Project files: The J-Mo Headphone Buffer

What is it?
The project files for my version of Richard Murdey’s  J-Mo mk. 2 buffer with gain.

How big are the boards?

  • Amp: 2.45” x 1.975” (app. 62 x 50 mm.)
  • PSU: 2.35” x 1.975” (app. 60 x 50 mm.)

What is the status of the boards?
Both boards are version 1.0, meaning I have prototyped them and they work. However, I am still waiting for some mechanical parts for my own build so this isn’t final yet which means I have only done very basic tests.

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?
Well, the J-FETs are getting harder and harder to find but it isn’t impossible yet.

Anything else I need to know?

  • Can’t really think of anything. Be sure to read through the article on Richards website though, that contains most of what you need to know.

Downloads:
Download design files here

Related information:
See the original post for some more information and links. There is also a big discussion thread on diyaudio that may be of help.

Note: Always read the “intro post” for additional important information about my designs.

Tiny teaser…

Just a short “teaser” for one of my work-in-progress ideas, a (sort of) universal audio controller based on the ATtiny85 microcontroller (hence the slightly saucy headline…) and the Arduino IDE. It’s not ready yet, but some progress has been made.

The idea was to make something much smaller than the Ampduino and then make a few versions for different purposes. So far the “pipeline” consists of the following:

  • Universal motorpot controller, partly inspired by the controller I did for the Ampduino project.
  • Universal model with all pins broken out, to be used as the “brain” of a preamp or also (in the longer term) to control soft start circuits, clipping indicators, speaker protection circuits etc.
  • RX/TX version for remote control, although the RX-version may end up being something bigger based on a “full-on” ATmega328P like the Ampduino (and the normal Arduino boards).
  • Matching linear PSU if there is no other power supply required for a given circuit (or if a suitable aux-voltage isn’t available).

Current status is that I have hardware prototypes for most of these already (only the Rx remote receiver is missing) but as usual when there’s software involved that takes a bit longer for me to get around to and so I haven’t really tested anything yet. I have bought a couple of development boards for the ATtiny which seem to work well for testing and optimising code (which will be a definite requirement with the ATtiny-chips as they have fewer I/O pins and less memory than the ATmega-series) but I still need to get started on coding in earnest.

As usual there is no real timeframe for finishing these boards, but right now the Scandinavian summer is definitely working in my favour by nearly constantly bringing weather that makes you want to sit inside and code instead of being out and about :D

tinypot-1

More JLHs…

Yeah I know, I should probably stop making these at some point :)

We’ll do this one quickly then: Standard JLH1969 Ebay-board with upgraded components and better transistors (MJ15003). Fan-cooled heat sink with temperature control (we’ll see how well that works…). Industrial-grade 10A switching PSU per channel. Monoblock configuration in Modushop GX288 chassis.

The PSUs (Artesyn NLP250) are overkill for this application but they were cheap (surplus items). And besides, more is better – right? Not necessarily here though, because some of these industrial-grade PSUs have a reputation for being extremely noisy at low power output. As a class A amp, the max. current consumption of the JLH should be twice its quiescent current (so app. 2.6A) and each PSU will deliver four times that before the limiter kicks in. Whether this is a real problem here or not I don’t know yet, but there are no audible artifacts at all so I am not overly concerned right now.

The heat sinks were also surplus items and I am not sure exactly what their rating is. At full speed the fans are a bit too noisy for my liking (the heat sinks add some flow noise as well) but if the fan speed is lowered a little I don’t think it would be really noticeable once the amps are seated in a rack. For the time being I have installed some small temperature speed control boards for the fans (hence the somewhat messy wiring) but depending on how well that works and how hot the amplifiers get, I may go back to fixed resistors. The PSU already has a dedicated 12V fan output so the resistor doesn’t need to drop a lot of power.

The heat sinks had a cutout in the side that was just too narrow for the angle brackets to fit into. The best solution would have been to mill the ends of the brackets to fit the cutout so there is only one contact surface. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a mill anymore so I had to find another solution: A copper “heat slug” to fill the gap. Just a piece of copper bar in the right thickness cut to size and with thermal grease on both sides and that should provide the best possible thermal transfer under the circumstances.

