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2013

3C6A Analogue Design


Project
GROUP C2 PIEZO PICKUP SYSTEMS
STEPHEN BRENNAN
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Contents
1. Introduction............................................................................................................................................................................................ 2
2. The Common Emitter (CE) Amplifier ...................................................................................................................................................... 3
2.1: Introduction to the CE Amp .................................................................................................................................................................. 3
2.2: Design of the CE Amp ............................................................................................................................................................................ 3
Biasing .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 3
Designing the CE Amp............................................................................................................................................................................. 3
2.3: The CE Amplifier Lab ............................................................................................................................................................................. 5
Finding the Circuit Parameters ............................................................................................................................................................... 5
Testing the Amp ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 6
3. The Two Stage Amplifier ......................................................................................................................................................................... 9
3.1. The Two Stage Amplifier Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 9
3.2. The 2 Stage Amplifier Lab .......................................................................................................................................................... 10
Results from MultiSIM: ......................................................................................................................................................................... 10
Results from the Lab ............................................................................................................................................................................. 11
AC Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................................................... 11
Discussion of Results ............................................................................................................................................................................ 11
4. The Instrumentation Amplifier & PCB Building ..................................................................................................................................... 12
4.1. Introduction to the Instrumentation Amplifier .......................................................................................................................... 12
4.2. Simulation & Building ................................................................................................................................................................ 13
Simulation ............................................................................................................................................................................................ 13
Building the Circuit Results ................................................................................................................................................................ 14
Discussion of Results ............................................................................................................................................................................ 15
5. Piezo Pickup Systems for Acoustic Archtop Guitars .............................................................................................................................. 15
5.1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................................... 15
What is a Piezo Transducer? ................................................................................................................................................................. 15
Piezo Preamps A Simple Solution ...................................................................................................................................................... 16
5.2. Selecting a Design ...................................................................................................................................................................... 17
The Tillman Preamp .............................................................................................................................................................................. 17
Martin Nawrath University Of Cologne Lab3 Piezo Disk Preamp ....................................................................................................... 18
L.R. Baggs Godin Solidac Piezo Preamp with blend control for magnetic systems ............................................................................... 19
Scott Thelmke Mint Box Piezo Buffer ................................................................................................................................................. 20
Mongrel Dog Audio Piezo Pickup Preamp for musical instruments ...................................................................................................... 20
Selection Process .................................................................................................................................................................................. 20
5.3. Design and Testing ..................................................................................................................................................................... 21
Scott Thelmke Mint Box Buffer ............................................................................................................................................................. 21
Mongrel Dog Audio Piezo Preamp ........................................................................................................................................................ 24
Testing with the Archtop A Brief Comparison .................................................................................................................................... 26
6. Conclusions........................................................................................................................................................................................... 26


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1. Introduction
The aim of this report is to acquaint the reader with the theory and workings of transistor
and Op Amp based amplifier circuits. In addition to this it will act as a review of the work that was
completed by the C2 group over the course of the first semester. The aim of the module was to
develop the practical knowledge of design, simulation, implementation and testing of transistor or
Op Amp based electronic circuits. The course structure was balanced over a 12 week period. This
consisted of an introduction to electronic amplifiers, labs that focused on simulating and building
different kinds of amplifier circuits, a lab about PCB design and printing and a 4 week period over
which the group picked a project and designed a circuit to solve a problem or fulfil a particular role
that would be of some use in the real world.
Prior to the execution of the main part of the module, 3 different types of amplifier were
designed, simulated, constructed and tested in the labs. The purpose of this was to give the groups a
deep understanding to both the theory behind how the amps worked and an insight into the
construction of the amps on a breadboard or PCB. In the first 3 weeks of the module the group
simulated, tested and built a common emitter amp; a basic single transistor circuit which added
small gain and a 90 degree phase shift to an input signal (thus displaying the amplifying and inverting
properties of a BJT). The next challenge was a two stage audio amp which corrected the phase shift
of the original common emitter amplifier and added sufficient gain for driving an audio source into a
set of speakers. In the final weeks before reading week an instrumentation amplifier circuit which
used three Op Amps as opposed to two Bipolar Junction Transistors was tested and constructed, this
circuit provided a larger amount of gain than the two stage audio amp while being neater to
construct. The testing of the circuits consisted of determining parameters like output gain and
input/output resistance in MultiSIM and then comparing these parameters to measured quantities
recorded in the lab. The six weeks of testing provided the group with a solid foundation in both
amplifier theory and breadboard construction. It was after this that the group learned how to design
the PCB boards (using EAGLE software) on which the vast majority of these electronics are built.
After designing the board in EAGLE, the group soldered an Op Amp based audio amplifier circuit to a
PCB board and tests were taken to determine gain and the 3dB point.
The largest component of the 3C6a module was the 4 week period following reading week.
Here the objective of the group was to design and simulate an amplifier circuit that incorporated the
knowledge that was obtained in the earlier half of the course. The group picked Piezo Pickup
Systems for Archtop Guitars as their primary objective as it was agreed that given the timeframe, it
would be possible to simulate, construct and test multiple systems and comment on the
characteristics of the various components. In addition to this, a good piezo pickup system can solve
or reduce some of the problems that come with using a piezo as a contact microphone (this will be
discussed in section 5) and the circuits related to this subject use many of the concepts that were
covered in the introductory labs in weeks 2-6. At the time of the demonstration, two systems had
been fully constructed and tested on a guitar equipped with a piezo pickup. The first system
(henceforth referred to as system 1) that was constructed was a single transistor piezo buffer based
on the Scott Thelmke Mint Box Buffer, a discrete FET design piezo preamp. This system was
simulated and some changes were made to the original design before being built onto a breadboard.
Following this, the circuit was soldered onto strip board and tested in a live-band situation to see
how RF signals would affect the performance of the buffer. After using the system live, alterations
were noted that would improve the system and the circuit was redesigned and retested again,
unfortunately there was not enough time to implement these changes. The second system (system
2) was designed around 2 TL062 Op Amps and consisted of two stages; a buffer and a preamp. This
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system, unlike System 1 delivered an output gain and included a high
pass filter which acted as a tone and gain control for the piezo pickup,
thus adding to the versatility of the system for the end user. The
schematic that was used was based off a pickup system for a double
bass, so in order to ensure that the device would work well with the
guitar, certain components were replaced in order to better replicate
the projected sound of the instrument; these changes will be outlined
in detail in section 5. Following the testing session it was decided that
although System 2 provided a more accurate representation of the
sound of the guitar, System 1 was a better choice of system for the
user because it could be packed onto a smaller space, it used less
power and due to the JFET transistor the tone produced from the
circuit was analogous to the tone obtained by musicians from the
1920s-1950s which is a desirable property for the guitar type that was
being tested.
2. The Common Emitter (CE) Amplifier

