In this post I’d like to briefly share my thoughts on a subwoofer amplifier board I’ve purchased from AliExpress a few weeks ago. I have purchased it as a cheap solution to test an in-wall subwoofer I’m building (2x10inch woofers model R1S4-10 from RF in sealed enclosures). I looked for an amplifier that will have ~400W output power into an 8ohm load (bridge connection), although I doubt I will ever need this much power, or even half that. I’m actually more interested to see how much output power I can get before distortion gets out of hand, with the hope I could get ~200W before onset of clipping. I would obviously much prefer to have a plate amplifier for this, but I haven’t found one that seemed to meet all my needs for a reasonable cost, so I went with plan B. As all temporary things, if it works well it will probably be turned into a fixed solution, so I was interested in seeing how it will perform on the test bench.
The β22 from AMB is one of the most highly regarded DIY headphone amplifiers you can meet around the web.It gets plenty of excellent reviews from plenty of people who have built it. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to listen to quite a few headphone amplifiers, including DIY builds, and I ran across a β22 more than once. I’ve even had an opportunity to repair one for a friend after it got damaged due to an accidental short on the output. The β22 always sounded good to me, although I must admit that its one of these amplifier that didn’t give me that “wow” factor on our first encounter. In my book that can actually be a very good thing, as many of the amplifiers (and any other stereo component) that give a “wow” feeling at first, prove to be too fatiguing and unrealistic sounding in the long run. The β22 is one of these amplifiers that you appreciate more as you spend more time with it.
I’ve been thinking of building a β22 for a fairly long time, with the cost being one of the factors against it. Just like with any other DIY project, and I’ve seen quite a few, the builder has significant wiggle-room regarding quality and cost, as well as functionality. However, I wanted to build one that could serve multiple functions, perform well, and look well. I wanted something I could be proud of building and owning, and to be happy with it for years to come. Eventually, I’ve decided to pull the trigger on this build. In this post I’ll share the steps and some of the technical considerations that came into play during this build.
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 🙂
Like any vintage audio equipment user knows, one of the main issues of having such gear is the occasional problem that will need fixing. This project started because of one of these problem. As part of a discussion on another internet forum, one forum member (lets call him Tom :)) approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping him sort out a problem with a Sansui 9090DB receiver. This is a fairly old, but highly regarded piece of audio gear. The problem he described was the main amplifier board, named F2624, which is also shared with a few other Sansui models. These boards became unreliable over the years, with problematic traces, difficult to obtain parts, and so on. At the time I was just a M.Sc. student and had the free time to do things just for fun, so I jumped aboard. Following a short discussion we’ve agreed we will aim at creating a whole new board, that will be a plug-in replacement for the original F2624, but with modern parts.
The first step, was obviously getting a hold of the schematic. However, as it turns out, it doesn’t really exist anywhere that I know of. This is because the schematic that was published in the Sansui service manual was of an early version of the board, and had a couple of mistakes in it. So what do you do when you can’t get the original schematic? You draw one yourself. So that is exactly what I did, by getting an original Sansui board, and going over it. Again, as far as I know, this is the only complete schematic of this board version that is available online. Therefore, I would like to share it with others who might need it one day to repair such a board. We (myself, and Tom) have already published this on 2 internet forums to make it available to anyone who needs it. I will also include it as an attachment at the end of this post.
A DC protection circuit is typically included at the output of most audio amplifiers, and is meant to disconnect the loudspeakers if a significant DC component is present at the amplifiers output. This is important as excess DC current through the loudspeaker (or headphones) will generate significant heat and can damage it. Unlike commercial products, most DIY builds I’ve seen over the years, don’t include a DC protection at the output. This of course leaves the loudspeaker/headphones connected to it vulnerable in case of a problem in the amplifier. Therefore, when I was planning one of my previous amplifier builds, I’ve decided I should first design, a DC protection circuit to add the output of the amplifier. I’ve decided to slightly enhance the circuit to include a few extra features other than just DC protection, and make it as versatile as possible:
- Supply voltage of +/-12V to +/-75V (or single 24V-150V supply)
- Wide input swing of +/-55V
- Support single-ended/balanced/active-ground amplifiers
- 2 channels input per board
- Adjustable sensitivity
- Independent detection per channel for a robust design
- Support 2 outputs (A/B/A+B) with relay switching
- Visual notification(LED) of active output, and fault
- Delayed start-up
- Accelerated shut-down for reduced “popping” noise
- 40mA supply current with single relay energized
- Up to 8A load current with default relay
The circuit can obviously be modified if needed for a simpler build (no output selection for instance), and can be extended as far as voltage range is concerned. For instance, I have since used the same board with a few less parts with a single 12V supply for the output of a small headphone amplifier.