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walker 12th June 2003 02:57 AM

Is it possible to homebrew better than the big guys?
OK, so it should read ďHow do you homebrew better than the big guys,Ē (major HIFI companies).

Can you? The answer is of course yes butÖ
Ignoring some of the lemons that the big guys produce from time to time, what are the most significant problems for producing an AMP that is as good or better than something that you could buy off the shelf?
I read in this group many concerns about amplifier design that, though valid, (and great to mull over) often hide the true issues that make it hard for us produce truly great gear.
I would like your thoughts on what are the major design issues that lead to a great amp.
Here are just a few of mine;
1. PCB Layout; large companies can and do produce many different circuit board layouts and evaluate the performance of each before their production designs. It would be very costly and time consuming for us to take that approach, so we have to except the compromise? However we do learn from their and our own experience and better at it with time.
2. Chassis Layout; include the wire paths in this one. The sortest path is rarely the best, it usually produces the greatest noise and crosstalk in amps. After building and amp and fitting it into the box time should be spent experimenting with different routes for cabling to fine tune the performance of the amp. We do know general rules, keep signal away from supply wires. Also the screening of power supply fluxes and general placement of components is critical. Lets not forget not just earthing but which earth and where to earth! All things that the big guys should well understand by now, but for us, a little more trial and error is needed.
3. Component selection; some components have a large effect on the final quality of the amp and others very little if any. Which components most effect the sound, my number one candidate is the volume pot, it might sound fine in the first couple of years but for how long has the sound been deteriorating before we notice that the pot become noisy? But component matching can be fun.
Back to you, there are no bad opinions, are the intricacies of the schematic as important as the above issues? I feel that there are many great circuits but many more poor layouts out thereÖ

Enjoy the music, take care, regards WALKER

thylantyr 12th June 2003 03:33 AM

what are the most significant problems for producing an AMP that is as good or better than something that you could buy off the shelf?

My problem is finding or fabricating
certain parts at a low cost;

1. heatsinks
2. chassis
3. transformer
4. pcb layout

Peter Daniel 12th June 2003 03:41 AM

Re: Is it possible to homebrew better than the big guys?

Originally posted by walker
Chassis Layout; include the wire paths in this one. The sortest path is rarely the best, it usually produces the greatest noise and crosstalk in amps.
How did you come to that conclusion?

thylantyr 12th June 2003 04:04 AM

Re: Re: Is it possible to homebrew better than the big guys?

Originally posted by Peter Daniel

How did you come to that conclusion?


Perhaps he refers to routing wires
away from noise items, which is actually
a longer path. If you can get alot
of wiring on the PCB laout, so there
is less PTP wiring then it's all better.

elizard 12th June 2003 04:45 AM

yes, but what if i manage to make the shortest path possible and still keep the wires from crossing, such as in a gainclone for that matter?

jleaman 12th June 2003 06:03 AM

i think that it is possible to build a better home built amp than a manufactured one. Look at all peter Daniels work HE is awsome at what he does..

walker 12th June 2003 06:10 AM

Brevity breads ambiguity:)
Sorry Peter, my statement was open to your interpretation, thanks thylantyr for the clarification. By the way routing signal and supply paths on the PCB is generally a good solution. How often have you seen the big guys wiring, power signal and logic in a ribbon cable? BUT, strangely sometimes it does seem to give excellent results, (art or science???).

I wasnít suggesting that long wires sound great:)

1. Heatsinks, try scrap merchants, they donít need to look good to work, tell them itís a work of art:) I rarely pay for them.
2. Chassis, canít argue there but thatís part of the reason why we DIY isnít it, not because itís easier. Also I donít think that the cost of the chassis effects the sound quality, Iíve heard some great birds nest jobs. Chassis layout and screening, absolutely!
3. Transformer, more than meets the eye:) So long as it is adequate and filtered well I donít believe that it effects the sound quality as much as some of the other issues. But cheap they rarely are.
4. PCB layout, wouldnít it be great if we could build 12 different versions of our babies and evaluate the various layouts, with you on that one!

I wasn't considering cost as a major barrier to building DIY better than the big guys but I can't ignore it either. That discussion should be called "Can you build homebrew CHEAPER than buying from the big guys?" My answer to that is yes if you can scrounge:)

Enjoy the music, take care, regards WALKER

Peter Daniel 12th June 2003 06:40 AM

You can definitely built cheaper and if you lucky you don't have to spend much time for R&D. The best example are the rectifying diodes in my GC. When building firs unit, by accident I chose MUR860 without even thinking twice if that's the best option. The amp sounded good and trying to improve it I searched for better diodes. I ordered some from Digi Key, I got some from people and as somples. I got even excited recently with MSR860. However, after trying everything I could put my hands on, it appears that MUR860 is the best choice in my setup. And that's what I had in the beginning, not even aware then, how much difference diodes make in a GC PS.

I used to built circuits choosing parts arbitrarily, based on my presumption that this should be fine and will work OK because it's a good or expensive component. But recently my experiencies show that building a great amp or some other piece of gear is not just simply putting parts together (even expensive ones). Proper combination of certain parts, in order to voice the unit is strictly essential for the unit to be better than average, even when the circuit is from well known audio designer;) And this takes a lot of patience, time and you need a will and motivaton to constantly change parts and listen to the results. It is actually a full time job. Just today I spent whole day choosing capacitor in my speaker's crossover. During countless changes, nothing seemed right, untill finally I put the proper part and no mater what music I was listen to it always sounded right.

The chassiss is as important as parts. Depending on construction and materials used the sound willbe different. I would say chassiss counts for at least 20% of the final sound. And all is about resonances and their proper distribution, not really getting rid off. So if you lucky and have some sort of intuition, you might get it right the first time, but if not, don't blame the circuit for bad sound. And this is actually even more costly in prototyping than differnt PCB layout choices.

Wires are important. I normally use solid core copper wire in my GC. I tried once silver core wire for inside grounding (3 pieces, 2" long). My associate noticed right away that something was weired regarding that amp. No wonder, we had 6 " of different than usually wire inside;)

Cradle22 12th June 2003 07:34 AM


Up to a certain tradeoff-point between performance and costs I think that it is perfectly possible to build as-well or better equipment DIY than those from companies...

With amps I see the big advantages for firms for example in matching parts and (like stated above) in chassis construction, while the advantages for DIY guys is the possibility to "endlessly" test and substitute parts, in order to reach the "ultimate" performance...

While I also think high of our honored member N. Pass, I don't really belive that shelling out 22.000 Ä for a X1000 is entirely justified, regardless of the planning and construction costs, and the large number of matched transistor devices inside...

When I take a look at my P3A, I see material for 160 Ä, which is more than most of my friends are willing to pay for a commercial amplifier (why should say, if they can get a whole home theater set, amp and 5.1 speaker set for 150 Ä at a big outlet :cannotbe: :cannotbe: :cannotbe: ), but I would say that it outperforms most amps up to 1000 - 2000 Ä. But better than the mentioned X1000 it is of course not...;)



carlosfm 12th June 2003 11:42 AM

Sometimes we can make it cheaper that a commercial product, sometimes we can't.
You can buy a dvd player for 100 Ä, but you can't make it yourself for that price.
Here we're talking mass market and large quantities.
When you talk about high-end, most of the times you can make it much cheaper.
In high-end, many products are seriously over-priced.
But as long as there are people buying it...

Have you seen the latest top-of-the-range Naim preamp?
I think it's Nac52.
The separate (optional) PSU they sell for the preamp has an 800VA toroid!:eek: :eek: :eek: :bigeyes: :bigeyes: :bigeyes: :bawling:

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