2.1: Introduction to the CE Amp
The common emitter amplifier (seen in figure 2
i
) is a
one transistor circuit which consists of an NPN bipolar
junction transistor, an input capacitance (

) and
Voltage Divider Biasing. This amp is most commonly
used as a voltage amplifier. It was the task of the group
in week 3 to simulate and build an amplifier similar to
this in Multisim and record the circuit parameters of the
amp. Prior to disclosing these results however it is
important to discuss the theory of the CE amplifier and
how, as electronic engineers, this device can be
designed and built to perform at its maximum capacity.
2.2: Design of the CE Amp
Biasing
Biasing is a term that describes the process of setting the voltage or current at points in a circuit in
order to establish the optimal operating conditions for the electronic component. In the case of the
Common Emitter Amplifier, the Biasing is performed by a Voltage Divider; an arrangement of two
resistors that act as a potential divider across the supply. The centre point of the two resistors
provides the biased base voltage for transistor operation.
Designing the CE Amp
In order to obtain the best values for

and

, a suitable bias voltage must be found, however in


order to do this, a value must be given for the load resistance. In the lab, a resistor was used
and a voltage drop of 1.4V was desired over the emitter resistor. From this, the max collector
current can be calculated:

()
Figure 1: An acoustic Archtop
guitar made by Luthier Bill Collings
Figure 2: A schematic of the Common Emitter
Amplifier
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Taking a gain value of 400 (as was the case with the transistor from the lab; a BC107BP), the base
current is found to be:

Can then be calculated using the base emitter voltage and the voltage drop across


In this case,

is fixed at 0.7 volts for a silicon NPN transistor.


Working out a value for

is as follows:





Finally, a value for the emitter resistor can be calculated using Ohms Law. Taking the emitter current
to be the sum of the base and collector current, the following is obtained:


So to summarise, using these calculations it has been found that with a transistor beta value of 400,
the following resistances are suitable:

If the above amplifier were to be constructed in a lab, the values of resistors used would be:
R1
R2
RL
RE

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2.3: The CE Amplifier Lab
The CE Amplifier circuit that was used in the lab is very similar to the circuit that was designed
above, very similar resistances were used, but with the exception of more capacitors being
employed. The schematic of the amp is shown in figure 3 below:

Figure 3: Schematic of CE Amp connected to an oscilloscope
Finding the Circuit Parameters
Once the above schematic was built in MultiSIM, it was the task of the group to find the mid band
gain, the upper and lower cut off frequencies and the input and output resistance. In order to
calculate the mid band gain, the ratio of the input and output voltages of the circuit were recorded
using the measurement probe in MultiSIM:


In order to obtain the gain in decibels

was then used in the logarithmic equation:

) ()
Calculating the input resistance of the circuit was performed by taking the equivalent resistance
from the base resistance and

( ) (

) ( ) ( )


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was then found as the equivalent resistance over

and


So:

=
Calculating the upper and lower cut off frequencies of the amp were performed using the following
equations:

where the smaller of

and

represent the cut off.


It was found after calculating this, that

governed the lower cut off of the amplifier with a


frequency of 22.3Hz. This result is significant as it represents a frequency that is just within the
threshold of the human ear. This result also shows that capacitors C2 and C3 are responsible for
governing the lower cut off frequency.
The upper cut off frequency was determined using the following equations:

) (

)

Where:


From this, it was determined that the upper cut off frequency was 16.93kHz, just below the
frequency of the highest pitch the human ear can hear.
Testing the Amp
The amp was built and tested in the lab using a breadboard, a function generator and an
oscilloscope. The setup of the Oscilloscope and function generator are shown in figure 5.


