White Noise Audio - Headphone Amplifier Kit
My soldering iron was beginning to gather dust, after laying unused since the winter, and my fingers were itching to get stuck into another project so I decided to take the bull by the horns and have a go at building the highly acclaimed White noise audio headphone amplifier.
The kits are supplied with all you need to build the complete amp and comprise high quality gold-plated stereo jack sockets, Welwyn RC55Y resistors, LM6171 op amps, ALPS blue Velvet potentiometer, Power supply unit and a good quality pre-drilled black anodised aluminium clam shell enclosure. A construction manual, with full schematics is included with the PCB and kits. You can buy the PCB on its own and source the parts and enclosure yourself but it's a time consuming job and the £150 price of the kit is well worth the money considering the quality parts that are supplied with it.
Kit Price: £150
(includes PSU and construction manual)
Kit fully built and tested Price: £200 (includes PSU and construction manual)
PCB Price: £30 (includes construction manual)
_____Putting it together_____
It couldn't be easier to put this amp together thanks to the superb construction manual that comes with the kit. The PCB is marked with component identifications which are silk-screened onto the board and it's simply a case of soldering the components into position (as simple as painting by numbers). If you're handy with a soldering iron you should be able to build one of these in no time. If you don't know one end of a soldering iron from another then WNA will build one for you for a very reasonable £50.
At £150 the price of the WNA kit is very reasonably priced compared to the popular UK kit amps and commercial headamps which range from £250 to around £800. Thing is, can it measure up to the commercial competitions level of sound quality or can it actually surpass it?
The WNA has one
major advantage over the commercial manufacturers amps, namely the component
quality, commercial amps suffer from having to pare cost right down to
the bone and the components they use are generally chosen for cheapness
rather than quality. The WNA uses resistors that are £1
each instead of a penny each, ALPS blue velvet potentiometer costing £16
instead of the usual 70 pence carbon pots found in the vast majority of
commercial amps..... every part in the WNA has been selected to improve
sound quality and not to save money.
Playing the Roger Water "Amused to death" CD the WNA displayed clear, energizing voice articulation and a very natural treble. At the other end of the spectrum bass is solid and very fast and tuneful. The track "Perfect Sense, Part 1" portrayed the midrange dramatically with the instruments recreated in a three dimensional soundstage making things sound very "alive" and vibrant. If you like to hear the timbre of instruments, the tunefulness on show with the WNA sure will turn you on!.
The bass, whilst not of the subterranean type, underpins the event rather than overshadowing it, its effortless and musical and copes equally well with the quiet heartbeats at the start of "Dark Side of the Moon" as well as handling some of the more complex passages later in the same famous album. With Sennheiser HD-600's this lean, taut bass is just what the Doctor ordered as it really does remove that awful "fatness" from the HD-600's sound and also lifts the "veil" that so many speak of.
In general the WNA has a very natural tonal balance with oodles of detail, from the quietest passages to the loudest. The delivery of detail is so unassuming that you don't always notice it consciously. What really gives it away though is when you suddenly find yourself humming along with an instrumental that previously wasn't even audible with other amplifiers. I found myself listening to individual performers in their own sense of space and time and picking out, say, a violin and following it independently of the rest of the orchestra is easy... the air around each performer is so palpable you feel as though you could walk onto the stage and walk around the musicians. This is not one of those amps that attacks your ears with a congealed mass of music...
From the moment you fire the WNA up you realise you're listening to something different from the norm, within seconds of starting the first track I thought to myself "very engaging and immediate" and that's not a bad way of summing the WNA up. This isn't your usual high street hi-fi mag rave review "wonder box" that turns out to be a damp squib when you get it home... no, this is something entirely different... this is a sonic firework that really delivers an energetic, exciting barrage of music to your ears. The WNA delivers plenty for its thoroughly modest asking price and easily outperforms many of the UK commercial amps (yes, even the Sugden costing £750) It's also on a par with the highly regarded Williams Hart Chiarra but for my money the WNA wins the day as it's so easy to build, so reasonably priced and so sounds so damned good!! Highly recommended.
Grotto Forum Discuss the WNA with fellow enthusiasts or ask Dr. White a question.
White Noise Audio Website The home of the WNA head-amp and a lot more Hi-Fi goodies!
WNA head-amp discussion A great point of reference for DIY'ers and gives you some insight into how the WNA head-amp has evolved... well worth reading.