What's inside these aluminum/metal cases?

I have three links below to pictures of amps with their lids removed, one is an integrated, and I am curious to the thoughts of those that have the technical knowledge of amps to discuss the inner componants and order of design.

We tweak our systems with expensive cables, yet I look at pictures such these pictures and wonder what all the signal must go through.

Let me put the disclaimer out, I do not own any of these amps nor did I single them out, I just happen have pictures of them with their "hoods" off, if I had some others, I may of included them as well.

All hope abandon, Ye who enter here.

I remain,
Kind of makes you sick sometimes doesn't it? Look under the hood of some pricey componentry & you find a maze of tangled cables dangling unsupported all over the place. I don't get it either; of course it makes you wonder?
Now get ahold of an Accuphase or an old Luxman Ultimate component. Everything is neatly laid out, fully supported, individually shielded, acoustically isolated, *quality* construction. I'm sure there are many others that are built likewise.

I don't know if you are talking of those I listed, but as I stated, I don't know enough about the inner workings and don't have anything negative to say of those I supplied. As for neat, these look neatly done to me, whether good or bad.
brian: i'm really not sure what your point is but if you wish to see elegance of design, try this link:


this boulder preamp is, simply put, the best audio product of any kind i've ever heard.


The circuit board on that Boulder is really nice.
Never seen an internal layout as clean as that one.
You own this amp?
The Bryston amps remind me of a TON of other amps that i've seen. Adcom was the first one that comes to mind.

The problem with a LOT of amps built like this is that they route signal and power wires side by side and even bundle them together. They also make use of ribbon cables for signal wires, which are JUNK. Simply replacing ribbon cables with some "decent" wire in the signal path will remove MUCH of the hard upper midrange glare and "transistor sound" that plagues many SS designs.

This is accomplished by 1) getting rid of the tinned copper / tinned aluminum wire in the ribbon itself 2) getting rid of the ( at least ) 2 harness plugs on each ribbon 3) making lower resistance direct point to point connections with higher grade wiring 4) minimizing crosstalk between different sources or circuits within the unit

This is not to mention that many designs route wiring in paths that are totally ridiculous. I took apart a pair of amps and about fell over. There was NO attention paid to magnetic fields, ground plane, length of signal path, etc.... I could not believe how these things were built and laid out. As mentioned above, they suffered from the signal / power wiring "hodgepodge" all tied together, tons of excess wiring, etc. It was SO bad that i was able to seperate all of these, re-route the wires MUCH more effectively and i was able to pull out appr FOUR FEET of wire from each one. That experience alone made me re-investigate how most of the other components that i own were built and designed. As one might suspect, the manufacturers were more concerned with ease of production than they were with the ultimate in performance. As such, i've SLOWLY ( very, very slowly ) been trying to go through them one by one and "tweak" what should have been built right in the first place.

I have come to learn that if audio engineers were designing RF gear, we would all still be using tin cans and string for communications. Sean
Kelly that Boulder is a real piece of beauty, sonically & mechanically. Doesn't Kinergetics build like this as well?
Sean the reminder that those ribbon cables in the graphic are actually routing audio paths (not logic drivers) I can only try to forget about manufacturers pulling stunts like that. I recently opened up my "best of" Dynalab tuner & couldn't believe what I saw. It's a real wonder that it sounds as good as it does, based upon what I saw under the cover.
For clarification, the Boulder link given by CFB is of a preamp.
The amps look like decent layouts to me. Large toroidal transformers coupled with some big-assed capacitors, and then a lot of discrete transistors, resistors, relays, coils, and capacitors. Depending on the quality of the discrete components these designs can be very very good. Many quality audio manufacturers use a curve tracer and select pretty closely matched transistors in their products (primarily Field Effect Transistors). A much neater approach is using integrated circuits rather than discrete components for some of the control functions (thermal sensing etc), far less clutter and solder joints. Trouble is they don't sound as good as the discrete designs do. Cooling is always an issue for these guys, unlike a 'puter you can't throw a fan in. The wire...well I suppose they feel they gotta skimp somewhere and for the most part, a DIY'er can change the internal wiring if he so chooses. FWIW my BATVK500 amp is neatly laid out and does give you the impression the behemoth was designed with quality in mind. I wonder what the Xilinx Field Programmable Gate Array is doing in the ML amp? Wonder what code they buried in there? Got my curiosity up for sure. Jeff

p.s. the Boulder product does look well laid out, but bear in mind it's MUCH easier to lay out a preamplifier than an amplifier, particularly if you use multiple chassis to isolate noise. Couple innovative/competent engineering and cost-is-no-object materials to achieve your design goals and you're bound to have a nicely built and (hopefully) great sounding product. Where are the tubes anyway?
Jeff - great post. What is a Xilinx Field Programmable Gate Array and where is it located?
brian's notation as to the boulder 2010's being a preamp is, of course, correct. here's a link showin' the innards of the amp i'll probably purchase to replace my modified jrdg 8ti:



Congratulations!Great post
Today some highly regarded High End Amps,are based largely in Integrated Circuits.Very beauty inside,no wires,no resistors,no capacitors,no cooling fans.So what?...
Brian, the Xilinx device is a relatively large square integrated circuit towards the middle back of the ML amp. Xilinx makes chips that are essentially black boxes, you write your own code and add intelligence to your design. the code is held in a PROM and dumped into the FPGA on boot-up. Their largest chip is the equivalent of 5 million transistors! I don't wanna get too carried away with the technical stuff, but if you're interested in finding out more take a look at http://www.xilinx.com
So what, indeed?

