iGrafx Designer 1

iGrafx Designer 1
USER GUIDE
Introduction
Overview
Schematics
Recommended Configurations
Assembly Instructions
08/12/2010
GlassWare Audio Design
Warning!
Although this PCB was designed for use with a low-voltage power supply (24V or
48V), caution is still required. For example, even 24 volts shorted to ground will
make big sparks and 48V, under worst-case conditions, could prove lethal; thus, a real
shock hazard can also exist. Moreover, the large valued electrolytic capacitors may
burst upon being energized if inserted incorrectly. Once the power supply is powered
up, be cautious at all times.
If you are not an experienced electrical practitioner, before applying any voltage
supply, have someone who is experienced review your work. There are too few
tube-loving solder slingers left; we simply cannot afford to lose any more.
PCB Overview
Thank you for your purchase of the LV Aikido stereo PCB. This FR-4 PCB is extra
thick, 0.094 inches (inserting and pulling tubes from their sockets won’t bend or
break this board), double-sided, with plated-through 2oz copper traces, and the boards
are lovingly and expensively made in the USA. The boards are five inches by ten
inches, with five mounting holes, which prevents excessive PCB bending while
inserting and pulling tubes from their sockets. The PCB holds two Aikido line-stage
amplifiers. Thus, one board is all that is needed for stereo unbalanced use or one
board for one channel of balanced amplification.
Low-Voltage Operation The key advantage of the LV Aikido is that it can operate
under relatively low B+ voltage. Where the typical tube-based line-stage amplifier
requires a B+ of 200V to 400V, the LV Aikido can get by with only 24Vdc with
6GM8/6N27P/ECC86 tubes; or 48Vdc with 12BH7 or ECC99. The heaters are all
placed in series and this heater string is placed in parallel with the B+ and ground.
Thus, a single power supply voltage is all that is required.
PS RC Filter The LV Aikido PCB holds an RC (resistor-capacitor) filter to smooth
away power-supply ripple. Switch-mode regulated power supplies are readily available
with 24V and 48V DC output voltages. These small desktop power supplies are both
inexpensive and cool running. They usually put out less than 0.5V of ripple at full
output current. Fortunately, the ripples tends to be supersonic, say over 40kHz, so the
RC filter has less work to do. For example, an RC filter made up from a 1-ohm
resistor and 1000µF capacitor would perform poorly with the typical power supply's
100Hz or 120Hz. But with a 40kHz ripple frequency, such an RC filter would offer
wonderful ripple reduction, as the capacitor's reactance would equal only 0.004 ohms.
Redundant Solder Pads This board holds two sets of differently-spaced solder pads
for each critical resistor, so that radial and axial resistors can easily be used (bulk-foil
resistors and carbon-film resistors, for example). In addition, most capacitor locations
find many redundant solder pads, so wildly differing-sized coupling capacitors can be
placed neatly on the board, without excessively bending their leads.
GlassWare Audio Design
Introduction to the Aikido Topology
The Aikido amplifier delivers the sonic goods. It offers low distortion, low output
impedance, a great PSRR figure, and feedback-free amplification. The secret to its
superb performance— in spite not using global feedback— lies in its internal symmetry,
which balances imperfections with imperfections. As a result, the Aikido circuit works
at least a magnitude better than the equivalent SRPP or grounded-cathode amplifier.
For example, the Aikido circuit produces far less distortion than comparable circuits by
using the triode’s own nonlinearity against itself. The triode is not as linear as a resistor,
so ideally, it should not see a linear load, but a corresponding, complementary, balancing
non-linear load. An analogy is found in someone needing eyeglasses; if the eyes were
perfect, then perfectly flat (perfectly linear) lenses would be needed, whereas imperfect
eyes need counterbalancing lenses (non-linear lenses) to see straight. Now, loading a
triode with the same triode— under the same cathode-to- plate voltage and idle current
and with the same cathode resistor— works well to flatten the transfer curve out of the
amplifier.
