Experiences Designing and Building A Subwoofer Amplifier

Matthew Rodriguez Erika Ross-O’Brien Kelli Martino Vanessa Lannaman MateoElBoriqua@gmail.com eob476@yahoo.com Martino00900@yahoo.com vjil.venus@verizon.net Robert Nahas Joseph Civitello Christopher Roselle Rodrigo Colon Joustman57@comcast.net Muzicfreak2k3@gmail.com chrisroselle@gmail.com Rodman89@aol.com
ABSTRACT The purpose of this project is to fully understand how a subwoofer amplifier works. The motivation behind this experiment lies in solving the underlying problem which is that the low voltage input AC signal needs to be amplified to a magnitude usable by a subwoofer as well as in actually learning about electrical engineering and learning how to build a subwoofer amplifier. This project entailed the use of a circuit simulator, PSPICE, on which the final circuit is simulated. Research and calculation is needed to determine the values specific to the task along with a knowledge of circuit theory. Through lab work and teamwork, the circuit is physically built in the lab using a power supply, function generator, oscilloscope, and discrete parts. The subwoofer amplifier is also tested to ensure that it is fully functional. The circuit is connected to a CD player and fed into a subwoofer where the bass frequencies of the audio from the song are amplified. INTRODUCTION The subwoofer amplifier was first developed in the 1970s by Ken Kreisel, president of the popular electronic company, Miller and Kreisel Sound Corporation. Kreisel was inspired to create subwoofers after the complaints of customers about “reduction of bass” of the current electrostatic speakers. Therefore, Kreisel designed a device that would be able to amplify the low frequency sounds that the electrostatic speakers were unable to convey. Kreisel first tested out his device publicly in a recording studio while recording Steely Dan’s album “Pretzel Logic”. The first movie to feature ‘bass extension’ was “Star Wars,” in 1977. The popularity of the subwoofer soared as more and more people wanted to increase the quality of their sounds through the amplification of the bass frequencies in their songs and movies.

As the popularity of the subwoofer increased, newer technologies allowed the subwoofer to improve in both its sounds quality by increasing the signal to noise ratio and in the amount of amplification it can provide. In order to better understand how Kreisel invented the subwoofer amplifier, a background in circuits was required. BACKGROUND INFORMATION/RELATED WORK Subwoofers are loudspeakers specifically designed to reproduce very low frequency audio signals. A subwoofer works by charging a paper cone sounding a magnet causing the paper to move in and out based on the difference in the magnetic charge between the paper and the magnet, thus reproducing the audio waves. This project’s specific subwoofer amplifier amplifies frequency signals less than 200Hz. An amplifier takes an electrical signal and increases its power in a linear fashion. The degree of the power increase is called gain. The output waveform matches the input waveform except in that it has an increased magnitude. The gain of any amplifier is the ratio of the output over the input which can either be a positive gain or a negative gain. In this project, positive gain is used to amplify the signal. The very first subwoofer was developed by Ken Kreisel, current president of M&K Sound/Miller & Kreisel Corporation, in the early 1970s. Kreisel’s business partner, Jonas Miller, complained about the reduction of bass response in the electrostatics of his highest quality electrostatic speakers. Kreisel designed the subwoofer to reproduce only those frequencies that were too low for the electrostatic speakers. When Walter Becker from “Steely Dan” asked Kreisel to design a speaker system to use for mixing their new album in 1973, everyone present at the recording was taken aback by the