So, will I stop building these amps? Erm, no! :D I am out of the ebay-boards but I do however still have my own version of the 1969 JLH that isn’t cased up yet. This build has given me some inspiration for how I can build that into small monoblocks so while it might take a while to do at least I know what parts to keep my eye out for :)

Cloning a classic…

I have been looking at class AB amp designs for a while, trying to find a “compromise” between my low-power (but very large) class A and high-power (and compact) class D builds. For some reason very few among the class AB designs managed to “stand out” to me with the right combination of simplicity, compactness and reputation. It’s not that I really had anything specific in mind, I just kept looking at stuff and thinking “naah, that’s not what I want” :)

However, one design that did keep cropping up was Rod Elliot’s “Project 3A” (or just “P3A” for short). This is a discrete amplifier with a reasonable power level for normal use and a very simple design. There’s plenty of evidence out there to support that the performance is good and even a way threads to evolve the design (search the “solid state” forum on diyaudio.com)

Rod sells PCBs for the P3A and that would of course have been the easy route, but because I had a specific form factor in mind I decided to “roll my own” :) The end result is app. 70mm square (flat mounting on a 75mm heatsink were one of the key design criteria) and quite compact. My only concession over the original is that I removed the input capacitor. Well, I didn’t actually remove it on this version since there is space for a bipolar electrolytic from Muse or Blackgate, but the main version is intended for having the input cap off-board.

As I wanted a matching power supply I “recycled” the last Gainclone PSU I did but added a second capacitor bank (which just fit on a board that is still constrained by me using the free version of Eagle). Since the P3A runs on 35V rails it is possible to use 50V capacitors and then a reasonable capacitance is still feasible with this PSU footprint – especially in a dual-mono setup. Of course the board has space for normal 35mm snap-in caps as well, but that’s so boring :D

I have only done this test version of the amp so far and confirmed that it works and that it plays music. (This is also the reason for the transistor pins not being trimmed properly – bias adjustment). That said, I do have a couple of case ideas in mind for this one where the lower heat of a class AB amp will be welcome (or should I say “required”) :D

Back from Japan…

I am now back again (physically at least) from two weeks in Japan. As the trip was a holiday and I could set the pace myself there was plenty of time to explore audio-related stuff :)

My credit card statement tells me I have managed to take full advantage of the fact that there is a good selection of DIY parts shops in both Tokyo and Osaka – and while domestic prices in Japan tend to be lower than where I am that’s easily fixed by simply buying more stuff :D

Special thanks to Pete Millett for providing a useful page of links for where to go shopping. Although I found most of these places on my last trip to Tokyo, Pete’s page has been very useful to me both in Tokyo and Taipei so definitely worth a mention here.

As was the case last year, this year’s expensive souvenir was also a pair of expensive Japanese-made headphones, namely these:

th900

Past projects: Pass Zen v4

It’s been quite a while since my last one of these “past project” posts, because honestly there isn’t a whole lot of stuff left in the “back catalogue” that I find worth showing off :D

One of the exceptions is here, a version of Nelson Pass’ Zen v4 class A amplifier. I built the amp a couple of years ago and it worked but had terrible hum. I traced the hum to a combination of the transformer and my grounding scheme. I ordered a new transformer that was better suited (and higher quality) and then forgot all about it until a couple of weeks ago. After replacing the transformer with the improved one (an audio-grade model from toroidy) and wiring it properly, the amp is not only working but also completely silent :)

The PCBs are decent-quality clones from ebay but all the components are bought from reputable sources. The only exception is the softstart which is a premade module that is a bit illogical (= annoying) in that you must use the “standby” to turn the amplifier on, but you can’t use the button to put it back into standby-mode again….

The chassis is a 4U/300mm standard “dissipante” from modushop, albeit with quite a bit of mechanical reinforcement underneath to take the weight of the transformer. The 4U heat sinks are OK for this amp but only just, if left at idle I measure the hottest part of the heat sink to be around 35C above ambient.

