How to (properly) get started with analog circuit design

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C_F_H_13

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Hi All,

First time poster here. I've been an audio engineer and producer for all of my adult life, and have spent most of it in commercial recording studios. About a year ago, I got the itch to take my basic knowledge of electronics a step further and maybe progress to building or designing tools that I wish I had for my current facility. It became obvious pretty quickly that this wasn't an easy task in the slightest, but I was determined to try. I started building DIY guitar pedals and 500 series preamps and the like, and found a real enjoyment out of the process more than the final product.

So here's my real question: How would you suggest someone going about learning about the proper ways to do things, and more importantly the safest way?

I have started reading the art of electronics, signed up for dozens of courses on udemy and similar, but all of it feels a lit hap hazard (especially udemy).  Aside from beginning a proper electrical engineering course/program at a university, is there any other educational tools / books / videos / whatever that would help?

My end goal is simply to build audio recording tools for my own benefit, and have no delusions of turning it into a commercial business.

Thanks, and I appreciate the add to the group!
 

Dualflip

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The art of electronics is great, but I would also advice you to read some electric circuits books so you learn the fundamentals, "Principles of Electric Circuits" by Floyd is a great book, without advanced math.

You may also want to check out Douglas Self's book collection, "Audio Power Amplifier Design" will teach you about power amplifiers and discrete opamps, since power amplifiers are basically opamps with a beefier output stage, "Small Signal Audio Design" is for everything except power amps, so line inputs, outputs, mic pres, and so on.

Read application notes from Rane, Jensen, Lundahl, etc.. and try to read audio schematics to learn what its being used and try to understand how the circuit works, if not, ask for assistance either here or at electronics.stackexchange.com , for instance I am an EE, but they teach you little about pro audio in college, so I had to learn it (and I am still learning it) on my own, same thing happens with the Art of Electronics, being good in electronics doesn't necessarily makes you good in audio electronics. What I am trying to say is that reading The Art of Electronics from cover to cover doesn't make you an audio designer.

If you tell us what are you interested in, perhaps we could point you in the right direction, "analog electronics" is a huge field. For instance are you a solid state or a hollow state kind of guy? The literature on vacuum tubes is much more vast than the one on audio solid state, in either case I strongly suggest finding a copy of "Radio Designer's Handbook" 4th edition.

YouTube is of course your friend, there are also great free MIT open courses on electronics at edx.org.

You'll also want to download a simulator, you can start with a free one like LTSpice or TINA, I've also heard that Microcap is now free but haven't used it, most people I know use LTSpice, personally I use MultiSim but that one is not free.

That being said, you'll also want to make the circuits, simulating is one thing, making the real thing is a different thing, get a DMM (better yet, get 2 of them so you can simultaneously measure voltage and current), an oscilloscope (you can get either a cheap analog Tektronix scope on e-bay or a digital like a Siglent, or Instek), a power supply and test your circuits on a bread board or a PCB if you know how to make one.

In summary, I would say learn electronics first, then learn audio electronics, but do not wait until you are an expert in electronics to start learning audio electronics. Get the foundations right, Ohms law, Kirchhoff's laws, Superposition, Thevenin, etc.. all of that matters.

Check the tech books meta https://groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=8785.msg104942#msg104942 for an overview of some books, it is a bit outdated but it is still useful.

Welcome to the forum!
 

Whoops

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Hello and Welcome to the forum

C_F_H_13 said:
I started building DIY guitar pedals and 500 series preamps and the like, and found a real enjoyment out of the process more than the final product.
Thats a great starting point, you did well. Good choice

C_F_H_13 said:
So here's my real question: How would you suggest someone going about learning about the proper ways to do things, and more importantly the safest way?

these are my advices so that you can add to other advices from other fellow members and also to what you're already doing:

1) Never ever go into the Brewery section of this forum, it's just a complete disaster and full of negativity

2) Use this forum a lot, there's a lot of knowledge in the Drawing board and Lab sections. A lot can be learned from here and past threads

3) Diyaudio is also a great forum

4) Maybe you can do an electronics course that is not an Academic University degree.
Maybe a profissional course or hobby oriented, something that can be made part-time, doesn't take years to complete and it's more practical oriented. (instead of academic)

5) Subscribe EEVblog channel on youtube. A lot of great videos over there, I recommend these for a start:

EEVblog #629 - How To Design a Microphone Preamplifier
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niZizzHBanA&ab_channel=EEVblog


EEVblog #609 - Condenser Microphone Design Tutorial
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTJhIVIGvSU&ab_channel=EEVblog


EEVblog #600 - OpAmps Tutorial - What is an Operational Amplifier?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FYHt5XviKc&ab_channel=EEVblog



 

C_F_H_13

Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2020
Messages
11
Dualflip said:
The art of electronics is great, but I would also advice you to read some electric circuits books so you learn the fundamentals, "Principles of Electric Circuits" by Floyd is a great book, without advanced math.