Figure 4: Diagram showing how the signal generator and Oscilloscope were configured
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It can be seen from figure 5 that the signal generator is connected to channel 1 of the
oscilloscope and to the input of the circuit, this allows for the viewing of the original signal
juxtaposed with the output signal of the circuit, which is connected to channel 2 of the op amp. This
is the setup the group used throughout the course of the module.
After setting up the circuit on the
breadboard the group did not have time
to take all of the measurements from
above however a mid band gain of 5
was obtained from the output of the
oscilloscope and the phase of the signal
was shifted 90 degrees, showing the
inverting property of the BJT amplifier. In
addition to this, some clipping was noted
to be occurring on the positive peaks of
the output signal. All of these features
can be seen in Figure 5, which was the
output signal when a 1Vpk, 1kHz input
source was used.


The final part of the lab
was testing the output
response of the amp given
a 200mV input at varying
frequencies. The aim of
this part of the lab was to
determine in practice the
upper and lower cut off
frequencies of the amp. It
is known that the
frequency response of an
amplifier looks like the
graph shown in figure 6,
where

and

represent
the lower and upper cut off
frequencies.
In order to construct a frequency response graph for the CE amplifier that was built in the lab, the
group set the function generator to various frequencies and recorded the output of the amp. Figure
7 shows the outcome, after plotting these results onto a graph (note, x axis is logarithmic).




Figure 5: Oscilloscope output of circuit from MultiSIM
Figure 6: Frequency response of an amplifier
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From Figure 7 it can be seen that the lower cut off frequency is approximately 20Hz and the
upper cut of frequency is approximately 20kHz, which was in line with the theoretical calculated
result. In order to attain the characteristic curve seen in Figure 6, more results would need to be
taken. In order to do this however, it would be possible to use MultiSIM to carry out the frequency
response test using the AC Analyses tool:

Figure 8: MultiSIM Frequency Response for CE Amp
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
1 10 100 1000 10000 100000
O
u
t
p
u
t

(
V
o
l
t
s
)

Frequency (Hz)
Graph Showing Output Voltage of the CE Amp vs input
Frequency
Output
Figure 7: Graph showing CE Output Voltage vs Input Frequency
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The above figure gives a much larger lower cut of frequency in the range of around 100Hz as
opposed to the 20Hz lower cut off frequency obtained in the lab. However, this discrepancy could be
corrected by taking more measurements although if we examine the CE amp as a component of a
two stage audio amplifier, a lower cut off frequency of 100Hz would lead to an amp that has a very
poor bass frequency replication.
3. The Two Stage Amplifier
3.1. The Two Stage Amplifier Introduction

Although it was clear from the experiments performed with the CE Amplifier that gain was being
produced from the circuit, the 8dB of gain that were being attained were by no means large enough
to effectively drive an audio source (8dB is just within the threshold of human hearing, about as loud
as a pin drop). In order to rectify this problem, a second stage was added to the CE amplifier in order
to boost the gain so that it could be used to drive audio equipment.
The second stage of the two stage amp is very similar to the first in that the amp is biased
using a voltage divider and at the input a capacitor is used to remove the DC offset. The output
signal from the amplifier is seen to be in phase with the input source, this is due to the second
inversion of the signal which occurs at the second stage of the amp.







It can be seen in figure 9 that the signal is phase shifted 90 degrees at the PNP stage (1
st
stage) and
again at the NPN stage (second stage) to bring the input into phase with the output.
One of the key differences in the amplifier lies in the first stage of amplification, unlike the
second stage or the CE amplifier discussed earlier in this report, the first stage contains a PNP
transistor instead of an NPN transistor in order to source current to the second stage. Replacing the
PNP transistor with an NPN transistor resulted in an attenuation of the signal, rather than
amplification, so in order for a second NPN transistor to be used in place of the PNP transistor and
still obtain amplification the circuit would need to be redesigned.


Figure 9:Diagram showing input signal being inverted twice
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3.2. The 2 Stage Amplifier Lab
The lab for the 2 Stage amplifier consisted of simulating the circuit shown in Figure 10 and
calculating the voltage gains across the two stages and then calculating the overall gain of the
circuit based on the voltage measurements. Following this, the circuit was built in on a
breadboard and the circuit parameters were measured and compared to the simulated values.

