Project files: PA100 parallel gainclone

What is it?
Board files for my “PA100” parallel chip amp with the LM3886 first presented here.

I’ve used the app. note version of the circuit which is non-inverting and uses low-tolerance components to minimise offset between the two ICs. There is also the Jeff Rowland-derived inverting circuit that is normally employed as a PA150/BPA300 configuration with three ICs per board.

I’ve mosty stuck to the datasheet circuit, but in some areas I have drawn inspiration from Tom Christensens article on the LM3886 IC. I’ve used SMT-components where I believe it makes sense to get a tight layout, but mostly its nice and diy-friendly leaded parts 🙂

How big are the boards?
The board measures 3.9” x 2.4” (app. 99 x 61 mm).

What is the status of the boards?
The files are for board version 1.1. I’ve made the following changes compared to the v1.0 prototype.

  • Mute capacitor footprint enlarged.
  • Mute resistor moved to the center of the board to make space for the larger capacitor.
  • Footprint for the LM3886 changed as the holes were very too small.
  • Made a small space between the large reservoir capacitors so they don’t touch each other.

Note that I haven’t tested the v1.1 (yet – will include them with my next PCB order) but I don’t expect any adverse effects of these changes.

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?
Not really, but the recommended resistors are lower tolerance than what is common (the 0805 resistors are 0.1% and the 0R1/3W output resistors are 1%). Mouser has them all and there should be plenty of other sources. The amp will work with standard tolerances (1% for the SMTs, 5% for the outputs) but if you’re unlucky with the tolerances then performance will suffer a bit (higher DC-offset on the output and higher idle dissipation in the ICs). The recommended parts are not much more expensive so I definitely recommend you stick to them.

Anything else I need to know?

  • The gain setting resistors (the SMD-ones) should be 0.1% tolerance for best performance (see above).
  • Similarly, the load-sharing resistors on the output should be 1% tolerance for best performance (see above).
  • The power LED on the board is only between the negative supply and ground, so it is not a 100% indication that everything is OK.
  • The board obviously works with both versions of the LM3886, but I recommend the isolated (TF) version because it’s easier to mount.
  • Decoupling: My decoupling scheme is somewhere between the datasheet recommendation and TomChrs decoupling scheme. The topside parts are intended to be 100nF MKT or X7R MLCCs which is more or less what the data sheet specifies, but on the bottom there are pads for 1206/1210 SMD caps which you can fill with 4u7-10uF X7R MLCCs. You can also use the SMD pads for 100nF MLCCs and then mount electrolytic on top, but there isn’t much space so be a bit careful.
  • The board should be fed from a DC power supply, linear or switching. The large reservoir caps can be as big as you like, but as my prototype boards are intended to be powered by an SMPS (which is sensitive to capacitive loading) I’ve used fairly small capacitors. If you use a linear supply by all means use bigger capacitors.
  • Bridging: You can bridge two boards to create a BPA200 amplifier, but remember a) to lower the supply voltage to around +/-28VDC and b) that you need either a fully-balanced source/preamp or you need to invert the phase using a balanced line driver such as a DRV134/THAT1646 or or fully-differential amplifier of some sort.
  • Mechanics: The C-to-C spacing between the ICs is 1.5” (38 mm).

Download design files here

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

You can find additional information about the LM3886 amplifiers in the data sheet, the AN-1192 appnote linked above and several other resources – check them all out 🙂


A parallel amplifier with the LM3886…

Gainclones or chipamps are a popular DIY-topic and I’ve done a couple of designs myself and assembled a few others as well. The only one of the “original” National semi amplifier IC’s that I haven’t really done anything with – and coincidentally the only one that’s still in production – is the LM3886.

But not any more, because I just finished a simple design with two LM3886s in parallel configuration. The circuit is built (mostly) according to the “PA100” design from the original National application note (AN-1192) and not the Jeff Rowland-derived PA150/BPA300 that has different configuration and of course a third IC per board.