My F5 is on loan to someone else at the moment, but when I get it back I plan to make a comparison between the two and see which one I like best. On second thought it might have to wait a few more months since both of these amps run a bit too hot for summer – even a Danish one :D

Second anniversary…

Yes, today is the second anniversary of the blog and when I started writing I honestly didn’t think I’d still be here :)

As this post also just happens to be number 100, it is the perfect opportunity to say thanks to everyone out there reading and post the obligatory stats:

  • 100 posts, more than 80% of which are on audio-related builds or project file posts.
  • Over 90k page views in all
  • Over 2k project file downloads in total
  • Visitors to the site now come from 116 countries and territories around the world

I am currently in Japan on holiday, so I hope to have some new audio-related stuff to write about when I get back. In any case, I can assure you there are still plenty of other projects in the “pipeline” back home.

Thanks again for reading – I hope to continue writing and celebrate many more anniversaries in the future! :D

Project files: Universal Triple-PSUs

What is it?
Two boards for general-purpose LM317/LM337 power supplies with three rails, useable for many low-power applications where both a +/- supply and an auxiliary voltage are needed. Examples include analog amplifier + digital/logic circuitry, microphone preamplifier + phantom voltage etc.
There are two versions, one where the +/- voltage is derived from a single AC-voltage via a doubler and one where it comes from a traditional two-bridge rectifier circuit. This design is virtually a copy of my GP-PSUs. I made some minor enhancements and added the extra rail, but it is the same basic design.

How big are the boards?
Both board versions measure 3.925″ x 2.6″ (app. 100 x 66 mm.) and they are mechanically interchangeable.

What is the status of the boards?
The “standard” board is in v1.0 and works fine. The voltage-doubled board is in v1.1 and also works fine. The two versions are completely identical except for the diode/bridge arrangement on the +/- supply. The difference in version numbers came because I originally prototyped a different (smaller) layout for the voltage-doubled version. After making the “standard” version that requires a bit more space for the rectifier bridges, I decided it was smarter if they were both the same size and then changed the layout of the voltage-doubled board to match.

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?
Nothing, really. As always with these circuits, you can use standard LM317/337 regulators or splash out on more expensive (low-dropout) types like the LT/LM/LD108x-series. My experiences with the latter parts aren’t the greatest though (instability), so unless your applications require the low-drop capability I’d just as well stick to standard 317/337-types from a reputable source. If your application requires higher performance than this, you are probably better off looking at entirely different circuits and regulators.

Anything else I need to know?

  • There is a jumper on the boards that links the ground on the AUX-voltage to the midpoint (0V) of the +/- supply. This is optional and probably not required for most applications but can be used for e.g. linking analog and digital ground in mixed-signal circuits.
  • The diameter of the main filter capacitors is 16mm on the AUX supply and 18mm on the main supply.
  • The DIP rectifier bridges exist in versions up to 2A rated current although anything more than 1A can be a bit difficult to find. Realistically though, if you plan on drawing more than 1A from either supply the SK104-type heat sinks are probably going to be a limiting factor anyway.
  • Mounting the regulators and heat sinks is a bit of a faff because there is not much space, especially if the heat sinks are 38mm or taller. My suggestion (as always) is something like this:
    1) Loosely assemble the regulator, the isolation components and the heatsink.
    2) Mount the combination on the PCB and solder the heatsink in place.
    3) Tighten the screw holding the regulator to the heatsink.
    4) Solder the regulator in place.

Downloads:
Download design files here

Related information:
Even though the regulators used here are generic types made by many manufacturers, there can be small differences in recommended parts values etc. I suggest you always consult the regulator data sheets from the specific manufacturer.

Note: Always read the “intro post” for additional important information about my designs.

Project files: The Borbely Hybrid headamp

What is it?
This is my version of Erno Borbely’s tube/MOS-FET hybrid headphone amplifier. As discussed in a previous post I found this design a while ago and made plans to do my own board for it at some point. For a long time it was just another point on a long to-do list, but one random Saturday a couple of months ago I just somehow got started and managed to finish it shortly afterwards. There are only minor changes compared to the orginal. Apart from what is described below, it is mainly space for RN60-type resistors for all positions and use of bigger (and more easily available) heatsinks.

Note: I don’t really recommend building and using this as-is (see explanation below), but I decided to publish the board files anyway because I think it is still an interesting circuit. I am definitely not ruling out trying to make it useable at a later state with some soft of turn-on/turn-off delay circuit,. but for not that is not a priority for me.

How big are the boards?
Each mono board measures 3.2″ x 3.6″ (app. 81 x 91 mm.)

