Quick Update

I’m feeling guilty for not saying anything on this blog for such a long time, so will write something quick now.

I took some time off to decorate the sitting room; laying a parquet floor and a vintage looking HiFi system (Amstrong 521 amp with Bluetooth inserted inside and a pair of Olle Mirsch loudspeaker cabinets with Jordan JX92S drivers with tuned reflex port – I’ll add photos later), then it was Christmas, then my usual 3 winter cold viruses in a row . . .

Then next job was to work on the speakers for my office/workshop.  Some couple of years ago I bought a pair of KEF Concertos locally for £80.  Nobody else was interested, I think because the owner’s wife doesn’t like the teak wood look so got him to stain them black.  Staining varnished wood is always going to be difficult and they looked a mess.  Being skint that didn’t put me off and I have tried to strip the old varnish and stain off but not that successfully.  I also discovered that one of them has been dropped at some point and the bottom ‘lip’ at the front had been repaired using rubber solution and a stapler.

I’ve decided that I will paint the cabinets white and have chosen a grill cloth to compliment.  In the meantime I have replaced all electrolytic capacitors with polypropylene versions (adding around 1Ω for every 10µF to compensate for the lower ESR, otherwise the filters’ cut off points would change) and mounted it on the rear as it now all takes up so much space.  I’ll box the crossovers in before painting and that will reduce the ringing of the lower part of the cabinet; knocking with knuckles from bottom to top reveals a lot of bounce in the bottom half.  It is stiffer at the top because the cardboard tube used for the B110 midrange’s compartment holds the cabinet rigid at that point.

There are some other little tweaks but I’ll go into them when I put some photos up of that project.  The reason for all the work on them?  The sound they make is so easy and listenable, they make my Naim SBL’s seem quite dull in comparison!  They must be around 50 years old but still sound fantastic.  I can totally recommend any speaker that has the KEF B139, B110 and T27 speaker driver combination.

There’s another project hanging around in the background – a friend of mine is into vintage cars and wants a good quality windscreen wiper timer module, so he can delay the wipers on his old Morris Minor.  That design is finished and I’m waiting on finding the right cable lengths before assembly and once we are sure all is good will will put it into production for general sale.

Right now I’m back on the job of designing my HiFi.  I had a great idea, went down the wrong road, realised and am now back on the right path.  I’ll explain . . .

I have a lot of parts that I will no longer be using (due to design change) and we don’t have a HiFi system for our kitchen so I wanted to put these parts together.  I wanted to keep it simple – the only inputs would be Bluetooth for ultimate convenience and a built-in DAC for ultimate sound quality (allowing a computer to be the ‘source’ so delivering high-resolution files to the amp).  Plus the smallest footprint possible for both amp and speakers.  So the design brief; simple, small, great sound quality, reasonable cost.  I then came to the conclusion that many other people would want exactly the same thing – a HiFi system for today’s modern way of living.

So that is what I am doing at the moment, laying out my own amp’s design to get the above; simple, small, convenient, superb quality, affordable.  Here is a picture of the layout drawing as of this morning.  All parts are in place, all MDF panels are mapped out and I am now adding interconnections, thus making it easier to build repeatedly.

Basic Amp Layout Drawing.

Basic Amp Layout Drawing.

You cannot see the dimensions given on this picture but the amplifier will be 141mm high by 307mm wide and 170mm deep (not including another 30mm for the heatsinks and another 15mm for the control knobs).  Output will be 12.5WRMS from calculations so I would say a comfortable 10WRMS per channel in the real world.

The design is totally mono-block, in other words two totally separate amplifiers in the same cabinet with only the earthing being common.  This means signals from one channel with not affect the other channel and visa versa = improved stereo separation.

There are four transformers:

  • one for each channel’s, small signal front end,
  • one for each channel’s output transistors.

