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Old

The case of the crazy Sapphire amp.

Posted 3rd April 2014 at 01:24 AM by rjm
Updated 3rd April 2014 at 11:07 AM by rjm

Case report:

A set of Sapphire boards gave the proper V+, V- voltages out of the Z-reg, providing about 10.5 and -10.5 to op amp power pins. The output offsets were unusually high however, apparently at about 2 V in one board, and somewhat less in the other. Typically the offsets are in the order of +/-15 mV.

Changing out transistors and op amps did not help, and to all inspection the passive components were installed correctly and working properly. The offset voltages were extremely temperature sensitive. Measurements for the various circuit voltages were just screwy enough to be inconclusive.

I could ask for no more tests, so requested the boards be sent back to me. I found the circuit basically worked as expected, but the offsets were indeed high on both boards, though I measured 0.6 V max rather than 2 V.

***** stop here and make a guess *****

Blowing on the board through a soda straw, the offset shot up when I blew on...
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Old

Upgrading the Sapphire headphone amplifier (photos)

Posted 17th December 2013 at 10:10 PM by rjm
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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Old

Sapphire Headphone Amplifier rev. 2.0

Posted 21st November 2013 at 11:45 PM by rjm
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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Old

J-Mo Mk. II vs. Szekeres, distortion comparison

Posted 3rd May 2013 at 08:24 AM by rjm
Updated 5th May 2013 at 11:52 PM by rjm

Two headphone amplifiers sharing the same basic MOSFET source follower output stage.

When the source current and source resistance are optimized for the given headphone load and similar maximum output power (~50 mW at 1% THD), the distortion pattern vs. output power is remarkably similar.

One plot below is simulation, the other measurements. The J-Mo 2 simulation closely matched the actual measurements, it wasn't worth my while to generate a full simulated data set when I already had the measurements on hand. No reason to suspect that the Szekeres sim is inaccurate, either.

The take home message is the distortion characteristic of a MOSFET follower is what it is, and unavoidable. Take it or leave it, as it were. However - and this is key - if you don't optimize the stage for the headphone impedance, the distortion for a given output power will increase significantly.

As an aside: Greg did his homework with the original circuit....
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Old

X-reg voltage stabilizer LTSPICE file

Posted 15th March 2013 at 01:54 AM by rjm
Updated 20th March 2013 at 01:47 AM by rjm

I did up the X-reg circuit in LTSpice.

Results shown below, together with the LTSpice .asc file you can use to play around with this yourself.

First attached image shows FFT for the rectified DC (green), reference voltage (red) and X-reg output (blue) for the designed-for 10 mA output (top) and a more punishing 100 mA (bottom).

Second image shows an LTSpice screengrab for the LT1086 with bypassed adj pin under comparable loading. Input voltage in blue, output in green. This is a reasonable approximation of a "good" IC regulator.

Last image shows a plot of the exported LTSpice FFT data for the X-reg and the LT1086-12V (Cin 1000uF, Cout 100uF) both at nominal currents of 10 mA. The LT1086-12V is a reasonable substitute for a generic LM7812, i.e. a "bad" IC regulator.

A typical op amp will have sufficient PSRR to mop of the residual noise from the bypassed LT1086. The fixed LT1086-12V, on the...
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Old

Phonoclone boards, soldering, and Q1, Q2.

Posted 7th February 2013 at 05:34 AM by rjm

This is in response to several recent emails I've received, where people were having problems with, typically, one board having a bad V+ or V- regulated voltage output.

The number of cases relative to the number of boards shipped caused me to worry that a manufacturing error might have occurred, so at my request I had a customer return the phonoclone boards he had built to me for inspection.

I'm happy to report that the problem was traced to poor soldering technique, the boards themselves are fine. What had happened was solder had cooled before the component had fully settled, and pushing the component down to the board surface then tore the trace away from the bottom of the board, breaking the circuit.

Subsequently, thinking the transistors blown, he replaced them, doing a fair bit of damage to the pads of Q1, Q2.

