Discrete Voltage Regulators for Audio Power Supplies
And then... The IC's bowed before us.
Voltage regulators are found in the power supply section of virtually any piece of audio gear. They are designed to deliver a constant, rock solid voltage to power the audio circuits from. Voltage regulators are typically small 3 legged chips (or IC's), with an exposed metal tab. And like all IC's, they suffer from the inability to put high quality or high value capacitors inside of them.
But with discrete voltage regulators, one can do exactly that. Our discrete voltage regulators have at least 15 times lower output noise than IC regulators. They have 52dB (about 300X) better rejection of any noise coming into them, and 4X better load regulation than any other 3 terminal IC regulator that one can find to compare them against.
Upgrading the voltage regulators in your audio power supply will give a much more detailed and engaging listening experience. This upgrade will take your gear much further than you will get by using things like premium power cables, AC line regenerators, or power line filters. Voltage regulators are the very last and most critical audio power supply component in the entire power supply chain, and using our discrete voltage regulators for this task will take your gear further than any other power supply tweaks or modifications will.
Discrete Voltage Regulator Videos
We make 'em by the thousands, and here is a fun little video illustrating the process. Filmed on the production floor of Tracer, Inc, right across from the Coors brewing factory in Golden Colorado.
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Sparkos Labs Discrete Regulator Family.
78XX, LM341-XX, LM2940-XX,
Compatible with 1117-XX,
and adjustable types such as
LM317 and LT1086, with additional rework.
Looking for a complete power supply solution?
We have it. Check out these power supply kits that are available as dual power supplies with one positive and one negative output, and quad power supplies with 2 positive and 2 negative outputs.
Features include easy connect screw terminals, a proper star grounding scheme, Nichicon filter caps, massive 3.5W heatsinks, and more. These are the perfect host PCB for our discrete voltage regulators in DIY applications. Be sure to check those out.
Our Discrete Voltage Regulators are very popular with and have been reviewed in the following gear. Click the images below to find out more.
Our discrete devices are used in the following manufacturers DACs and Hypex based Power Amplifiers.
Discrete Voltage Regulator Overview
Sparkos Labs has created a family of discrete voltage regulators designed to replace 78xx / 79xx / 1117xx and adjustable style regulators for use in audio power supplies. They are available in a TO-220 compatible package and come in 3 industry standard pin-outs. These discrete devices have a fixed output voltage range from +/-3.3V to +/-24V with over 1 Amp of available output current. They can be used to replace the inferior monolithic voltage regulators in audio and eurorack power supply systems to improve the audio power supply performance.
- 125dB Input Rejection.
- 3uV RMS Noise @5Vo, 5.8uVRMS Noise @ 15Vo (20Hz – 20KHz).
- Excellent Transient Response.
- < 2V Dropout Voltage.
- Stable With Ceramic And Low ESR Output Capacitors.
- 1 Amp Output Current (Internally Limited And Protected).
- Fully Discrete Design – Right Down To The Error Amplifier.
- On – Board 10uF Tantalum Polymer Output Capacitor.
- Precision Thin Film 0.1% Tolerance Resistors.
- +/- 1.5% Output voltage accuracy.
- Available With Positive Or Negative Fixed Output Voltage Of 3.3V – 24V.
- Available In 3 Industry Standard Pin Outs.
- Perfect for audio power supply and Eurorack power supply designs.
Why Discrete Voltage Regulators?
These discrete voltage regulators will outperform all monolithic voltage regulators in a TO-220 package in input rejection, output noise, transient response, and load regulation. The table below details the vastly superior performance of the Sparkos Labs devices to a wide array of monolithic voltage regulators. They are optimized for Audio power supply designs and for use in your Eurorack power supply.
The discrete design of these devices allows for numerous internal capacitors which are impossible to fabricate in a Monolithic IC. There is an onboard output decoupling capacitor which eliminates the need to add one externally. The error amplifier of the device is also fully discrete and is based on the SS3601 discrete op amp slightly modified for this application. The internal reference voltage is a precision shunt reference with post RC filtering for extremely low noise performance.
These discrete devices are a series pass design with a fully discrete error amplifier that compares a feedback voltage to a reference voltage, and in turn controls the pass device.
Drop In Replacement Guide:
In order to replace a monolithic regulator with these discrete devices in your audio power supply, one must know the polarity, pin-out, and output voltage of the device that they wish to replace. A Digikey search of the part being replaced will usually provide the relative information. If one is replacing an adjustable type regulator, the output voltage that it is set to must be known so an appropriate discrete regulator can be chosen and installed. This assumes that any adjustable type regulator is set to a fixed output voltage within the circuit. It should be noted, that in order to replace an adjustable regulator, the resistors that set the output voltage must be shorted out (the resistor to ground) and removed (resistor from Vout to ADJ)
Attempting to make these discrete devices dynamically adjust their output voltage by using POTs or voltage dividers on the ground pin is not recommended in order to achieve the specified performance. If a device being replaced is mounted to a heat sink, that same heat sink should be used with the discrete replacement device. One does not need a larger heat sink when replacing an existing voltage regulator with one of these discrete devices. The existing heat sink will suffice.
About the tab and surrounding caps:
Since the tab of these discrete devices is tied to Vin, an electrical insulator should be used between the tab and the heat sink to prevent the heat sink from becoming live with Vin.
The input and output bypass capacitors within the existing circuit should also be adequate and do not require any modifications for normal operation. If the output capacitor closest to the regulator is of ceramic or film type, better transient response might be obtained by removing it. This is because ceramic and film capacitors will degrade the phase margin of the device because of their low ESR. In these instances where the output capacitor is removed from the circuit, the internal 10uF tantalum polymer capacitor will be sufficient as an output capacitor, and the device will operate with a higher phase margin and less transient response ringing.
The best transient response can be obtained by using a Panasonic EEU – FR1H101B electrolytic capacitor (100μF 50V 65mΩ ESR) as the output capacitor. This capacitor can be used to replace the existing output capacitor or it can be added in parallel with it. It should be noted that the correct polarity must be observed during the installation of these electrolytic capacitors.
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