RelaiXed -- Balanced pre-amplifier
RelaiXed is a high-end audio preamplifier for the DIY audio hobbyists, featuring:
- Balanced audio input and output connections, next to a few 'single ended' (cinch) input channels
- Volume control in 1dB steps through a sequence of resistors and relays, for best sound quality.
- Operable through IR remote control
Its design is first published in the Dutch
Elektor Audio Special 2 of December 2007.
About year later the German edition appeared:
The 'ELEKTOR Sonderheft AUDIO 2' was published on November 19, 2008.
This project was a cooperation between Sander Sassen and myself, Jos van Eijndhoven.
An initial small set of prototype PCBs was quickly gone. Two later sets of PCB each had small updates to the design.
Currently, these PCBs are not available anymore. A redesign has been made with significant updates to all of the analog design,
the digital control design, and the firmware.
For the new design see the RelaiXed2 page.
- Audio volume control through relays and resistors provides a very good audio quality. The combination of good-quality resistors
and relays ensures a consistent behavior and extremely long lifetime.
It is amazing to hear the more clear and open sound in comparison with a conventional potentiometer that uses a sliding contact
over a resistive layer. These relays-and-resistors can even compare favourably with high-end audio rotary switches for volume control. (Observed by earlier users of my passive attenuator.)
I am aware that using solid-state volume control ICs would have resulted in a smaller and cheaper design,
however I don't trust the sound quality of those.
The design offers six stereo audio input channels to select from.
The available PCB allows print-mounted XLR connectors for the balanced input and output channels.
When building the preamp, one can choose a configuration with 3 single-ended (cinch) input channels
and 3 balanced (XLR) input channels, or, alternativley, 4 single-ended and 2 balanced channels.
The output signal is always balanced: the design will perform single-ended-to-balanced conversion for the inputs that need this.
This design employs a new generation of high-end audio opamps to buffer the output signal and add some amplification.
The design includes a high-quality very-low-noise power supply stabilization for these audio opamps:
That seems to positively influence their output sound. The design was made for (tested with) the
LM4562 opamps. Alternatively, other pin compatible types can be used, such as the -also very good-
The preamplifier has a remote control, through a conventional IR reception.
It can receive (decode) the Philips RC5 and RC6 protocols,
as well as the Sony SIRC protocols. Within these protocols, the preamp can 'learn' your favorite buttons and device setting,
to properly coexists with other devices.
Normally, a rotary switch -with push button function- is also connected for direct manual control.
The design employs two microcontrollers: one operates the small front panel with the IR receiver and LED display.
The second one operates the relay board. When there is no user activity, the one on the relay board switches itself off,
including its internal clock signal. That prevents any high-frequency digital signal interaction (parasitic EMI coupling)
with the audio circuit.
- Next to the normal audio control (volume up/down, input channel selection, audio mute),
the preamp also provides an output signal to connect a power relay. The IR remote power on/off function activates this relay,
and can be used to switch other (audio) equipment next to its own analog power supply. In 'power off' mode,
the preamp digital supply and front-panel microcontroller remain active to receive later a wake-up command.
In 'power off' mode, the preamp power consumption is very low: between 1W and 0.1W,
depending on the quality of your tiny digital power-supply transfomer.
Note that the mechanical clicking of relays is well audible when you adjust your volume.
If you want true silent behavior, a relays-based design is probably not your preference.
Optionally, the relay board can be built to handle 6 cinch-inputs only, by omitting a few componentents.
Also, the relay board can be configured to handle 4 independent, non-balanced, audio channels.
This can be useful for multi-channel audio enthousiasts.
Furthermore, multiple relay boards can be controlled with a single front-panel interface,
giving even more multi-channel options.
The design uses easily available components, that you can buy at your favourite shop.
(Sorting out piles of components is not the way I prefer to spend my audio hobby time.)
The available design documents relate to different versions of the RelaiXed design,
which received small updates over time both in hardware and in embedded
A collection of datasheets of used components:
(Large doc, just as background info, probably you won't need this.)
You can see a few more photos from building my own RelaiXed in my
RelaiXed Picasa album.
Furthermore, there is a forum dedicated to RelaiXed,
allowing builders to exchange ideas and questions with each other.
A professional qualtiy PCB was made, 140x291mm, double-sided, with text annotation and gold-finishing of solder areas:
(top view, bottom view.
I will seperate the main PCB from the front-mount PCB for you.)
Early summer 2009 we have made a number of RelaiXed housings based on a hifi2000 'slimline' cabinet,
by having a metal company rework the frontpanel for an embedded dark plexiglass window and a volume knob.
See this forum message
(drawing, foto1, foto2).
Otherwise, it seems possible to send the nice (brushed) Hifi200 frontpanel to
Schaeffer-ag for your personal processing.
Thanks for your interest,
Jos van Eijndhoven
May 13th, 2010
Jos van Eijndhoven
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