Figure 10: 2 Stage Amplifier


Results from MultiSIM:
STAGE THEORETICAL GAIN ACTUAL GAIN
STAGE 1 22 21
STAGE 2 30 29.64
STAGE 2 (WITH LOAD) 17.77
STAGE 1 AND 2 115.38








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Results from the Lab
















AC Analysis
AC
Parameter
Computed
Value
Re (Q1) 66.988
Re (Q2) 14.021
Rout(Q1) 21.997k
Rin(Q2) 14.995k
Av(NL)(Q1) 20.606
Av(NL)(Q2) 28.963

Discussion of Results
The obtained values for two-stage gain show that adding a second stage to the CE amplifier tackles
the problem of insufficient gain produced by the single-stage amp. The two-stage gain of the amp
was recorded to be 214.922 which, when converted into decibels provides a 23dB gain. This gain is
sufficient to amplify a microphone or MP3 into a set of powered speakers. The amplifier successfully
managed to amplify the input so it could be heard through the speakers but there were prevalent
problems in terms of the quality of the audio being reproduced. This may have been due to RF
signals causing noise as none of the components were shielded. In addition to this, the replication of
the audio lacked low frequencies and the sound was described as tinny. Following this discovery,
the frequency response of the system was obtained in MultiSIM and it was found that the lower cut
off frequency was about 620Hz, this can be seen in figure 11. This frequency is approximately equal
Resistor Listed
Value
Measured
Value
R12 100k 99.51k
R11 2k 2.0459k
R1 330k 299.7k
R2 330k 300.07k
R4 33k 36.08k
R5 1k 1.0005k
R3 22k 21.997k
R6 47k 46.99k
R7 22k 22.033k
R10 4.7k 4.684k
R9 220 217.55
R8 6.8k 6.707
R13 10k 10.999
DC
Parameter
Computed
Value
Measured
Value
Q1

VB 0.462V 0.757V
VE 1.162V 1.389V
IE 0.3732mA
VC -6.859V -6.96V
VCE 8.0206V 8.37V
Q2

VB -5.5545V -5.5V
VE -6.2615V -6.15V
IE 1.783mA
VC 3.0971V 3.055V
VCE -9.3586V -9.2V
AC
Parameter
Computed
Value
Measured
Value
Av 214.922 150
Rin(Q1) 69.4007k 88.8k
Rout(Q2) 6.707k 6.5k
Vin(Q1) 10mV
Vout(Q2) 206.06mV 150mV
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to that of an E5 on a piano. This large lower cut off frequency could explain why the sound produced
from the amp was so poor.

Figure 11: Frequency Response of the 2 stage audio preamp
In addition to the large lower cut off frequency, it is evident from the results obtained from the
multimeter that the wrong resistors were used in the voltage divider at the base of the first stage of
the amp. While in the schematic these resistors are listed as being , the test with the
multimeter would suggest that the group inadvertently used resistors. Furthermore there
was some ambiguity in the lab as to whether electrolytic capacitors should be used for C1 and C3
(there were two different versions of the schematic in the lab).
4. The Instrumentation Amplifier & PCB Building
4.1. Introduction to the Instrumentation Amplifier
The instrumentation Amplifier, or Op Amp is a device that amplifies the difference in voltage
between the positive and negative input terminals. In practice, the instrumentation amplifier is
found at the heart of many ECG and Neural Signal Processing devices, this is due to the devices
ability to amplify small signals that may be riding on larger common mode voltages, for instance, in
an ECG, electrical signals from the body might cause unwanted results so by using an
instrumentation amplifier, these unwanted signals can be truncated.
In the lab, an Op Amp circuit with 3 741C IC Op Amps was created and simulated in MultiSIM
before being built and tested in the lab. It was found over the course of the testing that the Op Amp
based circuit provided a much higher gain than the discrete 2 stage audio preamp built in the weeks
prior to this. However, debugging problems that arose when building the Op Amp onto a bread
board was a much greater task than debugging the discrete component circuits.
Following the building of the Op Amp circuit onto breadboard, the group used EAGLE software
to design a PCB Board layout for a single 8 pin IC amplifier. The design considerations of such a
device are hinged upon minimising the space used by the circuit, as most PCB circuit manufacturers
charge per square cm of material. In addition to this, the ease of assembling circuits on a PCB board
were discovered in the lab, where the circuit was soldered onto a pre-etched board.

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4.2. Simulation & Building
Simulation
Figure 13 shows the schematic for the
Op Amp based amplifier constructed in
week 6 of the module (Note: green wires
connect the op amps to VCC and black wires
connect the op amp to VEE, these were not
displayed on the original schematic). In
order to successfully simulate the model in
MultiSIM, the group had to deduce which of
the 8 pins on the Op Amp represented +V
and V, Figure 12 shows the pin layout of the 741C Op
Amp IC.

Figure 13: Instrumentation Amplifier Circuit
Before the Simulation took place, the theoretical Closed Loop Gain and Voltage Output were
obtained:

where

)
When the closed loop gain was obtained in MultiSIM using the Oscilloscope (shown in Figure 13), the
gain was found to be 45.01632, slightly higher than the theoretical value.
Following this, the circuit was rebuilt and made so that the input voltage was identical to both U1
and U3. This is the differential-mode input signal. The rebuilt circuit is shown in figure 14:

Figure 12: 741C Op Amp Pin layout
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Figure 14: Second Op Amp Circuit
The output from this circuit was much lower in amplitude than the previous rendition as U2 is acting
as a differential amplifier for 2 nearly identical signals. It was found that by adjusting the
potentiometer labelled

in figure 14 to 65%, or the minimum output value was obtained.


