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Refreshing the Sound Blaster 16!

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
As some of you may remember, I have been piecing together parts to build a project system for headphone listening. The idea is to recap the PSU, the Motherboard and the Sound Blaster 16 with low impedance, high ripple capacitors in an attempt to achieve better all-around sound.

Headphones being used: Sony MDR-V700
(note: This already sounds much better than running them off of the SbLive! in my main system! Any attempt at boosting bass on the SbLive! will distort heavily and there is no real power behind the music. Of course, the SbLive! is not supposed to utilize anything below 32-Ohms. With the SB16, the music is full and powerful. There are 6 notches above the bottom in WinXP volume control; I can turn Master and Wave up to only the first notch and it is as loud as I will ever want to listen. The onboard OpAmp looks at my 24-Ohm headphones as 24-Ohms per side, so combined with the 9V regulated voltage supply, the power output should be around 350-400 milliwatts maximum.

--Progress--

Antec PP-303X:
Fully recapped with Samxon GC and GD line capacitors from BadCaps.net where possible. Anything too small capacitance-wise was replaced with Panasonic FM or FC line capacitors from Digi-Key. The large 200V mains were replaced with Panasonic TS-ED capacitors, also from Digi-Key.
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Abit BH6:
Were some capacitors missing from order so this has not been done, yet.

+Sound Blaster 16+ (CT2770):
For the sake of a refresh all necessary capacitors will be replaced with Panasonic FM or FC line capacitors.
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1) C18, C132, C86 and C95 replaced. Digi-Key P# P11212. These are the four initial filter caps for the Voltage supply rails of the ISA bus. No obvious change.

2) C68, C79, C104 and C105 replaced. Digi-Key P# P11212. These four filter caps are tied to the rails of the two on-board voltage regulators. In my opinion, bass was improved.

3) C87 replaced. Digi-Key P# P12924. This is the Supply Voltage Rejection capacitor and reduces ripple. Some of the hiss in the background seems to have subsided and the music sounds overall smoother.

4) C89 and C99 replaced. Digi-Key P# P12923. These are the Feedback capacitors. (also referred to as Inverting Input DC Decoupling capacitors) I'm uncertain whether there was a change. The music sounds as if it may have a bit more power behind it. According to the datasheet, this capacitors can affect the low frequency cut-off. It calls for a 100uF capacitor, but Creative Labs used a 47uF capacitor. I may rectify this, later.

5) C83 and C? replaced. Digi-Key P# P12924. These are the Bootstrap capacitors. excerpt from datasheet: "The bootstrap connection allows to increase the output swing. The suggested value for the bootstrap capacitors (100uF) avoids a reduction of the output signal at low frequencies and low supply voltages." I cannot say whether I hear a difference or not, but this is still an important place to apply good quality capacitors. Logically, it would seem that this becomes more of a factor as you increase volume and more power is required. This would likely be a real issue if you were stressing the circuit.

6) C93 and C103 replaced. Digi-Key P# P12376. These are the Output DC Decoupling Capacitors. Their capacitance affects the low frequency cut-off. At 470uF and 24-Ohms the cut-off would be 14Hz. (It's hard to say, exactly since Creative used smaller Feedback capacitors than the Datasheet calls for, but much larger Input capacitors than the Datasheet calls for.) I did not change values, but very low-frequency performance HAS improved. Also, I noticed some details in the various areas of the frequency range in the tracks I have been listening to that I did not notice before. Again, they are much better caps than the originals and they are fresh. These capacitors are also important if you are using headphones as they block DC which would otherwise damage your headphones. Ideally, for best quality they should be non-polarized, but for the moment, I wanted to keep the capacitors the same diameter. Maybe I should have done this first; maybe it would have allowed me to more easily noticed improvements from replacing other caps. doh!

7) C88 and C98 + C107 and C105 replaced. These are the Input DC Decoupling capacitors. The first pair seem to be tied to the second; what is going on here, I am not certain. Anyway, sound was overall more detailed and even the bass seemed clearer. Actually, I have to admit that I had read that my headphones are bass-heavy, but on the SbLive! that was absolutely NOT true. After replacing these signal caps, the bass does seem a bit heavy; enough to shroud some of the upper range that I used to notice, while the mid-range is beautiful. Applying film bypass caps to the filter caps of the ISA voltage rails did not seem to yield any real improvement as it did on the Live! And it may never make a noticable difference since I can't really do anything about running electrolytics on the outputs. Changing 1uF signal caps on the SB16 to films will likely make a large difference.

That pretty much finishes up a basic refresh for use with hard-drive audio. There are many other traces, such as the Line-In and the several CD-A inputs which could be recapped, but I have no interest in these. Actually, I may refresh the Line-In for use with a Playstation 1 I am refreshing, mainly to be used as a simple CD-Player, but also to improve sound while gaming.