You may also want to check out Douglas Self's book collection, "Audio Power Amplifier Design" will teach you about power amplifiers and discrete opamps, since power amplifiers are basically opamps with a beefier output stage, "Small Signal Audio Design" is for everything except power amps, so line inputs, outputs, mic pres, and so on.

Read application notes from Rane, Jensen, Lundahl, etc.. and try to read audio schematics to learn what its being used and try to understand how the circuit works, if not, ask for assistance either here or at electronics.stackexchange.com , for instance I am an EE, but they teach you little about pro audio in college, so I had to learn it (and I am still learning it) on my own, same thing happens with the Art of Electronics, being good in electronics doesn't necessarily makes you good in audio electronics. What I am trying to say is that reading The Art of Electronics from cover to cover doesn't make you an audio designer.

If you tell us what are you interested in, perhaps we could point you in the right direction, "analog electronics" is a huge field. For instance are you a solid state or a hollow state kind of guy? The literature on vacuum tubes is much more vast than the one on audio solid state, in either case I strongly suggest finding a copy of "Radio Designer's Handbook" 4th edition.

YouTube is of course your friend, there are also great free MIT open courses on electronics at edx.org.

You'll also want to download a simulator, you can start with a free one like LTSpice or TINA, I've also heard that Microcap is now free but haven't used it, most people I know use LTSpice, personally I use MultiSim but that one is not free.

That being said, you'll also want to make the circuits, simulating is one thing, making the real thing is a different thing, get a DMM (better yet, get 2 of them so you can simultaneously measure voltage and current), an oscilloscope (you can get either a cheap analog Tektronix scope on e-bay or a digital like a Siglent, or Instek), a power supply and test your circuits on a bread board or a PCB if you know how to make one.

In summary, I would say learn electronics first, then learn audio electronics, but do not wait until you are an expert in electronics to start learning audio electronics. Get the foundations right, Ohms law, Kirchhoff's laws, Superposition, Thevenin, etc.. all of that matters.

Check the tech books meta https://groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=8785.msg104942#msg104942 for an overview of some books.

Welcome to the forum!

This was a great reply thank you!

I will check out the books / sites etc. that you posted and start digging into that stuff too.

Right now I'd say my focus for a long term goal would be to build some microphone preamps with some color (I see a lot of people talking about the REDD47, I'd say that's in the realm of what interests me), or just stuff with character in general.

 

C_F_H_13

Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2020
Messages
11
Whoops said:
Hello and Welcome to the forum
Thats a great starting point, you did well. Good choice

these are my advices so that you can add to other advices from other fellow members and also to what you're already doing:

1) Never ever go into the Brewery section of this forum, it just a complete disaster and full of negativity

2) Use this forum a lot, there's a lot of knowledge in the Drawing board and Lab sections. A lot can be learned from here and past threads

3) Diyaudio is also a great forum

4) Maybe you can do an electronics course that is not an Academic University degree.
Maybe a profissional course or hobby oriented, something that can be made part-time, doesn't take years to complete and it's more practical oriented. (instead of academic)

5) Subscribe EEVblog channel on youtube. A lot of great videos over there, I recommend these for a start:

EEVblog #629 - How To Design a Microphone Preamplifier
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niZizzHBanA&ab_channel=EEVblog


EEVblog #609 - Condenser Microphone Design Tutorial
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTJhIVIGvSU&ab_channel=EEVblog


EEVblog #600 - OpAmps Tutorial - What is an Operational Amplifier?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FYHt5XviKc&ab_channel=EEVblog

Another fantastic answer. Thank You!
 

Dualflip

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Messages
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Location
México City
C_F_H_13 said:
This was a great reply thank you!

I will check out the books / sites etc. that you posted and start digging into that stuff too.

Right now I'd say my focus for a long term goal would be to build some microphone preamps with some color (I see a lot of people talking about the REDD47, I'd say that's in the realm of what interests me), or just stuff with character in general.

Just be careful when dealing with Vacuum Tubes, most of them work at potentially deadly voltages, so if you are not confident when working with high voltages I would recommend making solid state circuits first.
 

Bo Deadly

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I'm 100% self taught and I didn't start until about 10-12 years ago. If I could go back in time and tell myself where to focus, I would say:

1) Understand the concept of impedance. Impedance is everything in E. You should be able to look at just about any circuit, pick a "net" and reason about it's impedance. There are only 4 basic components in E: resistors, capacitors, magnetics (mainly transformers and inductors) and devices based on semiconductor junctions (mainly diodes and transistors). If you can reason about the impedance of each terminal of those components in a circuit, you will be well on your way to actually designing circuits [1].

