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Old 03-18-2014, 02:20 PM   #1
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Headphone Tube Amp Build

A few weeks ago I was talking with my dad about a good project we could do next time I was in town for a weekend. I had been talking about buying a tube amp for my headphones for a little bit, so when he suggested we repurpose an old stereo cabinet I was all for the challenge.

The goal was to make something that looked vintage and used as many original parts as possible. The Oak surround is the surrounding trim off some old countertops, and the front plate was a warning label on the back of the stereo.

The whole project took about 20 hours (long weekend), fried 3 MP3 players, and resulted in at least 5 shocks, but we managed to convert a 1956 Webcore amplifier into a pretty sweet headphone amplifier.

We took a few pictures of the build in progress, but the majority of the pictures were just snapshots of wiring so we could know what we had removed after we cut it.

If anyone is interested, I can post more details.






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Originally Posted by GRIFFIN
I was stayign at this one girls ass for what felt like 5 mins. My gil sadi what the fvck are you looking at. I said just thnking about how beautiful she was goign to look in her wedding dress. Road head for the win.

Last edited by SuperFan86; 03-18-2014 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:35 PM   #2
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Old 03-19-2014, 08:21 AM   #3
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It looks cool as ****.
Thanks! The next step is to incorporate a USB DAC into the unit. Mix in a little modern with the vintage and improve the sound.

right now I'm running an external Fiio E10.
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I was stayign at this one girls ass for what felt like 5 mins. My gil sadi what the fvck are you looking at. I said just thnking about how beautiful she was goign to look in her wedding dress. Road head for the win.
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Old 03-19-2014, 08:35 AM   #4
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Nice cans! I use the Sennheiser HD 580 Pros. Incredible open ear phones. go them off craigslist for $30, retailed for Over $500 new iirc. Amazing tone and sound, and so comfortable.

I have also found Audio Technica and AKG to be similar to the Sennheisers.

As for the amp, great job. What was the impedance level you used? My headphones are 300ohm and would benefit greatly from an actual amp like this.
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Old 03-19-2014, 09:32 AM   #5
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Nice work though, I wish I knew what I was looking at -- looks awesome.
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:14 AM   #6
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my $15 sony earphones are too loud when i put the volume all the way up.
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:58 AM   #7
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Cool re-purpose. I still use tube amps for guitars all the time and they have a unique, but subtle sound that make me (and many guitarist) prefer them over anything solidstate.

I would replace any electrolytic caps asap, if you have not already- They are really only good for about 10-15 years max and can take out the transformer when they blow.
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Old 03-19-2014, 11:44 AM   #8
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my $15 sony earphones are too loud when i put the volume all the way up.
This isn't about making louder headphones.
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Old 03-19-2014, 11:51 AM   #9
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Old 03-19-2014, 12:00 PM   #10
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I know I am playin.


But srs I got it, I found it EXTREMELY funny. Pls don't ban me
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Old 03-19-2014, 12:29 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaput View Post
Nice cans! I use the Sennheiser HD 580 Pros. Incredible open ear phones. go them off craigslist for $30, retailed for Over $500 new iirc. Amazing tone and sound, and so comfortable.

I have also found Audio Technica and AKG to be similar to the Sennheisers.

As for the amp, great job. What was the impedance level you used? My headphones are 300ohm and would benefit greatly from an actual amp like this.
I upgraded from Sony MDR-V6's to the AKGs. I love how neutral they sound. I toyed between these and the 598. Enjoyed them both, but ultimately took a bit of a gamble and bought the Q701 instead. couldn't be happier with the decision.

My cans are 67 ohm, but the amp requires a constant 8 ohm load to not overload the tubes (sorry if I'm explaining this wrong). That's why it has the external speaker output plugs installed with the resistors plugged in. They keep the load on the system at all times.



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Originally Posted by Brevik View Post
Cool re-purpose. I still use tube amps for guitars all the time and they have a unique, but subtle sound that make me (and many guitarist) prefer them over anything solidstate.

I would replace any electrolytic caps asap, if you have not already- They are really only good for about 10-15 years max and can take out the transformer when they blow.
Not sure what parts you are talking about, but this thing has a ton of old resistors that I feel a bit sketchy about. One of them is referred to as the "resistor of death" because when it goes bad it apparently grounds 120 volts to the frame. Fortunately when it goes it also makes a hell of a whine in the audio output, so I'm not too worried about it at this point.

I'll attach a picture of the underside, maybe you can help ID what parts are suspect.

I also attached the original wiring schematic we found and pieced back together. Not really helpful as we didn't really know what much of it meant, but I plan on framing the original and keeping it with the amp to further enhance the cool-factor.
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Originally Posted by GRIFFIN
I was stayign at this one girls ass for what felt like 5 mins. My gil sadi what the fvck are you looking at. I said just thnking about how beautiful she was goign to look in her wedding dress. Road head for the win.