I do plan to replace many of the signal capacitors between the DSP and OpAmp as well as those between the Line-In jack and DSP with Metallized Polypropylene Films. I am still considering options for replacing the 470uF output capacitors as films would be too costly and bulky. Likely, non-polarized electrolytics bypassed with films will be the end result.

I am considering one or two very simple modifications for the card as well. For example: The original schematic for the TEA2025B uses a 100uF filter capacitor at the Voltage Supply pin. Creative Labs saw fit to simply place a 10uF electrolytic before and after the voltage regulator. I tried adding a 100uF, swapping it from in front of to behind the regulator to see what happens. I didn't notice any real difference. I'll get pics up ASAP! Happy reading!
post #2 of 37
At least show us some "Before" pic's !
... oh my bad, didn't saw the last two senstences, ah well, blame the lack of coffee atm.
post #3 of 37
Wow, that's a lot of mods for inexpensive equipment. What steps did you have to take while modifying the power supply to ensure that you were safe from a dose of electricity?
post #4 of 37
Why bother? the SBlive! is a decent source when you use kxaudio drivers and the rear outputs.

You would be much better off recapping the sblive!


Im also a badcaps member.
post #5 of 37
It's all about the game, not the prize money.
post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LawnGnome View Post
Why bother? the SBlive! is a decent source when you use kxaudio drivers and the rear outputs.

You would be much better off recapping the sblive!


Im also a badcaps member.
Then you must have missed my threads because I've already been modding my SbLive! and I can tell you from first-hand experience that it doesn't even touch this Sound Blaster 16 I'm working with, but this is probably due to the fact that the minimum load the SbLive! is supposed to see is 32-Ohms and the MDR-V700's are probably not a great combination with the SbLive! Don't get me wrong, though. I love playing with my SbLive! and changing the signal caps to films was the best thing I ever did. Also, bypassing the initial filter caps coming off the PCI bus with 0.1 and, if you have any, 0.01 films brings out lots of detail on the SbLive!. But bass suffers tremendously on my SbLive! with these headphones.

Edit: And I've been doing exactly as you say; using the kX drivers with the rear output, which in itself was an obvious improvement over the front channel. Again, improved with films.

infinitesymphony: The only real danger, as far as I know, are the 200V main caps. In all the instances I have recapped a PSU, I have never had a problem. I do use a grounded soldering iron, just in case. I don't remember whether a shock from these guys can harm you or not. Working with a PSU from a PC is nothing like working on a television or monitor or something of that nature. In any case, there are instructions on BadCaps.net on using resistors to discharge large capacitors for safety.
post #7 of 37
I still have that old Abit BH6 motherboard and SB16 vibra somewhere in my stash. But I am not sure I want to do this or not. I definitely do not want windows95, and windows XP could not be fast as I can accept on old pentium 450.

I agree on the fact old SB16 has more punch than recent soundcards. AWE32 is even more powerful than SB16. Old cards are not detailed or hum free like recent ones, but they are powerful enough to drive almost all headphones without help of an amp.
It looks like you are doing quite much for old system. I am not gonna do any major recap or heavy mod for that old system, but I think you can do that if that makes you happy.

Please post before and after pics, so that we can see what you're doing.
post #8 of 37
Thread Starter 
I'm running XP on a P3-500 on this BH6 and it's true that it is a bit slow. I think I'll switch to this 733 I have sitting here. Some tips for using the BH6. First of all, update the bios! ftp.abit.com.tw is where you will find the updates for older stuff. Go to pub, download, bios, and then you will have to determine which bios revision you have. Mine was the BH6-1.1 (sticker on the side of the outside ISA bus connector) and I used the BH632sp.exe to update mine. If you go to update yours and can't figure it out, let me know and I'll retrace how I did it. Also, with updates, it handles a maximum of 768MB of RAM and I believe, also after the updates it can use PC133, but I'm not positive. PC100 may be the best it can use, but anyway, ideally you would use three single-sided sticks of 256MB SDRAM as there are three slots. I don't believe it can utilize double-sided RAM as I have two sticks of double-sided 512MB PC133 and even if I only install a single stick, it only reads as 256MB so with both in there I get 512MB instead of 1GB.
post #9 of 37
Logistics, thank for the info. I will check that site.

Ok, I went to the storage and digged those boxes. I found this box containing BH6 mainboard.





Oops... where's my SB16?

Anyway, this board is still alive and well. The soundcards are yamaha XG and creatvie CT5803 (which has no electrolytic cap at all). Couple more pentiums and coolers. I knew I got SB16 somewhere, but I need to dig little more.

