Hayling Island

Hayling Island

Monday, February 27, 2017

Fixed amp!

So with a scope available, I had a good look around the Optonica power amp to find out what was going on. It seems that one channel is spitting out so much noise that the protection circuit is tripping, so the speakers are disconnected. (Stock picture, posting from work lol)

I searched everything around the main power amp IC (tsk tsk .. fancy using an integrated amp in a quality product), and eventually came to the conclusion it was faulty. I'd replaced a few caps around the place, but nothing would explain why one channel was all over the place while the other was quiet.

So, I bought a new one from eBay. I had no confidence at all that it would do the job, but you have to accept the improbable, once you have eliminated all of the other possibilities. And it did.

(Picture from the eBay advert I bid on). 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fixed Scope!

The power supply issue on the HP 54502A eventually succumbed to my repair type ministrations.

I had found a bunch of capacitors in the ageing power supply that needed replacement. 12 in all, all 2200uf 35v that I bought a bulk of Panasonic replacements for. That, and a test load brought the power supply back to something that worked a bit, for a while.

The thing with SMPS is that they are a nest of feedback loops. Especially early ones like this, using discrete componentry. After having reminded myself of what a UJT oscillator looks like, I found that the feedback for the +5v from secondary to primary was way out of whack.

That took me to a circuit in the secondary that compared the +5v and the -5v rail in a long tailed pair. -5V being generated by a linear regulator from the -12v, itself a linear regulator off a separate secondary.

Trouble is, with all this feedback going on, the secondary outputs all look wrong, so how to find out what was working? The trick in the end turned out to be switch on, run down all of the outputs to see if they start off ok or not. And guess what? The -12v that fed the -5v that was compared to the +5v to drive the feedback to the oscillator never got bigger than -6v.

So I drove the -12v regulator from an external 15v power supply, to see if it worked by itself. Still faulty! Getting warmer .. but it is only a few components. Swapped all the capacitors. No change. Measured resistors (by probing them near the body from the top) no problems. Hmm ...

Then noticed some burning or black stuff on one leg of two resistors - near the big capacitors on the 5v I had replaced. I hadn't noticed that one of the caps had leaked. I removed the resistors, used a Dremel to remove the black stuff and clean up the PCB as much as possible, replaced the resistors ..

Nothing happened. But all of the rails look like they are at the correct voltages?
And then noticed I had removed the connection to the CRT while working on it, and hadn't put it back. Tried again ..

Friday, January 27, 2017

Class B DIY

I thought I would finally get around to building the amps from the bits that I bought a long time ago.

I came across the pages at Elliott Sound Productions a long time ago, and since I am no good at designing analogue electronics beyond an emitter follower or a long-tailed pair, I bought the components. I filed them safely in a box, and forgot about them.

More recently, I thought it would be fun to exercise some layout skills and engage my friends at Itead Studios in creating a small PCB.

So I am sure that Mr Elliott won't mind me showing the results of this small bit of labour. It's his design, just I didn't buy one of his PCBs - I thought it would be fun to try my own. I am going to build five of them, after all - two for the Studio, where the reference monitor is currently running on an ageing Cambridge P60; one as a test amp for the laboratory, and two in bridge mode for a subwoofer project, to drive a Peerless 850140 10 inch driver I bought 17 years ago from Wilmslow Audio. I've been buying little bits and pieces from them for more than 40 years.

Now if only I could lay my hands on the heatsink I put aside for this project when I was young ..


The first prototype board. I couldn't find any BC546A in the lab, but I did find some MPSA42. They're high voltage NPN transistors so they will be fine. The pinout is opposite to BC546A so they are in backwards compared to the silk screen. 

PS: I have a handful of the blank boards left over; if anyone would like one or two, please drop me a line via Google, and we can arrange for them to be sent. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Making progress again ..

The Dell machine arrived. After much faffing around trying to get Windows 98SE running on it, I decided to go for a simpler solution.

So, I have downloaded Freedos into a bootable CD, booted the machine with that and created a 2GB (cuz that's how big a normal DOS partition could be) partition.

I then installed Linux on the beast, running dual boot so I could get the machine on the network, and copy over the files from the Fireball server on to the DOS partition. (Linux can write FAT file systems, you know).