This output value of 29mV peak, produced a common mode gain of:

.
The Common-Mode Rejection ratio, a measurement of the rejection of the input signals could then
be calculated using the following formula:
(

)
Building the Circuit Results
Resistor Listed
Value
Measured
Value
R1 10k 9.74k
R2 10k 9.81k
RG 470 462
R3 10k 9.91k
R4 10k 9.80k
R5 10k 9.90k
R6 8.2k 8.16k
R8 100k 99.3k
R9 100k 98.7k



Parameter Computed
Value
Measured
Value
Differential input Voltage
Vin(d)
330mV 151mV
Differential Gain, Av(d) 43.316 43.046
Differential Output Voltage,
Vout(d)
14.294 6.5V
Common-mode input Voltage,
Vin(cm)
10V 9.98V
Common-mode input Voltage
Av(cm)
0.09
Common-mode input Voltage,
Vout(cm)
73mV
Common-mode rejection ratio
(CMRR)
53.594
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Discussion of Results
It is clear from the results above that this circuit is acting as a differential amplifier. In figure
13, where the two input voltages differ from the source with a value that is equal to the source the
circuit acts as a voltage amplifier, similar to the 2 stage and CE amplifier. However when the input
voltages are equal, the signal produced is very small in amplitude and can be assumed to be the
noise produced from the circuit as there is no difference between the two signals.
There are certain advantages and disadvantages to using an IC in place of discrete
components in an amplifier circuit. An Op Amp is constructed from many transistors and delivers
consistent performance whereas transistor amplifiers can be temperature sensitive. In addition to
this an Op Amp does not need biasing to be turned on (instead it uses the differential signal), this is
evident from the lack of voltage divider biasing seen in figure 13 and 14. However, an Op Amp
always registers as being On and thus always draws power but a transistor will only draw power in
the linear and saturation regions (as it is turned off in the cut-off region). This is a key design
consideration for the group as the Piezo Pickup Systems that the group will design will be run from
batteries rather than a DC outlet.
5. Piezo Pickup Systems for Acoustic Archtop Guitars
5.1. Introduction
The group decided that a good project to follow would be the design and development of Piezo
pickup systems. These simple preamp and buffer circuits are extremely useful and sought after in
the world of live acoustic instrument amplification as they are a cheap solution to the problem of
amplifying musical instruments which are not traditionally sold with pickup systems.
What is a Piezo Transducer?
A Piezo transducer (or Piezo pickup) is a device that transforms
mechanical stress into an electric charge (the storage of charge from
mechanical stress is known as the piezoelectric effect). In this
module, the piezo element was being used as a contact microphone;
a microphone that only picks up structure-borne sound. The contact
microphone properties of Piezo pickups are not shared with ribbon,
dynamic and condenser microphones, all of which use vibrations in
the air to reproduce sound, nor is it similar to the magnetic pickup
(used in most electric guitars and basses) as it does not create a
magnetic field.
The amplification method of acoustic instruments is
hotly debated by many sound engineers and live
stage technicians as each of the methods of
amplification mentioned above have distinct
advantages and disadvantages. Condenser mics for
instance, provide the best replication of sound but
are expensive and restrict the movement of the
musician, in addition to this they can be prone to
feedback on some acoustic instruments. Magnetic
pickups are not prone to feedback and are mounted
on the instrument so mobility is not a problem,
however they are limited in that a lot of the wood-
Figure 15: Piezo Element
Figure 16: Diagram showing the operation of a
magnetic pickup
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characteristic tone is cut and the resulting signal lacks the acoustic character produced by the
instrument. Piezo pickups are extremely cheap (in bulk they can be purchased for approximately 15
cents each) and they replicate some degree of the acoustic tone of the instrument, but they too are
prone to feedback and produce a midrange peak which is known as the piezo quack, this is caused
by the impedance mismatch between the piezo (high output impedance) and the amp or PA system
input (also high impedance, but relatively low compared to the piezo).
Piezo Preamps A Simple Solution
As was mentioned above, Piezo transducers
although providing reasonable sound
replication at an extremely low cost, suffer
from some problems that can ruin the user
experience. In the sound engineering industry
many companies have chosen to leave piezo
pickups behind entirely and focus on small
condenser mics which sit inside the body of
the instrument, however these products are
extremely costly for the end user. The other
solution to this is the creation of Piezo
Preamps and buffers, which minimise the flaws
inherent in the piezo pickup and provide a well-rounded and useable sound. The most notable of
these preamps is the Tillman preamp (Figure 16
ii
), a circuit originally designed as a booster for the
magnetic pickup systems found in the electric guitar. The
Tillman preamp is based around a J201 discrete Field Effect
Transistor (FET) which offers a very high input impedance
(3MegaOhms) with very low noise levels (a characteristic of the
JFET transistor). The capacitor C1 is used for output coupling and
the capacitor C2 is used to obtain maximum transistor gain. The
Tillman Preamp delivers about 3dB of gain.
A similar concept to the Tillman Preamp is the Piezo
Buffer, a circuit which does not amplify the input signal but instead acts as an impedance matcher
between the piezo and the amplifier or PA system. This resolves the problem of midrange quack
and also makes lower frequencies louder increasing the headroom of the signal. The design in
Figure 17 is known as the Mint Tin
Piezo Buffer as it is usually built into
a tin of Altoids mints which acts as a
Faraday cage. The circuit has a very
high input impedance and a gain
switch which allows the user to
decrease the gain by approximately
3dB. This Gain Switch is useful in
instruments like Double Bass, where
the piezo signal is prone to clipping
at the input. Unlike the Tillman amp,
the output of the Preamp Buffer is in
phase with the input.
Figure 17: The Tillman Preamp
Figure 18:Piezo Buffer Circuit
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The final type of preamp that was researched was a two
stage piezo buffer and preamp created by Mongrel Dog Audio. This
two stage circuit makes use of the two Op Amps within the OPA
2134 IC (Figure 18). The aim of this device is to buffer the signal in
the first stage and amplify the signal in the second. The value of the
gain obtained is dependent on the value of R9 which is acting as a
high pass filter. The original circuit designer for this schematic built
the design on PCB and housed it in an aluminium box, again using
the case as a Faraday cage to block RF noise.