What is the status of the boards?
The board file is version 1.1. I have built version 1.0 and it works as expected (note the rather large caveat mentioned below though!!), but I had swapped the labels on Q2 and Q5. I also corrected the footprint for the two CRDs to make it easier to fit axial types which are the most commonly available.

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?

  • Power FETs: I decided to make the boards fit 2SJ313/2SK2013 FETs because they are mentioned as substitutes in original article and while still a bit difficult to get (watch out for fakes!) they are still easier to find than the original 2SJ79/2SK216s. This means that this layout is not useable with the original devices because they have a different pinout. You would however (most likely) be able to use IRF510/IRF9510 or IRF610/IRF9610 pairs instead. I haven’t tried this myself, but at least the pinouts match. If anyone want’s to have a go at this I’d be happy to donate one of my spare sets of boards to “the cause” – just drop me a line :)
  • Small-signal transistors: I replaced the originals (2SA872/2SC1775) with BC550/BC560 variants that aren’t quite as low-noise as the original types, but much easier to get. If you prefer “audiophile-approved” (near) unobtanium parts at all cost, then I believe the 2SA970/2SC2240 would work as well if they are turned 180 degrees to compensate for the different pinouts.
  • Tubes: You can pay a fortune for branded ECC86/ECC88 variants or you can use something cheaper, i.e. chinese/russian equivalents. I chose the latter and bought some 6N23P-types from ebay. These seem to work fine, but note that the 6N1P which is another oft-recommended substitute for ECC88 will not work in this application. Also: One of the tubes I tried gave me a steady-state DC offset of around 1V that I could not get rid of whereas the other channel was fine. I replaced the tube and redid the adjustment and then it was fine as well. This could be a fluke, but I think you should buy more than a single pair of tubes just to be on the safe side.

Anything else I need to know?

  • Important: As described in some of the diyaudio-posts I read about this design it has one major flaw and that is serious DC-offset at power-up and power-down. Both my boards are after adjustment within +/-10mV when they are fully warmed up and stabilised, but during power up they both swing the output to very close to one of the supply rails (meaning 20V or so) and stay for such a long time that I think it would be fatal for headphones. There are a couple of solutions to this, either an output capacitor or a delay circuit of some sort. I don’t have time to try either at the moment, but if you do so please report back.
  • The original circuit is differential input. However, my layout grounds the negative input as standard to make the inout single-ended only. I normally wouldn’t make a simplification like this, however it avoids a very long and unsightly trace through the ground plane. Since I expect that SE-input is how most people would use it anyway this was an acceptable compromise for me (but of course it might not be for you :) ).
  • When you mount components, note the resistor that is supposed to be mounted on the back of the board. This is much, much easier to do if you solder it before mounting the tube socket and not afterwards…

Downloads:
Download design files here

Related information:
See the original build article for more information about the design and a great walkthrough of component values etc.

Note: Always read the “intro post” for additional important information about my designs.

J-Mo buffer/headphone amp

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon the discussion thread for Richard Murdey’s J-Mo Mk. 2 headphone buffer on diyaudio.com. Richard runs RJM Audio (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already) and is also the man behind the Szekeres VE design that I built a while ago (see this post).

I am not sure why the J-Mo caught my eye, probably the simplicity of it, but it did. Richard already has a nice PCB for the design, but as I thought I could make it a little smaller, substitute some parts for more commonly available sizes and also improve the versatility a bit I decided to “roll my own” boards instead :)

I downloaded the eagle-files that Richard graciously provide for download, ripped up the original PCB file and got to work. The result is here in dual-mono format with amp and regulator on separate PCBs similar to the original. Apart from the revised layout my changes are relatively minor, mainly different component footprints where I thought it made sense and of course different heat sinks.

The rectifier bridge PCB is from my second Gainclone design and was perfect for making the unregulated DC voltage that the Zener regulator requires. The bottom plate in the pictures was just one that I had left over from another project and was suitable for mounting the boards. There is no wiring in the pictures, but the boards were wired up and it does play wonderful music (although feeding it with wonderful music seems to be required… :D)

As usual I didn’t really listen for a long time while it was sitting on my desk in “prototype mode”, but what I heard was good enough that I have ordered a proper mounting plate (i.e. one that fits in a standard enclosure), a transformer and some chassis part so I can give these great boards a “real” home :D

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