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Do DIY sound as good as Commercial Amps?

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
Before I take the plunge and throw a lot of time and money on a DIY, I would like to know how well they hold up to other amps in their price range, what ever it might be. I'm kinda hoping that they would out perform other amps and that I will have fun doing it. I understand there will be variability with each kit and the components and skill in building the kit, so lets assume everything goes as it should (like that ever happens ) and high-grade components are used.

All comments welcome

I'll add more later after I get a feel for how this thread goes.

Driving D2000.
post #2 of 54
RSA Apache/HR2 = Class B Output stage OPAMP buffer stage based amplifier. You can find the article regarding this at Headwize.com

RSA SR71A = Tangent's Mint amplifier without the jung multiloop.

One of SinglePower's Amp = Two stage OTL amplifier by Van Waarde (can also be found on headwize)

Minibox-E = Mint with a special battery with centre output ground?

Graham Solo Slee = sorta RSA Apache with output caps.


Whether you like it or not, most of the commercial stuffs out there have similar if not the same topology employed in most of the DIY equivalent amplifiers.

The benefit of going DIY is that you can choose parts you like, choose configurations you like and even so it's cheaper than what commercial vendors are capable of offering.

This only works if you're capable of working with electronics.
post #3 of 54
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TzeYang View Post
RSA Apache/HR2 = Class B Output stage OPAMP buffer stage based amplifier. You can find the article regarding this at Headwize.com

RSA SR71A = Tangent's Mint amplifier without the jung multiloop.

One of SinglePower's Amp = Two stage OTL amplifier by Van Waarde (can also be found on headwize)

Minibox-E = Mint with a special battery with centre output ground?

Graham Solo Slee = sorta RSA Apache with output caps.
Thanks for the suggestions; any thoughts on the b22 kits? I know its a bit more involved than some of the other projects, but I don't mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TzeYang View Post
The benefit of going DIY is that you can choose parts you like, choose configurations you like and even so it's cheaper than what commercial vendors are capable of offering.
I was thinking that this would be the case, and hoping for it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TzeYang View Post
This only works if you're capable of working with electronics.
I can solder pretty well. Now about the rest... well, I hope I'm smart enough to figure it out and I'm sure I can with good guidance. As a mech. engineer I deal with completely diff animals than the EE guys, but I create and follow BoMs all day long, so I'm hoping its similar. Its been several years since I had to mess around with any circuits, however...

More thoughts?
post #4 of 54
Yes, many DIY designs are excellent. Remember that commercial amps charge for labor, overhead and profit (and justifiably so), so a similar amount spent on DIY gets you the finest parts and possibly into a much more expensive amp than you can afford.

Another huge benefit is that DIY amps are picked over publicly by very knowledgeable people who often build them. If there is a problem in the design or a small tweak that improves it, those usually get added to the design. Commercial amps rarely get this kind of scrutiny. Though many designers are smart and talented, nothing irons out the final details like making your design public.

Another reason is that DIY designs often use more unconventional designs than commercial amps. They're designed for fun and to learn, not necessarily to develop a produc line. So if you like things a little out of the ordinary, DIY will give that to you.

Finally, being able to pick your own parts and incorporate neat extras is wonderful. A couple weeks ago, I picked up a bag of nifty tie points. These things are nickel plated solid copper. I've looked and can't find these on the market. But $10 got me enough to use in several projects. These are going to make for nice amps - the layout will be clean and I'll set it up so it'll be a snap to take measurements and (eventually) replace stuff that wears out.

So go ahead and build an amp. The only risk is that you'll get hooked and end up with too many projects.
post #5 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by TwinFinnley View Post
Thanks for the suggestions; any thoughts on the b22 kits? I know its a bit more involved than some of the other projects, but I don't mind.
I just finished a B24 (which is the 200 watt big brother of the B22) and have built a few other AMB labs projects and I highly recommend them, especially if this is your first time doing a DIY project. His projects are well thought out and have first rate documentation, in addition Ti (the person behind AMB labs) is extremely helpful if you need to do any trouble shooting. I dont think I ever had to wait more than a couple hours for a reply to one of my questions even if it was 2 a.m! If you do end up building a B22 I would recommend that instead of getting a prepackaged kit you buy the parts yourself off mouser and digikey. AMB has all the parts listed on his site. The advantage of this is that you can buy extras in case you loose something, screw up, or want to closely match a bunch of transistors.

BTW my B24 sounds excellent and even though I ended up spending about 500 more than I intended on it I checked at my local hi-fi store and I cant find anything like it for less than twice what it cost me to build it....

One other nice thing about DIY is that 10 years down the road if your amp fails you will probably have the knowledge, skills, and tools to fix it.
post #6 of 54
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
Another huge benefit is that DIY amps are picked over publicly by very knowledgeable people who often build them. If there is a problem in the design or a small tweak that improves it, those usually get added to the design.
Were I to start on a kit, where could I find these improvements? Do the original designers make x.3 or x.4 etc schemes incorporating these changes or do I just need to keep my eyes open for the changes made by others? Probably both I'm assuming.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
So go ahead and build an amp. The only risk is that you'll get hooked and end up with too many projects.
I'm getting scared, but in a good way