5.2. Selecting a Design
After the different kinds of piezo preamp and buffer circuits were researched, it was the task of the
group to propose schematics for circuits that would be modified, simulated and tested. These
circuits were then built in MultiSIM before the group chose two designs to test and compare. The
initial selections of circuits were:
The Tillman Preamp

Discussed above, the Tillman preamp is the
quintessential single transistor preamp for guitars; it
is a single discrete JFET preamp, delivering a gain of
approximately 3dB to the input signal.
Pros: Small and easy to construct and simulate using
MultiSIM veroboard layouts are readily available
online.
Cons: The Tillman preamp is designed as a signal booster for electric guitars, not a piezo pickup
buffer so the piezo quack will not have been addressed in the construction of this circuit.
Figure 19:Pin label for OPA2134 IC
Figure 20: Schematic for Mongrel Dog Audio Piezo Preamp with 'Tone' control
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Martin Nawrath University Of Cologne Lab3 Piezo Disk Preamp

Figure 21: Martin Nawrath Piezo Disk Preamp Schematic

The Martin Nawrath Piezo Disk Preamp is similar to the Mongrel Dog preamp in that there is a two
stage buffer-amplification action happening on one 8 pin IC consisting of 2 Op Amps. This circuit is
used in an electronics lab in the University of Cologne to show how Piezo elements can be used as
contact mics, or as force sensors/accelerometers

Pros: Gain Pot present. 2 stage buffering and amplification, the builder is knowledgeable in
electronics.

Cons: The system is not tailored specifically for Piezo Transducers- the missing high input impedance
resistor, and also building this circuit in MultiSIM was problematic and no output signal could be
obtained.


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L.R. Baggs Godin Solidac Piezo Preamp with blend control for magnetic systems
iii

LR Baggs is a name well known in the music industry for
building high quality acoustic guitar pickups and
microphones, this schematic is a preamp that is
currently used in the Godin Solidac range of electric
guitars. These guitars feature both a traditional
magnetic pickup system and a bridge which contains 6
under saddle piezo elements (6 individual piezo pickups,
one underneath each string of the guitar).

Pros: Professional level sound, crystal clear acoustic
reproduction.

Cons: Designed for a blend of magnetic and piezo pickups. The group are using solely piezo disks
whereas LR Baggs use piezo saddles (shown in Figure 21), these saddles may have different resonant
frequencies and will not respond in a manner that is analogous with the piezo disk. Schematic is not
from an official source.






Figure 22: LR Baggs bridge, circles areas show piezo
elements
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Scott Thelmke Mint Box Piezo Buffer

The Scott Thelmke was the first buffer circuit to be examined by the group, mentioned above, it has
a very high input impedance and a Gain switch that allows the user to cut 3dB of gain off the input
signal.
Pros: The circuit is very compact and easy to construct. The circuit was designed with the groups
exact requirement in mind, Gain switch is very useful for the end user.
Cons: Scott Thelmke is an unknown builder and the design method for the circuit was not disclosed
on the website so his level of experience comes under question will the circuit perform as it
should?
Mongrel Dog Audio Piezo Pickup Preamp for musical instruments
This two stage Op Amp based Piezo Preamp was
discussed in section 5.1. The builder of this circuit is
known on the web as a professional Boutique Valve
amp designer.
Pros: Experienced Builder, circuit matches the purpose
of the group. Easy to construct schematic.
Cons: The amp needs a larger power supply (18V DC
2 9V batteries) than any of the other schematics on
this list. If this amp were to be used in a gig situation,
the power consumption would be a serious consideration to the user, 9 volt batteries are expensive!
In addition to this, there is a space consideration to be taken into account as well, ideally, the
preamp should be able to be mounted on a belt buckle.
Selection Process
The group built all of the above schematics in MultiSIM and tested them with a 50mV 600Hz
AC input signal (The peak output obtained from the piezo when mounted onto the Archtop guitar
was approximately 50mV and 600Hz represents the frequency of the D string on the instrument).
When deciding which circuits would be built on breadboard the group took numerous factors into
account, ideally the group wanted a discrete based circuit and an Op Amp based circuit in order to
compare the results from both. In addition to this, as the group only had 4 weeks to carry out
building and testing, the circuits had to be quick to construct and easy to debug. With these limits in
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place, the Scott Thelmke Mint Box Buffer and the Mongrel Dog Audio Preamp were selected as the
two circuits that would be focused on.
5.3. Design and Testing
Scott Thelmke Mint Box Buffer
The design of the Scott Thelmke buffer can be broken up into two stages, the first stage
addresses the problem of input impedance; two 10MOhm resistors and a 1pF capacitor. A
capacitor is also present at the input in order to act as a remover of DC offset (an input blocker).

