Beginner Solid State Amp (and speakers)

Hello all,

Skip to the bold words to cut to the chase-

I, like everybody and their grandma, have decided to get a turntable/speaker set up for home listening. I have never put much effort into music reproduction before; the closest thing being an Allen tube amp kit I put together in high school. Actually I started building a tube headphone amplifier from scratch shortly after, but never finished due to having no clue what to do with a headphone tube amplifier. Well, without spending a lot more money.

I make or repair almost all of my things and I resent buying imported electronics. I am very well set up for woodworking and reasonably well for electrical work (no oscilloscope, but I do have a fluke 87, soldering station, heat gun, etc). My knowledge of electronics is limited as I honestly don't enjoy the technical aspect much and I generally just work with (unintelligent) machinery. I do enjoy wiring, case design, and the hands on aspect. I also have a small machining set up.

It seems like it would be a shame to buy a commercially available speaker/amp being so well prepared to make them myself. There is a sea of kits and schematics and plans out there, which is what brought me here to ask which would be best.

I have relatively small budget, less than 500 USD for speakers and amp combined. That includes power supplies and everything it takes to turn the signal coming from a phono stage into sound. I've got enclosures covered (aha!). I really do not need much volume or bass; this system is going in my bedroom and my dear sister lives in the room above. I know about headphones and I'm not interested, as I often work while listening. I also like to listen to music with people. Open to kit suggestions, modifications to commercially available amps, wok recipes, unrestrained praise, and perhaps simply schematics. It seems a silly pursuit for me to make pcb's though, when they are manufactured of way better quality for less than the cost of the chemicals I'd need. I'll do point to point or freeform soldering with some hesitation. GR research has some enticing lower cost speaker kits, open to feedback on those too.

Turntable will likely be a U-turn. If that's of any value. Schiit phono stage.

I greatly appreciate your suggestions! Thanks all-


Paid Member
2007-09-15 8:14 am

FWIW GR research do some nice budget speakers and none
better value than X-LS Classic kit
(I'd turn it into a floorstander, using the same port for lower tuning.)

Building a good amplifier is expensive and IMO you'd be
better off chucking your money at a good turntable, so
I'd recommend a nice, cheap used amplifier, I like the
Pioneer A300X, for its sound and superb build quality.
It has an inbuilt very decent phono stage.

Used CD players a a dime a dozen nowadays and a good
one can be picked up for not much more than the dross.

The turntable/arm/cartridge will make or break the system
because here quality counts more than anywhere else.

rgds, sreten.
Thank for resources and welcome, Mooly-

Jwilhelm, your link gave me better idea of the magnitude of the project. While building an amp is still an option I'll consider, sreten's idea of buying an an an amp and building the speakers from a kit seems reasonable. In which case I posted this thread in the wrong category, oops. I sent you a PM sreten as my reply has veered off topic.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
I have both the VHex+ amp and the XL-S speaker. They sound excellent together. Both great values. I would recommend a little more and get XL-S encore with upgraded tweeters and cross over for $60 more.

I really like the look of the vhex+ outside of a case. Nice freeform soldering. :)

The vhex+, PR101NR, and akitika phono stage total $600, plus maybe 100 for good luck. Perhaps there is a better matching arrangement. Would this setup be much better than a $700 commercially available integrated amplifier?

I'm entirely sold on a gr research kit.

Thanks for continuing help, everyone-
Thanks. The point to point PSU rectifier and filter units are surprisingly easy to make and compact when done this way. Those XL-S Encores probably can beat most store speakers up to $800 to $1k price range. The VHex+ with PSU and heatsinks no case is about $170 - you would have to spend around $3k maybe more for a store bought amplifier that sounds this good and even then, without Vzaichenko's novel current drive topology for low noise, it's actually a very tough act to follow. The VHex+ is surprisingly easy to build once you get the hang of soldering some of the SMT parts (they are the large variety so pretty easy). It's an amazing sounding amp. Very quiet clear no distortion and loads of dynamic headroom for real bass authority.