B+
C13
6GM8
Rgs
6GM8
R15
Rk
in
Rk
out
Rgs
1M
6GM8
Rg
Rk
6GM8
Rk
R16
Aikido Amplifier Topology
In the schematic above, the 6GM8 triodes are so specified for example only. Although
they would never fit on the printed circuit board (PCB), 211 and 845 triodes could be
used to make an Aikido amplifier. In other words, the Aikido circuit does not rely on
6GM8 triodes or any other specific triodes to work correctly. It’s the topology, not the
tubes that make the Aikido special.
The secret to the Aikido circuit is that sidesteps power supply noise by anticipating
and adjusting for that noise so that noise is eliminated from the output. This
improved PSRR advantage is vital, for it greatly unburdens the power-supply. With no
tweaking or tube selecting, you should easily be able to get a -30dB PSRR figure (a
conventional grounded-cathode amplifier with the same tubes and current draw yields
only a -6dB PSRR); with some tweaking of resistor R15’s value, -60dB or more is
possible. Additionally, unless regulated power supplies are used for the plate and
heater, these critical voltages will vary at the whim of the power company and your
house’s and neighbors’ house’s use, usually throwing the once fixed voltage
relationships askew. Nevertheless, the Aikido amplifier will still function flawlessly, as
it tracks these voltage changes symmetrically.
GlassWare Audio Design
Remember, tubes are not yardsticks that never change; instead, being more like car
tires, they wear out. Just as a tire’s weight and diameter decrease over time, so too the
tube’s conductance. Thus a fresh 6GM8 is not the same as the same 6GM8 after 2,000
hours of use. But as long as the two triodes with the tube envelope age in the same
way—which they are inclined to do, as they do the same amount of work and share
the same materials and environment—the Aikido amplifier will always bias up
correctly, splitting the B+ voltage between the triodes. Moreover, the Aikido amplifier
does not make huge popping sounds at start up, as the output does not start at the B+
and then swing down a hundred or so volts when the tube heats up, as it does in a
ground-cathode amplifier.
By injecting the a portion of power-supply noise into the bottom triode of the twotriode-follower circuit, this circuit eliminates most of the power-supply noise from the
output. The way it works is that the input stage (the first two triodes) define a voltage
divider of 50%, so that 50% of the PS noise is presented to the CF's grid; at the same
time resistors R15 and R16 also define a voltage divider, so the bottom triode's grid
also sees about half of the PS noise. Since both of these signals are equal in amplitude
and phase, they cancel each other out, as each triodes sees an identical increase in
plate current (imagine two equally strong men in a tug of war contest). So, shouldn’t
resistors R15 and R16 share the same value, thereby also splitting the power-supply
noise at 50%? No. If triode did not present a low plate resistance, then the 50% ratio
would apply. Because of the low rp, the correct relationship between resistors R15 and
R16 is given by the following formula:
R15 = R16[(mu - 2)/(mu + 2)]
Furthermore, the Aikido amplifier—like other Aikido techniques I have tried—seems to
bypass much (but not all) of the power supply squirrelliness, making the circuit
sound as if it were attached to batteries or a well-regulated power supply. (This
includes the sonic traces left by imperfect power supply capacitors.)
Had an SRPP circuit been used instead as the input stage or had the output
connection had been taken from the output cathode follower's cathode, the
equilibrium would be broken, resulting in a much poorer performance. The same
holds true if the cathode follower's cathode resistor is removed. (Besides, this resistor
actually makes for a better sounding cathode follower, as it linearizes the cathode
follower at the expense of a slightly higher output impedance.) In other words, the
Aikido topology trades away the higher gain and lower output impedance for lower
distortion and much-lower noise. The formula for the Aikido’s output impedance is
the following:
Zo = [rp/(mu +1) + R8] || R13 || [rp + (mu + 1)Rk]
where “||” stands for in “parallel with.”
Phase Like a grounded-cathode amplifier, the LV Aikido inverts its input signal's
phase at the Aikido's output. This is not the tragedy that many assume. All that is
required is that the speaker leads that connect to the power amplifier be reversed,
assuming that the power amplifier does not itself invert the signal phase.