But I will mess with this board later, maybe after you did mod yours. My concern now is recapping my old 300w PSU that has swollen caps (Yup, that dreadful Fuhjjiyu and Tayeh) in it.
post #10 of 37
Thread Starter 
Is there a large DIP16 OpAmp on that Yamaha card? See which one it is!

Edit: VVV You could use that card! Are there any voltage regulators on the card? If not, it may not output the same power, but it will handle a set of headphones alot better than an SbLive! or other modern card with no real OpAmp.
post #11 of 37
That's TEA2025B chip on that yamaha YMF724 card.
post #12 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Logistics View Post
Then you must have missed my threads because I've already been modding my SbLive! and I can tell you from first-hand experience that it doesn't even touch this Sound Blaster 16 I'm working with, but this is probably due to the fact that the minimum load the SbLive! is supposed to see is 32-Ohms and the MDR-V700's are probably not a great combination with the SbLive! Don't get me wrong, though. I love playing with my SbLive! and changing the signal caps to films was the best thing I ever did. Also, bypassing the initial filter caps coming off the PCI bus with 0.1 and, if you have any, 0.01 films brings out lots of detail on the SbLive!. But bass suffers tremendously on my SbLive! with these headphones.

Edit: And I've been doing exactly as you say; using the kX drivers with the rear output, which in itself was an obvious improvement over the front channel. Again, improved with films.

infinitesymphony: The only real danger, as far as I know, are the 200V main caps. In all the instances I have recapped a PSU, I have never had a problem. I do use a grounded soldering iron, just in case. I don't remember whether a shock from these guys can harm you or not. Working with a PSU from a PC is nothing like working on a television or monitor or something of that nature. In any case, there are instructions on BadCaps.net on using resistors to discharge large capacitors for safety.
Sorry, No I haven't seen those posts.

Could you link me please? I have a SBLive! I'm using as main source now, and have plenty of panny FM's. I also Samxon caps too, as a tester for the distributor on badcaps, Big Pope. They are pretty decent caps I'd say.

And to the other peoples, recapping/modding a psu isn't dangerous if you know what you are doing and are safe about it.
post #13 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LawnGnome View Post
Sorry, No I haven't seen those posts.

Could you link me please? I have a SBLive! I'm using as main source now, and have plenty of panny FM's. I also Samxon caps too, as a tester for the distributor on badcaps, Big Pope. They are pretty decent caps I'd say.

And to the other peoples, recapping/modding a psu isn't dangerous if you know what you are doing and are safe about it.
http://www.badcaps.net/forum/showthread.php?t=3791
http://www.badcaps.net/forum/showthread.php?t=3543

In fact I should mirror my post on BadCaps since I've been going on about this over there, too. Gotta hurry up and get some pics up to. Although, it's not like looking at the inside of an amplifier. The caps are just taller and a different color than the originals. lol! I guess I'll photoshop the pics to show which caps are which, though.

Since Samxon's only go down to 330uF in a GD and 470uF in a GC you won't find a home for them on an SbLive! Lots of FM's and or FC's will work, though. There may be some info which sound conflicting in some of my posts, I'm not sure, but even though I downsized to a 0.1uF film in the signal paths as opposed to 10uF electrolytics, there wasn't any real bass with the 10uF's either. I strongly believe that the Live!'s onboard hardware simply cannot supply adequate power for my cans. If you want to stick the original value back in, try an FM or one of those Panasonic bipolars which Digi-Key sells.
post #14 of 37
Thread Starter 
Bump for pics!


Edit: I also wanted to mention that even though I had fun with this project, and the results were great, the SB16 cannot do ASIO. In fact, from what I can tell, it cannot do Kernel Streaming either. When I enable Kernel Streaming in Winamp, I hear music, but it sound EXACTLY the same as in any other typical mode. I think something fishy is going on here. After researching I found that it was not until the actual AWE32 (not the SB32) that ASIO was possible because it was the first card that allowed 16-bit DMA on both channels, in and out. The SB16 would allow 16-bit DMA on only a single channel while the other had to be 8-bit and was not a full-duplex card.

Again, this project was to improve headphone listening on my particular phones, which it did. However, I believe the best thing to do would be to move to an AWE32 or better Sound Blaster card, while still retaining ISA of course so as to have the pleasure of ASIO/Kernel Streaming. And the reason for ISA is because there is nothing over 5V on the PCI bus, which means you will never have any real power for low-impedance headphones. But an examination of said card would be important, to make sure it has voltage regulation present for the OpAmp IC, and that it's getting decent voltage. The SB16 is regulated to 9V from a 12V rail. This allows for copious amounts of power in the headphone world.
post #15 of 37
I have an AWE64 Gold that you can have for free (+ postage)... I no longer have ISA machines, so it has been out of use for a long time now
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