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  1. #1
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    [Audio] The OP Amps thread! (for advanced users)

    The OP Amps thread!


    Introduction

    First of all, keep in mind that this thread is for advanced users only, I mean that if you don't give a shit about optimizing your audio setup, you should completely ignore it

    Now before going further, I will answer two questions:

    Q: Why this thread?

    A: Because manufacturers uses cheaper components to sell their products, this way they can pretend it's a quality product while keeping it in a decent range of price. If you're looking to optimize your audio setup in order to reach the best sound quality possible, you must get aware of the difference between those components that we call OP Amps (operational amplifiers).

    Q: So what is an OP Amp?

    A: Well it exists many different types of OP Amps, i'm not gonna enter in all the complicated details so to make it simplier: it is used in audio devices to amplify the signals, you would've understood.



    Operational amplifers in audio devices

    Most of the time, the OP amps are welded to the printed circuit board, so if you want to change those you will need to equip yourself of special tools (elsewise if you try to practice any modification with non adequate materials you might damage your device).
    However, certain manufacturers allows you to change those very easly like on the Asus Essence sound cards. All you have to do is to pull it off.
    In those little devices such a PCI sound card they use 3 OP amps (double): 2 in I/V (DAC) and one Buffer (RCA output). It's generally recommended to use the same amps for I/V, however the third one (Buffer) can differ from the others.

    note that the anti EMI shield has been removed


    Why it is important to consider replacing the stock amps by better ones

    The OP amps can affect the global stereo image: like I said in those little devices, they are using double op amps instead of one for the left channel and one for the right. That means it can ruin the diaphony (channel separation). So you will need double OP amps having a proper isolation between the two chanels, also providing less distortion.

    I won't post here all the measures taken from the tests but I know by having done a lot of research what it is recommended to use by most of the audiophile people, so i'm gonna list several products below:

    As I am using an Asus Xonar Essence sound card, i'm gonna take it as example: old Asus Essence devices used crappy OP amps, so in order to improve the sound you will have to replace all of these.
    Their latest product brings two Muses 8920 and one Muses 8820. In the package they include 3 exchangable op amps: x2 LME 49720 and x1 Muses 8820. All you have to do is to take off the Muses 8820 from the Buffer and place a LME 49720 instead.

    Muses 8820: The dark beast! Commercially speaking it sounds great because there's the name Muses on it, and they're well known for their Muses 01 which are certainly the most renowned op amps actually on the market. However, they are very crappy and you must take these off and use better ones!

    Muses 8920: The best one, why? because it's specs are very close from the Muses 01 and it costs only 17€ instead of 75! It's pratically the same as the LME 49720 but the sound rendering is more like what tube amplifiers provides (J-FET technology) so that makes it a bit better than the LME 49720.

    LME 49720: Well as I explained above, it's more like the same as the Muses 8920, slightly less good since it uses bi-polar technology. But it remains a sure value.

    Muses 02: Don't get fooled! Its name would make you believe it's right behind the Muses 01, but that's not the case! That thing is not worth better than the crappy Muses 8820. And it's 50€ one!

    Muses 01: The reference, the legend. Renowned by every audiophile, those amps belongs to the best actually comercialized on the market. It's 75+€ one.

    Beware! Yes, some Chinese manufacturers are selling false copies! So watch out if you see, on ebay especially, resellers selling those for 15 bucks only.

    There are a lot more models but I don't know them all. Those I listed above belongs to the biggest references and are probably the most used on all "audiophile" devices and materials. There are also some that costs a lot more money, but remember that in the audiophile world, the price doesn't always justify the quality!
    Last edited by Skyward; 21.06.2016 at 15:30.

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    Ok so what these 2 little DAC guys do is basically converting the digital sound informations to a stereo analog output signal by producing the frequency with an oscillating circuit and the buffer controls your volume i guess.

    I think if you have quality analog equipment this replacement is a must, but for the optical output it is rather useless.

    This is just my own interpretation what these components do, would really appreciate to correct me if i am wrong.


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    Quote Originally Posted by AmcoTraD View Post
    Ok so what these 2 little DAC guys do is basically converting the digital sound informations to a stereo analog output signal by producing the frequency with an oscillating circuit and the buffer controls your volume i guess.

    I think if you have quality analog equipment this replacement is a must, but for the optical output it is rather useless.

    This is just my own interpretation what these components do, would really appreciate to correct me if i am wrong.
    I'm not sure what the buffer does exactly, but you're right about the DAC. Now I never tried the optical output to hear if there was a difference, but considering the buffer influences the RCA output only, then yes, it's useless to change it if you're having optical devices.

    Now besides having a good isolation for better chanel separation, the buffer needs to have a linear frequency, that's why Asus put the Muses 8820 (I saw a screen of test, it's very linear), it was cheaper for them aswell and they didn't give a fuck about the isolation. That's why the 8920 is definitely an improvement.

