The X-Altra Mini II ‘BB’ Line Preamplifier – assembly and test – May 16 update

May 16 2024 Update. Good progress today with component mounting. I am awaiting the remaining parts for the board from Mouser (TPA6120 headphone amp, THAT1606 etc). Once all the IC’s are installed, a basic signal integrity test will be done to ensure everything is working without any major problems. That should go according to plan, and the next step will be to install the relays (11 in total) and check that the remote controller board and the BB work together as a team! There is a second stage signal integrity test to make sure all the inputs are correctly assigned and the L+R channels are the right way around, and only after that can the input RCA receptacles be mounted. I then need to make sure the board mates correctly to the rear panel.

I have a simple linear PSU (rather than the original one which had a lot of functions on it that are not really needed given the BB is designed to only work with the remote controller), but that is really a separate part of this project and quick to turn around. I hope to begin the 1st round of signal integrity testing later this week, or over the weekend. Stay tuned for further updates!

4th April 2024 Update. The PCB has arrived back from the PCB house, so I will begin assembling the proto later today! The board is very compact (good for low noise) and as mentioned previously, incorporates all the functionality of the earlier X-Altra Mini II.

March 31st 2024 update. Well, the board layout is complete and has been sent off for manufacture. It’s very compact with all of the original X-Altra Mini II functionality packed onto one PCB. You will need very good SMD soldering skills to put this together, but the sound and performance will make it worth it.

Here are the preliminary specifications: –

Here is a view of the completed board layout: –

For a fully functioning remote control preamp, you will need the following:-

An X-Altra Mini II Remote Control housing from Modushop – pre-drilled, silk screened and with IR filter – about Euro 189

A ‘BB’ PCB as above

a Remote control PCB

A PSU +-15V

2 off switch mounting boards and a headphone socket mounting board

1 set rear panel gold plated and screened PCB’s – these from the rear panel, so you don’t have any drilling, filing etc to do

An Apple Remote (about 20 bucks from the Apple Store – don’t use the plastic cheapies off Amazon!)

Full details to follow in a few weeks after the first proto build and test!

March 23rd 2024 Update. Good progress – the board has been routed, so now its design rules checking and cleaning up to do. Here is a picture of the board: –

March 20th 2024 Update. A few X-Altra Mini II full feature line preamplifiers have been built, but not as many as I’d hoped. Although the finished product looks slick and uses an Apple Remote for control, I’ll be the first to admit it’s a beast to wire-up and test because it uses a lot of modules with lots of module inter-wiring. Interestingly, quite a few individual modules have been built, but I think builders are baulking at the complexity and expense of the existing design (about $190 for a set of PCBs and then another 185 Euros for a housing before tax shipping etc). To be sure, a commercial product with similar spec would cost a few thousand $.

I think it offers too many configuration options – most people just want 5 line inputs, a (optional) MC/MM input, a record loop, a few line outputs including balanced and a headphone output. This is exactly what the ‘Big Board’ aka BB delivers on one compact PCB.

The BB provides everything that the original Mini II does, but on a single board using the superb TI OPA1642 JFET input opamps and a TPA6120 headphone amp. It still however uses the original PSU, the original remote controller board. The phono board (MC and MM) will be an optional add-on, but if you dont need it, the phono input is linked on the PCB and you gain another line input. The BB is SMD, so builders will have to hone their soldering and tweezer skills.

Externally, the finished preamplifier will look exactly like the original X-Altra Mini II and provide the same functionality.

More updates to follow shortly! Stay tuned!

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