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Do you need to be an electrical engineer to attempt to build a DIY headphone amp?

Poll Results: Do you need to have an extensive knowledge of electrical engineering to order the parts for a headphone amplifier and assemble it yourself?

 
  • 5% (1)
    Yes
  • 95% (19)
    No
20 Total Votes  
post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hello everybody, I was wondering if I need to have an extensive knowledge of electrical engineering to order the parts for a portable headphone amplifier (like the JDS Labs cMoyBB™ for example) and assemble it myself or if anybody (no matter how much they know about electrical engineering) could do it. Also, could you guys start listing all the portable headphone amplifiers that you can think of where you have the ability to order the parts and assemble them yourself? I want to go to college to learn the knowledge necessary to be an electrical engineer and after that I want to get a job working for somebody where I'd be designing amplifiers but I want to assemble a portable headphone amplifier before I go off to do that so that I already have some experience with these things.


Edited by Double-A - 10/7/13 at 12:51pm
post #2 of 13
I had to post a few really dumb and helpless threads but I just today finished my first amp, a Twisted Pear Ventus EZ. You just need to know what wires on the power go where and how to solder that's really it smily_headphones1.gif
post #3 of 13

Not at all, being one helps but being helped by one is just as good.

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DutchGFX View Post

I had to post a few really dumb and helpless threads but I just today finished my first amp, a Twisted Pear Ventus EZ. You just need to know what wires on the power go where and how to solder that's really it smily_headphones1.gif

If that's the case then I think I'm going to go through with this. I just don't know what amplifier I'm going to choose right now and how much all the tools of the trade are going to cost in total.

 

@S0lar: Unfortunately I don't have the honor of knowing an electrical engineer . . . could I still complete this project without the help of one?


Edited by Double-A - 10/6/13 at 2:38pm
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Double-A View Post
 

If that's the case then I think I'm going to go through with this. I just don't know what amplifier I'm going to choose right now and how much all the tools of the trade are going to cost in total.

 

@S0lar: Unfortunately I don't have the honor of knowing an electrical engineer . . . could I still complete this project without the help of one?

 

I am an electrical engineer. My previous job was making prototype xDSL measuring equipment and included soldering, circuit testing and I have made and designed (audio) circuits but I am no expert in designing audio. I can help you with basics so you won't make common mistakes.

As for opamps, it all depends on the design and not so much on the opamp itself. Taking a certain design and putting in a totally different opamp might not work better enen though the opamp is considered better.

 

A Cmoy sounds pretty good and is not that hard to put together. I've received a very nice design from an former colleague but it's not for beginners and it's aiming high, even for me. 

 

Do you want to design the PCB, use a greenboard or use a design and experiment with it?

 

You will at least need a soldering iron and solder. Using non-SMD parts might be the best choice at first but when you start designing a PCB and want elegance, you might need to go for surface mount parts.

post #6 of 13

You can buy a kit, so you don't need to have extensive knowledge to build an amp, but you need extensive knowledge to design an amp. There are a lot of stages in between.

 

Most 3-year EE graduates are incapable of designing an amp. Then there's the question of testing.

 

Part of what is needed is an extensive knowledge of components. There are many different types of capacitors, to say nothing of other components, each suited to a different role. It takes time to become familiar with all these types and their uses.

 

It's a question, to a certain extent, of a multitude of possible mistakes.

 

This isn't to say it's impossible to learn, and it's not intended to discourage you. In fact some designers are almost completely self-taught. It requires a certain amount of enthusiasm and time to become an electronics designer, and a University course is about the most helpful thing you can do, but bear in mind that many people who do degrees don't end up as designers. There are many other roles in industry; test engineers, integration engineers, sales engineers, production engineers, PCB layout engineers and many more.

 

Good luck.

 

w

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Please note: I'm going to highlight different parts of your post that I want to respond to in different colors. My responses to those parts are going to be highlighted in the same colors.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by s0lar View Post
 

 

I am an electrical engineer. My previous job was making prototype xDSL measuring equipment and included soldering, circuit testing and I have made and designed (audio) circuits but I am no expert in designing audio. I can help you with basics so you won't make common mistakes.

As for opamps, it all depends on the design and not so much on the opamp itself. Taking a certain design and putting in a totally different opamp might not work better enen though the opamp is considered better.

 

A Cmoy sounds pretty good and is not that hard to put together. I've received a very nice design from an former colleague but it's not for beginners and it's aiming high, even for me. 

 

Do you want to design the PCB, use a greenboard or use a design and experiment with it?

 

You will at least need a soldering iron and solder. Using non-SMD parts might be the best choice at first but when you start designing a PCB and want elegance, you might need to go for surface mount parts.

