Headphone amp section, integraded or seperate ?

Hello !

I would like to hear what you all think about building a headphone amplifier section and putting it into amplifier case ? I use my headphones alot, sometimes for 6 hours at a time so good headphone output is a must for me. Would you guys rather build it as a seperate unit ?

I am using sony mdr 7506 (v6) if it matters, and plan on building Aksa and Leach amps.

Jean.
 

paulb

Member
2001-06-01 4:53 pm
Calgary
Either. Both. It depends.
I put a headphone amp in my last power amp, but running from a separate power supply. It is a Class-A "Szekeres" design, similar to the Zen amps (see www.headwize.com for it and other projects). I had the right power supply already for this.
My current project is refurbishing a set of biamped speakers. The headphone amp will be added later as a separate box that also has a common volume control for both speakers and a differential input (I run differential audio through the house). I'll probably use a high-quality opamp design here for the headphone driver because it makes for a smaller enclosure and matches the power supply I need for the control sections.
The ultimate headphone amps are always built in a separate box with their own power supply because they are complicated and/or use up a lot of power (relatively). Again, see Headwize for a good selection.
You can even use vacuum tubes to see them little filaments a-glowin' in the dark. Probably adds to the headphone experience. Would probably make a great tube starter project.
 
Paulb,

Thank you for your explanation. I am not ready to build a tube amplifier just yet, they do look beautiful though :)

I am looking at class a Doz headphone amplifier on Rod Elliotts website http://sound.westhost.com/project70.htm . I am having trouble finding bd139 in Mouser and Digikey catalogs :(

If anybody who is reading would like to comment on this particular project please do :)

Thanks again.
Jean.
 

paulb

Member
2001-06-01 4:53 pm
Calgary
Please let us know how the DoZ headphone amp works out. My original plan was to use complementary versions (+ supply and - supply) for left and right channels. I've only built up one channel so far, but am diverted onto something else at the moment.
You'll be happy with the 3A, I know I am.
 
I realize it may be too late for input, but you can do so much better than the Doz. HeadWize and Head-Fi are overflowing with various designs. The META42 is a really good, currently popular design for which boards are available. There are plenty of others to choose from, but please, go do some research on HeadWize and Head-Fi. They are at the cutting edge of headphone technology.
 
DoZ should be pretty good. Bipolars are supposed to be inherently more linear than FETs and I know the FET-based Szekeres sounds good. Some folks make disparaging remarks about op amps, so it could be an interesting comparison.
I'm sure the META42 represents the state of the art in op-amp headphone amps. I've been meaning to order one of those boards.
Then I'll cut up my headphone cord and try a Pass BoSoZ.

Jean, make sure the power to the DoZ is clean. It will make a big difference. Look at Rod's cap multiplier circuit.
 
The Doz has a bipolar input, which is much lower impedance than a FET input, and a poor choice. It has capacitively coupled output instead of direct coupled output, a total nightmare for quality audio. The output impedance is too high for low impedance headphones. Real world headphones have impedances ranging from 30 to 600 Ohms. A quiescent current of 330mA, gah. I could go on and on, but basically, it is not a great headphone circuit. If you are insistent on discrete design, at least look at Kevin Gilmore's class a amp.
 
Hi morsel,
Most of the disadvantages you refer to are common to other DIY designs, like the Zen series. And the DoZ is very similar to the classic JLH, still going strong after 25 years or so (which also has headphone amp variants). If it were just a matter of specifications, then I'm sure the opamp/buffer would win hands down. But listening tests are the only true story. I'm going to have to build both and listen before I'm truly convinced that one sounds better or worse than the other. I'm not sure, for instance, that an output coupling cap is the instrument of evil some think it is.
By the way, don't get me wrong, I think you and tangent have done a great job with making this board available to DIYers. On behalf of all of us, thank you. I just placed my order.
 

Tomo

Member
2002-06-18 9:54 pm
Regarding PassAmp or Szkeres' Derivatives

What Paul said is very true. MOSFET designs like Szkeres or even Pass amp have a little higher distortion rating. Also, Mosfets aren't necessarily so linear. On top of that, it has gate capacitance which screams for attention.

However, many Pass amp derivative fans stubbornly insistant. But they DO have valid reasoning. Somehow, I find MOSFETs to sound very warm and soothing when it deals large quescent current. I was told that this comes from high low-order distortions. Some Mosfet designs deliverately promote that, making it "warm sounding" or more typically "laid back" sounding.

I built Szkeres amp nearly ... 2 years ago. I had good time with it. I wasn't so satisfied with linearity so I added CCS. It got a little better. (I recommend this upgrade. Easy, cheap and effective. It will improve slewrate also.)

Please note, HOWEVER, that this issue is pushing the boundaries of technical suggestions to personal tastes. So I will not say which is "better." Sorry for vagueness. You just have to taste both and pick which ones you prefer. (or you can have them all!)

Tomo
 

Tomo

Member
2002-06-18 9:54 pm
Regarding Capacitive Coupling

I think I have had fair share of dealing with capacitive coupling. I have tried few different methods of capacitive coupling and several capacitor models.

Morsel is true that capacitors can be simply considered as a source of distortions. Ideally, not having capacitor is most preferable. Though it is not completely the whole story.

I, for one, prefer no capacitors at all. However, some people use them to flavor the sound. I am not a specialist and I don't know but some people can really craft sound well. That is why not everyone go for DC coupled.

Lastly, capacitive coupling leaves very large freedom to designers. I found this rather fun and cool. I don't have to recalibrate everything to set zero DC offset all the time which tends to restrict what I can do. With cap coupling, I can try out very weird combinations without going deeply into circuit theories. (Of course, I will do so when I am building "the" amp. But sometimes, I just like to build one for giggles. That is when cap coupling is useful.)

See? It isn't much of nightmare. However, it is a matter of compromise, I have to admit. But I think you shouldn't put it entirely out of your mind.
 

Tomo

Member
2002-06-18 9:54 pm
About Solid State Devices

(I hope you don't find me writing separate reply for each diff subject ... I have gotten wearly of miscommunication due to my poor English.)

Chip combinations or chip alone versus discrete designs have been heated issues for quite sometime. But I found it just a matter of compromise. (again!)

Opamps must have strong feedback. This is because opamp by definition have massive gain. You will have to tone down using negative feedback. This is considered to be poor among some circles. However, recently the performance of opamps have improved durastically. And opamps should be reconsidered.

Descrete design is generally considered to be better than opamp using circuits. This isn't necessarily true. Unlike opamps, interconnects that connect transistors and other components have more inductive and capacitive properties which tend to be unpredictable. So poorly built descrete design can be pretty poor, not to mention hard to fix.

So on and on. You can go on forever on this topic. I just wanted you to know both require some compromises. So keep in mind to check both types of designs.

I currently use both types of amps. I like both of them in different ways. I don't find either to be significantly favorable than the other. I listen to one one day and the other other day.

Lastly, input impedance. Generally, like morsel mentions, higher input impedance is better. But again it isn't the whole story. If so, it would be common to strap input directly to fet gate. This isn't good idea. Unfortunately, where low impedance line is connected to significanly high impedance load, you will get RF pick-ups. You have to be careful about this especially when you deal with high speed and high bandwidth drivers. i.e. My opamp based amp has input impedance of 10Kohm.