Fortunately, I was able to fairly quickly set everything to rights, and the boards are now on their way back to him....
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Old

B-board Boxer Project : A Low Voltage Headphone Amplifier for 16 ohm Loads

Posted 7th July 2012 at 12:19 AM by rjm
Updated 29th September 2012 at 02:58 AM by rjm

I always seem to end up optimizing my headphone amplifier circuits for higher impedance headphones, this mostly happens because I own a pair of 300 ohm HD-600s and it is tedious to design for both the voltage requirements of high impedance headphones and the current requirements of low impedance headphones.

Not impossible, just, for the class-A designs I seem to be building recently, increasingly large, heavy, and impractical.

Complimentary transistor circuits, however, offer the opportunity to swap voltage for current at something close to the same design cost. They are therefore a practical topology for efficient class-A power delivery into low impedance headphones. As a design experiment, my aim is to discover how far I can leverage an ultra-low-voltage, unity gain circuit for compactness without sacrificing sound quality.

Ok. Back-of-the-envelope calculations:

A typical 16 ohm in-ear-headphone has a sensitivity of 100-105...
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Old

The Double-Diamond Amplifier (DDA)

Posted 13th June 2012 at 06:09 AM by rjm
Updated 16th June 2012 at 02:57 PM by rjm

This isn't my first attempt. It's been on my mind for a while: how to coax a diamond buffer into giving voltage gain, without resorting to fronting it with a op amp.

After reading a particularly gregarious thread over in the headphone forum, I'm more and more stoked on giving this a real shot.

Despite the (catchy) name I'm thinking pre-amplifier rather than amplifier applications.

update: I have have a quick and dirty sim up and running in ltspice. Curiously, the output distortion is 15 dB lower when the buffer runs open loop than when it is included inside the feedback loop. Intrigued. Currently under investigation.

update: refined the sim slightly, achieved -85 dB distortion levels at 0 dB / 1 kHz / 600 ohms running the output buffer open loop. Bandwidth is just under 1 MHz, adjusted by changing the feedback resistance. As before, performance sims out notably worse with the buffer
inside the feedback loop.
...
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Old

Bypassing, Goldilocks, and the Sound of Nothing

Posted 31st May 2012 at 06:28 PM by rjm
Updated 1st June 2012 at 11:53 PM by rjm

Douglas Self writes,
Quote:
The 5532 and 5534 type op-amps require adequate supply decoupling if they are to remain stable, otherwise they appear to be subject to some sort of internal oscillation that degrades linearity without being visible on a normal oscilloscope. The essential requirement is that the positive and negative rails should be decoupled with a 100 nF capacitor between them, at a distance of not more than a few millimeters from the op-amp; normally one such capacitor is fitted per package as close to it as possible.
He's someone who should know. Anyway, it doesn't take much digging on the internet to confirm beyond reasonable doubt that bypass caps should be as close to the op amp power pins as possible. So thinking about my previous experiments with bypassing the Sapphire, by adding bypass caps around the transistors I also effectively also added a bypass for the op amp, but a rather poor one as the power-pin-to-power-pin round trip loop distance is probably 10...
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Old

Ceramic capacitors : who knew?

Posted 12th May 2012 at 01:15 AM by rjm
Updated 28th May 2012 at 11:51 PM by rjm

This I have been experimenting - call it a hunch - on the effects of bypassing electrolytic capcitors (Nichicon FW and KW) with 0.1 uF TDK ceramics (Mouser 810-FK28X7S2A104K) with the diamond buffer circuit used in both my B-board preamp and Sapphire headphone amplifier.

This being a mod, I had to solder the caps to the underside of the boards, attached to the leads of the Nichicon 100uF electrolyic capacitors.

I used four ceramics per channel, one per active device in the diamond buffer if you like.

I did several other changes on the B-board at the same time, so it wasn't obvious until I modded the Sapphire in the same way what was the result of the bypassing. Anyway, with both the improvement was immediate and dramatic: any sense of "transistor-like" treble glare is completely quenched. The whole top end takes a step backwards, not in extension, but in prominence.

Less audiophile detail, more swinging mojo.

Update...
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