the circuit behavior changes. One discrete part being used is the capacitor. frequencies greater than 200Hz are attenuated or weakened. Then. Resistors are devices used to control current in an electric circuit by providing said impedance. . In the implementation of the subwoofer amplifier. is used to determine the rate of charge of the capacitor. One aspect of circuit theory is Ohm’s Law (V = I*R). The only integrated circuit (IC) used in the implementation of the subwoofer amplifier is the OPAMP or operational amplifier. has very high input impedance and very low output impedance. The first self powered subwoofer was developed in 1977. One plate is positively charged by being connected to power and the other plate is oppositely charged being connected to ground. The capacitor is used both filter out noise and help filter out the lower frequency signals. By using the OPAMP as a filter. The subwoofer amplifier in this project is made of discrete parts and one integrated circuit. NPN The transistor is a small electronic device containing semiconductor material and doped material which has at least three electrical contacts used in a circuit as an amplifier. Two years later they developed the first “Satellite-Subwoofer” combination called the “David and Goliath” system. the The OPAMP is a nonlinear device which can have a very large voltage gain. By using discrete parts to create a common emitter amplifier. This is achieved by mounting and wiring the driver on the bottom cabinet backwards. it is determined that a subwoofer amplifier is mainly used in cases where the base or lower frequencies of an audio signal needs to be amplified for use in a public place or to increase the playing quality of an audio signal playing through loudspeakers. Circuit theory itself is the description of how voltage and current behave in a circuit. In an active configuration. It is also stated that in a parallel circuit. In 1974 Jonas Miller and Ken Kreisel formed a separate corporation exclusively for manufacturing subwoofers. circuit theory is involved to determine how the circuit will behave. The capacitor charges in a nonlinear fashion. In the process of building the circuit. Another discrete part used in the implementation of the circuit is the transistor. By combining discrete parts to make certain components. By using resistors. 1uF transistor is used as an amplifier to amplify the signal to a usable level. it is possible to achieve a certain current or voltage to be fed into a certain component of the circuit. The subwoofer became popular quick due to its easy compatibility with speakers. measured in Farads. Resistors are used to alter the behavior of a circuit. Each discrete part by itself doesn’t do much for the circuit. The value of the capacitor. detector. This causes both speakers to move in the same direction with one of the drivers physically inverted. Kirchhoff is a mathematician that specialized in physics who stated that the voltage in a series circuit is divided amongst the components while the current is the same throughout the circuit’s components. the voltage remains constant while the current is divided amongst the components. Ohm’s law is used in determining the values of the resistors needed to achieve a certain current. the OPAMP can act as a filter which is its main purpose in this project. The result is cleaner and tighter bass reproduction with less harmonic distortion and improved quality. in 1989 the push pull drive concept was developed and revolutionized the sound quality of subwoofers. + OPAMP A capacitor is two metal plates in parallel with each other.crisp bass produced and all the workers from Steely Dan wanted their own sound system. the signal being fed into the common emitter is amplified to a magnitude usable by the next stage. His theories and formulas were necessary to determine the values of the resistors needed to split voltages in certain areas by a certain amount. This causes electrons to jump from one plate to the other and a voltage to build across the plates. Ohm’s law states that the voltage can be calculated by multiplying the resistance of a certain load or component by the current flowing through the load or component. or electronic switch. The maximum voltage charge is the voltage being fed into the capacitor. 1k The resistor applies impedance for the electrons moving the circuit. Through research.

The DC level shifter solves this problem. the average DC voltage of the signal also increases. it needs to be fed to separate signals. The DC level shifter downshifts the voltage of the AC signal so that there is no saturation when being fed into another portion of the circuit. two capacitors. and an OPAMP to filter out all frequencies above a certain threshold. the Sallen-Key Low Pass Filter is used. The Sallen-Key low pass filter uses two resistors. The values used in the subwoofer amplifier attenuate any frequencies above 200Hz. A Class B Push Pull amplifier uses two complementary AC signal pairs to amplify . The phase splitter provides another signal which is 180 degrees out of phase of the original signal. In the amplification of the signal.The common emitter amplifier amplifies an analog signal by a gain calculated by R1/R2 (R4/R5 in above circuit). This keeps the AC signal intact. The threshold is calculated through the formula Fc = 1/(2π√(R1R2C1C2)). If the signal is to be amplified again. the two separate signals are fed into the Class B Push Pull amplifier which amplifies the two signals separately and combines them to form the original signal amplified. The red signifies the original signal while the green shows the amplified signal. To filter out the high frequency signals so that only the low frequency signals are amplified. From there. Before the Push Pull amplifier can work. the average DC level has to be lowered so that the signal isn’t cut off at the maximum voltage that the circuit can handle.