The configuration with two parallel ICs gives full current output at +/-35V into 4 ohms where a single IC would otherwise be thermally limited, but of course the power is still modest. As I recently swapped my faithful Sonus Faber speakers for a set of Scansonic MB towers which have a fairly low impedance, that’s exactly what I needed though (not to mention that I had a 35V supply left over from another project 🙂 ). The two-chip configuration also means boards can be kept small (and cheap), and there’s still the option of using two boards per channel in bridge-mode to make a BPA200, although the supply voltage would have to be reduced – only the BPA300 will run at 35V rails in BTL-mode as well.

The boards worked first time on power-up and seem to be well-behaved (quick tests only though). I need to do a bit more testing and make some minor (mechanical) changes to the layout and then I’ll publish the project files 😀

Sunday morning chipamps…

It’s been some time since I did an ebay kit, but that doesn’t mean I have given up on them (in fact I bought plenty…) and a cheap kit is still a great thing to play with on a Sunday morning**

It’s a pair of power amps based on paralleled TDA7293 amplifier ICs in the correct “master/slave” configuration as per the data sheet (and this discussion on diyaudio). The TDA7293 and TDA7294 chips are among the few survivors of the “purge” of audiophile components and they should still be available. Unlike the LM38xx-series and its siblings, the TDAs have MOS-FET output stages which means they can run in parallel without resistors to limit current sharing between outputs. The parallel arrangement allows for more current into low-impedance loads, but as the TDA7293 will work on up to +/-50V rails having two ICs also makes for a fairly serious effective power output.

These kits are seriously cheap and although I’ve tried to use most of the components that came with the kit, some parts have been replaced for cosmetic reasons (because that matters to me, sorry!). Even with component replacements though, these kits are so cheap that there is no real excuse for not trying them – even if you don’t need new amplifiers at all 😉

No real sound impressions yet, but I know these chips can sound really good so I am looking forward to seeing how much of their potential can be unlocked for the same price as a takeaway meal 😉

**Yes I know it’s not Sunday today, but as Whit Monday is a holiday in Denmark it felt like Sunday morning 😀

Project files: LM1875 Gainclone

What is it?
The project files for my mini gain clone with the LM1875 IC as described here. The download file includes both the amplifier board and the matching PSU-board.

How big are the boards?
The amplifier boards measures 1.8” x 1.3” (app. 33 x 46 mm.)  and the PSU board measures 3.9” x 1.8” (app. 99 x 46 mm.)

What is the status of the boards?
Both boards are v1.0. I have built a working prototype, but detailed testing is on hold until I have build another set that I want to turn into a finished amplifier. All I know is that the design plays music just fine on the test bench 🙂

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?
Not really, unless you choose to go overboard with expensive boutique parts, such as premium capacitors and fast rectifiers. You can, but you don’t have to… 😀

Anything else I need to know?

  • The boards are intended to be used in dual-mono configuration with one supply board per amplifier. Take the speaker output from the amplifier board and the speaker ground connection from the spare ground terminal on the PSU output connector. It is of course also possible for two amps to share a PSU, but you may struggle with wiring everything with reasonably thick cables.
  • If you want to mount the amplifier in a 1U/40mm heatsink you need to keep the capacitors on the PSU board below app. 30mm in height and the amplifier board mounted perpendicular to the heatsink. If you have more space it is possible to mount the boards directly to a 50mm heat sink (parallel to the heat sink with the IC mounted from the underside). This would however mean you have to bend the pins of the LM1875 to fit yourself, because there is no standard pin configuration that supports this way of mounting.
  • You can mount R4 either on the top or the bottom of the board. I’d recommend that you use the opposite side of where the amplifier IC is mounted for easiest access.
  • There are more versions of the LM1875 IC depending on how the leads are shaped (straight and two different bend patterns in both 90deg and 180deg versions). From the datasheet I honestly can’t determine the correct order code for this board, so you’re on your own here… 😉

Download design files here

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

Read the LM1875 datasheet for more information. I’d also recommended the kit manual as a good source of information.


