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DIY amps

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I know there's a DIY section but not many people visit there. Are there any mid-high end amp kits or amp schematics between $200-600? I'm looking for a new amp for my HD 650(and possibly a LCD-2 in the future). 

 

Actually, here's the most important question...Are DIY amps better(in terms of value) compared to pre-built maps in the $200-600 range?

 

I currently have an E9 that decided to take a crap on me; the right channel stopped producing sound.

post #2 of 13

Bottlehead Crack works great with senns, but not so much with lcd2s. Bottlehead's new amp the Smack looks very interesting and should work well with both high and low impedance headphones. I would also look at AMB's M3. Some of Kevin Gilmore's solid state designs are another good option.

post #3 of 13

DIY provides a lot of personal satisfaction at having built something, but rarely saves you money unless you already have lots of gear and equipment and miscellaneous parts to use. Casework is also very expensive and can easily cost more than the circuitry section itself if you're looking for something nicer than a plain box enclosure.

post #4 of 13

^^ +1. If you don't already have tools such as a soldering iron, multimeter, pliers, etc. the initial investment to get started will almost certainly make your first amp rather expensive. In addition, I am not sure that DIY saves much money in the low to mid end bracket because it is difficult to compete with the volume discounts that large manufacturers are able to leverage. Also as Armaegis said casework can be quite expensive. I think once you get to the high end though DIY can be very competitive.

 

That being said a very large part of the reason I enjoy DIY is that it is more than just getting some new gear - you will be learning about circuit design, learning new skills like soldering, using a multimeter, drilling and tapping and you get to take pride in building something with your own hands.

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've been soldering for a few years now, playing with circuits, making some custom switches/controls, and recabled numerous headphones. Is the Bottlehead Crack worth the money? The components look simple but the price is pretty high 

post #6 of 13

One thing I noticed with DIY is that you can only have so many amps.  Once you buy your stuff to start building your first amp there comes a point where you start thinking "what's next".  For example...Mcoy>Starving Student>MiniMax>S.E.X.>Beta 22>Bijou> etc.  If you figure that the Beta 22 is about the top in a DYI solid state amp and the Bijou with tubes than after you build them you have to enter the realm of the hardcore (www.diyaudio.com)  And that is is different world indeed. By this time you have so many amps you start thinking...with all the money & time I could of bought, for example, a Cavalli Liquid Fire (and enjoy the music) which is most likely better than anything I could of built.  Sooo... unless you want to learn something and will be satisfied when you reach the end of kits and "store bought" printed circuit boards that maybe you would like to reconsider your commitment that will be necessary. 

post #7 of 13



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FearSC549 View Post

I've been soldering for a few years now, playing with circuits, making some custom switches/controls, and recabled numerous headphones. Is the Bottlehead Crack worth the money? The components look simple but the price is pretty high 


I think the Crack is worth the money. There are not too many amps available under $200 and keep in mind the Crack kit includes all of the casework as well as the components, and of course you are still buying a kit so it's not like bottlehead isn't making some money off of it. There are a lot of people that have very positive experiences with the crack and high impedance cans like the hd650 (I use it with the hd600). You can check out the thread in the amp section or ask questions over at the bottlehead forums.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oberst Oswald View Post

One thing I noticed with DIY is that you can only have so many amps.  Once you buy your stuff to start building your first amp there comes a point where you start thinking "what's next".  For example...Mcoy>Starving Student>MiniMax>S.E.X.>Beta 22>Bijou> etc.  If you figure that the Beta 22 is about the top in a DYI solid state amp and the Bijou with tubes than after you build them you have to enter the realm of the hardcore (www.diyaudio.com)  And that is is different world indeed. By this time you have so many amps you start thinking...with all the money & time I could of bought, for example, a Cavalli Liquid Fire (and enjoy the music) which is most likely better than anything I could of built.  Sooo... unless you want to learn something and will be satisfied when you reach the end of kits and "store bought" printed circuit boards that maybe you would like to reconsider your commitment that will be necessary. 


I don't disagree with you regarding upgradeitis, but is that really any different than people buying a ton of commercial amps of increasing cost? I think a similar progression in the commercial world would end up costing more. And also as I said in my earlier post, I don't really think that DIY saves much money until you get to the high end. If you compare a B22/Bijou with the liquid fire and say they are competitive, you can build either of the DIY options for under a thousand dollars, and the LF costs something like three thousand dollars.