A friend and I opened his $10K+ tube amp a while back. I'm not fool enough to post the name of the amp lest angry owners burn my church down. Suffice it to say that this "cost no object, discrete components of the highest quality, entirely hand-built" device looked like it had been assembled by a Heathkit first-timer. Lots of excess wire, obvious cold solder joints, cheap internal interconnects, power leads tie-wrapped with audio signal leads. Expensive resistors and caps and xformer, yes, but terminal strips, tube sockets and the like appeared to be the cheapest the mfgr could buy.

Boy, was he pissed. Yet the sound was and continues to be SPLENDID.
Bishopwill: As you know, that's why the best buy in audio is a soldering iron and a circuit book. Ther's jus somthin bout home cookin. Cold solder joints too? Makes it tough.

(And, there are some other speakers like Ellis' and I believe he makes them, or did make them front ported too. I would have to check w/ an email.)

Sincerely, I remain
Yeah, cold solder joints. Obvious ones. I offered to redo them for him but he was so hacked off that he didn't want to touch anything while he pondered his options--of which he finally decided he had none.

Thanks re Ellis speakers. I've heard nothing but good things about his units. May get on his audition list.

I came across this link, it has a number of amps topless, some speakers too.


Plus the Clayto S40

I have a great picture of the Musical Design D150, I will have to add it to my page.
Centerfolds of topless amps. I knew it would come to this.
My mom is not going to let me play here anymore.

Sincerely, I remain
Yes, I should of mentioned that you need to be 18 or over to view them.
Bob, which model MD tuner do you own?
I call this incomplete engineering. Nice front panel and jacks but a rats nest inside. Layout is an art. All audio designers should take a course in RF, where if the layout is compromised it won't work. Proper layout means everything being in the best possible place for the least ill effects caused by its location relative to everything else. Some of the best I've seen are Accuphase, Krell and Luxman (check their web site-wow). Too bad the present Lux stuff isn't available here. Their engineers actually still use shielding and lots of it. The old stuff is quiet, I can't wait for the new.
Bishopwill, I have to know the name of this 10K + tube amp you described. Was it made in Italy, by any chance (just a guess)? Ascribe it to a different mentality or interest focus, but most every German audio magazine publishes at least one photo of the component with its "lid removed" in each review. Some photos even are accompanied by arrows to special features that make the component more attractive! What is funny is when the arrows go around the areas where there is poor assembly work! With the hood removed and the electonic parts catalogue in hand you can easily calculate the cost of the parts. It is usually about 10 to 15% of the retail price.
Both brystons look OK. I agree that there's a bit too much "loose wire" floating around for my liking, and much more than my densen integrated (which is a $1000 amp). The ML383 is neat, but it looks like you're paying for lots of stuff which may have little direct impact on the audio quality. I wondered why ML stuff cost so much.
As for components costing 10-15% of the amp ... I think that's a little low, but it does reflect the food chain of components->manufacturing->marketing->distributor markup->hifi shop margins. Such is the way with all electronics, with the general rule that the higher end you go the more you are gouged. Also the price of things reflects what people will pay for them, not how much they cost to make.

The bottom line is "how do they sound"? (I'm a fan of minimalism since minimalist designs (passive preamps, selector switches located near to the RCA inputs etc) usually sound better to me for the same $$). I've never heard any bryston or ML gear, but from what I've seen above the bryston looks to be better value for money.
Seandtaylor, it is an interesting issue you bring up, at least one I have been thinking on lately. Now, how to put it to words!

There is part of me that says it's just about the music, I want to hear the music the best I can.

Then there is the part of me that remembers the pure joy of using the features that the 383 includes, and I really enjoy the performace to boot. I don't doubt that those features cost, but like I say, I enjoyed them.

Now, to those like you that may care less, no need to pay for them, as in todays market, there are plenty of choices, although I sometimes think this is not such a blessing!

Funny thing about your "minimalist" desire, I have an article that talks how Mark Levinson was the originator of that. (Two notes on that, first I will point the obvious, back them it was ML the person. Second, as far as the signal path, I don't think they have deviated from that.)
I agree with Bob about the Magnum's. I too was shocked when i took the lid off of one. It is amazing that they sound as good as they do with the parts that they use. I guess it just goes to show what a manufacturer can do with low cost "mass produced" parts if they know what they are doing. Sean
Hi Brian ... I guess it depends on your budget. Good sound can be inexpensive if you eschew features and keep the power requirements (and room size) down. This is the way I have chosen to go. I just don't have the budget for ML equipment. I neither have a preference for european or US equipment .. my system is a mix of both. (Inc spica angelus ... what a great speaker !)
As for ML being the originator of minimalism that's an interesting article. I thought it had developed both sides of the atlantic. After all Quad, A&R(arcam), Mission all are rather minimal designs.
I guess part of my minimalism is a reaction against today's mass market consumer electronics which is loaded with gizmos and rather poor on basic quality. I don't want flashing lights and an array of buttons and features .... I just want to turn the volume up and hear good music. In fact the more features and choice I have the more likely I am to fiddle with the equipment instead of listening to the music. (for example the phase selector on my DAC ... does it really make any difference ?)