A Smaller Gainclone…

I have already done a couple of “gainclone”-type chipamp designs with the LM3875 amplifier IC, mainly here and here. Now there is a new one, this time based on the smaller LM1875 IC.

The smaller IC obviously means less voltage and less power compared to the LM3875 and LM3886 but unless you have a big room and/or very inefficient speakers (or you are having a party… 😀 ), the 20W or so that you can squeeze out of the LM1875 should still go quite far.

The circuit I’ve used is exactly the same as the standard one in the datasheet and also the same as the one used by in their kit. Some people might recognise the schematic as more or less a textbook example of how to make a non-inverting amplifier from an op-amp. That isn’t surprising though, because that is what the LM1875 really is – a power op-amp.

I have made the amplifier PCB as small as I could to make it possible to fit the amplifier either in a 1U enclosure or directly to a 50mm heatsink. The form factor of the board is a bit different than I originally intended, but layout-wise it’s obviously much better now than I could have managed by sticking to the original plan so that’s no big issue. In addition to the amplifier board I made a matching PSU board. This is a simple unregulated supply which is fine for this kind of application, but actually the current requirements of the LM1875 are approaching the range where regulation starts to be possible, so maybe I’ll do that some other time (in the future…).

The boards shown here are the prototypes with the mostly standard components I had available (and yes, the heat sink is for testing purposes as well). In the works is a more “boutique” version with better parts which is probably also the one I’ll end up putting in an enclosure. Testing confirms that it does indeed play music, but real listening tests I’ll hold off until I have the other prototype ready.

Project files: The ManyCaps PSUs…

What is it?
A little sideline project one might say :). For one of my other (upcoming) projects I needed to buy quite a few Panasonic FM series capacitors in one specific value. As is sometimes the case, buying 100 wasn’t much more expensive than just buying the 35 I needed and so I ended up with a question: What can you do with the rest?

In theory, paralleling multiple small capacitors gives you lower ESR/ESL and higher ripple current than a single big cap. However, due to the physical distance required between the many small caps some of the benefit is negated and overall I am not sure I dare say that one approach is inherently better than the other – that depends on what you are trying to achieve I think.

However, as I already had the capacitors I might as well try it. Obviously, something as groundbreaking as this needs to have a suitably audiophile-sounding name, so without further ado allow me to introduce the “ManyCaps”(™) audiophile PSU boards 😀

There are two versions, single and dual, with space for either 2×12 or 1×15 13mm radial capacitors. The most obvious application for these is probably gainclones and smaller class D amplifiers but they can be used anywhere where an unregulated supply is OK. The boards can of course also be used with a DC input, either with the rectifier in place or with the rectifier bypassed.

How big are the boards?
The single board measures 3.8″ x 2.0″ (app. 97 x 51 mm) and the dual board measures 3.925″ x 3.2″ (app. 100 x 81 mm).

What is the status of the boards?
Both boards are in v. 1.0. They are simple designs, so I didn’t need to make any changes and they worked the first time round 🙂

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?
Nothing really stands out:
  • The main capacitors are 13mm max diameter and voltage obviously depends on the application.
  • Rectifier is GBU-type and should probably be rated at least 6-8A.
  • The decoupling capacitor should be around 1.0 uF MKP or MKT. The lead spacing is 22.5mm on the dual board and 15mm on the single board.

Anything else I need to know?
Can’t think of anything 🙂

Download design files here

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

Project files: New gainclones

What is it?
These are the board files for the gainclone amp and PCBs posted here. They (sort of) supercede the original files from this post – at least the PSU.

How big are the boards?

  • Amp: 2.4″x1.5″ (app. 61×38 mm)
  • PSU: 3.925″x1.95″ (app. 100×50 mm)
  • Bridge: 2.55″x1.6″ (app. 65×41 mm)

What is the status of the boards?
The boards are in version 1.0 or higher. They have all been built and tested.

Does it use any special/expensive/hard-to-find parts?
Not really. You can do what I did and splash out on 0.1% resistors and audiograde caps, but it definitely isn’t necessary.

Anything else I need to know?