Figure 23: First stage of the Piezo Buffer
The second stage of the buffer is the JFET transistor is acting as a common drain amplifier,
buffering the voltage and transforming impedances. Although there is no voltage gain from the
common drain amplifier, there is current gain. The transformation of impedances is what will restore
the bass frequencies of the piezo pickup and reduce the effects of the piezo quack.

Figure 24: Second stage of the Piezo Buffer


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Testing the amp in MultiSIM showed that the input signal was indeed being buffered (Figure 24)
green is the output, blue is the input.

However it is evident that there is some clipping occurring on the lower peaks of the output signal.
With this in mind the group set out to improve the design. The main issue with the Mint Box Buffer
on inspection of the schematic is that there is no transistor Biasing occurring, a solution to this
problem is to add a second resistor running to the power rail above the 10MOhm resistor to act as a
voltage divider. However, with this voltage divider it became necessary to change the value of the
capacitor to a capacitor:
Another modification that was made to the circuit is altering the
value of the 220K resistor to a 1k LOG pot. The LOG pot will act
as a volume control for the circuit which will greatly benefit the
end user as the dynamic of the music may call for different
volume levels. Logarithmic pots are used because the human
ear is somewhat logarithmic by nature.
After adding these modifications in MultiSIM the clipping on the
lower peaks had gone, suggesting that an improperly biased
transistor was the reason for the clipping in the first place.





Figure 25: Output from Log Pot
Figure 26: Modified Mint Box Buffer
Figure 27: Output shows no clipping
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The testing of the Piezo Buffer was carried out in
the lab using a signal generator and an oscilloscope.
Following this the circuit was built onto Vero board and a
battery was added as a power source, the buffer was then
placed into a plastic box and tested at 3 different concerts
using a Piezo equipped Archtop Guitar. The sound
produced from the Piezo buffer is an improvement over a
piezo pickup by itself and reduces the piezo quack while
increasing the bass frequencies. However some listeners at
the gig reported that the sound lacked high end frequencies
and that the resultant tone was similar to that of a
telephone. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing (on
records from the 20s guitars often sounded like this
iv
) the
system could still be improved. Here are two suggestions
that were put forward:
Reposition the piezo: The position of the Piezo Pickup on
the soundboard of the guitar has a huge tonal effect on the
output, on a standard Dreadnought acoustic instrument the
piezo should rest right underneath the bridge of the guitar,
but through numerous tests it was found that on Archtops
the best signal was obtained when the piezo was placed
near the lower F-hole (Shown in Figure 27).
Use Capacitors Intended for Audio/Guitar: A less
significant improvement would be to replace the capacitors
that carry the audio signal with capacitors that are designed
for use in audio applications. An example of this would be
the Sprague Orange Drop Capacitors, or even more ideally,
Paper in Oil capacitors, both of which are hugely popular
with guitarists. The original circuit builder recommended
Mustard Capacitors as they are very popular with guitar effects pedal builders but these are
expensive and hard to come by so Sprague is probably the best brand to follow.


Figure 29: Capacitors for audio (from left to right) Sprague Orange Drops, Mustard, Paper In Oil 'Bumblebee' caps



Figure 28: Archtop Guitar with Bridge and
Position of Piezo Marked
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Mongrel Dog Audio Piezo Preamp
As stated above, the Mongrel Dog Audio Preamp has two stages; Buffer and Amplifier. The first stage
acts as a buffer (seen in Figure 29). By now it should be clear that one of the characteristic features
of any Piezo Buffer circuit is the high input impedance. This is seen here in R8, with a 10M input
impedance. If the gain of the amp were to be changed this value could be edited to a 4.7M resistor
(similar to that of the Mint Box buffer) but due to the large gain that is being added to the signal
from the second stage, additional gain at the input will not be necessary.

Figure 30: Buffer Stage of Mongrel Dog Audio Preamp
Figure 31: Input and output signals are both plotted here but due to buffering the two individual waves are exactly the
same phase and amplitude.
The second stage of the amp delivers the gain to the circuit. This gain is controlled by R9, a 25K
potentiometer. If the inputs of the TL072P Op Amp are examined it can be seen that the differential
input varies depending on the position of R9, if R9 is set 100% then the gain will be maximised as the
inputs will be the input from the buffer and ground (so the difference is ground). Whereas if R9 is set
to 0% then the input at pin 6 of the Op Amp is equal to the output which is equal to the buffer signal,
so the signal will lose significant gain. If the area around R9 is examined it can be shown that as well
as a gain control, R9, R11 and C4 are acting as a variable High Pass Filter. This means that as R9 is
increased, the frequencies below the lower cut off frequency are attenuated.


