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Easiest Balanced DIY amp.

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hello All,

 

Due to budgetary constraints, and general interest, I am looking to get into DIY.

 

I would very much like to have a 4ch B22 or a Dynamite. I have been wanting to get into fully balanced for some time, but the entry price is prohibitive. 

 

My questions is this: Can someone with 0 experience put one of these together, or am I risking a lot of money (or my life for that matter)?

 

Other than a cmoy, what would a be a good place to start if no? I would rather not do something with an op-amp, as I have a great op-amp based amp, and they look like a pain in the ass. Something discreet like the B22, Dynalo/dynamite or even CKIII.

 

What kind of experience should I have before attempting this?

 

Simply soldering things, and making sure things are wired up properly does not seem overly hard, just time consuming -but I fear there is more to it than that.

 

Any suggestions and advice would be greatly appreciated.

 

Currently I bought Stan Gibilisco's "Tech yourself electricity and electronics" and am slowly working through this book, but I am very eager to just get soldering and listening.

 

Also, if someone could go even further as to help me, could you help me figure out what kind of soldering Iron I need for these tasks. I would rather invest in something decent, than to buy crap a few times.

 

At this point I have nothing to offer the DIY community in return for your help, but once I get into this, I am sure I could!

 

Thanks guys

post #2 of 24

you can always balance a cmoy

 

the b22 is quite a project to tackle, especially the stage in which you diagnose and fix all the errors which will undoubtedly pop up.  occassionally it is someone's first project and they succeed without incident, but this is very rare. 

 

a ck2iii is probably a good start


Edited by El_Doug - 7/1/10 at 9:53pm
post #3 of 24

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sokolov91 View Post

My questions is this: Can someone with 0 experience put one of these together, or am I risking a lot of money (or my life for that matter)?

 

To answer those 3 questions, in order:
yes, yes (yes.) People with basically no electronics building experience have built crazy amps. Not as many as have failed (to answer Q2) and part 3 is a risk once you get into pains-powered amps.

 

Until you are confident that it will fire up right, or you can fix it if it dosnt, AND that it will sound at least as good as something that costs twice as much on the used market as your parts cost DIY is not a method to save money. Also take note that DIY is a drug if you get into it for the fun of building to build. People who have built Balanced B22's and custom tube amps are known to build little home amps, and medium home amps and on and on. 

 

In the begining you consider the cost of parts, and the tools you will need to buy. $30 in parts for a basic cmoy opamp amp + $50 for cheap tools that are no fun to use you could have put your $100 (most people have no trouble tagging another $20 onto the minimum costs...) towards something nicer off the shelf that WILL work when it gets to you. The actual build process is quite fun, and there is a decent amount of pride to be found in building something that sounds decent yourself. The parts cost of the little guy isnt so bad that you'd be terribly inconvenienced if it goes up in smoke and someone is always looking for a cmoy second hand so you can sell it to fund upgrades easily with little monetary loss. 

 

Moving up to more complicated op-amp based amps with spiffy buffers and simpler discrete amps starts to bring you to legitimately nice sound! They are of course harder to build, with several times more parts to stuff, which is a fancy way of saying several times more places to screw up. :) I have an SMT buffer board sitting right here with all of the resistors soldered on one side. Yea, that was retarded. It would be an easy fix except that the transistors are already mounted on top. Assuming you are confident in your ability to build one of these amps and get it running something else to consider is that these dont get the same press that the bigger and more complicated amps do despite the fact that they sound quite nice. Unfortunately if you need to sell the amp, reviews and reputation are KEY. They are truly nice amps, and they consistently swing above their weight when they are reviewed, they simply arent reviewed frequently enough to keep them on people's minds. Unfortunately building one of these "middle ground" amps is often an economic disaster although it is still a sonic success. They are not a B22, dyna-(whatever) or balanced. This is an awkward step you probably should take because you will learn some skills that will probably help with building more complicated stuff, although selling one of these amps can be tough. If you decide one of these is enough amp for you, and stop here you are probably a little bit to a decent bit ahead on the cost VS SQ curve, assuming you didnt blow anything up along the way.

 

After that there are the "big" amps that everyone talks about. Things like the B22, Dyna-whatever and the like. Building one of these amps is a great thing assuming you can get it put together right and it works. Its not as hard as I may make it sound, but be honest with whether you can do it and read up on people who have had (cough)issues(cough) you can learn a lot from the bad experiences of others... Whats cool about building one of these amps is that if you dont like it, you can sell it easily, and if you do like the sound of the amp you are well ahead on the cost VS SQ curve. 

 

So. If you want to build stuff mostly to enjoy building it, and maybe eventually build something that is almost certainly nicer than what you could buy second hand, start soldering. If you just want an amp, just buy it off the FS forum. Wait for a something that appeals to you, built by someone you trust. They typpically sell for within a few percent of parts cost and you may catch a good deal below parts cost.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

you can always balance a cmoy


Win.

Balanced "mahogany comy" It has great synergy with Grado's ;) 
 

im000195roh7.jpg

 

I also really like the way the CKKiii sounds :) 

post #4 of 24

I can help a little with equipment needed.

 

For a soldering iron I have a weller wlc100 nothing fancy just a holder for a sponge and iron and it's adjustable.

I just picked up some helping hands from harbor freight for ~$3, they aren't needed but very helpful.

a de-soldering tool if you make mistakes or wish to change things.

 

my first few soldering projects were these

 

http://www.elexp.com/kit_2099.htm

 

http://www.elexp.com/kit_2014.htm

 

very easy soldering.

 

my dad just bought a bunch of kits for me, which just led up to my just finished M^3 and sigma11.