2) Learn LTSpice. I wouldn't know spit about E if it were not for LTSpice. At this point, I don't even bother bread boarding anything anymore. I use LTSpice to figure out the details of how something works and reason about how it should work. I check impedances. Bias currents. Etc. Then I just layout a PCB and order it. It's almost always wrong in some way but usually you can make it work by cutting a trace or jumping something with a bit of bus wire. If it's worth doing once, it's worth doing a second time and getting it right.

3) Get a test rig working. If you can't measure your device, you can't know if your changes actually improve performance or that the circuit is doing what you think it's doing or if it's worth the time messing around with. Get a USB audio interface and maybe a transformer attenuator for mic pres (which I just posted about at the end of this message).

4) Ask questions here or wherever [2]. But note that if you start asking about how op amps sound different and the 3D effect of tropical fish capacitors, most of the knowledgeable people will probably ignore you. So stay in reality and don't just try to justify your own conjecture.

[1] I don't really design circuits. I just copy existing circuits and tweak things. Designing circuits from scratch is actually pretty tricky. But you can get a long way just copying and combining existing designs.
[2] Stackexchange is actually not a very good place to learn things because the moderators will just delete any kind of discussion or opinions. There's no debating. So someone can't walk you through why some circuit doesn't work for example. Also, there's so much traffic that it will be off the front page and forgotten in an hour.
 

C_F_H_13

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Messages
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Dualflip said:
so if you are not confident when working with high voltages I would recommend making solid state circuits first.

This is exactly the issue. I've worked around high voltage amplifiers and power supplies from a user perspective for so long that I understand the danger and want to make sure I'm properly prepared before I take on anything like that.

Right now my degree of comfort sits squarely at 9v for guitar pedal building, and I'm fully aware I'm not really ready to go any further than that.

I have breadboards, 1000s of passive and active components, DMM, wiring....basically everything but an oscilloscope (next purchase).  So I think between the books suggested, and the links I have a good place to start for the next year or so.

As I said, I'm not going to jump into the long term project like a REDD47 or something until I feel ready.
 

Dualflip

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squarewave said:
[2] Stackexchange is actually not a very good place to learn things because the moderators will just delete any kind of discussion or opinions. There's no debating. So someone can't walk you through why some circuit doesn't work for example. Also, there's so much traffic that it will be off the front page and forgotten in an hour.

I disagree, 90% of all the questions that I've posted in Stackexchange have been successfully answered, the thing with SE is that your question needs to be: a) Very specific and well documented, and b) Show a considerable amount of research and effort on your part, what the users on SE don't like is when you want everything handed to you in a silver platter without even trying, for example, there are a lot of people asking about homework problems, expecting their homework to be answered, in which case the moderators will close the question, also there is no room for opinions on equipment and so on, in that case you must ask on a forum, SE is a question/answer site.

I've had good discussions on SE when it is relevant to the main question, if you derail, then the moderators may step in. Again your question must be very specific, recommendations are not usually allowed, for example, this thread asking about advice on how to get started on analog circuit design would probably be closed in SE, but if after explaining what your approach has been you have a question such as "What is transistor Q1 doing in this circuit?", it will certainly be answered.

The thing is this, I will try to find the answers to my questions on my own, if after a lot of pondering, research, reading, simulation or building I still have a question, then I will post it on SE, not before, so usually when I post the question I already have a really good idea of what specifically I want to know. So SE should be the last resort not the first.
 

Heikki

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To get properly started you have start at basics of electricity.  Most of the books recommended here won't do you much good if you don't have a decent grasp of basics of electricity.
 

Bo Deadly

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Dualflip said:
I disagree, 90% of all the questions that I've posted in Stackexchange have been successfully answered, the thing with SE is that your question needs to be: a)
I don't dispute anything you just said but I have seen a lot of perfectly good questions get modded down and closed. The problem is that, as you say, they get a lot of questions that are just noise. But they're overcompensating with all of the moderation and as a result, I think they create even more churn. I have to wonder if they just let posts develop naturally, there would be long threads that would engage people more and thus throttle the noise. There has to be discussion and back-and-forth to walk people through things. They don't allow that. As you said, there are questions and answers only. If someone asks about LTSpice and you see they would benefit from knowning how to measure impedance of a net, that will be modded away because it's not a direct answer to the question. Personally I think the whole stackexchange concept misguided and a net negative to the community because they're absorbing so much attention, it's siphoning away attention from other forums that might allow said discussion. Think about the up / down ranking system. Anyone can click on those up / down triangles but the vast majority of people are not qualified to judge if a question is "good" or not. Think about this post. A post like this one would be deleted.
 
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