You'd do that for me?

 

I just want to buy a kit (like this one) and use the op amp that comes included with it. The fact of the matter is: I know nothing about the internals of headphone amplifiers so I'm not even going to bother replacing any of the parts.

 

None of the above. I don't have enough knowledge or experience to do these things. I just want to buy a kit, assemble the parts and then not mess around with the finished product . . . at least until I've received my education in electrical engineering. I just want to be able to say that my first headphone amplifier was one that was assembled by me you know what I mean?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wakibaki View Post
 

You can buy a kit, so you don't need to have extensive knowledge to build an amp, but you need extensive knowledge to design an amp. There are a lot of stages in between.

 

Most 3-year EE graduates are incapable of designing an amp. Then there's the question of testing.

 

Part of what is needed is an extensive knowledge of components. There are many different types of capacitors, to say nothing of other components, each suited to a different role. It takes time to become familiar with all these types and their uses.

 

It's a question, to a certain extent, of a multitude of possible mistakes.

 

This isn't to say it's impossible to learn, and it's not intended to discourage you. In fact some designers are almost completely self-taught. It requires a certain amount of enthusiasm and time to become an electronics designer, and a University course is about the most helpful thing you can do, but bear in mind that many people who do degrees don't end up as designers. There are many other roles in industry; test engineers, integration engineers, sales engineers, production engineers, PCB layout engineers and many more.

 

Good luck.

 

w

That's what I want to do.

post #8 of 13

Assembling a JDS Cmoy is not that hard. I altered some of the design flaws and therfore I needed to short and cut some of the connections, but the standard circuit works good for most opamps.

 

But you are gonna need a soldering iron and solder. I suggest you buy a PCB greenboard and some spare parts to practice soldering on.

 

This is a helpful article: http://tangentsoft.net/audio/hs-opamp.html if you want to use some other opamps for the Cmoy.

post #9 of 13

 

Actually, Tangent has a whole series of tutorial videos that you might find quite helpful...

post #10 of 13

you pretty much need to know nothing to build an amplifier except for how to read a schematic. Designing analog amplifiers is a bit trickier, and ironically enough a bit dated for an EE in this day an age. I'm a digital designer though so of course I'd say that.

 

a cmoy can easily be implemented on some perfboard or even p2p, though I understand that's not too popular for non-tube designs?

post #11 of 13

My advice (and where i started) is to get a simple opamp, its datasheet, and google.   I quickly found the chips i had JRC4556 where also used in the Grado RA-1 so a bit of googling found a few circuit diagrams (its basically a CMOY) that i could study to learn how the circuit worked, what role each component did and what effect each components value has.  Then it was just a matter of stabbing parts into a breadboard = my first working headphone amp with the gain level i needed.

 

Following on from that i found RA-1 kits on ebay for £6 so i had a proper PCB to build it onto, you could start with one of those kits as all the components are provided for you so its only a matter of soldering it together.  But for me thats not as much fun, and dosent actually teach you anything.

 

Basically i have started with no EE training at all, but with google and some patience i now know how a basic opamp circuit works.  And based on that knowledge i built my own Objective2 amp and can understand its circuit diagram and what each component does.  Anybody can do it, it just takes a little research...

 

Designing an amp from scratch, now that takes a lot of math and know how, and definitely a job for those with proper EE training/experience.  I can hack together a CMOY but anything beyond that is best left to the professionals.  Especially valve amps with high voltage DC, thats when things get a little scary...


Edited by mcandmar - 10/7/13 at 6:27am
post #12 of 13

Building most DIY amplifiers is a lot like baking.

You don't need to know how yeast works. You don't need to know the differences between different types of flour. You don't need to understand why to use water at 80*f instead of 40 or 150. 

All you need to do is follow directions. 

 

You don't need to know how a mosfet works. You don't need to know the differences between different types of caps. etc. 

All you need to do is follow directions. 

If you look into the "why" and "how" things work as you follow the recipe you can start to modify things for yourself and maybe design your own thing someday if that is what you want to do. 

But if you just want to build all you need to do is follow directions. 

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 Originally Posted by NoPants
 
 
 
you pretty much need to know nothing to build an amplifier except for how to read a schematic.

Yeah, unfortunately, I don't know how to do that.

 

Quote:
 Originally Posted by mcandmar
 
 
 
My advice (and where I started) is to get a simple opamp, its datasheet, and google. I quickly found the chips i had JRC4556 where also used in the Grado RA-1 so a bit of googling found a few circuit diagrams (its basically a CMOY) that i could study to learn how the circuit worked, what role each component did and what effect each components value has.

That's very good advice, thank you.


Edited by Double-A - 10/9/13 at 1:01pm
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