I’ve looked at Cookson Gold and believe the design can take the cost of using 0.8mm x 5mm Sterling silver ribbon to connect between each set of output transistors’ reservoir capacitors – you may not be able to understand the importance of this if you don’t make your own amp designs.  Note again that the output transistors get a power source all to themselves so no feedback into the signal source end.

There will also be 2 sets of phono input connections mostly because the PCB caters for a couple extra; it make the unit more useable and because it won’t add much to the final price.  So the full range of inputs to the amp will be:

  1. Bluetooth
  2. Built-in DAC
  3. 3.5mm Jack
  4. 6.5mm Jack (so you can plug an electric instrument in and jam)
  5. Pair of phono sockets
  6. Pair of phono sockets

The speakers will be small full-range units with the option of sub-woofer stands to increase height of the full-range drivers so they sit above the arms of any sofas.  They’ll also add a bit more oomph.

On the drawing above can be seen a large toroid mid-way up on the right.  This is a larger mains transformer than used in the 10WRMS design I am currently working on.  It will allow for 60WRMS per channel output and that will be the next design after this one goes on sale (hopefully sometime this year).

This picture shows the layout of the front panel:

Front Panel Layout.

Front Panel Layout.

Posted in Amp Cabinet, Amplification, cabinet, Construction, Design, Earthing, PCB Layout & Design, Power Amplifier, Power Supplies, Pre Amplifier, renovation, Vintage HiFi Renovation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Shellac gig at The Fleece in Bristol, 7th October 2017

My friends and I went to see this gig last Saturday. It was amazing.

Before going in, we had a quick beer and then went to an Italian restaurant. After chatting a while about Shellac, Todd Trainer came past and said hello – he’d been sitting behind us and could not help overhearing our conversation.

The guy came across as being really decent and sincere and before he went offered to put us on the guest list. We already had tickets so didn’t need that but it was a generous thought – it is after all, how they make a living. We all really appreciated it.

He’d let us know roughly when they were going on so we had another beer and then went to the gig. I am a photographer (as in I like to take photos – no more) and although not a pushy one at all I thought this was an opportunity not to be missed so I slowly slide between gaps to get right to the front. I’d like to say a big thanks here to all those that let me do that, everyone was really kind and let me through. I hope you enjoy the photos enough to feel it was worth it.

Todd Trainer of Shellac, The Fleece, Bristol, October 2017.

The gig was just great, I took loads of images, all in black and white and the music was awesome, totally awesome. Steve Albini, Todd Trainer and Bob Weston seemed like they’d had a good time and came across as professional, open and honest, sociable and above all – kick-ass musicians. Thanks guys.

This Liquiphonics account at WordPress has become squashed together with my photography blog ‘matalimages’ and my blog for my friends poetry ‘geoffspoetry’ – Google did that, the b*’s 😉  Don’t know how it happened. So you may know how to get to my Shellac photos but in case not, here are some links:

Liquiphonics HiFi on Facebook (22 images):  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010561183725

Liquiphonics HiFi’s WordPress Blog (30 images):  https://matalimages.wordpress.com/

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Goodbye Walter Becker

I got into Steely Dan after coming across the stunning album cover for ‘Countdown to Ecstasy’.

Steely Dan's 'Countdown to Ecstasy' album cover.

Steely Dan’s’Countdown to Ecstasy’ album cover.

Their music was a variation on the Americana mix of jazz, rock, blues.  It had style, humour and a crisp, clean sound – they were really fussy when it came to sound quality.

Their music led me on to Donald Fagen’s; I love ‘The Nightfly’ and ‘Sunken Condos’ but I never even thought that the other half of the band could have his own solo albums.  I’ll need to have a listen to them.

Sadly, Walter Becker has now gone and far too soon at the age of only 67.  Thanks for the fun Walter.