Last edited by SuperFan86; 03-19-2014 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperFan86 View Post
I upgraded from Sony MDR-V6's to the AKGs. I love how neutral they sound. I toyed between these and the 598. Enjoyed them both, but ultimately took a bit of a gamble and bought the Q701 instead. couldn't be happier with the decision.

My cans are 67 ohm, but the amp requires a constant 8 ohm load to not overload the tubes (sorry if I'm explaining this wrong). That's why it has the external speaker output plugs installed with the resistors plugged in. They keep the load on the system at all times.
I understand. You need an 8ohm load, so you made an 8ohm load with resistors. I will say you are loosing headroom and quality by doing this though.

As for over loading the tubes, it could be interesting to see what it sounds like. You shouldn't damage anything as long as some load it there, but I'm not sure to what extent, as the difference from 8 to 67 is pretty huge.
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Old 03-20-2014, 08:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaput View Post
I understand. You need an 8ohm load, so you made an 8ohm load with resistors. I will say you are loosing headroom and quality by doing this though.

As for over loading the tubes, it could be interesting to see what it sounds like. You shouldn't damage anything as long as some load it there, but I'm not sure to what extent, as the difference from 8 to 67 is pretty huge.
Update to this project:

My dad called yesterday as he was breaking down the old cabinet. He was able to salvage the original preamp. Originally we thought that this was just a basic input switch, but it turned out to be pretty advanced and adds a lot of features that could be useful. It is going to be easy to re-install, so next time I head home we will wire it back in. It should eliminate the need for the 8 ohm resistors and add tone adjustment to the build.
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Originally Posted by GRIFFIN
I was stayign at this one girls ass for what felt like 5 mins. My gil sadi what the fvck are you looking at. I said just thnking about how beautiful she was goign to look in her wedding dress. Road head for the win.
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Old 03-20-2014, 08:38 AM   #14
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Is the preamp tube a 12ZX7? Swap it for a 12AU7. the power will not be effected, but you will get a smoother preamp sound.
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Old 03-20-2014, 09:27 AM   #15
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Is the preamp tube a 12ZX7? Swap it for a 12AU7. the power will not be effected, but you will get a smoother preamp sound.
Not sure what the preamp tubes are. The 4 identical tubes on the amp are 6BQ5's, the single smaller tube is a 12AX7, and the HUGE tube is a 5U4. The preamp tubes are the same size as the 12AX7 but I would assume they are a different model as the 12AX7 is a dual triode and I don't think the preamp would need that.

If I replace the tubes it is going to cost me more than I have into the entire project haha. I might do it though, just go all out.
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Originally Posted by GRIFFIN
I was stayign at this one girls ass for what felt like 5 mins. My gil sadi what the fvck are you looking at. I said just thnking about how beautiful she was goign to look in her wedding dress. Road head for the win.

Last edited by SuperFan86; 03-20-2014 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 03-20-2014, 03:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperFan86 View Post
Not sure what the preamp tubes are. The 4 identical tubes on the amp are 6BQ5's, the single smaller tube is a 12AX7, and the HUGE tube is a 5U4. The preamp tubes are the same size as the 12AX7 but I would assume they are a different model as the 12AX7 is a dual triode and I don't think the preamp would need that.

If I replace the tubes it is going to cost me more than I have into the entire project haha. I might do it though, just go all out.
Of all the tubes you mentioned, the 12AX7 is the preamp tube. The others are for gain stage and power.

If you replace it with anything, find a 1960's vintage NOS tube. My bass amps are all converted, and I won't go back to anything else, even if it turns out to be $50 a tube.
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Old 03-20-2014, 03:50 PM   #17
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Subb'd, this looks interesting. I love amplifiers and stuff. Specially old school tube.
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Old 04-08-2014, 12:20 AM   #18
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OP, congrats on a cool project done with your dad !

I actually stumbled across your thread while doing research on this Headphone Tube Amp, & had to read your tube amp build thread........on E46F of all places. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...A2OQJHF0UCHNPD
This one can be used as both a headphone tube amp & tube preamp for something like a CD player.

I hope you get everything all sorted out, if you figure out how to install that USB, please post up your pics.
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Old 04-08-2014, 12:56 AM   #19
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Very cool! Now you need a media player with a digital output, get an external converter and enjoy some pure sound with a bit of tube saturation, while avoiding redundant gain staging. I would love to build a tube amp for my headphones. I finished building a stereo tube mic preamplifier from scratch recently (other than the PCB). I've since inclosed the toroidal transformers to reduce hum but don't have an updated picture.

If you are looking for replacement tubes send me a PM. I have an amazing tube guy that exclusively sells tubes. I've bought several from him over the years. He is extremely helpful and will search through/test a couple dozen tubes before he finds the perfect one/s for your application.
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Old 04-08-2014, 10:09 AM   #20
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Sorry for the lack of updates. We had a setback and progress on the project over the weekend.

Good news: We found and fixed the problem that was causing one channel to be louder than the other
Bad news: The tube preamp is bad or has something bad in it that creates an unacceptable amount of hum into the system.

I'm in the middle of something at work right now, but I'll post a few more pictures and some details later today.
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