I then ran Freedos up, so I could try to run LIFUTIL - and was shocked to find it works. Now all I have had to do is to find a 720K diskette, format it in LIF format, and then put the right driver for the 1GSa/s card on. I went through all the files, and eventually found that the SYSTEM_0.13 file was the correct one, put that on the disk and move it over to the HP 16500A front drive.

Wow. We have a working scope.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Let's hope 2017 is a good one.


So the laptop has died that I use to run LIFUTIL. It started with the diskette drive failing, but quickly became beyond repair when the LCD decided to go dark as well.

I have an older machine in the office, and I found an old diskette drive in the museum box. (that pile of stuff I can't bear to part with). The older machine is a Dell Optiplex 780 desktop, and it has a hole in the front for a diskette drive, so I dug around for a cable, eventually found a power supply cable for it as well, and went inside the Dell.

Couldn't find where to plug the 34-pin cable. Ah, found the site for the cable on the motherboard, but it was not populated in manufacture. Ah.

So, I remember I have yet another machine in the shed - a Lian Li case I bought off eBay with an older motherboard in it. Lian Li cases are lovely - all aluminium, all soft edges that don't cut the fingers and can carry multiple fans, huge power supplies, multiple hard disks and a huge variety of motherboards. Go get it, clean it off, vacuum it out, leave it to warm up and dry out properly before installing diskette drive and applying power.

And nothing happened.

Replaced power supply (temporarily - it doesn't fit, but it does plug in kind of), and something happens. It boots! But, it is booting Windows 7 which won't help with running LIFUTIL, so I create a supposedly bootable Win 98SE CD to put in it. (at this stage I must have done something wrong since the CD didn't turn out to be bootable later)

DVD drive won't eject. It's stuck with an old CD in it. Eventually free it without damaging the drive. The CD, not so much. However, the new CD with Win98 on it won't boot. Hmmm .. however I have the IDE drive from the laptop with Win 98SE already on it .. I could put that on one of those converter things that allow you to plug a laptop drive onto a 40-pin IDE connector. I have one in the museum box. Woo hoo.

Boot machine. It spends an awful lot of time changing its configuration and installing drivers for motherboard chip sets, bridges, IDE controllers .. and then asks me to put the CD in to read something else it needs. Put CD in drive. Wonder why clicking on the continue ... means nothing happens. Click here and there. Nothing. Reboot machine. Nothing. The motherboard has failed.

I go to re-seat the memory DIMM and find one memory chip at a hugely high temperature. I find this with my thumb, which is still stinging. Relegate this beautiful case to the list of Things To Do for the future - buy a new power supply, disks, motherboard, memory and decent display card for a new Office Machine (Hackintosh compatible). Fireball will be relegated to be just the workhorse server she is now, but won't be tampered with by me trying to use it for desktop things any more.

Have now bought another Dell Optiplex GX620 from eBay. It's only 21 quid. Has been tested, has DVD drive, a network port and a diskette drive .. hopefully this will be the last subroutine call before we start working back up the call stack. When it arrives, I will only have to install Windows 98SE, get it on the network, download LIFUTIL and the drivers for the 1G sample/sec scope, create the diskette and off we go.

Friday, December 16, 2016

New board for the HP 16500A

I need a scope to debug the old SM4100 amplifier I have. Noisy on one channel, so it is likely a capacitor has gone a bit south. However, the scope's power supply has failed. It is a bit of a complex thing to fix without a scope. This is an attempt at recursion which I can't support. Physician, heal thyself.

So to satisfy the need for a scope to debug the power supply for the scope, I was lucky enough to find a cheap 1Gs/sec plug in for the HP16500A I have.

And, it arrived from the US! Much excitement from Wifey since she thinks I am buying stuff from the US for Christmas for her.  And I plugged it in - but it is not recognised by the mainframe. That's because the file for the board is not on the boot diskette .. so I need to get the file on to the diskette.

I have the file downloaded from Keysight Technologies (who says there is no such thing as Silicon Heaven?), and I have an old laptop with the LIFUTIL program that writes data in the strange 77-track format that HP needs .. and guess what? The diskette drive in the laptop has ceased to function.

So, I have an amp in need of repair, a dead scope, another scope that needs a software update, and a file to update it with, but now I need to find either a replacement diskette drive for the laptop, or I need to install a diskette drive into one of the desktop machines, fire up Windows 95 or 98 on it, download the files, run LIFUTIL ..

Lots of nested calls here with very few returns.