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

I haven't had time to fully read through everyones comments, but I truly appreciate the help and input guys! I'll post back once I read everything tonight!

post #6 of 24

x2 on balancing a CMoy.  I did a balanced a47 (basically a CMoy on steroids) as my first (successful ) build.  It was well-documented, easy to troubleshoot, and I learned a lot in the process. 

 

Remember you'll need a balanced source, or else a way to convert an unbalanced signal to a balanced one.  And you'll need to balance and/or recable your headphones, of course.

post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 

Are the Cmoys worth doing for SQ too, or just for experience?

 

Also, if I do the CKKIII, should I use the AMB design powersupply as practice for the B22 or should I just the on board supply?

post #8 of 24

Considering that most amps are simply "tweaked" CMOY designs, yes, it's worth it in terms of "SQ" (oh how I hate that "term").

post #9 of 24


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sokolov91 View Post

Are the Cmoys worth doing for SQ too, or just for experience?

 

Also, if I do the CKKIII, should I use the AMB design powersupply as practice for the B22 or should I just the on board supply?

 

Stick with the onboard supply, and keep it the CK2III as standard as possible. That way, people know what to expect if/when you sell it to finance the "next" project. 

 

The S22 would be the power supply you would need to build if you wanted to use an external PS with the CK2III, and you'd end up almost doubling the cost of the build (or more), and may end up with an amp that is only a bit better than a standard CK2III, but would be harder to get your cash out of if you wanted to sell it.  Of course, you could sell the partially populated CK2III board later by itself and re-use the S22 as a basis for a B22 build.


Edited by MrSlim - 7/5/10 at 2:14pm
post #10 of 24

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post

Considering that most amps are simply "tweaked" CMOY designs, yes, it's worth it in terms of "SQ" (oh how I hate that "term").


How are most amps tweaked Cmoys? The Cmoy is a specfic amplifier design, driving the headphones directly off of the output of a single op amp per channel. There are a bunch of headphone amps that have spawned directly from the cmoy, but they could be considered different enough to be their own thing too.

 

Then there are tube amps, discrete AMPLIFIERS, discrete op-amps, all manner of hybrid amps, and perhaps some more. 

 

There is 1 cmoy, perhaps 9 amps that could be considered tweaked cmoys*, and then everything else. 
 

*excludes amps built for speakers that use an op amp front end and output buffer. Or "gainclone" type amps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrSlim View Post

Stick with the onboard supply, and keep it the CK2III as standard as possible. That way, people know what to expect if/when you sell it to finance the "next" project. 


QFT

 

People really like to over complicate things.

post #11 of 24

Simply saying that there are TONS of headphone amps out there (mostly commercial, as well as some DIY) that are just simple direct-drive opamp implementations.  With the right opamps and a decent ground scheme you can have a very nice sounding as well as nice performing (distortion/current output/voltage output figures) amplifier.  Basically a "don't knock the CMOY, though you can tweak it to your hearts content" remark based on my observations. 

post #12 of 24

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post

Considering that most amps are simply "tweaked" CMOY designs, yes, it's worth it in terms of "SQ" (oh how I hate that "term").


You didn't say tons or even many, you said that "most amps are simply tweaked Cmoy designs". 

 

Restricting yourself to even published DIY designs, can you back MOST up? can you even hit majority at >50%?

post #13 of 24

Off the top of my head DIY, just CMOY, A47, PINT, Mini3.

As for commercial - just about every portable amp.

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrSlim View Post


 

 

Stick with the onboard supply, and keep it the CK2III as standard as possible. That way, people know what to expect if/when you sell it to finance the "next" project. 

 

The S22 would be the power supply you would need to build if you wanted to use an external PS with the CK2III, and you'd end up almost doubling the cost of the build (or more), and may end up with an amp that is only a bit better than a standard CK2III, but would be harder to get your cash out of if you wanted to sell it.  Of course, you could sell the partially populated CK2III board later by itself and re-use the S22 as a basis for a B22 build.


Thanks!

 

Very true, I would be awesome to be able to resale it for a decent price once I want to try a more substantial project.

 

 

Also, my girlfriends dad offered me a soldering iron that has a loop/wire  instead of a tip. Is that ok? or is it too big for the job. I will try and find a pic

post #15 of 24

If it looks something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Weller-WEL8200PK-120-Volt-Universal-Soldering/dp/B00002N7S0/ref=pd_cp_hi_1, then no,  it has way too much power for the type of soldering you would be doing. There are even higher powered models..  You want something like this: http://cgi.ebay.com/50W-soldering-STATION-4-TIPS-kit-solder-iron-NEW-tmc-/300442293106?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item45f3c19372.  It looks that same as mine, probably from the same Chinese factory, and it works great. And you get the bonus of 4 tips..

 

You will also want one of these: http://cgi.ebay.com/Plastic-Solder-Sucker-Desoldering-Pump-Removal-Tool-/250660135124?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a5c8220d4.

 

It will save your butt when you make a mistake and need to unsolder something.. 

 

Besides that, get yourself some good side cutters, small needle nose pliers, some fine guage resin core solder, and a cheap digital meter, and you'll be set for doing the Guts of DIY..

 

When you start into case work, then it's handy to have a friend who has some power tools that he'll let you use, unless you have your own.  I've done all my casework with a cheap drill press I snagged off Craigslist, some shoulder bits for doing bigger holes, and a Dremel knockoff I got at 50% off ( and paid for with CdnTire money(Canucks will know what I'm talking about). 


Edited by MrSlim - 7/7/10 at 9:27am
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