Updated 25th January 2012 at 10:21 PM by rjm

I like the concept of appearance in high-end audio. I mean, where the look of the equipment makes a statement about what it's all about inside.

The 0347 is proportioned like a vintage tube receiver, but in miniature. It even has the lit, transparent front panel where the radio tuning strip would have resided. The heavy grey hammertone and very simple, basic hardware are reminiscent of Heathkit or Dynaco. In short, the appearance evokes the spirit of a simpler, more innocent age of vintage hifi without being a slavish replica.
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Old

Another package in the mail...

Posted 14th January 2012 at 10:30 AM by rjm

The 47 Labs "Treasure" stereo amplifier kit model 0367 has just arrived here at RJM Audio central command.

61,500 yen delivered, a tad more than the model 0247 headphone amplifier / DAC. Basically lose the volume control and DAC board, gain a bigger transformer and a thick aluminum bottom plate that serves as the heatsink... the amplifier circuit itself is almost identical, just with a slightly bulked-up output stage and the addition of certain safety considerations such as fine tune-able bias current and thermal protection for the output transistors.

Which makes an unusual circuit for a power amplifier: the output stage is a unity gain current buffer running open loop. For a headphone amp that's justafiable because the bias current is such that the amp will almost always be running in class A. For a power amp rated 40 W into 4 ohms, it's class AB.

Mr. Tsukahara seems pretty pleased with the result though, and I am anxious to try it...
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Old

This vs. that.

Posted 12th January 2012 at 11:41 PM by rjm
Updated 26th January 2012 at 05:42 AM by rjm

47 Labs 0247 vs. RJM Audio Sapphire

I wasn't even aware that the folks at 47 Labs were developing a headphone amplifier until after the Sapphire was finished, and I'm sure they didn't know what I was working on, so it's all the more remarkable just how similar the two designs are. Two separate answers from two separate people sharing the same general design philosophy.

Similarities:

- Solid state op amp voltage stage front end and solid state push-pull buffer running open loop for the output stage.
- Gain of 5-6x (14-16 dB)
- 20-30 mA bias current in the output stage.
- All BJT circuit** (see footnote)
- Use of "diamond buffer" circuit element. (Albeit in very different ways)
- 10 V voltage rails, split supply.

Differences:

- My voltage stage is an OPA134, or any 8 pin DIP op amp IC. 47 Labs voltage stage is a fully discrete current feedback op amp with a diamond buffer...
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