    For anyone using that kind of sound card with 3 double OP amps, i'd recommand to use:

    • x3 Muses 8920
    • x2 Muses 8920 (I/V) and x1 LME49720 (Buffer)
    • x3 LME49720
    • x2 LME49720 (I/V) and x1 Muses 8920 (Buffer)
    • x3 Muses 01 (if you got the money)
    • Any other OP Amps you think would be better than those listed above

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  4. #4
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    This thread is nice so far, but i personally would miss the advantages of the quality amps against original ones in this thread.

    To clarify the purchase arguments you should mention your personal experience in deeper detail.



    If you are talking to experts, your "Q & A " examples dont explain anything imo.


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  5. #5
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    Well, the variety of different op amps is very huge, and you will find a lot of people with different opinions.. I mean that almost nobody will agree about which one is the best op amps, so far all we have are "reliable references".

    Because after the specs that tells us about isolation and distortion, there is also the result it gives in the sound rendering because changing the op amps DOES affect the sound design, and everyone will have their own preferences. It's like setting a graphical equalizer, nobody will have the same.

    My personal experience is simple: I've always been suffering of an overdose of 4K trebles, being particulary sensible to this frequency, it sounds unbearable in my ears. By changing this amp, the result was simple: loss of this 4K for a slight benefit of low frequencies. That makes a sound slightly warmer, and better enjoyable imo.

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  6. #6
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    Metali - you are wrong

    First of all OA (operational amplifier) - is not a DAC ..(digital to analog converter)
    it is pure analog amplifier ...used since early 80's ...in almost all electronics .... OA consists of just few transistors ...

    oa.jpg


    There is SMALL difference between them all ...as you've already mentioned ...channel separation and eventual frequency distortions
    ...but those are usually caused by bad capacitors...and not by transistors or resistors...

    Although the DAC ... thats the interesting part...
    coz its the one that does the conversion .... there are few chips on the marked for home use...
    but latest chips are already integrated into the SOC ..(System on Chip)... chips that are in phones...
    some of them even have DAP (Digital Audio Processor) hardwired...
    or DTS (Dedicated To Sound)

    Those are the parts eventually that make the sound ...amplifiers only amplify it ...(and distort or not ...sometime)

    Basically - what i'm trying to say - ANY audio card would do for home or professional use...
    but at the time digital audio is converted into analog - here is the difference some people can hear ...(i do)
    even that my hearing got bad with age ...i still can freaking make a difference when high band is cut off ..due to bad DAC ... that used about 2-3 times (mp3 were recompressed a few times)

    and when you got your analog audio - there are amplifiers for 10 euro ...that would do a very good job ...

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    One more note ...

    Majority of music ...(that includes the music inside the games)
    is usually compressed with CD quality ....thats 172kbit/sec ...

    having a copy with 320Kbit ...that were recorded originally to 172Kbit ...
    wont make it better

    Only the composers ...(some classic dudes ...or DJ's who make their own music ...not just mix it)
    would profit from hi-end sound cards.... Coz then ....ONLY then ...they can record ...and compress original sound
    into 320Kbit ....without loosing much ...

    Thus ...when you see an illegal CD on the net with 320 compression .... thats a crap ...
    it is still 172Kbit ... re-encoded into higher bit-rate ...

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    and besides ...172kbit/sec ..istnt that bad...
    172kbit its the uncompressed 44,100 samples per second...

    what does it mean ..?
    well imagine the maximum frequency any human can hear ... thats 20Khz ....
    that means - with 44,100 samples per second ... even the highest present frequency in audio...
    it would be sampled at least 2 times ..sometime 3...

    what does that mean again ?...
    well - when reconstructing the sound from digital samples ... DAC will change the output level at least 2 times ...at frequencies of 20khz..- the wave is incredibly short ...so 2 samples at that rate is pretty impressive still...
    and at lower frequencies - that jugged edge of sin sampling - doesnt look that bad...

    sound_sampling.png

    Also....
    at young age most of the people can hear up to 15khz ...
    ...it goes down to 10khz with age...i'm 44.... i can't hear 14khz sound ..

    - - - Updated - - -

    Update:

    Lol ... its 10khz now ...

    http://onlinetonegenerator.com/hearingtest.html

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ostap View Post
    One more note ...

    Majority of music ...(that includes the music inside the games)
    is usually compressed with CD quality ....thats 172kbit/sec ...

    having a copy with 320Kbit ...that were recorded originally to 172Kbit ...
    wont make it better

    Only the composers ...(some classic dudes ...or DJ's who make their own music ...not just mix it)
    would profit from hi-end sound cards.... Coz then ....ONLY then ...they can record ...and compress original sound
    into 320Kbit ....without loosing much ...

    Thus ...when you see an illegal CD on the net with 320 compression .... thats a crap ...
    it is still 172Kbit ... re-encoded into higher bit-rate ...
    meta once posted a program with which you can check if the audio is really 320bit or fake 320bit



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