thus the greatest potential of intensity is used. Bias point analysis will generate the voltage and current values at each node (junction of wires) in the circuit. the technological limitations of the program do not anticipate problems that arise such as overheating of the circuit. Kirchoff’s Law of Node Voltage. In the physical building of the circuit. . filters the higher frequencies (those above 200Hz) so that the amplifier only amplifies the target frequencies in the bass range of 20-200Hz. PSPICE not only allows virtual visualization of the circuit. to make the signal easier to manipulate. Once the desired frequencies are being filtered. Kirchoff’s Law of Node Voltage was used to calculate the resistor value (in Ohms) that would use the voltage needed to produce the desired output voltage. Fourier analysis is used. Even though PSPICE allows humans to predict whether the circuit is likely to function in the way that is desired. AC/DC analysis is used to determine the output waveform from each stage. The original plan for the subwoofer amplifier had entailed eight sections. a phase splitter creates another signal similar to the original signal. the redesign process required a pragmatic approach to fixing the problems with an ideal amplifier. but also a simulation of what is likely to happen if there were to be a current traveling through the circuit. Fourier analysis portrays the voltage levels of a certain number of frequency values which is used to determine the status of the filter which shows that the AC signal attenuates after the frequency rises above 200Hz. When the push-pull amplifier receives the two signals it uses the greater differential to produce a louder sound than if a single signal were to be used. In order to determine whether the Sallen-key low pass filter was working effectively. permitting the evaluation of the physical application. the common emitter amplifier is used to increase the electrical signal entering the amplifier. the Sallen Key Filter. There are three modes in which the circuit was simiulated. the two signals match up so that the peaks of the original signal are aligned with the troughs of the reproduced signal. and an electrical CAD program called PSPICE had to be acquired to provide a strong intellectual foundation for designing the circuit. but the final amplifier resulted in four sections. effectively reducing the gain and effectiveness of the amplification. This is useful because of the property of the subwoofer of which the push-pull amplifier takes advantage. In the next stage. This displays a graph which shows the strength of the signal reducing at around the 200Hz point. After calculating the values needed to build the circuit. This unplanned problem caused a reconfiguring of the planned circuit in order to limit the heat production of the amplifier. These four sections are the common emitter amplifier. the subwoofer successfully amplified the targeted frequencies. AC/DC Analysis. its effectiveness is limited. Despite this setback. This simple process allowed the least complicated bass frequency amplification to Once the circuit is completed. and Fourrier Analysis. but due to the lack of extra amplification stages. The only unwanted side effect of reducing the number of stages was that additional amplification was cut out of the circuit. Bias Point. the construction of the circuit began in the Electrical Engineering laboratory on campus. but shifted so that it is 180 degrees out of phase with the original signal. Practical adjustments are made to the design due to the limitations of PSPICE in order to make the calculations as accurate as possible. The subwoofer allows the effectiveness of the subwoofer to be tested. Background information on Ohm’s Law. research had to be conducted on the function of a subwoofer and the electrical properties behind the circuitry. To find the best resistor for each place in the circuit. thus amplifying the signal to the fullest. First. These four sections were chosen to allow the circuit to be as uncomplicated as possible to help reduce the amount of heat released by the amplifier. To determine the gain and effect of the circuit on the waveform.separate halves of the signal. a phase splitter. the Sallen Key Low-Pass Filter. This generates a graph showing the amplification of the signal when juxtaposed with the original signals. The circuit had to be reconfigured so that it performed its function. Each stage of the circuit is tested as it is being built in order to pin point any problems. This is used to determine the values of the resistors needed to modify the behavior of the circuit. Subwoofers require negative and positive inputs. PSPICE is a circuit simulating software package on which the subwoofer amplifier is simulated. EXPERIMENTAL/ENGINEERING DESIGN Before the design of the circuit could be initiated. the subwoofer amplifier is connected to a DVD player. and a class B Push-Pull Amplifier.