Quote:
Originally Posted by akcrusier View Post
I just finished a B24 (which is the 200 watt big brother of the B22) and have built a few other AMB labs projects and I highly recommend them, especially if this is your first time doing a DIY project. His projects are well thought out and have first rate documentation
It will be my first DIY project on this scale, I guess I'm still a DIY amp virgin... so thanks for letting me know about his kits - making them less scary and all that good stuff
Quote:
Originally Posted by akcrusier View Post
BTW my B24 sounds excellent and even though I ended up spending about 500 more than I intended on it I checked at my local hi-fi store and I cant find anything like it for less than twice what it cost me to build it....
Just what I needed to hear! Thanks man!
post #7 of 54
Wow, Beta24 and Beta22 as "first" profject. That's a first.
post #8 of 54
i recommend amb's stuff too. it sounds awesome and its not really difficult to build if you are good at carefully stuffing big boards.
post #9 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by TwinFinnley View Post
Were I to start on a kit, where could I find these improvements? Do the original designers make x.3 or x.4 etc schemes incorporating these changes or do I just need to keep my eyes open for the changes made by others? Probably both I'm assuming.
<snip>
I would just use Jeff Rossel's kits (assuming you are still discussing B22). There aren't really any opportunities for parts improvement for this (DC coupled, so no benefit for audiophool capacitors, etc.). The only area I would personally change would be resistors (I like PRP and Roederstein MK3s). If you look at the kit BOM (Jeff will supply a spreadsheet for you), the resistors are miniscule in terms of the price, so doing your own in addition to the Dales in the kit is a non-issue. Also, decide up front if you want to build a one or two enclosure amp; single enclosure you might want a shielded transformer (such as SumR), and not go with the Avel Lindberg transformer supplied with the kit.

I would think with your background, as long as you pay attention to detail and use a methodical approach you will be fine building something like this as a first project. The casework is usually the biggest hurdle anyhow, and it is ermm... mechanical
post #10 of 54
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post
Wow, Beta24 and Beta22 as "first" profject. That's a first.
Ya, some of my "caution" buzzers are going off in my head, but then another part says, "do or do not, there is no try" - what ever that means I'm just gonna go for the gusto and then take you out for drinks later at the, "I tried to warn you" party
post #11 of 54
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pars View Post
I would just use Jeff Rossel's kits (assuming you are still discussing B22). There aren't really any opportunities for parts improvement for this (DC coupled, so no benefit for audiophool capacitors, etc.). The only area I would personally change would be resistors (I like PRP and Roederstein MK3s). If you look at the kit BOM (Jeff will supply a spreadsheet for you), the resistors are miniscule in terms of the price, so doing your own in addition to the Dales in the kit is a non-issue. Also, decide up front if you want to build a one or two enclosure amp; single enclosure you might want a shielded transformer (such as SumR), and not go with the Avel Lindberg transformer supplied with the kit.

I would think with your background, as long as you pay attention to detail and use a methodical approach you will be fine building something like this as a first project. The casework is usually the biggest hurdle anyhow, and it is ermm... mechanical
Thanks for the heads up and encouragement, I really am taking all this to heart, everyone's comments included. However, I do need to do some brushing up on circuitry, any suggestions on books, starting at the basics and moving up to more of the subtleties? I just want to know why I'm going to be doing some of the things I'm going to be doing along with understanding the results of doing something wrong.

As far as the casework, I'll do some SolidWorks mock-ups first and work out the kinks there. I'm a Measure 2x cut 1x kind-of-a-guy.

Again, thanks all for your support
post #12 of 54
Tangents website is a great place to start - Audiologica

Articles on everything from what tools and equipment you need to start to simple easy projects to start with. The Cmoy amp is simple, cheap and easy to build and a a good first project to see if you like DIY and Tangents guide is the best IMO.

If you want something better but still appropriate as a first project maybe Tangents PIMETA v2 Headphone Amplifier or ambs The Cavalli-Kan Kumisa III Stereo Headphone Amplifier may be more suitable.

Dollar for Dollar a DIY amp will normally be better than commercial offerings and there is also a lot of satisfaction in knowing you built the amp you are listening to.


Good luck and remember to post back when you complete your first build.
post #13 of 54
While I believe that one can get diy amps sounding as good or better than commercial amps and while all that has been said above is true, there are still some warnings I'd like to give you:

- If you need to get some good tools, your costs suddenly skyrocket.
- If you want to tweak a design to make the best out of it, you'll probably order various parts from various vendors. Shipping costs are killers. The commercial builders (the best ones at least) can tailor the sound of their amp in prototyping phase. Good kits can help.
- Someone starting building diy amps will quite often find himself with more amps than he needs, a collection of useful parts gathering dust "just in case", tools he only used once, and so on. And I don't even speak of that "what if I tried..." itch. Buying a good amp, used preferably, wouldn't start this expensive diy madness.
post #14 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by TzeYang View Post
RSA Apache/HR2 = Class B Output stage OPAMP buffer stage based amplifier. You can find the article regarding this at Headwize.com

RSA SR71A = Tangent's Mint amplifier without the jung multiloop.

One of SinglePower's Amp = Two stage OTL amplifier by Van Waarde (can also be found on headwize)

Minibox-E = Mint with a special battery with centre output ground?

Graham Solo Slee = sorta RSA Apache with output caps.

Is that for real??
post #15 of 54
One important thing to note regarding DIY vs. Commerical. DIY designs assume the user is not an idiot and as such tend not to employ idiot proofing in the design. Such things tend to have a compromise in some way so it is best to leave them out.

Example is with headphone outputs TRS jacks short when you unplug them. For low power stuff this is fine, but for things like B22 you can very easily overcurrent parts of it. Solution is do not be an idiot and unplug a powered unit.
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