  • The LED on the amp board is connected rail-to-rail which means that in a typical application it will drop around 70V, so it should be rated 1W.
  • If you use film caps thicker than 3mm for the bridge board, you may have problems mousing the diodes completely straight (as I had on the one I built)

Download design files here

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

You can find additional information about the LM3875 gainclone in the LM3875 build guide over at


New gainclones…

At the start of the year I promised that I was working on some new gainclones – and here they are 🙂

Actually, it is only really one new amp (and it is “only” a mono-version of the one I’ve already published. The amp design is faithful to the original non-inverting GC circuit that is still used by Audiosector. Along with it is a tweaked version of the original PSU design I did and a new rectifier bridge PCB if you want to stick to the “original” gainclone concept and only have relatively small capacitors in the PSU.

My test-implementation here is a little bit “over the top” as I have used 0.1% Vishay RN55 resistors and Nichicon KZ and KG “Gold Tune” audio-grade caps. Not sure if it makes a difference, but it does look nice I think (and that matters to some people – me included :D). I have also assembled the diode-bridge and I plan to (at some point) make up another set of amp boards and try the minimalist implementation with only 1000-2000uF of capacitance on each PSU rail and see if I can hear a difference.

The assembled set of boards will be used as a dual-mono amp with two 150VA transformers (on order) and the boards are mounted to 25x50x100mm pieces of aluminium for heat sinking (we’ll see if that is enough, but it should be).

The project files will be published soon – I just need to make a few final tweaks to them first 🙂

Work in progress….

It’s been a while since I have posted here, but real life is still getting in the way of my build time. At the moment this means I am mostly starting up new projects, because for some strange reason I can always find time to start new projects – even when time to finish the old ones is nowhere in sight 😀

I have been shopping a little at recently and bought several DAC boards and power supplies, so one a few DACs are in the cards for sure 🙂 Also, one or two gainclones might make an appearance as well at some point. One reason for this is that I rediscovered some pictures of the Audiosector “Patek” amp a couple of weeks ago, so guess who has been scouring ebay etc. for reasonably-priced copper bars lately? 😉

Lastly, the Borbely and the Le Monstre front/rear panels have arrived and I am pretty happy with those, so now I am just waiting for my transformer order and a free weekend and then at least that should be sorted out.

However, I have to say that even with not much new going on there are still plenty of people that find their way here. The blog was at 15k page views in the beginning of January and it is now over 21k views total – I can’t complain about that, so thanks a lot for stopping by 😀

Chip-based class D

IC-based amplifiers do not exactly have a perfect reputation among hi-fi enthusiasts and class D chips are pretty much considered the bottom rung of the ladder. Most of them are mainly intended for mass-market products such as cheap receivers, box systems and flat panel TVs which are not exactly the last word in hi-fi and sound quality.

However, just because something is intended for mass-market products does not necessarily mean there isn’t quality to be found – there is usually some solid engineering behind these chips and if you lift the common restrictions of their normal applications (primarily board space and cost) then it is normally also possible to lift the performance significantly as well.

The Tripath family of chips (TA2020, TA2022, TP2050 etc.) are very good examples of this but now there are some new contenders as well. One of them is the TPA3116 from TI which has been getting good press over at diyaudio lately. This chip can be connected in both stereo and mono-mode and although the 100W power rating is a bit optimistic (at least if you still want music out of it and not just noise) there should be enough power on tap for normal domestic use.

I bought one of the cheap ebay-boards shown below as a test and also as a preamble for a more custom-built design of my own. Now, connecting a 12 EUR amp PCB based on a chip (and a class-D chip at that) to a 4000 EUR pair of speakers may seem heresy to some – and it probably is – but hey, you have to try 😉 I have not listened extensively to this board yet but initial impression is that the sound quality is actually quite good – and worth building on.

I am not far with my own PCB layout yet, but as I have a specific design concept in mind (which I will not reveal just yet 😉 ) I have already decided on a mono-block design and a max. board size of around 85×45 mm, so let’s see where it goes from there 😀