From beginner to builder?


2013-02-14 4:37 pm
Hi Folks,

I recently decided to buy a new amp (currently have a tube amp, a Manley Stingray, and my 10 month old is getting very close to it--I don't want to move the equipment, so need a new non-tube amp). I am a nerd, I guess, so I decided to learn a bit more about what I am buying. My background is math/finance, not engineering, so I found the books on amp design incomprehensible. I went simpler and simpler, finally reading Electronics for Dummies, which I could actually understand, and I find the topic fascinating.

So, my question, has anyone out there gone from being a "Dummies" level beginner to actually building a functioning amp? If so, could you tell me a bit about how you made the transition? Helpful books, good projects, whatever. Any help would be appreciated. I am looking at buying a beginner's electronics kit now.

Thanks very much!

Pardon me as I plug my own product. If you are a beginner, it's a great way to get construction experience, and some familiarity with assembly techniques. Full schematics are provided as well, so that might be a bit of a guide into deeper waters.

I'm not sure if you're in the US...shipping outside can get a bit expensive...but take a look at the GT-101...

Akitika GT-101


2003-02-11 9:02 am
So, my question, has anyone out there gone from being a "Dummies" level beginner to actually building a functioning amp? If so, could you tell me a bit about how you made the transition? Helpful books, good projects, whatever.

It's a very long process for me. I built my first amp when I was 14 and now after above 40 I found everything is easier and I can build good amps with the help of LTSpice :D No doubt, electronics is the hardest of all engineering subjects, and probably of all subjects (it is for me).

Many engineering subjects have basic terminologies that are used to explain more advanced things. So when you try to understand topic X, the reader will assume that you understand topic B, or use terminologies you don't understand so to force you to find another route to understand topic X.

If you like Math, may be you can do the same, but you need motivation. My motivation was the DIY itself. I want to build something good so I had to read, starting from datasheets and application notes for example.

Now that I understand a little bit about ICT and electronics, my problem is in the Mechanics. Many ideas stuck in the realization/production issues. Need expensive mechanical tools.
So, my question, has anyone out there gone from being a "Dummies" level beginner to actually building a functioning amp?
Yes, anyone who has ever built an amp.
Here on the forum you'll find a thread on Recommended Books (I found the link for you), and posts & advertisers with all sorts of audio projects.
Along with project kits, think of things you could build, hack, or modify around the house. Converting a flashlight from incandescent to LED, an auto-Off timer for the coffee maker, and that sort of thing. It will provide hands-on experience and get you comfortable with a soldering iron and parts identification and selection.
Like you, I bought Electronics for Dummies on a whim a few months ago. I have to say it is a brilliant introduction for the complete novice (myself).

I'm now halfway through a Peter Daniels LM3875 chip amp build and am absolutely loving this new hobby. I've learnt to solder; I've learnt to desolder! Filing holes in cases, drilling holes in heatsinks, reclaiming old stereo boxes etc etc. Who knows, the thing might actually work!

I guess I'm looking forward ultimately to some point in the future where I can step off the commercial hi-fi merry-go-round.
This is a "diy" so most of us have build our own amps, preamps, speakers...etc. I have seen many "newbies" that come here and build their own amps, preamps, speakers...etc with the help of many of the "gurus" here that are well known. Here we have many smarts members that sleep with an oscilloscope and a multimeter next to them. with their help you can sure build one diy amp that can "outperform" a commercial amp!. I would recommend to start with something not too complicated like a chip-amp LM3875/LM3886 or some amp kits that you can find here or on the web. Get your feet wet and "jump" into the Diy, it is a wonderful feeling to know that you build your own gear. Good luck;)
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Mark Johnson

Paid Member
2011-05-27 3:27 pm
Silicon Valley
My background is math/finance.

Hi Jim, my background is EE/finance. I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised that your university studies have prepared you very well, to learn circuit design. The foundations, upon which all of circuit design rests, are: algebra, algebra, algebra, calculus, differential equations, algebra, algebra, complex variables, Laplace transforms (a sub-topic of differential equations), and algebra.

Fortunately, you have already learned these. You might need to refresh your memory in a couple of areas, but it's not brand new unexplored territory.

You'll learn a few domain-specific facts and axioms, such as: Kirchoff's Voltage Law (KVL), Ohm's Law, Kirchoff's Current Law (KCL). These let you reduce a circuit to a set of simultaneous linear equations. Which you already know how to solve! All you do is: use algebra.

When you get into small signal analysis, for example when studying the frequency response of an amplifier, you'll discover that this is nothing more than KVL and KCL using complex variables. Because circuit analysis exclusively uses linear elements, all circuit responses are linear differential equations with constant coefficients. That ought to sound very familiar. To find diffEq solutions quickly and easily, EEs use Laplace Transforms. The transformed equations are polynomials in "s" (the complex frequency), with constant coefficients. You already know Laplace Transforms.

You've got a tremendous advantage over the typical sophomore studying EE. You already know all the math! All you need to do is learn the "idioms" of circuit design. I'd suggest you read "Getting Started in Electronics" by Forrest Mims, and "Practical Electronics for Inventors" by Paul Scherz. Learn KVL, KCL, and Ohm's Law. Learn how to solve DC circuits. Learn how to solve AC circuits. Learn how to use LTSPICE. Read Bob Cordell's book on audio amp design. Put his circuits into LTSPICE and simulate them; see how they work. After a while you'll be ready to buy a used copy of Gray and Meyer, and after finishing that book you'll be an analog design Guru.

Good luck and very best wishes!


2013-02-14 4:37 pm
I just want to say thank you again to all who responded. I appreciate all of the advice, and in particular the book recommendations (I should have searched "book recommendations"!). Also, you have helped me clarify what I am trying to do--I am not looking to design a great amp, the mental power necessary to do that in the unlikely case that I could has to be dedicated to my job. What I do want to do is two things: understand to my own satisfaction the tradeoffs that go into amp design, and build something. The first is pretty squishy, but involves me spending lunch yesterday doing/reading algebra to make sure I understand why the voltage gain from a simple amp circuit is the ratio of the resistances of the resistors next to the output. Next, negative feedback. I suppose building wouldn't be fun for me if I didn't understand why.

Thanks again, and I look forward to being involved in this board.
Just watch out, it is addicting and doesn't stop after one design. You will suddenly find yourself on a quest to build the best sounding amplifier. Building your own doesn't really save alot of money as you will now in vest alot of time into it, but its worthi it. The benefit ultimately is that you can design exactly what you want, and just maybe in the process prove many engineers wrong :). Just make sure for experimental purposes you own some test speakers that you don't have any attachment to for initial testing 😜