GlassWare Audio Design
Input RCA Jacks
Output RCA Jacks
Isolated with shoulder-washers from chassis
Isolated from chassis
Right
Right
Left
Left
Bottom View
Bottom View
Volume Control
In this preferred physical setup, each input RCA jack gets its own pair of hot and
ground wires; and the same holds true for the output RCA jacks. The six sets of
twisted wire or coaxial cable travel from the input RCA jacks to a GlassWare Select-2
selector switch and then to the volume control and, finally, to the LV Aikido PCB. All
RCA jacks must be isolated from the chassis with non-conducting shoulder washers.
Test each jack's ground tab for shorts to the chassis, before soldering the ground wires
in place. In addition, make sure that only absolutely necessary ground wires that are
soldered in place. (If the volume potentiometer presents only one ground tab, then tie
both of the incoming ground wires from the selector switch to this connection and
send one ground wire from the potentiometer to the PCB.) Attach B+ voltage power
supplies wires at the bottom of the PCB and twist these wires into to a tight bundle
that hugs the bottom of the chassis to its power source. If an external power supply is
used, ground the chassis at the negative tab of the power supply jack.
GlassWare Audio Design
Configuring a Line Amplifier
The Aikido topology makes a perfect line amplifier, as it offers low distortion, low
output impedance, and excellent power-supply noise rejection—all without a global
feedback loop. For guidance on part values, look below, which lists several lineamplifier design examples. Calculating R15’s value is easy; it’s value equals R16
against [(mu -2)/(mu + 2)]. For example, a triode with a mu of 14, such as the 6GM8,
results in R15 = 100k x (14 – 2)/(14 + 2) = 75k.
Typical Part Values () Parentheses denote recommended values
V1, V2, V3, V4 =
6GM8/6N27P/ECC86
B+ Voltage = 24V
Heater Voltage = Same as above
Current Draw = 350mA
R1,5,6,7,12,13 =
R2,4 =
R3,9,10 =
R8,11 =
R15 =
R16 =
R17 =
1M
100 - 240 (180)*
100 - 1k (300)*
100 - 240 (180)*
75k
100k
1 ohm 1W
12BH7
ECC99
48V
Same as above
350mA
48V
Same as above
450mA
1M
200 - 300 (249)*
100 - 1k (300)*
200 - 300 (249)*
78k
100k
1 ohm 1W
1M
200 - 470 (300)*
100 - 1k (300)*
200 - 470 (300)*
82.5k
100k
1 ohm 1W
R5 mislabeled R12 on PCB.
All resistors (except R17) 1/2W or higher
*High-quality resistors essential in this position.
C1 =
C2 =
C3 =
C4 =
C5 =
C6 =
100pF - 0.01µF 100V
0.1µF - 1µF 50V
0.1 - 3µF 100V - 400V
330µF - 1kµF 35V
0.1µF - 1µF 100V
0.1 - 1µF 50V
Same
0.1µF - 1µF 100V
Same
330µF - 1kµF 63V
Same
0.1µF - 1µF 100V
Same
0.1µF - 1µF 100V
Same
330µF - 1kµF 63V
Same
0.1µF - 1µF 100V
Power Switch The LV Aikido can switched on in two ways. The first is to place a
switch in series with the heater string (two eyelets are provided below C1 on the
PCB), leaving the LV Aikido's power supply constantly on (which works well with
external power supplies, such as wallwart and switch-mode power supplies).The
triodes cannot conduct until the heaters are hot but the capacitors will remain
charged at all times. Or the unit can be switched on at either the power supply or the
connection to the power supply; just use a jumper wire to bridge the heater series.
RFI Radio frequency interference can be a hassle to track down and eliminate. The
air is filled with RFI from light dimmers, switching power supplies, cordless phone
cradles, computers… First make sure that all contacts are clean. Second, make sure
that the source of the problem actually resides in the line-stage amplifier. For
example, if only one signal source suffers from RFI noise, make sure that it is
normally RFI free. In other words, attach it to another line-stage amplifier and see if
the RFI persists. If it does pass this test, then try soldering small capacitors, say
100pF, from this signal source’s RCA jacks to the chassis, as close as possible to the
jacks: if it fails, fix the source. Ferrite beads can also help; try using beads on the hot
lead as it leaves the input RCA jack and then again at the selector switch. Increasing
the grid-stopper resistor’s (R3, R9, R10) value, say to 1k or 10k, can also work
wonders (use a carbon-composition or bulk-foil resistor or some other non-inductive
resistor type).
