Category Archives: Op Amp

Op Amp Shootout Updated

      Electronics, Op Amp

Time flies! It’s been almost 4 years since I last updated our Op Amp Shootout page. Now It’s 2017, and this page is still our top hitter. I guess that only means that people find this page helpful. And I am always happy to share information. I’ve updated the page to reflect recent developments. I always have a keen eye for new Op Amps and the new additions (shown in light purple) were taken straight from my notebook.

There are some interesting additions such as the OPA188 with a wide supply range of 2V to 18V, and very low 500μA current consumption. I also added a bunch of very Op Amps from Japan with rather respectable specs. Check out the NJ series Op Amps from JRC New Japan Radio Co., LTD. I found out about these cool Op Amps from studying Roland schematics. Have a look at the NJU77806, for example, with a noise figure of 5.5 nV/√Hz at 1kHz while consuming only 500μA.

There are also retirees. For example, the ultra-low noise LME49990 has reached its end of life. But there is certainly a new audio Op Amp king of the hill: the LMH6629 with a super impressive 0.69 nV/√Hz at 1kHz noise figure! The LMH6624 takes second place with very respectable 0.92 nV/√Hz at 1kHz noise figure.

Interesting tidbit: In that page, Mark Norton commented: “I feel sorry for all of you using op amps. Sterile squinching of sound imho.” He’s obviously not a fan, but then I had to reply: “I feel sorry for you believing such myths :-)”. Op Amps: Myths & Facts. The funny thing is, all forms of modern recorded music would have gone through dozens if not hundreds of Op Amps in the signal chain, through the recording process (EQs, compressor, limiters, etc.). If “sterility” means not degrading the purity of the sound (e.g. preamps), then I suppose that is good. But “transparency” is a better term.

Now go and check out the updated Op Amp Shootout page.

Op Amp Shootout Updated

      Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack

Our Op Amp Shootout has been updated to reflect recent research and development. The previous favorites are now replaced by better choices and there are more choices to choose from depending on requirements from highest performance and highest power, to moderate performance and low power.

Check out the the Op Amp Shootout page. The page is continually being updated. The Op Amp table is maintained as a linked Google Doc Spreadsheet.

Let it breathe (part 3): Frequency Response

      Benchmark, Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack

This is part 3 of the “Let it breathe” series. For proper context, you might want to check out Part1 and Part2. This third and last part of the series concludes with actual frequency response measurements for various coil configurations of the Hexaphonic Pickup Project and with the Fender Stratocaster middle pickup as benchmark to compare against. In addition to standard windings with 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500 and 3000 turns AWG 42, we also tested bifilar windings (see Alternative Ideas) with 500 and 1000 turns AWG 42. Like before, the low-power LME49726 OP Amp is used in the differential preamp stage with a gain of 5.

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Singles or Doubles?

      Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack



dimarzioInvented independently by Joseph Raymond Butts and Seth Lover, the humbucker pickup “bucks” hum. It is ingeniously designed to passively cancel noise by having two coils with the magnetic poles reversed (i.e. the first coil has its north at the top while the other coil has its north at the bottom) and with the coils wound in opposite directions (one clockwise and the other counterclockwise). By connecting the coils together either in series (typical) or parallel, the common mode signals (signals common to both input coils —the noise) end up 180° out of phase and cancel out. The coils can either be placed side by side (typical) or stacked (to fit single-coil guitars such as the Fender Stratocaster).

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Let it breathe: Frequency Analysis

      Benchmark, Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack

The following FFT graphs show the harmonic spectrum of a couple of wave samples taken from:

  1. A Fender Stratocaster with the middle pickup
  2. A Gibson Les Paul Studio with both pickups on
  3. The same Strat with the hex pickup between the middle and bridge pickups
  4. The same Les Paul with the hex pickup in the middle

The samples were taken from a high impedance audio input port direct to Logic Pro. The samples were recorded raw (no EQ, no effects). All samples are normalized. Currently, I sampled only the E string. I like the heavy E string with rich harmonics. For fun, I also added the FFT graph of a Bösendorfer from the stock Logic Pro sample collection.

Note: This is the initial test and is continually being updated. See Let it breathe (part 2): More Frequency Analysis and Let it breathe (part 3): Frequency Response for latter installments.

test-lpThe test pickup in this experiment has 2000 turns AWG 42 magnet wire with about 260 ohms D.C. resistance. The differential Op Amp has a gain of 5 and generates a peak-to-peak voltage of around 2 volts (moderate pick attack). For this early prototype, I am using the plain TL072 Op Amp. Already, I am quite pleased with the very low noise even without any shielding at all (image at right). Next time, I’ll have some more graphs comparing the noise floor of the hex pickup compared to the passive humbucker and the very noisy single coil pickup. I also intend to experiment with better Op Amps and even lower impedance coils. This initial analysis will serve as a good benchmark for comparison.

The 60 Hz hum and its harmonics is quite evident in the Stratocaster spectrum. Interestingly, the same 60 Hz (and 120 Hz) shows up as a smaller bump in the Les Paul graph. The so-called humbuckers do not fully cancel hum due to the irregularities in the construction of both coils. It is impossible to manufacture perfectly matched coils. Any irregularity in construction will degrade the common mode rejection of the humbucker. Differential amplifiers have better common mode rejection and are easily balanced by using matched resistors with 1% or even 0.1% tolerance.

As can be seen in the graphs, the lower impedance test pickup is very rich in harmonics. It has a lot more harmonic content than even the bright, but very noisy Stratocaster pickup. The difference in harmonic content between a 24¾” scale Les Paul and a 25½ scale Stratocaster is also quite pronounced, even when using the same test pickup on both. Most of the higher frequencies in the FFT graph of the Stratocaster is just the noise from electromagnetic interference.

Obviously, all guitar samples here don’t come quite close to the rich harmonic content of the Bösendorfer with its long and heavy hammered strings. But so far, I like the tone and clarity of the hex pickup. Leo Pedersen, at comments: “Nice sparkly clean sounds”. I like that characterization 🙂


Fender Stratocaster


Gibson Les Paul Studio

Hex on Stratocaster

Hex on Stratocaster


Hex on Les Paul


Bösendorfer Grand Piano

New stuff from Digikey

      Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack, Workshop


New stuff from Digikey. We ordered a bunch of precision SMD resistors (1% and 0.1% laser-trimmed), a bunch of low-power, low-noise Op Amps, gathered from this table here, plus a bunch of general purpose low-power cheapos for non-critical applications. We will need these for prototyping. The precision resistors are needed to have good common-mode rejection ration (CMRR) for the differential amplifiers.

The one at the upper left is C5000, ultra-low-power DSP Booster Pack for the MSP430 launchpad from TI (below). The Booster Pack contains a TMS320C5535 fixed-point DSP chip with two multiply-accumulate (MAC) units capable of up to 200 Million Multiply-Accumulates per Second (MMACS) and a tightly-Coupled FFT Hardware Accelerator. At $10 a piece (per 100 at Digikey), these DSP elves are very capable.


Choosing a good Audio Op Amp

      Electronics, Op Amp, Pickups, Six-pack

Question: What’s a good Op Amp for audio? The answer: depends. There are many factors to consider and there’s no single best answer. There was a time when I was quite happy with the cheap and simple TL072 for most tasks. If I needed something better, then there’s the more expensive (at the time) 5532. It’s notable that after all these years, these critters are still quite capable…

Note: this blog entry has been superseded by the Op Amp Shootout page. The page is continually being updated.