Here is an interesting post about Steely Dan’s track ‘Deacon Blues’ and why it is used as an audiophile standard for comparing HiFi equipment (thanks to Graham for pointing me in this direction):


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Clean Mains Connections = Good Sound

I recently bought a second-hand tuner, an Akai AT-550.  The condition of the mains plug pins was the worst I have ever seen.  Even though the connections pass relatively high voltages, they still need to be clean or sound quality will be affected.  I am particularly fussy about the earth pin connection.  Here is a picture of the tuner:

Akai AT-550 Tuner.

Akai AT-550 Tuner.

To clean the brass pins of corrosion and dirt, I use a fibreglass stick but sandpaper or even a knife can be used.  If you have the confidence, it’s worth taking a look inside the plug to make sure all three connections are good and that the fuse connections are not corroded or lose.  This shows the plug:

Showing the mains plug earth pin badly corroded.

Showing the mains plug earth pin badly corroded.

Showing the mains plug earth pin partially cleaned.

Showing the mains plug earth pin partially cleaned.


Showing the mains plug earth pin fully cleaned.

I cleaned all three pins, not just the earth and when finished, they were all shiny.

If anyone needs an explanation of how to connect a mains plug properly, please do ask me and I will upload a post showing how to do it – not everyone knows.

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Every band member should read this . . .

. . . and anyone who loves music also, so they get to know what really goes on in the music business.

A good friend of mine has brought an article to my attention, written by Steve Albini; an American singer-songwriter, audio-engineer, band member of Shellac and much more.
It outlines (some of) the massive problems faced by up-and-coming bands trying to break into the music industry, at any level above playing pubs and clubs.

I recommend it:

‘The Problem With Music’ by Steve Albini

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Basic Media Amp and Speakers Idea

I finished working out the Box Construction Jig and found I had some 12mm MDF wood left over on the sheet.  I have some nice parts left over from the design of the Boombox and coming system so I thought I’d use the spare MDF to build a simple, compact HiFi system for our kitchen.  Nothing fancy, just an On/Off switch, a selection switch for only two inputs – Bluetooth and USB and that’s all.  The design is now complete and I’m about to add it to the cutting information for the MDF sheets.

But I think this would be a good production model and many others should find it a useful little amp.

So there are now two additional amp models, here are their salient points:

  1. a 14Wrms/channel and a 60Wrms/channel amp,
  2. only Bluetooth and internal DAC (USB fed),
  3. no tone controls,
  4. front panel has only On/Off and input selection,
  5. my amplifier PCB and top quality parts,
  6. small full range loudspeakers (Peerless?) with optional stands that include subwoofers,
  7. as small a footprint as possible given the internal components.

The MDF layout is almost finished, I’ll post pictures as it’s constructed.

Posted in Amp Cabinet, Amplification, Design, High Definition Sound, Loudspeakers, Media, Power Amplifier | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Box Construction Jig Design

My next job is to build the boombox cabinet (or box).  It will be made from 6 and 12mm MDF and I need to make sure that when glued together, all the sides are exactly perpendicular and not leaning over at all.  Over distance, a very small angle can make a big difference.

I am designing a jig to make this gluing job easier and more accurate.  It will also be of 12mm MDF.  The ‘Ls’ will be 10cm deep so won’t flex longitudinally at all.  The four ‘Ls’ will slide into each other like two combs coming together.  That can only happen in one direction so the upper two ‘Ls’ are broken and need bolting or gluing together once in place – you can see three holes in the corner, on the drawing below.

Box construction jig bracing.

Box construction jig bracing.

The above bracing will then be faced with 12mm MDF (as shown below).  This surface will allow me to push the panels that need gluing, up against the facing knowing it is absolutely perpendicular.  The jig will be laser cut by Exeter Laser so will be reliable true.

Each facing panel will be glued to the bracing at a distance of 30mm away from the other two facings.  This will allow up to 25mm MDF sheets to be glued together without becoming glued to the jig.  Any excess spilling out of the joint, can then be removed after the glue has set.

Box construction jig facing.

Box construction jig facing.

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