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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

CFA audio gainblock - a second take

Posted 16th December 2016 at 01:21 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 16th December 2016 at 01:28 AM by rjm

This is either an ingenious interfacing of the output buffer and current feedback amplifier by adding second arm to the central current mirrors ... or it's another really bad idea(tm).

It simulates nicely though.

[What's happening here is current output of collector Q9 is no longer being asked to bias and drive the buffer Q16. Instead Q2 and Q17 do that job. The change lowers distortion, improves bandwidth, and even raises the PSRR a little.]
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Old

A slightly different kind of voltage amplifier

Posted 12th December 2016 at 10:44 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 21st December 2016 at 04:50 AM by rjm

(which is a current feedback amplifier)

Lately I have been looking again for a discrete transistor voltage gain amplifier for line level duty that isn't just another op amp.

I keep coming back to variations on this circuit. It's a diamond buffer input with current mirrors in the mid-section strapped around a voltage divider / feedback loop that provides the gain. This backs out into either another diamond buffer or, in the revised version below, a standard Sziklai output stage which can be more easily scaled up as needed for a headphone amp for example.

An offset bias adjust circuit could be added to trim the output offset voltage. Or use a coupling cap. It's a few hundred mV otherwise.

Circuit gain is R4/R6, approximately. The total value of R4+R6 should be kept about 20 kohms. C1 is a compensation capacitor. Circuit gain as shown is 14 dB, -3 dB at 250 kHz.

As with all CFA, the choice of the feedback resistance...
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Old

RJM Audio discrete op amp (circuit schematic)

Posted 8th August 2016 at 02:06 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 22nd November 2016 at 10:29 PM by rjm

This is my first op amp design which doesn't completely suck.

Now, it's a terrible op amp... don't misunderstand... (Nat Semi will not be making me any offers)... but it does perform the job I want it to do reasonably well: remain stable while providing 6-20 dB of line-level voltage amplification with low distortion, decent PSRR, and sufficient bandwidth.

The main limitation is the distortion at high frequencies rises to -70 dB. The circuit needs less open loop distortion, or more open loop gain above 10 kHz, or both.

You will note the circuit has no current sources. This is intentional. I wanted to see how far it was possible to get without them. Obviously headroom takes a big hit, but distortion and PSRR ended up better than I imagined.

This is a simulation. No guarantee it will work, and there are no safeties (current limiters, input voltage clamps, etc) shown.

PS. Frequency response in image is open loop, while...
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Old

Sapphire Line Preamplifier - My Build Notes

Posted 28th July 2016 at 03:15 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 4th December 2016 at 10:55 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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Old

Just the buffer, ma'am.

Posted 28th July 2016 at 02:05 AM by rjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 27th December 2016 at 11:46 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. (updated to 21f3 Unity B) [As a transitional step this board is being merged with Project Unity.] B-board 2.1 became the Unity B circuit, the older board is just missing the ability to convert to the Unity B H headphone driver.
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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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