The NE5534....misunderstood? - diyAudio
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Old 2nd March 2004, 11:15 AM   #1
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Default The NE5534....misunderstood?

Since listening to the NE5534 performing I/V duties in a CD player and also as balanced to unbalanced converter in a DAC I have found it difficult to reconcile the many denigrating statements written by audio DIYers with the sound coming forth from this remarkable op-amp. Having reflected on this conflict of opinions I am offering my own explanation as to why the NE5534 receives such a bad press from many, though not all.


The background...
I had until recently been using a discrete op-amp which, with a FET input, sounded slightly better than an OPA627 biased into class with a ccs, and with a BJT input (my preferred option), improved on the AD797 (again with a ccs). Having read so much negative comment on the NE5534/2 I had not contemplated trying this op-amp, instead evaluating many other more modern types, including those already mentioned along side others, the LM6171, AD825, OPA134 etc. It was therefore a surprise to find the NE5534 the most musically engaging of the lot.


Tarred with the same brush...
The (uncompensated) NE5534 sounds more refined than the NE5532 and should be judged on its own merit. My understanding is that the NE5534 is the single version of the NE5533, not the NE5532!


Mass psychology...
No comment!


The sound...
(Uncompensated, with a 2mA ccs on the output)
In my view, after extensive listening comparisons with other op-amps, the NE5534 possibly works against itself. Its superb purity and focus impart a subjective quality that can be wrongly interpreted as detached and distant, lacking ‘body’ and ‘drive’, however it is perhaps these qualities that set the NE5534 apart from the rest. Consider a live concert where you might be sitting half way back in the auditorium. Individual instruments do sound distant, they do sound small and there is a distinct space between them and the walls of the auditorium. It does not sound larger than life. Due to various factors including microphone positioning a recording will usually allow reproduction of this perspective only to a degree, though interestingly there seems to be a current trend towards a more distant (and therefore more realistic) sound in more modern recordings. But this is precisely the strength of the NE5534 in my view, it does not sound larger than life! For those of us who like to be transported to a seat in the auditorium the NE5534 is the just the ‘ticket’, it convincingly recreates the acoustic where the recording took place, natural detail is portrayed coherently and the smooth, wide-open treble is the icing on the cake. For those who like their music larger than life and who prefer the orchestra in their room, it probably isn’t.

Tim.
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Old 2nd March 2004, 11:40 AM   #2
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Old 2nd March 2004, 11:53 AM   #3
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I always hesitate to say I like the 5534 and 5532 because it is derided by so many people. (mind you, some of those people like to use the original OP27 for audio, so there's no accounting for taste!)

The big problem with the 5534 is that it does have quite high bias currents, and in hi-Z circuits it can suffer because of this.
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Old 2nd March 2004, 12:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
(mind you, some of those people like to use the original OP27 for audio, so there's no accounting for taste!)
from http://www.zero-distortion.com/tests/opamps/opamps.htm:
" Precision Monolithics Inc., or PMI, developed their OP27 in the early 80-ies. This was a god-sent gift to audio designers for several reasons. First, it was unity gain stable, lending itself to simple and effective applications. Second, it had a very low noise floor, nominally 3.7 nV/sq.rt.Hz, which made it highly suitable for sensitive audio applications right down to phono RIAA equalizers. And third, it's unity gain response was out to 60 MHz, which meant that if it wasn't overworked, it could be used for units with responses out to 1 MHz, and this in turn meant insignificant phase shifts. And sure enough, it started cropping up in audio, but this time round, it wasn't just the commercial sector, this time it was the very much high end audio as well. Did you know that the now famous German company, Burmester, made its debut on the back of this op amp? They proved that ANY op amp could be made to come on song, if the designer knew what he was doing."
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Old 2nd March 2004, 12:16 PM   #5
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I was also one of those who used the OP27 as well. That's until I realised that something wasn't quite right. It worked (and still works well) in inverting configurations, but not in non-inverting.

I haven't done any investigation on it, but I suspect that the amp doesn't like to see much of a common-mode signal.
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Old 2nd March 2004, 02:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
I was also one of those who used the OP27 as well. That's until I realised that something wasn't quite right. It worked (and still works well) in inverting configurations, but not in non-inverting.

Those were exactly my observations on the 5534 at the time. Maybe i should have a fresh listen. I also remember the disappointment after i heard the first non-Signetics 5534.



Quote:
Did you know that the now famous German company, Burmester, made its debut on the back of this op amp? They proved that ANY op amp could be made to come on song, if the designer knew what he was doing."
The famous German company certainly used a lot of 5534 and other cheap-skate solutions but did any of their creations ever sounded good?
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Old 2nd March 2004, 02:59 PM   #7
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I like the 5532/5534 opamps. I also don't believe in alot of the
audio 'Voodoo' that gets repeated on forums in general.

You might get a kick out of this. Richard Clark told me he has
an interesting test where he allows the user to insert any
cable of their choice between a preamp and an amplifier
and they swap the cable with a 20 cascaded 741 opamps.
The listener compares the sound between the opamps and
cable to see if they can hear a difference. Apparently, they can't
distingiush between the two. The only adjustments he makes
is to correct any frequency response problems that might occur
due to loading effects of the opamp depending on which gear
you mate it with.

Any questions, you can ask him directly here;
http://www.carsound.com/UBB/ultimate...?ubb=forum;f=1

From what I gathered reading about the 5532/5534 over the
past few years, people are not saavy enough to design with it,
they want 'problematic free' opamps, drop in replacements
therefore anything outside this scope is disregarded as
bad. <--
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Old 2nd March 2004, 03:17 PM   #8
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It just takes one hint that the 5534 may not after all be that bad and the offers to replace it with 20 x 741s start pouring in.

This place can really get wild
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Old 2nd March 2004, 04:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by analog_sa
It just takes one hint that the 5534 may not after all be that bad and the offers to replace it with 20 x 741s start pouring in.

This place can really get wild
I did find the 'test' amusing, chaining a bunch of 'cheap' opamps
to prove two things. Cables and opamps have no sonic
magic that audiophiles claim.

But the test is not realistic if you have to tweak FR due to loading
effects. Nobody would chain untiy gain 741's to prove a point
except Richard Clark and nobody designs a practical circuit like
that in the real world.

I'd like to see the test done with gain.

To add to the comedy, open up some proaudio gear
and you will find 'worse' opamps than the 553 series.
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Old 2nd March 2004, 04:30 PM   #10
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For those who like the NE5534 and it's cousin NE5532 take a look at: http://www.dself.dsl.pipex.com/ampins/webbop/opamp.htm

This may make you feel better. I don't do much with opamps, so I don't really have much opinion. One of the few times I used one was an idea to create a center channel by mixing L and R together while also keeping the original L and R separate so as as to drive three speakers. I tried using the NE for this but for some reason it allowed cross-talk between L an R even though the signal path was not straight forward. In all other respects it functioned fine. Substituting virtually any other opamp curred curred the cross-talk. (As luck would have it, It turned out I didn't like the three channel arrangement anyway so the whole thing was scrapped).
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