Lighter Note Hum/Balance Problems

Hi everyone,

I ordered a Lighter Note kit from Uriah a while ago and a few weeks later received, for reasons unknown to me, a readily assembled LN. It worked fine and I went on to use it with my ESP P101. However, I noticed after a while that in a certain range of the volume pot, there was a slight hum. I found out that it could be removed by connecting the 0V center tap of the 12-0-12V transformer to the ground plane of my PSU which is to connected to mains ground. I attached the cable permanently (I'd tried it by just holding it to the contact, and after that, the hum was gone but the sound was much, much quieter and the balance pot had stopped working. I removed the cable connecting the center tap to my star ground point again, but the sound remained quiet and instead, a new hum appeared. Its volume increases with increased volume pot settings (the one I had before would only appear from around 1/3 to 3/4 of the max volume setting) and it's much louder, except on the most quiet volume settings. The balance pot still doesn't do anything. I'm very confused as to what could be causing this, since everything is now set up the same way as before I started messing around with it, but the new problems remain. If anyone has any clues (or a schematic of the LN to give me at least some orientation of what might be wrong) what might be the problem, I'd be very grateful if they could help me out. I've also emailed Uriah, but have so far not received a response from him.
Well, I'm really sorry to revive this dead thread, but I assembled another LN yesterday and ended up having the same problem I had when I gave up on the last one. My op-amps get very hot and there seems to be a short somewhere after the op-amps, however I've triple-checked every solder joint and I just can't find any shorts. If someone more intimate with the design than me could take a look at my board, that would be amazing. And again, if someone has a schematic of the Lighter Note, I'd appreciate it very much if you could post it, poking in the dark like I have to do now is really no fun. I've already emailed Uriah and he's telling me to send him my amp, which I'd really like to avoid since it kinda takes away the whole DIY part of the project for me.

















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Do you have a schematic or a link to the schematic and general wiring diagram ?

No, that's exactly my problem! I've written to Uriah (the designer of the circuit) and he stopped responding when I suggested he publish the schematic... I don't know if that was a coincidence, I haven't mailed him again now because I don't want to bother him too much and my last mail was only 2 days ago, but he always replied within 12h or so to the last few mails. I'm honestly a bit disappointed by this amp, since this is the second one that doesn't work (the first one was soldered together by Uriah and worked for a while, then stopped working after I made a non-critical modification (connect the center tap from the transformer to mains ground) and I never got it to work again) and I'm pretty stumped on what to do since I don't have a schematic. I think I might just build a P37 and write this off as a loss.
I can't seem to edit my last post so I'll just double post instead:

I managed to get it fixed! For some reason, my board has some weird holes milled into the bottom (see pic) and I had actually suspected the short to be caused by those, but I thought I'd ruled out when I saw that only the inner two pads shorted to ground. It turns out none of the 4 should have been connected to ground, and the inner two are actually hooked up directly to the outputs of the two op-amps, so that's where all the signal was disappearing. I ended up grinding the pads away with my dremel because I couldn't get the short to go away, I just piggyback soldered the two caps on the resistors parallel to them and now everything's working as it's supposed to (except I can't get it anywhere close to mute, might have to make some adjustments there or build a mute switch into the front of the amp that shorts the inputs to ground). The sound is great and there is no hum on the speakers that I can make out.


Marked in red are those stupid holes that gave me all this trouble. I initially thought it a great idea to bend the leads from the caps "into" the holes and try to solder them on which turned out to make them a pain to remove again. But oh well, everything works now.
Joined 2007
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Sorry to revive such an old thread but am hoping you might be willing to answer a couple questions? I’ve got the exact same lighter note ldr. I couldn’t find a print anywhere. Issues: balance pot has no affect whatsoever, the sound quality seems ok but certainly nothing special, a bit subdued if anything, never noticed any issues with muting volume. I bought this online a few months ago to use as a volume control with my Pass (diy) F6 amplifier. I have to say for all the good things I heard, I’m not impressed. I did notice the pcb specifically calls for a toroidal transformer but has an R core instead. I doubt that would make any difference but I’m not sure. Are you still using yours? I’m contemplating setting this aside and using a vacuum tube based preamp. Just curious you’re thought’s
Joined 2007
Paid Member
Hello intojazz,

I know Uriah and I even helped him test and match LDRs several years ago. The R-core should be fine. I know Uriah specified toroids because they were easy to get for builders, but even he played around with R-core xformers. I have a Lighter Note, still running. I believe we added a 100k linear pot for the balance. Mine works for getting the vocals centered but yes, LDRs don't quite work like a standard volume and balance pot. It took some fiddling to get the vocals centered.

At one point, Uriah and I were chatting about the sound and he told me that even though he got positive feedback from folks that purchased it, he felt that it could use a buffer to sound the best. At one point, we were trying the Lighter Note vs. my BUF-03 implementation in my home system and the Lighter Note seemed to be lacking something, hence his comment about needing a buffer.

Uriah has pretty much stepped back from his DIY implementations and moved on to something else that takes up his time. Plus, due to some minor health issues, he had problems recalling the details of his creations. I seriously doubt I could jog his memory on the specifics. Checking some of my old conversations with him, I do see that we had discussed his implementation of a Howland current pump to power the LDRs and he went down that road using AN-1515, which is still out there in pdf format on the TI website.

He really liked the LME chips, so those are what you should see on your board. Hope this helps.