However, if you have never soldered before I would make something easier like Apex FX8 or FH9. Very easy build and great sounding MOSFET amp.

Parts for FX8 with PSU and heatsink is about $80. Amp itself including custom PCBs and heatsink is $30 and PSU is $50. Toroidal transformers and big caps are always a substantial part of the cost. You can reuse for many amps though.
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Y'all are very convincing! XRK- I would choose the diy option over same cost commercially available amp if the end results had similar quality, but it seems the results would be greatly superior. As for whether I've soldered before... I sleep six feet from my hakko fx 951. Done a reasonable amount of fine smd soldering as well. I've got no reservations about complexity or difficulty.

I do however have reservations about the cost of the akitika preamp/phono stage. Is it a good match for the VHex+? If there's a cheaper, simpler preamp that wouldn't short change the Vhex+ and XL-S speakers? I don't need a remote. It really only needs one stereo input, but two would be nice. Phono stage optional.

If you only have one input and no phono stage requirement you don't need a preamp. The VHex+ had plenty of gain and can be driven by headphone out of your CD player or DAC out. I'm sure there are a lot of preamp options people can recommend. I use a JLH class A headphone amp as a preamp. It can actually drive 8ohm speakers with 1.7w so can handle any load. Wonderful class A sound for $20. An easy one night build. Need $11 toroidal trafo for power. Here is the preamp / head amp.

Online Shop 2016 NEW JLH HOOD1969 Class A Headphone Amplifier PRE AMP KIT DIY|Aliexpress Mobile

As a headphone amp - unbeatable value with clarity and bass authority you have to hear to believe.

Trafo for power supply (caps and rectifier built into amp PCB already):
AN-0215 - 25VA 15V Transformer - AnTek Products Corp
I've got prototype boards waiting for assembly and testing of Vzaichenko's Ampliwire input modified as a preamp/linestage. That would be a perfect match to the V-Hex+.

Do you have a link to more info? Or just tell me more if you please, I am interested-

I'm looking at the kits available on It looks like the 'Two boards with parts kits' option for $129 is the right one. That leaves $50 to make it $170- is that for the PSU? Heatsinks? I suppose it will become clear when I buy it.

I'm sold on the headphone amp you recommended unless jwilhelm's seems better for some reason.

This project started about seven years ago, though it was pretty aimless then. It's got a clear path now, and I can actually afford it this time. Thanks all-
VZAudio is a partnership between Vzachenko and myself. The website is only showing a small portion of what we have to offer so far. The VHex+ kit consists of a pair of VHex+ boards and all components to populate them. All parts are good quality from North American wholesalers (no exploding EBay junk). I put together some supply boards for these amps as well for $18.90/ pair. They aren't anything fancy. Normal 2 cap dual bridge supplies. I'm prototyping a protection system for this line of amplifiers right now too. The total cost to build the amp will vary quite a bit depending on parts choices and availability of doner parts. Transformers and supplies can get expensive fast. Chassis can add up too.

The Ampliwire preamp is basically the same input stage as the V-Hex uses, but optimized to operate on +/-15 and +/- 24VDC supplies. It will use a R2R ladder for attenuation controlled by an Arduino base controller. It's still in the prototype stage as well, but runs well.
I just got boards from Vzaudio ($41) and most parts ($45) from Digikey. I already had the smaller signal and VAS transistors (from Aliexpress so they are cheap, maybe $10 but I have bags of 50 transistors - but seems to work well). The heatsinks are by the inch form about $32 per pair shipping and $5 cutting fee included. The 300va 32vac trafo was from Antek about $32+shipping so ended up about $42. Power rail caps were from Aliexpress (4700uF 50v) about $6.50 for 10 (used 8). Miscellaneous PSU caps inductors and resistors another $5. Misc stuff like pots and LEDs, standoffs, I had on hand already.

Toroidal ps trafo:

7.28in heatsinks x 3.0in long (along direction of extrusion):
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