R1
in
R3
V1
2
7
1
R2
6
8
R4
3
R5
R9
R6
V3
7
8
R11
1
R8
6
3
2
R10
R7
V2
out
C3
V4
R12
V1
C2
out C3
R15
C6
R16
C5
R13
V3
Jumper
or
Switch
R13
R17
R10
R7
B+
7
8
6
R11
R8
3
1
V4
2
R5
R9
3
V2
R6
R2
1
8
R4
2
6
R3
7
R1
in
LV Aikido Schematic
R12
C1
GlassWare Audio Design
GlassWare Audio Design
Assembly
Before soldering, be sure to clean both sides of the PCB with 90% isopropyl alcohol,
wiping away all fingerprints. First, solder the shortest parts (usually the resistors) in
place, then the next tallest parts, and then the next tallest... Make sure that both the
solder and the part leads are shiny and not dull gray. Steel wool can restore luster and
sheen by rubbing off oxidation.
As the PCB is doubled sided, parts can be soldered in place from either side. In fact,
many of the parts can be positioned on the bottom side of the PCB; the exceptions
being the tube sockets, as they must always be positioned on the top of the board.
Important: Be sure to observe the electrolytic capacitors' polarity and glue or
double-sided tape or tie-wrap heavy coupling capacitors to the PCB.
Volume Control An audio-taper potentiometer or stepped attenuator can be placed
in front of the Aikido amplifier. Of course, a volume control may not be needed, if
the signal source already provides the means of volume adjustment, such as an MP3
player or a line stage amplifier.
External Power Supply
The genius of the Aikido circuit is found in both its low distortion and great PSRR
figure. Nonetheless, a good power supply helps (there is a practical limit to how large a
power-supply noise signal can be nulled). I recommend you use at least a robust, fastdiode rectified power supply. A regulated power supply is the obvious upgrade. The
LM317HV can be used with B+ voltages up to 48Vdc, as long as the raw DC power
supply voltage feeding the regulator is not over 57Vdc.
The power supply is external to the LV Aikido PCB and can be mounted in, or
outside, the chassis that houses the PCB. The optimal power supply voltage depends
on the tubes used. Four 6GM8s (6N27P/ECC86) can be used with a low 24V power
supply, with 12BH7 or ECC99, 48Vdc—either a switch-mode or a linear power supply.
After dealing with 400-volt power supplies, it is a joyful relief to work with relatively
low voltages. We must address, however, a few important issues. For example, although
we do not need much voltage, the heaters add a heavy current burden on the power
supply. With 6GM8 , the heater string requires 330mA and the four tubes require a
total of 8mA, for a grand total of 338mA or (rounding up) 350mA. So, 0.35A against
24V equals 8.4W of dissipation. With the ECC99, the heater string requires 400mA
and the four tubes require a total of about 10mA, for a grand total of 410mA or
(rounding up) 450mA. So, 0.45A against 48V equals 21.6W of dissipation. (In other
words, expect a good deal of heat and provide plenty of ventilation, in spite of the low
B+ voltage.)
The LV Aikido is a perfect candidate for a wall-wart power supply. Both linear and
switch-mode wall-warts are available with a 24V output voltage and both cost less than
$30 USD. A medical-grade switch-mode power supply cost about $45 and it will be
both safer and more quiet. On the other hand, a simple non-regulated power supply
can be built from a power transformer, diode bridge, and a few capacitors. It just
might sound good as well.
GlassWare Audio Design
Grounding
The LV Aikido PCB holds a star ground at its center. Ideally, this will be the only
central ground in a line-stage buffer. A ground-loop is created when a device finds
more than one connections to ground. Ground loops, unfortunately, are extremely
easy to introduce. For example, if the input and output RCA jacks are grounded at
the chassis, then the twisted pair of wires that connect the PCB to the jacks will each
define a ground loop, as the chassis will attach to the PCB's central ground through at
least four wires. The solution is either to isolate the jacks or use only a single hot wire
from each jack to PCB (the wire can be shielded, as long as the shield only attaches at
one end). Thus, the best plan is to plan. Before assembling the line-stage amplifier,
stop and decide how the grounding is going to be laid out, then solder.
