As you’d expect from someone who’s hobby’s include both audio/stereo and electronics, I try to measure and quantify things even when they are related to audio gear. While I will prefer to tune things by ear at the final step, measurement gives significant insight to some problems, in a very accurate way, in short amounts of time. One of the tools I would love to have for this is a very accurate audio analyzer, like one of the Audio-Precision offerings. What I’d like to have is the ability to measure parameters like harmonic distortion down to very low levels of distortion. However, most of these instruments are so expensive, even when bought used, that I gave up on finding a good one of these very long ago. Thankfully, nowadays, you can get very good results with much cheaper PC based gear. This post will describe one of the steps I’m taking to try and extend my ability to measure these parameters with my laptop, keeping in mind this is aimed at hobby use and must therefore be reasonably priced. I will start this post off with a bit of an introduction, but will dedicate most of it the the low THD oscillator and its power-supply.
One of the coolest tools you can have as a DIY’er is without a doubt a CNC machine. Nowadays, you can even buy one for a relatively low sum in the form of a kit, straight from eBay/AliExpress. A few years ago, while I was still a student, I’ve decided to build one myself. I’ve decided against a kit for two main reasons. The first was the cost, at the time these kits weren’t as wide-spread and cheap as they are now, and I was concerned with cost. The second being the desire to do something of my own, and learn in the process. My aim was to build a machine that will be sufficient for my needs, which means engraving panels for my other projects, as well as some work with wood (MDF mostly).
Since this was meant to be a learning project, I didn’t jump straight into buying everything, but instead took it step by step. As a first step, I went to one of the local junk-yards and bought a couple of stepper motors, along with a disassembled industrial scanner. It was very cheap, and seemed like a solid base to modify for use as the X-axis of the machine. After taking it apart for some well needed cleaning, and putting it back together it actually looked in good condition. It uses a belt to drive the frame, coupled to a Lin Eng. stepper with a 90degree gear-box. The belt is reinforced with some steel wires, so it seemed like it will suffice for my limited needs.
This post will briefly describe the M³ amplifier I’ve built to drive my headphones. Over the years I’ve had an opportunity to listen to quite a few headphone amplifiers, some of which I really liked, and even built a few of. These included the Pimeta from Tangent, and a few of AMB’s designs, including the M³ I will describe in this post. The M³ is meant to be a DIY amplifier, with boards being sold by Ti on his website. The M³ is based on a 3-channel topology, in which the output ground is also created by an amplifier channel. There has been significant discussion about this topology over the web, with opinions going both ways. However, like with all other audio related things, I prefer to let my ears be the final judge, and in the case of the M³ I always liked what I’ve heard.
Some years ago a friend of mine asked me to build one of these for him, with the power-supply sitting in its own case(Fig. 1). When it was complete, I’ve had some time to use it before he picked it up, and I really liked what I’ve heard. It was driving my AKG K1000 headphones to sufficient volume without much distortion, and the overall sound signature was much better than I have heard with many other amplifiers. The conclusion from this experience was simple, I should build one of these for myself 🙂
Some time ago I was playing around quite a bit with vintage audio amplifiers/receivers, and in many of them I was improving the power supply portion for the low current differential amplifier stages. This was always a simple and cheap task, that proved well worth the time when it came to sound. In a desire to “do this differently”, I didn’t want to use an IC for this, but rather wanted to go with a discrete yet simple design. The circuit I came up with was very well suited for such applications, and I therefore decided it would be a good idea to make an independent regulator PCB out of it for general use in audio stuff I build. At the time I also had limited experience with PCB design, so this seemed like a great project to start with. There’s no better way to learn than simply giving it a try.