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If I put my notes here, I might be able to find them again later!
The Lab Circuit ideas and innovations, not yet part of a full project.
Old

Sapphire Line Preamplifier - My Build Notes

Posted 28th July 2016 at 03:15 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 5th August 2016 at 02:14 PM by rjm (add measurement data)

Introduction

This is my build log for relatively basic line preamplifier based on rev. 30f boards of the Sapphire3 headphone amplifier. I modified the circuit to run at lower currents (about 10 mA output bias) and adjusted the gain settings to 10/16 dB.

It is built in a Hammond 1550 cast auminum chassis, with an external Plitron 160VA 2x12VAC rectified power supply. The volume control is a 50k Goldpoint V24 stepped attenuator, while the RCA jacks are rhodium plated from Oyaide. The feature set is limited to two switchable line inputs and an output mute.

Chassis Layout Notes

Audio components are conventionally designed as rack-mounted equipment with all controls on the front panel and all connectors on the rear panel. To try and keep internal cabling to a minimum I'm modelling my preamp more like a recording console with both the controls and I/O on the top plate.

Build Notes

All components mounted...
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File Type: zip Sapphire Line 30f vol -10dB RMAA report.zip (32.3 KB, 16 views)
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Old

Just the buffer, ma'am.

Posted 28th July 2016 at 02:05 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 21st August 2016 at 11:49 PM by rjm (added BOM)

I've had quite a few requests for the bboard buffer circuit without the built-in regulators, so here is a bboard 2.1 standalone 2-layer board, measuring 5x8 cm. Gerber files attached in zip file.

It is designed for +/-12 V rails, but the circuit will work with anything from +/-5 V to +/-18 V. A regulated power supply is recommended.

This is a line buffer. It intended to drive cables, not headphones.

Available for $15/pair shipped. Several people have asked me about kits. I figured the BOM was so basic it wouldn't be necessary but I can send you the boards with the parts to populate them for $50/shipped. You will still need to provide the power supply.

BOM attached.
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File Type: zip pcb-bb-21f-bom.zip (82.8 KB, 7 views)
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Old

Sapphire Line Preamplifier

Posted 24th July 2016 at 01:11 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 26th July 2016 at 11:45 PM by rjm

Although the original Sapphire headphone amp can be configured as a line stage, or use as-is as a line stage, I've gone ahead and made a new circuit variant with a new set of boards.

The Sapphire Line (in development) combines the shunt-series regulator, bboard 2.0 buffer and an op amp voltage gain stage. Same basic idea as the Sapphire of course, but with a much less beefy output stage so the low noise regulator can be added and everything still fits on the board.

rev 10e - now with support for 2520 op amp modules
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Old

Quick note on line level output currents

Posted 18th July 2016 at 03:58 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 22nd July 2016 at 10:41 PM by rjm

Consumer audio standard line level output is -10 dB, 0.316 V rms [dB = 20 * log (V/1V)]. Some devices like computer sound cards can boost that at the max volume settings, my Asus Xonar can do 6 dB or 2 V rms. Quite a lot of digital audio produces 2 V rms output, DACs and CD players and not just computer sound cards.

The amount of output current required by the line driver is the signal level divided by the load impedance, so to estimate the worst case scenario we have to consider the smallest practical load and the largest likely signal. The input impedance of consumer audio is typically 10k to 100k. 10k is the lowest design point, but sometimes people do strange things like drive two components at once which halves the value, or headphones, or pro audio gear with 600 ohm inputs.

The long and short of it, though, is that consumer audio inputs are never normally going to draw more than 1 mA. For pro audio the maximum is meanwhile 3 mA. 5 mA bias current through...
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Old

A Rant on Why Passive Preamps are Totally Stupid

Posted 16th July 2016 at 02:04 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 20th July 2016 at 09:57 PM by rjm (corrected attenuator output impedance in attached diagram)

A [just my opinion, bro] post...

I actually had occasion to try this the other week. I had a box with a volume control followed by the bboard unity gain buffer and in preparation for replacing it with a similar buffer with voltage gain (a power-derated Sapphire 3) I removed the buffer and briefly used the box as passive preamp, i.e. just the 47k stepped attuator, with 1 m interconnects to the amp and 2 m interconnects back to the phono stage. Sure enough the system noise increased, depending on the position of the volume control, with some nasty low level buzzing interference.