25 | P a g e


Figure 32: R9 at 100% Figure 33: R9 at 0%
As seen in Figure 31 and 32, R9 has a large impact on the gain of the circuit, and when the circuit was
built in the lab on a breadboard it was found that when R9 was turned up to 100% the piezo pickup
became microphonic, this means that the piezo stopped performing like a contact mic and began to
pick up vibrations in the air. This also caused the piezo to produce a loud high pitched feedback
shriek. It was clear from this problem that the variable resistor at R9 had to be replaced. The gain
being outputted from the circuit when R9 was equal to 100% was approximately 13dB, which is very
large considering that the preamp will be run into another amplifier before the signal is sent to the
speakers, so the decision was made to remove R9 completely and instead just use the 3dB gain that
was produced when R9 was set to 0%.
Although there was not sufficient time to build this system onto Veroboard and test it in a live Gig
situation, the group used Lochmaster to create a Veroboard layout, this layout is shown in figure 33.

Figure 34: Veroboard layout for Mongrel Dog Audio Preamp
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Testing with the Archtop A Brief Comparison
Both amps were tested using a Hofner Congress Archtop Guitar, which was then plugged
into the preamp/buffer and then plugged into a 1000W PA system through the line in port. The
sound from the Mongrel Dog Audio system was deemed to be clearer and more acoustic guitar like
than the Buffer circuit, which still retained characteristics of the vintage record guitar tone. However
the Mongrel Dog Audio system produced clear improvements to the bass frequencies while
maintaining the high frequencies and the piezo Quack was not occurring at all. Although the sound
quality from the Mongrel Dog Audio system was superior to that of the Buffer circuit, the buffer
circuit has a much longer battery life and only required a single 9v battery as opposed to 2 9v
batteries. In addition to this, the music being played on the Archtop guitar is contemporary to the
1920s-1930s so the vintage tone produced from the buffer is not unfavourable. So even though the
Mongrel Dog Audio has the advantage of producing a purer tone, the Buffer circuit fits the purpose
of the instrument better.
6. Conclusions
Over the course of the module much has been learnt about amplifier theory and both discrete
and integrated circuits. The theory and function of Op Amps and Discrete Circuit amplifiers were
discovered through simulation, design and hardware testing both in the lab and MultiSIM. The
course provided a practical insight to electronics that could not have been attained in the lecture
theatre and as a result much was learned by all. The first 7 weeks of the course provided the group
with both the theoretical knowledge and practical build skills necessary to read a circuit schematics
and improve the designs of some circuits found online. The building of the CE Amplifier and the two
stage amplifier taught the group about biasing transistors and how to calculate resistance values for
a discrete transistor amplifier circuit. The experiments performed with the Op Amp circuit taught the
group about differential amplifiers and how they can be used in a variety of situations from audio
and hi-fi to Biomedical equipment. The work carried out in EAGLE gave the group the knowledge
required to design PCB boards upon which circuits could be easily made. Throughout the course of
the final 4 weeks of the project a lot was learned about piezo pickup systems and how electronics
can provide a workable solution to the problems suffered by musicians who use piezo pickups as a
form of amplification. Although many systems were simulated in MultiSIM, only two systems were
built in the lab. It was found that the Op Amp System, despite delivering a sound that encompassed
a larger frequency range did not provide a functional tone for the guitar being used. However the
buffer provided this tone at the expense of a lower volume being produced from the output.
Improvements were made to both the schematics found online, in the buffer circuit, the transistor
was properly biased and in the Op amp circuit, the gain pot was removed to stop the piezo from
turning microphonic.
The main insight into Electronic engineering that was gained from this module was the ability to
read circuit schematics and build these schematics on a bread board. This was not a skill I was very
good at before taking the module and I feel it will be hugely beneficial in the future. In addition to
this my circuit analysis skills have gotten better as well.
My favourite part of the project was investigating the piezo preamp circuits, building them in
MultiSIM and seeing the circuits work in the lab. The practical aspects of the project granted a lot of
insight into how the circuits work and give some context to the lectures in 3C2.
The most challenging part of the project was understanding the theory in the first few weeks of
the module. I often felt that we were not getting the correct results from our calculations so more
time explaining the theory would have been very beneficial.
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If we had more time for the final project
then further tests could have been
carried out on the Op Amp Based circuit,
it would have been great to build the Op
Amp circuit onto Veroboard (as was the
original plan) and test it in a live situation
to see how the sound of the Op Amp
circuit blended in a live band situation. In
addition to this I wanted to add a
Baxandall tone control and a gain
potentiometer to the Buffer circuit in
order to maximise its versatility. Either
this or a 3 band EQ would really make the
buffer a very useful tool for any guitarist
with a piezo loaded guitar.
The project as a whole covered a large amount of material, I dont think that given the
timeframe of the project any more material could be added without the risk of sacrificing some
other areas of the project. However if this was a 10 credit module I would have really liked to see
even one class on vacuum tubes as they are not covered in any modules.







i
Source of image (CE Amp schematic): http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/amplifier/amp_2.html

ii
http://www.till.com/articles/GuitarPreamp/
iii
http://www.ssguitar.com/index.php?topic=2306.0


Figure 35: Baxandall Tone Control