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John Broskie's Guide to Tube Circuit Analysis & Design

07 september 2013

The Return of the Unbalancer

New Unbalancer PCB
After many a season returns the Unbalancer.

this will be welcome news to many audiophiles, particularly for those who need to convert their dac's balanced output to an unbalanced output signal, as the unbalancer can readily receive its balanced signal. if a stand-alone dac already holds unbalanced outputs, why should i bother using its balanced outputs? the answer is that the balanced outputs are usually taken earlier in the circuitry chain, which allows us to avoid having our delicate signal passing through anymore opamps.

幸运28计划软件appthe unbalancer can also be used inside the dac enclosure, where it can take the place of the opamps. for the most part, dac ics come in three flavors: current-out, voltage-out, and a hybrid of sorts that functions as a blend of current- and voltage-out. if the unbalancer used directly with a voltage-output dac’s balanced outputs, very little gain is needed, but some post high-frequency filtering will be desirable.

often voltage-output dac present a large dc offset, usually about half of their positive power-supply voltage. this dc offset is not a problem and no input coupling capacitors are needed, as the unbalancer input stage's constant-current source will simply absorb the dc offset.

幸运28计划软件appif a current-output dac is used, then usually high gain will be required, as these dacs assume a near zero ohms impedance at their outputs. well, we can get away with using two low-resistance load resistors. the dac’s varying current output into these low-valued resistors creates a small voltage signal that must be amplified greatly, so a high-mu input tube should be used, such as the 6n1p or 12at7, 12ax7, 6072, 5965.

幸运28计划软件appthe set up for a voltage-output dac looks same, except that the 47-ohm resistors have been replaced by 1nf capacitors and two 10k resistors are placed in series with the dac outputs and the unbalancer's inputs.

幸运28计划软件appthese added resistors will define a 160khz low-pass filter with the 1,000pf capacitors. a second low-pass filter is imposed by the 47k resistors and 100pf capacitors in the output stage of the unbalancer. (the ccs's set resistor's value should be 6.81 ohms in this example.)

 

The Unbalancer as an Unbalanced Line Stage Amplifier
Last year, I described my efforts at interconnect design in Blog Number 241. I mentioned the problem of tying the interconnect's grounds together at the line stage (or stereo power amplifier).

because the two grounds in the line stage tie together in the power amplifier, signal current from one channel can take two paths back to the line stage. (the same thing happens in the line stage and its signal inputs, such as cd players or phono stages.)

Note how the audio signal in just one channel returns down both ground conductors. For example, if 10V is present on one channel, the current flow through the power amplifier's 10k input resistor (or volume potentiometer) will equal 1mA, half of which will travel through both ground leads. Ideally, what happens exclusively in one channel, should remain in one channel. An isolation transformer at the power amplifier's (or line stage's) input will prevent one channel's signal-induced current flow to its channel. My solution, which I used in a stereo solid-state power amplifier that I built 30 years ago, was the following.

幸运28计划软件appwell, a few months ago, i finally set up an unbalancer as an unbalanced line-stage amplifier by using this setup:

Since the Unbalancer's input and BCF output stages offer excellent common-mode rejection (CMRR), hum and noise that are equally present on the input signals hot and ground connection are ignored. And the signal from on one channel will much prefer to complete its current path back to its source via that channel's ground lead, as it will only see milliohms of resistance rather than the 20-ohms of resistance bridging the channels' grounds within the Unbalancer's two 10-ohm resistors. (The house can complicate things, as often audio gear simply "grounds" its signal ground to the house ground via the power cord's third prong. The result might be safe, but it is certainly a mess when it comes to keeping our delicate audio signals pure.)

i was quite impressed by how well the unbalancer worked in this application. i used the jj ecc802 (12au7 long plates) tubes as input tubes and jj ecc99 as the output tubes. (i am sure that i could configure a phase selection switch, but i haven't tried to yet.) the problem is that i am psychologically and logically invested in this setup working well, so a double-blind test should be preformed on it and me. for example, a relay could short out the two 10-ohm resistors.

幸运28计划软件appby the way, here is a quick test. unplug all the signal sources from your line-stage amplifier. then, attach a voltmeter set to read ac voltage to the line-stage amplifier and each signal source's ground barrel on the rca jack. ideally, ovac should be the result. sadly, this is seldom the result. the next step is flip the power-cord plug on the signal source, if possible. keep the orientation that results in the least ac voltage between the two pieces of gear.

 

No Power Supply
幸运28计划软件app Unlike the original Unbalancer PCB, which held both high- and low-voltage power supplies, the new Unbalancer PCB only holds two large RC power-supply filters, one per channel. Why the change? Flexibility. The customer is free to choose the power supply he prefers, either tube or solid-state rectified, either passive ripple filtering or active regulated B+ voltages, either DC or AC on the heater elements. The PS-1, PS-3, PS-4, PS-14 and Janus are all good choices; and all are the same width as the Unbalancer PCB.

the new unbalancer pcb does include some new features, such as two sets of output coupling capacitors and doubled up plate resistors. in addition, the circuit now holds two internal coupling capacitors, which allows more freedom in setting the input stage's dc operating points. (the new coupling capacitor can be replaced by a jumper wire to restore the circuit to its old configuration.) note in the above schematic with the voltage-out dac, how the 6cg7-based input stage does not spilt the b+ voltage, as the 6cg7 plates see 200vdc, while the b+ voltage is 300vdc.

here is the actual unbalancer schematic.

the glassware unbalancer 9-pin stereo 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 heavy 2oz copper traces. in addition, the pcb is lovingly and expensively made in the usa. the boards are 6 by 6 inches, with five mounting holes, which helps to prevent excessive pcb bending while inserting and pulling tubes from their sockets.

the jj ecc802 and ecc99 tubes work quite well in the unbalancer. the resulting gain is a little over +20db. other tubes that would work well are the 6aq8, 6cg7, 6dj8, 12bh7, 5963.

幸运28计划软件appthe unbalancer pcb and kits are now available at the .

幸运28计划软件app 

Next Time
The topic will be the SRPP+.

 

 

//jrb

   

 

 

Kit User Guide PDFs
Click image to download

Janus regulator user guide

E-mail from GlassWare Customers

hi john,

I received the Aikido PCB today - thank you for the first rate shipping
speed.

幸运28计划软件appwanted to let you know that this is simply the best pcb i have had in my hands, bar none. the quality is fabulous, and your documentation is superb. i know you do this because you love audio, but i think your price of $39 is a bit of a giveaway! i'm sure you could charge double and still have happy customers.

幸运28计划软件applooking forward to building the aikido, will send some comments when i'm done!

Thank you, regards,
Gary.

And

Mr Broskie,
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幸运28计划软件appi bought an aikido stereo linestage kit from you some days ago, and i received it just this monday. i have a few things to say about it. firstly, i'm extremely impressed at the quality of what i've been sent. in fact, this is the highest quality kit i've seen anywhere, of anything. i have no idea how you managed to fit all this stuff in under what i paid for it. second, your shipping was lightning-quick. just more satisfaction in the bag, there. i wish everyone did business like you.

Sean H.
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High-quality, double-sided, extra thick, 2-oz traces, plated-through holes, dual sets of resistor pads and pads for two coupling capacitors. Stereo and mono, octal and 9-pin printed circuit boards available.

   Designed by John Broskie & Made in USA

aikido pcbs for as little as $24

 



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