Three different schools of thought hold for grounding a piece of audio gear. The OldSchool approach is to treat the chassis as the ground; period. Every ground
connection is made at the closest screw and nut. This method is the easiest to follow
and it produces the worst sonic results. Steel and aluminum are poor conductors.
The Spur-Star ground method uses several ground "stars," which then terminate in a
single star ground point, often a screw on the chassis. This system can work
beautifully, if carefully executed. Unfortunately, often too much is included in each
spur connection. For example, all the input and output RCA jacks share ground
connection to a long run of bare wire, which more closely resembles a snake than a
spur ground. In other words, the spurs should not be defined just physical proximity,
but signal transference. Great care must be exercised not to double ground any spur
point. For example, the volume control potentiometer can create a ground loop
problem, if both of its ground tabs are soldered together at the potentiometer and
twisted pairs, of hot and cold wires, arrive at and leave the potentiometer, as the two
cold wires attaching to the PCB will define a ground loop. The Absolute-Star
grounding scheme uses a lot of wire and is the most time consuming to lay out, but it
does yield the best sonic rewards. Here each input signal source and each output lead
gets its own ground wire that attaches, ultimately, at one star ground point; each RCA
jack is isolated from the chassis. The LV Aikido PCB was designed to work with this
approach, although it can be used with any approach.
House Ground The third prong on the wall outlet attaches to the house’s ground at
the service panel and usually the cold water pipe. The line-stage buffer can also attach
to this ground connection, which is certainly the safest approach, as it provides a
discharge path should the high voltage short to the chassis. Unfortunately, this setup
often produces a hum problem. Some simply float the chassis (not safe!), others use
several solid-state rectifiers in parallel to attach the chassis ground to the house
ground (NOT NEUTRAL) via the third prong, and others still use a power 10-ohm
resistor shunted by a small capacitor, say 0.001µF to 0.1µF/250V.
Chassis
Ground
House
Ground
Signal
Ground
L
0.01µF
250V
10
GlassWare Audio Design
6GM8/6N27P/ECC86 Specifications
Heater Voltage
Heater Current
Maximum Plate Voltage
Maximum Plate Dissipation
Maximum Cathode Current
Maximum Grid Resistor
Maximum Cathode-to-heater Voltage
Maximum Cathode-to-heater Resistance
Amplification Factor
Transconductance
Plate Resistance
6.3V
330mA
30V
0.6W
20mA
1M
30V
20k
14
2.4mA/V
5800 Ohms
GlassWare Audio Design
12BH7 Specifications
Heater Voltage
Heater Current
Maximum Plate Voltage
Maximum Plate Dissipation
Maximum Cathode Current
Maximum Grid Resistor
Maximum Cathode-to-heater Voltage
Amplification Factor
Transconductance
Plate Resistance
Grid-to-Plate Capacitance
6.3V & 12.6V
600mA & 300mA
450V
3.5W
20mA
1M
100V
16.5
3.1mA/V
5300 Ohms
2.6pF
GlassWare Audio Design
ECC99 Specifications
Heater Voltage
Heater Current
Maximum Plate Voltage
Maximum Plate Dissipation
Maximum Cathode Current
Maximum Cathode-to-heater Voltage
Amplification Factor
Transconductance
Plate Resistance
Grid-to-Plate Capacitance
6.3V & 12.6V
0.8A & 0.4A
400V
5W
60mA
200V
22
9.5mA/V
2300 Ohms
5.1pF
GlassWare Audio Design
PCB Dimensions
3.2 in
5.0 in
5.4 in
2.0 in
2.0 in
3.6 in
Let me know what you think
If you would like to see some new audio PCB or kit or recommend a change to an
existing product or if you need help figuring out cathode resistor values, drop me a
line by e-mail sales@tubecad.com (begin the subject line with either “Aikido” or
“tube”).
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