Designing An Opamp Headphone Amplifier


Fred Forssell´s circuit (figure 3) has the differential input stage of a true opamp with a high common-mode rejection ratio (CMRR) and a mu follower output stage (biased at 12mA). The open loop gain is about 510 (30 from the first stage, 17 from the second). When configured for a closed loop gain of 18, the performance approaches that of solid state opamps: THD < 0.1%, Rout = 8 ohms, Fh > 400 kHz and s/n ratio = -86dB. Despite the low output impedance, the load impedance should be 3K ohms or greater to avoid increased distortion. When configuring this opamp for gains of less than 18, Forssell recommends using a lower mu input tube such as the 12AU7A for a lower open loop gain, so that less feedback is required. Schematic for Borbely Hybrid Opamp.

Figure 4

Both of the Barbour and Forssell amp-blocks use high voltage supplies, and neither is DC-coupled. Erno Borbely´s hybrid design (figure 4) is both low voltage and DC-coupled. The differential input stage uses a single ECC86/6GM8 dual triode, which has a maximum anode voltage of 25V (a good substitute is the 6DJ8/ECC88). The current mirror Q1 and the constant current diodes (D1A and D1B) increase the CMRR and improve linearity. The output stage is a P-channel MOSFET configured as a common source amplifier with Q3 as its current source (the bias current is 10mA and can be adjusted by varying Rs). Rp is adjusted for 0 output voltage.

C2 provides phase compensation and if the opamp is configured for less than 6dB of gain, the R15-C5 low pass network must be added for stability (for G = 6dB, C5 = 100pF; for G = unity, C5 = 330pF). The open loop characteristics of the Borbely hybrid are excellent, especially for a tube opamp: G ~ 53dB, Fh ~ 90kHz and THD < 1%. When set to a gain of 10 (Rf = 10K ohms, Rin = 1.1K ohms), the specs once again are excellent: Fh > 700 kHz, THD < 0.1% and the output impedance is 50 ohms. A high load impedance (10K ohms) is recommended for maximum voltage output (15V).

configuring opamps for voltage gain

Opamp feedback configurations.

Figure 5

Opamps are most commonly used as voltage gain stages. The basic voltage-gain configurations are shown in figures 5a, 5b. The input impedance is the value of the input resistor. The output impedance Zo depends on the particular opamp, but generally decreases with decreasing gain (see the opamp datasheet for output impedance specs). If the opamp will be driving headphones directly, the output impedance should be less than 1/10th the headphone impedance across the audio spectrum. When choosing between inverting or non-inverting stage, the goal to keep in mind is that the opamp´s contribution should result in correct phase at the amplifier output. As a rule of thumb, non-inverting configurations tend to have lower noise, higher input impedance and wider bandwidth, but may be subject to certain design constraints (see manufacturer specifications).

Headphone amplifiers are usually fed from the outputs of a preamp or portable stereos which have plenty of voltage gain (instead, they lack the current capability to drive headphones cleanly). If a headphone amplifier has a voltage gain stage, the gain is typically set between 2 and 10. Some opamps sound cleaner at lower gains. The feedback resistor Rf probably should be less than 1M for optimal stability (check manufacturer specs for other feedback network design issues), and lower feedback network impedances (Rf||Rin) result in lower noise.
 Reducing Source-Impedance Errors.
Figure 5c

Modern opamps do just fine with the basic configurations, but there are many design tweaks that can improve performance. One such optimization reduces source-impedance input errors in JFET-input opamps, which were discussed in the section on selecting opamps above. Recall that source-impedance input errors affect non-inverting gain configurations only and are caused by unequal source impedances at the + and opamps inputs. The non-inverting amplifier in figure 5c balances the source impedances by choosing Rs = Rf||R. In a headphone amplifier, Rs is likely to be variable, in the form of a volume control, and so the 2K to 3K value is an approximation.


Extending the open-loop bandwidth of input stage opamps.
Figure 5d

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