While I consider this my best work to date, the documentation trail has become hopelessly scattered so let me try to regroup in this blog post and make some sort of gateway/portal to the project. [Update: web page write up now finished.]
The followup to the Sapphire 3 started out as a generic musing on stacked diamond buffers and current mirror amplification, coalesced for a bit as the ill-fated Project Unity before becoming part of the Sapphire line initially as a temporary measure as something I could drop in my existing chassis for testing. The first iteration kept the open loop buffer of previous Sapphire iterations, but now I'm running the 4.1m boards with the buffer inside the feedback loop I realize I've ended up at just the classic, dictionary definition current feedback amplifier (CFA). Sigh. So much for originality. It sounds great though, so I'm not as upset about it as I might have been.
Posted 23rd December 2016 at 06:02 AM byrjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 28th December 2016 at 12:46 AM byrjm
Following on from this post and this post, we arrive in time for the holidays with Project Unity. Merry Christmas everyone.
Four circuits: Unity, Unity H, Unity B, Unity BH. line preamp, Headphone amp, line Buffer, Headphone Buffer respectively, all derived from a common base circuit called Unity Root. Unity Root is conceptual, it exists only as a reference so you can see more clearly how the four working variants relate to each other.
It's the "all for one, and one for all" approach to diyaudio, a single research and development line applied to a range of applications, feedback from any of the applications brought back to apply to the line in general.
This simplifies not just the circuit development, similar efficiency is also brought to the documentation, board layout design, and BOM... about which I'll have more to say in a bit.
Posted 24th July 2016 at 01:11 AM byrjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 26th July 2016 at 11:45 PM byrjm
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
Posted 2nd February 2016 at 08:11 AM byrjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 24th February 2016 at 02:02 AM byrjm
The discussion thread at the headphone forum is here, but I wanted to throw out the problem to the general blog-reading community here at diyaudio to see if anyone can nail this.
The earthed chassis (light blue) must connect to the circuit common i.e. "ground" (pale green). I do not know where the best place on the circuit ground is to tie that connection.
(COM and GND are completely equivalent pads on the circuit board, while IN- and OUT- also pads on the board but physically further away on the ground plane.)
Answer: as long as it connects at one point only, or the same point of both channels, it doesn't seem to matter at all. I have it connected at the ground tab of the headphone jack and that seems to be as good as anywhere.
The noise was in fact magnetic interference emanating from the transformers. Grounding layout changes / electrostatic...
I admit I did not give ASUS the benefit of the doubt and seriously consider their Essence STX soundcard as a replacement for my Onkyo SE200-PCI. ASUS make nice motherboards, but unlike Onkyo have no previous expertise in high end audio.
I am happy to report - a bit late in the game, the card came out in 2009 - that they've done a really good job with it and the drivers for Windows 10, technically still in beta, work just fine.
Asus updated the design recently to the STX II. The PCB has been redone, but the only visible change is the PCM1792A DAC has been moved towards the top of the card closer to the IV conversion op amps. An second LDO regulator IC, U34, empty on the STX, is now populated. A "TXCO" clock source is added next to the ASUS audio controller IC. The four film caps next to the output IC are replaced with WIMA brand. It's basically identical, so it...
Posted 2nd October 2015 at 05:07 AM byrjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 9th November 2015 at 02:44 AM byrjm
This is a headphone amplifier with digital inputs, not a DAC with a headphone jack. Though technically given equal board space, the headphone amp, with hot-running single-ended class-A output stage, is surely the centerpiece of the design. (The Asahi Kasei DAC, with MUSES01 for the I-V, is no slouch mind you.)
First impressions. It is large, solid, and very nicely made, but - after seeing the inside - rather simple, spartan even. From the DAC output to the headphone jack is just two op amps and two transistors, the op amps being shared between channels. A third op amp most likely just buffers the analog line output. Apart from the headliner MUSES01 op amp none of the parts are especially expensive, though many were clearly carefully chosen for sound quality - the 2SC5196 for example. The TE7022 USB receiver is a disappointment, as is, to be honest, the single set of power rails and the use of dual op amps shared between channels.
Posted 21st May 2015 at 01:32 PM byrjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 27th May 2015 at 01:54 AM byrjm
This post, about a push-pull MOSFET output stage for a headphone amp, got me thinking again about the Audio Technica AT-HA5000, which is something of a benchmark in its class. The "basic" signal circuit (not a complete schematic, it's clearly missing some ancillary details) is attached below. Probably out of MJ originally.
I think with any circuit like this, the differences are less about the MOSFETs and the operating points and more about the front end and what tricks you do with the power supply. That, and how you make sure it doesn't go up in a puff of vaporized silicon taking your headphones with it.
The Audio Technica schematic has nice old-school Zener regulators, a discrete JFET front end, a long tailed pair + current mirror for voltage gain and "proper" BJT Vbe multiplier and driver stage. Q7 is presumably in thermal contact with Q10,11 providing overtemp protection, and the output has a protection relay (not shown in detail) for...
Posted 20th May 2015 at 06:00 AM byrjm (RJM Audio Blog)
Updated 18th June 2015 at 11:26 PM byrjm(added schematic of original version)
The circuit was originally hosted on Headwize, but the site seems to have gone offline.
It was a single stage resistively-loaded MOSFET follower, a unity gain current buffer used to drive headphones.
Some updated versions provided below. As noted in the comments the "Reverso" version with the CCS on the V+ and a p-channel mosfet has better PSRR performance, especially with voltage divider network R6,R7,C4 on the collector of Q2.
So good in fact that I switched around the n-channel version to use a negative voltage rail to obtain the same result!