Designing An Opamp Headphone Amplifier

Also look for unity gain stability and low offset voltage. Opamps that are internally compensated are less likely to oscillate at high frequencies, and save the builder the hassle of adding external compensation (however, it never hurts to check the amplifier output on an oscilloscope anyway.) The ideal opamp has zero DC output at idle, so that DC coupling can be accomplished without trimming. Real-world opamps have a small output voltage at idle. If the opamp is not followed by a gain stage, a 15mV or less offset at idle should be acceptable. FET-input opamps are known for their low offset voltages.
Are there audible differences between opamps with similar or identical specs? Some listeners can distinguish between products, but not all. Because modern opamps are internally compensated and are usually plug-in replacements for each other, building circuits with IC sockets or on protoboard first allows the DIYer to audition a variety of opamps at will. Theories abound as to why opamps may have sonic signatures in spite of stellar test results that suggest neutral sound. Years ago, IM, DIM, TIM, etc. distortion were held to be the culprits. Two of the most recent courses of research on this topic have been the effects of the harmonic structure of opamp noise and opamp input errors.
Spectral readout of NE5532 noise harmonics.
Figure 1b

The first course of research posits that much distortion in audio signals is actually noise, which may be too low to measure but is still audible. Human hearing is very sensitive to high order harmonics produced by high negative feedback ratios. Noise structures with a predominance of even order harmonics seem to sound less harsh. Opamp systems with poor harmonic structures can have improved performance if the systems are designed so that the harmonics cancel or harmonize with the products of other stages in the system. Figure 1b is a plot of the noise spectrum of a common bipolar-input opamp. Manufacturers generally do not include such analyses in datasheets. Since these tests must be done with sophisticated equipment that can measure noise 140dB or more below the signal, most DIYers will have to rely on other published sources for this type of data.

There are three types of opamp input errors that potentially affect sound quality: source-impedance, power-supply and thermal errors due to the output loading of an opamp. Source-impedance errors arise when there are unequal source impedances at each of the two inputs to an opamp, which interact with the opamp´s internal capacitances to create even-order harmonic distortion. It is a common-mode type error, and so applies only when the opamp operates in a non-inverting configuration. JFET-input opamps have an internal capacitor at each of the inputs, and are likely to show higher levels of source-impedance distortion than bipolar-input types.

Source-impedance errors can measured by comparing distortion levels when the feedback network impedance (Rf||R) differs from the input source impedance Rs and when they are the same. Selecting opamps with low internal capacitance or balancing the source impedances will minimize this form of distortion. The latter technique is discussed in the section on configuring opamps for voltage gain below.

Power Supply Rejection Response.
Figure 1c

Keywords : Opamp, Operational Amplifier, Headphone, P-amp, Configuring, Opamps, For, Voltage, Gain
Writer : delon  |
27 Feb 2011 Mon   
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