” are prime examples of the capabilities of the future. This is an essential skill in college because group work is required to succeed. as technology advances. it became much simpler to plan out circuits. accomplishing tasks in a group. many skills were learned which will prove to be useful later on in life. After discovering the problem. This option is a simple chip. be available in order to make the sounds of the subwoofer sound sharp. making the building process much easier and more time sufficient. which took place in the Electrical Engineering laboratory. Another project that can stem from the subwoofer amplifier project is a tweeter amplifier project. One problem that occurred derived from the transfer o the schematic from PSPICE to a bread board. helped to give group-members a good feel of college research and experimentation. This shows that sometimes one must sacrifice quality for functionality. creating a higher output with a louder and sharper sound. Many of the tools which engineers use were introduced. By working a group. a circuit may behave in a way different than what is theoretically predicted. In addition to the lifestyle of a college engineer. the power supply. For example. FUTURE WORK When building a subwoofer amplifier. The transistors also can’t handle the power. The chip would be programmed to take care of all the calculations by itself. Higher power rated transistors are used with heat sinks attached to dissipate the heat given off by the transistor to efficiently cool it. In addition. This is due to the length of the wires which act as antennas and pick up energy from the air or surrounding wires. the chip will do this for us. These filters will be much easier to design. CONCLUSIONS Through this project. So instead of spending large amounts of time doing the calculations and trying to balance the voltage and resistance by trial and error. However. a tweeter can be created. Filters. By using PSPICE. The major problem is that the AC signal fed into the circuit is attenuating to a lower voltage. Also. it was theoretically sound and did not imply any mistakes were made. when the actual circuit was constructed. The finished circuit receives an input from a CD player and outputs the signal to an 8 ohm subwoofer. the ratio of the resistors would be changed to increase the gain. The circuit components weren’t interacting as depicted by PSPICE. especially in engineering careers. The subwoofer in this project was built using discreet parts. we developed communication skills and the skills essential to surviving in the real world. By reversing the filter to be a high pass filter and allow the high frequency signals to be amplified. the signal to noise ratio is low. In PSPICE. To do so. Another problem is that the signal is distorted due to the saturation of the transistors. the subwoofer has a very low gain. possibly opening doors towards new discoveries. The gain predicted is 7. it can be concluded that physically.RESULTS The circuit doesn’t act in the way depicted by PSPICE so the circuit is a modified version of the PSPICE simulation. such as the “Butterworth Low Pass Filter. the circuit was trimmed down to four stages. but there is another option. the amplifier being built in this project is designed to specifically enhance low frequency tones to achieve a gain in order to make the AC signal usable by the subwoofer. one proposed solution was to manipulate resistors and other pieces around the DC shifter. needle nose pliers. The most important benefit of the experiment was a chance to work in a team environment. while minimizing margin for error. more unique materials will be available to enhance the sound. By doing . too. Based on this. As of now. and wire strippers to the more advanced tools such as the digital multimeter. the innovation and creativity were also mimicked during our experiment. and the function generator. such as the basic wire cutters. The problem stemmed from the DC level shifter in the third stage of the drawing. At certain times you must be a leader while at other times you must listen. which opposed our goal of the experiment. the oscilloscope. Circuit simulations show what is to be expected but not everything can be seen through a simulation. This resulted in a decrease in gain. New filters will. there is always room for advancement. This project entailed the use of the circuit-simulating program PSPICE and the development of the physical circuit in the Electrical Engineering laboratory on the Rutgers Busch campus. the AC voltage was attenuated. which is a much easier design. but in the future the gain can be increased. The construction of the subwoofer. An engineer must have foresight and intuition to solve unforeseen problems. To solve this. The actual gain is a lot smaller and so the subwoofer output is quieter than what is predicted.

and as a safety precaution heat sinks are attached to them. Govenor’s School of Engineering and Technology for providing us with this opportunity. To solve the problem. The loss of gain is affected by the circuit as a whole. http://en. and the gain was lower than expected. The problem was quite obvious when the last transistor overheated and a burning smell occurred. The source of the sound distortion is a result of the wires being too long and not being taught and directly on the bead board. but the gain was salvaged.org/wiki/Audio_amplifier. Another problem is the final result of the subwoofer. and would have to be resolved by reconfiguring the design.this. Sound System Basics. OCCAD. The purpose of the heat sinks is to increase the surface area in order to decrease the buildup of heat in the transistors. Audio Amplifier – Wikipedia. the free encyclopedia. Jeroen Bijsmans. CITATIONS Wikipedia. Rutgers Staff for allowing us to use the Rutgers facilities. the gain still remains 7 which is a good value to have. the developers of PSPICE for providing a software package allowing for the soft design of the subwoofer amplifier circuit.html. Anthony Welch for providing us with this opportunity. Vivian Ho for helping with the completion of the subwoofer amplifier. Another problem is that the transistors used in the circuit aren’t able to handle the amount of power in the last stage. several stages were eliminated.com/sound/handbook/basics. Kai Harada. Network Music Displayer: Using a Graphical User Interface on a Personal Music Player . Sean Borkowski for providing guidance in this project. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Daniel Hvidding for providing skilled leadership in this project. Computer Controlled Lighting Project Group for letting our group join with their project group when we were unable to meet with our project leader. new transistors were purchased that were rated to handle more power.wikipedia. The quality is slightly fuzzy. http://harada-sound. Even though the original eight stages are reduced to four.

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