Noir Headphone Amplifier
Noir is a unique low cost headphone amplifier project, comprised of three circuit boards. The entire Noir BOM is purchasable from Mouser in a single click. Two of the PCBs form pre-made front and rear panels so you can easily form an enclosure. Very cool!
Noir exploits the well known advantages of class-A operation and a minimalist all-discrete circuit design. The amplifier consists of only two transistors (each operated in single ended class-A) giving a very short and linear signal path.
There is a 1/4" headphone jack on the front panel, and preamp outputs (RCA jacks) on the rear panel. Gain is +6 dB. The volume control is an audiophile-quality ALPS Blue Velvet potentiometer.
For more information, to see completed builds or to participate in the community discussion, please visit the Noir diyAudio Discussion Thread. A detailed 37 page Noir Build Guide is now also available to walk you through the construction process.
The amplifier PCB is designed for ease of assembly. All components are thru-hole mounted and are spaced apart generously, making it a breeze to stuff and solder the board. Component IDs and component values are printed on the board, as a further aid to construction. It is an excellent choice for first-time builders. PCB size is 182mm x 112mm, gold traces, and premium 2oz copper thickness.
The amplifier PCB can be installed in a wide variety of chassis. It fits especially well in the Galaxy 1U 230x170mm chassis sold here in the store. In fact, the Noir PCB set includes a front panel and a back panel made of black PCB material (epoxy fiberglass) which fits the 1U Galaxy perfectly. These panels are pre-drilled and pre-labeled, so builders don't need to spend any time in the metal working shop, preparing the front panel or back panel. These panel PCBs don't serve any electrical purpose other than providing ground for the switches.
However should you eventually want to do so and have metal front/back panels, you'll have the original easy-to-work aluminum panels from the original chassis at hand. Noir is a project you can grow into.
You can purchase the PCBs by themselves for $29, or a bundle of the PCBs plus a US-stock chassis (which ships from the US, not Italy) for just $69. As mentioned, the chassis does include the original blank black aluminum front/back panels.
- All-discrete, solid state. No ICs, No vacuum tubes.
- Single ended, Class A circuit operating at 150 mA bias current (exceptionally high for a headphone amp)
- No mains voltage inside the DIY chassis. Power supply is a commercial, safety rated, DC wall wart followed by a 2 stage supply filter on the PCB
- Non-inverting circuit design. this is important because Left and Right headphones, unlike loudspeakers, share their (-) terminal. When a headphone amp has an inverting circuit, you can't undo the inversion by swapping (+) and (-) on each driver.
HOW DOES IT SOUND?
As the saying goes "the proof of the pudding is in the tasting". Here's some feedback from people who have built it, several of whom determined it is their favorite HPA of all time. Others remarked that it is an excellent choice for a beginner's DIY HPA project.
"After two weeks and rotating thru several of my other HPAs I thought the newness would wear off like so many others, but it's still absolutely stunning... the clarity and openness of this Class A amp is just wonderful... its the best amp I have heard to date and I have heard a lot of them....(i have 10 in house at the moment)...
" T2 is absolutely amazing. I believe it to be the best HPA I've ever heard"
"Dead quiet with no input and cranked to 11... unmolested, and detailed... balanced well, the treble is clear.. bass end is as good as my headphones will produce... a very nice, easy to build headphone amp that sounds great - perfect for someone starting out with DIY or as an enjoyable side project for the more experienced builder"
" For a first time builder, I would recommend Mark's T2. Easier to build, less expensive, and more fun to listen to, as long as you don't need a ton of gain."
BILL OF MATERIALS AND MOUSER SHOPPING CART
A spreadsheet Bill Of Materials is provided, and also a pre-loaded Shopping Cart at Mouser Electronics is presented. With a single click on the shopping cart, you can purchase all of the electronic components needed to build your Noir. You'll also need a 1U Galaxy chassis shipped from Italy or we have a few in the US at the moment which can be purchased as a bundle with the PCB from this page and will ship from the US.
NOTE: the ALPS potentiometer is frequently sold out at Mouser. Another source (cheaper too!) with lots of units in stock, is parts-express.com
Totally fun build. Great guide—in true DIY spirit. I listen to Noir daily during desk duty. Also have 2 Whammy's by comparison. Noir is its own gem. Pick some phones—pick some flavors—I'm an HPA fanatic and love them all. I interviewed several pairs of headphones—Beyer 1990 pro are a great match for Noir—to me—and my ears. Massdrop Focal Elex are awesome too! Oh and switching jack????? Makes a solid preamp too!
PCB quality is top notch. Mark is a bada$$. Get the with chassis version—it's unique.
I purchased the boards and case combo. The store experience was top notch as always and the distribution center is fairly close so it arrived very quickly. The one click Mouser BOM was awesome. The build guide, again awesome! Not my style of building but still easy to follow with good detail. Nice fun build that made for some enjoyable evenings too. Highly recommend just for the fun of building it!
It sounds great to me. Very very quiet, smooth Mid’s and nice highs for what my old ears can hear. I’ll be happy with this for a while. I use a Bottle Head Crack /w Speedball in my main system currently I’ll see how it compares after some good listens.
Very good sound and awesome look. I´m using ACP+ with my orthos and Noir with Sennheiser hd600.
This sounds very good with my MoFo too. It sounds very good and it´s versatile headphone/linestage.
Easy and fun build. Very well documented and the the panel PCBs are seriously ingenious. At least for me, the case work is usually the biggest struggle... PCB is great quality as usual and the price very fair (admittedly I ordered during the last Black Friday sale).
So, how does it sound? With the HD600 the stock Noir sounds better to my ears than my heavily modded BH Crack w/ Speedball (Mullard and Russian tubes, fancy output caps, Alps pot, Triad choke etc.). For some reason the Noir manages to reveal a lot of details, whilst being a very comfortable listen. "Natural" comes to mind. The biggest surprise was however when I tried it as a preamp with my F5. The Noir somehow gets rid of the slight harshness of the F5, while being very detailed at the same time. Same as with the headphones, the combo sounds very natural to me. The base has a lot more texture than my tube preamp. Obviously, it's not an ideal preamp with just 1 input and it has too much gain for my system, but somehow I can't stop listening to it.... In fact, I'm listening to that combo while writing this.
Beginner or experienced DIYer, everyone should give this simple and elegant design a go.
Got the PCB and front and back panels from DIYAudio. They are well made and fit the recommended chassis perfectly which I purchased seperately using the DIYAudio link. Great service as always. Still awaiting the parts from Mouser as a couple of the items on the parts list were on back order but looking forward to the build.
Not that I have it ready built up to now, the store wants to have a feedback. So I can just write about the pcb quality and the service. Both was and is pretty good. The boards are nice mat black, and the idea of adding a front and rear cover for the chassis is a great idea. Price is good and service was quick :-) If I will be able to modify my rating, I would add a star after the first audition, which will be soon, as I've almost finished the build.
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