 

(Disclaimer: I have no experience with the LF and am not commenting on its sound quality, just using it as an example)
 

 

post #8 of 13

That's the rub... is the Beta 22, a Bijou and all my other amps worth it, when all totaled up price wise, with a top commercial amp of lets say in the $3000. range?  While it is fun & educational, (sort of) as I tend to think of upgradeitis as more of a disease, to build your own amps it is not cheap if you want quality units.  Sure you can build a El Cheapo Beta 22, Bijou (roll some tubes = $) or whatever but I assume most people will want to build to the best of their ability & wallet.  For example I paid $90.00 just for the feet of the 2 box Beta.  What I'm trying to say here is once you reach the end of DIY, without going ape, you probably could of had better if you just bought a expensive commercial amp right from the start.  And as for the resale value of DIY amps I would say we're getting a raw deal while a top commercial unit will hold its value to a somewhat reasonable level.  Of course if you buy commercial amps in $200.>$500.>$1000.>$1500+ clips you will lose in the long run and DIY is definitely the way to go for the quality of sound (looks is debatable). 

 

Rereading my posts (sorry to high jack the thread) I know I sound rather "down" but I've been soul searching after my first meet this weekend and listened to some of the "good stuff" and realized that I can't DIY those kind of amps.  Now if there was such a thing as a Blue Hawaii, Liquid Fire, Red Wine or Pinnacle kit I'd be all over it...

post #9 of 13

I ended up spending $300 on a $200 CK2III build.

 

Quadruple check your BOM, each time on a different day.

post #10 of 13

Well I haven't heard that many top commercial amps but I didn't think my B22 was outperformed by an apex peak/volcano or a leben cs600. And that was when I was still using software volume control. YMMV.

 

The blue hawaii can be done DIY. The schematics and gerbers are all available I believe. Same with the T2, arguably even better for stats than the BH.

 

Back on topic, I think you make good points and I think the OP should carefully consider the DIY route. I don't regret building my amps at all, and I think the enjoyment that comes from building something yourself should not be overlooked as a part of DIY, unless of course you don't enjoy it, but then why are you here?

post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by FearSC549 View Post

I've been soldering for a few years now, playing with circuits, making some custom switches/controls, and recabled numerous headphones. Is the Bottlehead Crack worth the money? The components look simple but the price is pretty high 


The Crack is a fantastic sounding amp. I've built two of them, plus the Bottlehead Sex.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Oberst Oswald View Post

One thing I noticed with DIY is that you can only have so many amps.  Once you buy your stuff to start building your first amp there comes a point where you start thinking "what's next".  For example...Mcoy>Starving Student>MiniMax>S.E.X.>Beta 22>Bijou> etc.  If you figure that the Beta 22 is about the top in a DYI solid state amp and the Bijou with tubes than after you build them you have to enter the realm of the hardcore (www.diyaudio.com)  And that is is different world indeed. By this time you have so many amps you start thinking...with all the money & time I could of bought, for example, a Cavalli Liquid Fire (and enjoy the music) which is most likely better than anything I could of built.  Sooo... unless you want to learn something and will be satisfied when you reach the end of kits and "store bought" printed circuit boards that maybe you would like to reconsider your commitment that will be necessary. 


I'm hitting that sort of point in my (so far relatively short) DIY path. I can build stuff, but I have to treat it all mostly as a somewhat expensive and very time consuming learning experience (not to mention the amount of space a workshop takes up). At the end of the day, my stuff doesn't look nearly as nice as the store bought stuff, it doesn't necessarily sound any better, and it's bigger and possibly cost more. I've been tempted to start etching my own boards, but have deliberately steered away from that. The same goes for woodworking tools.

 

I've got a few projects on the backburner right now, and assuming I ever finish them I've got half a mind to hang up my DIY bootstraps. I enjoy it, but it's a time and money sink which quite frankly I don't have too much of and could just as well be spent on less demanding hobbies. My schedule and wallet would be much happier if I just bought a commercial amp and stopped there.

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by FearSC549 View Post

Are there any mid-high end amp kits or amp schematics between $200-600?

 

Are DIY amps better(in terms of value) compared to pre-built maps in the $200-600 range?

 

Try http://www.diy-audio-kits.com/kits/novo-headphone-amplifier.htm, the Graham Slee design which is said to be a winner.

 

I agree with other posts, in that the value of DIY comes from creative expression. I took a hybrid approach buying a cheap amp with a nice case that was certain to be crappy. And it was an RF generator with a weak power supply and a broken design with a peculiar name. But I fixed it with a 12vac wall wart and 4 resistors. It sounds as good to me as the Fubar DAC/amp which costs 6 times more.  See Edifier HA11.
 

Anyone interested in DIY should try the Headbanger which can be constructed from mundane parts found at a surplus store. You don't have to make expensive special orders for fancy-shmancy audio opamps.  It sounds better than I expected.  After that modest investment in BOM and time, you can decide to try/not try more DIY for high-end.

 

 

post #13 of 13

For around 350€ i built an M^3 with Sigma 11 power supply and i'd recommend it to anyone, i've not heard anything commercial priced above 200$ or so, but the M^3 is far better than that with both high and low impedance headphones.  Both the documentation and the PCB provided by AMB is top quality and assembly is relatively easy . 

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