Why does this happen? It's pretty simple really. Noise is usually induced as a current, and the larger the resistance (impedance) this noise current is forced to flow through to reach circuit common, the larger the noise voltage since by Ohm's Law, V=IR. Noise induced between the volume control and the amp is faced with the high impedance of the amp (47k) or the output impedance of the...
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Old

RC filter coupling capacitor calculator

Posted 16th July 2016 at 12:54 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 16th July 2016 at 01:10 AM by rjm

When I need to pick the right capacitor for a coupling capacitor, rather than working out the time constant or 3dB cutoff I just remember the mnemonic "0.1-220" (meaning 0.1 uF and 220 kohms) and adjust the ratio up/down for the resistance I happen to be looking at: 0.22-100, 1-22, 0.47-47.

This amounts to a time constant (t=RC) of 20 ms, and 3 dB cutoff of 7 Hz. The bass attenuation at 20 Hz is half a dB.

If there are several stages the attenuation of all these filters add up, so it can be a good idea to make the capacitance about twice as large. There is rarely any advantage making it much larger still.

Excel worksheet attached. It spits out all the numbers so you don't have to guess.

* calculating the attenuation involves complex numbers. Zr=R, Zc=-i/(2 pi f RC), attenuation (high pass) = | Zr / (Zr+Zc) |. In excel you can use IMSUM, IMDIV, and IMABS to do the complex math.
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Old

INs and OUTs of the Asus Xonar Essence STX PCIe computer sound card

Posted 26th June 2016 at 08:12 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 18th July 2016 at 03:42 AM by rjm

Asus Xonar Essence STX, Audacity 2.1.2, VLC, Windows 10 [and DigiOnSound6 Express for 24 bit recording]

Purpose

To confirm the calibration of the sound card input and output gain. Also, to determine the relationship between the signal voltage, the recorded signal amplitude displayed in Audacity, and the signal peak and noise baseline levels in the FFT spectra.

Summary

* Setting the volume slider of the device output to 100 gives 1 V rms output for an amplitude 0.5 sine wave.
* Setting the volume slider of the device recording line input to 100 gives records a 1 V rms tone as an amplitude 0.5 sine wave, which is displayed in the frequency spectrum (FFT) as peak of magnitude 0 dB in Audacity when both channels are averaged.
* volume setting 100 needed for unity gain loopback.
* 0.5 amplitude sine wave = 0 dB FFT = 1 V rms.
* noise baseline in averaged stereo FFT is 3 dB lower than single channel measurement....
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File Type: zip RMAA report Xonar STX loop back.zip (29.2 KB, 19 views)
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Old

VSPSX phono stage design idea

Posted 24th June 2016 at 12:48 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 24th June 2016 at 02:54 AM by rjm

The original VSPS is getting up in years, and could do with a bit of an update.

The VSPSX adds the foursquare shunt-source voltage regulator and bboard v2.1 output buffer.

The LTSpice schematic below abbreviates the transformer, rectifiers, and filter capacitors as V1 and V2. Op amp OP27 is a placeholder.

My main concern would be fitting all this stuff on a 80x100 board. That and, well, I'm not totally convinced yet that the complexity vs. reward ratio makes its worthwhile.
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Old

Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio. Part 12 : The Foursquare Shunt-Source

Posted 17th June 2016 at 01:44 PM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 20th June 2016 at 08:37 AM by rjm

I'm not totally sure this would work as advertised, but I can't see any obvious reason why it would not...

It's pretty much the same circuit as I used in the CrystalFET, which started out in a previous blog post in the Voltage Regulators for Line Level Audio series, but here I've replaced the MOSFETs with bipolars. It is shown configured to deliver 20 mA @ 12 V, split supply. Enough to power an op amp phono stage for example, or a preamp, or the voltage gain stage of a headphone amplifier.
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Old

Bboard buffer 2.0 (yet another version "2")

Posted 13th May 2016 at 08:22 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 27th May 2016 at 12:47 AM by rjm

A little bit of the sapphire headphone amp output stage, and a little bit of the LSK489 application note of all things (scroll down to Fig 10.).

Yes, this is probably the third "version 2" of this line buffer I've posted... I keep tossing it out and starting over. This variant looks pretty good: though the transistor count is a little high for such a basic function the performance is definitely there.

The main innovation re. the sapphire circuit is to replace the bias set resistors with diodes made out of the Vbe of transistors Q9 and Q10. This generates more voltage than is ideal, but can be handled by using largish values for the emitter resistors R13 and R14. Since this is a line stage buffer and not a headphone amplifier the output impedance of about 30 ohms and the limited output current swing are not critical flaws. It will drive 600 ohms at 0 dB with 0.001% THD. The whole circuit draws just 150 mW. The input impedance is a very high ~15 Mohms...
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File Type: asc bboard buffer 20.asc (4.6 KB, 92 views)
File Type: asc bboard buffer 21.asc (4.6 KB, 90 views)
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