By Allen H. Burdick
Converting the HPA-1 to a long lines driver.
The high current output configuration of the HPA-1 is ideal for use as a transformerless long lines driver. Conversion of the unit for this purpose, source, transmission line, and termination considerations will be discussed.
Fig 1.0 1/2 HPA-1 Modified for Long Lines Driver Use
The HPA-1 is a two channel inverting amplifier card with current boost buffers that provide an output current capability of 300 mA (each side). Independent channels give the HPA-1 the configuration flexibility needed for a long lines driver.
As supplied, the HPA-2 has a variable gain output. Since we desire to use the unit as a transformerless line driver we will typically want a fixed gain. We will convert the gain of the HPA-1 to unity (be sure to convert both sides).
Figure 1.0 shows the modifications necessary, they are enclosed in boxes. Replace the potentiometer with a jumper and feedback resistor combination. The feedback resistor needs to be a 10 k 1% metal oxide type. If you desire to retain variable gain, do so with careful thought. In the unbalanced example to follow, the gain pot can be left in the input side, but a unity gain inverter must be created on the opposite leg. The gain pot may be retained for both sides of the HPA in both balanced input examples.
We also recommend removing the TRS jack, replacing it with a XLR type and mounting the board in a chassis, with double sided sticky foam tape and a tie wrap.
Determine whether the source that will be driving the "Long Line Driver" is a balanced or an unbalanced source and then use the proper circuit shown below. Please note that these drawings specify the now obsolete HPA-1. These drivers will perform with outstanding clarity using the new HPA-1. The indicated 30 O output resistors are not present in the new HPA-1 and will have to be added externally to the HPA-1s circuit board.
When driving from an unbalanced source, feed the signal into the "Left" input. The other input is fed from the "Left" output, prior to the build out resistor. I.e. tie the "Right" input, post pin 1, to the "left" output (pin 7 of the buffer) of the HPA-1. This can be done with a small jumper wire, located on the bottom of the board. This jumper makes the right channel follow the left creating a differential or "balanced" output. The balanced signal output is taken from the two build-out resistors. Note the polarity inversion: the + output comes from where the ring output previously connected and output from the tip location.
Fig 2.0 Wiring of HPA for Unbalanced-Balanced Source
Electronically balanced sources and transformer sources are very easy to hookup. Follow the diagrams below. Note the polarity inversion: the + output comes from where the ring output previously connected and output from the tip location.
Fig 3.0 Wiring of HPA for Electronically Balanced Source
Fig. 4.0 Wiring of HPA-1 for Transformer Output Drive
Transmission lines have capacitance that must be fed current. The higher the frequency, and output voltage swing, the higher the current requirement. Using a standard NE5532 operational amplifier, (commonly used in output stages) the nominal length of transmission line (Belden 8451 @ 32 pF/foot) that can be driven to full output at 30 kHz is 300 feet. Longer lines require more than the 40 mA current limit of a NE5532. This is the rational for the conversion of the HPA-1 to a long lines driver. Additionally, by reducing the inter conductor capacitance, longer lines may be driven with the same amplifier current limit. For instance, by using Mogami 2574 cable with its 6 pF/foot capacitance 1000' of cable can be driven with the straight NE5532. A current boosted NE5532 (modified HPA-1) can drive 2250' of Belden 8451 to full output level at 30 kHz, and 7,500' of the Mogami cable to the same level @ 30 kHz, over six times the length of a straight NE5532.
Terminations are not needed, nor are they desirable at cable lengths out to 3000' (1/10 l @ 20 kHz). Beyond that distance a true transmission line should be established. A 60 resistor across the line at the receive end will terminate the line as a true power matched line. There will be a 6 dB drop in level as a result of termination. High frequency equalization may be necessary for extremely long lines.
Since the drive amplifier does not have an output transformer, one may need to be present at the input of the receive device. If the equipment does not have a transformer built into its circuit, an external transformer will in all probability need to be added. We recommend those manufactured by Reichenbach Engineering or Jensen Transformers.
For additional information on transmission lines, see "A Clean Audio Installation Guide™" a Benchmark Media Systems, Inc. application note.
At Benchmark, listening is the final exam that determines if a design passes from engineering to production. When all of the measurements show that a product is working flawlessly, we spend time listening for issues that may not have shown up on the test station. If we hear something, we go back and figure out how to measure what we heard. We then add this test to our arsenal of measurements.
Benchmark's listening room is equipped with a variety of signal sources, amplifiers and loudspeakers, including the selection of nearfield monitors shown in the photo. It is also equipped with ABX switch boxes that can be used to switch sources while the music is playing.
Benchmark's lab is equipped with Audio Precision test stations that include the top-of-the-line APx555 and the older AP2722 and AP2522. We don't just use these test stations for R&D - every product must pass a full set of tests on one of our Audio Precision test stations before it ships from our factory in Syracuse, NY.
Paul Seydor of The Absolute Sound interviews John Siau, VP and chief designer at Benchmark Media Systems. The interview accompanies Paul's review of the LA4 in the December, 2020 issue of TAS.
"At Benchmark, listening is the final exam that determines if a design passes from engineering to production. But since listening tests are never perfect, it’s essential we develop measurements for each artifact we identify in a listening test. An APx555 test set has far more resolution than human hearing, but it has no intelligence. We have to tell it exactly what to measure and how to measure it. When we hear something we cannot measure, we are not doing the right measurements. If we just listen, redesign, then repeat, we may arrive at a solution that just masks the artifact with another less-objectionable artifact. But if we focus on eliminating every artifact that we can measure, we can quickly converge on a solution that approaches sonic transparency. If we can measure an artifact, we don't try to determine if it’s low enough to be inaudible, we simply try to eliminate it."
- John Siau