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Small Signal Audio Design Paperback – 1 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 770 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 2 edition (1 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415709733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415709736
  • Product Dimensions: 19.1 x 3.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Self provides solid, well-explained technical information throughout the book, all gained from years of experience and a thorough understanding of the entire topic, and all verified by measurement and practical applications in the field. His book exudes skilful engineering on every page, and I found it a very refreshing, enjoyable, and inspirational read. Self writes in his preface that he dares to hope that he has moved analogue audio design a bit further forward. He certainly has for me, and if you have the slightest interest in audio circuit design this book has to be considered an essential reference. Very highly recommended." - Hugh Robjohns, Sound on Sound Magazine

About the Author

Douglas Self studied engineering at Cambridge University, then psychoacoustics at Sussex University. He has spent many years working at the top level of design in both the professional audio and hifi industries, and has taken out a number of patents in the field of audio technology. He currently acts as a consultant engineer in the field of audio design.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr self continues to write in a clear and concise manner and communicates concepts very well. He has to be congratulated on producing a very comprehensive book which will be invaluable to all audio engineers and enthusiasts. Highly recommended
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By Florence on 10 Jun. 2015
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The only book of its kind in the world. An excellent resource.
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By David Brocklesby on 5 Dec. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good for general reading
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great insights, but oddly insulting in tone 13 Aug. 2015
By Reviewer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For content alone I would rate this book five stars. It's full of information and insights that seem valuable on just about any level, from fully designed circuits that can be used more or less as they are by audio DIY'ers, to ideas and insights sure to be useful to professional engineers. I learned something on new on just about every page. Douglas Self is obviously a master of analog audio design, and he shares his knowledge generously in this book.

The reason I rated it four stars is the tone, which, to me, was grating from the start, and which became very tiresome long before the end. The overall tone is vehemently positivist and disparaging toward views about audio that the author regards as "subjectivist" and "obsolete." But surely a large percentage of his audience must hold these views that he disparages. For example, a major portion of the book--several chapters long--is devoted to an in-depth study of the design of phono preamps. This is sure to be appealing to readers who like the vinyl medium and want to design circuits for vinyl playback. There must be far more vinyl aficionados designing homebrew preamps for their own enjoyment than there are professional engineers designing phono preamps anymore. But the author states and restates ad nauseum his view that vinyl was a bad idea from its very inception, and that it's now thoroughly obsolete.

The fact is, people listen to music in order to enjoy the experience, and some people find that they prefer analog media, particularly vinyl. This is quite easy to support objectively. Simply put, vinyl sounds different from CD or MP3. All of these media have measurable "imperfections." The author concentrates strictly on the quantity of these "imperfections" and ignores their qualitative differences. But it's easy to see that vinyl, as a very direct, physical analog medium, exhibits types of noise and distortion that are by nature "organic," meaning akin to sounds produced in nature by other physical phenomena. Digital media exhibit types of noise and distortion that are by nature "synthetic," meaning not akin to sounds produced physically in nature. For one thing, even though there's more distortion measurable in vinyl, that level of organic distortion may be preferable to many listeners to the smaller level of synthetic distortion evident in digital. For another thing, it's entirely possible that the distortion in the medium imparts something pleasing to the sound, up to a point, and that artists and recording engineers making recordings for vinyl took the sound of vinyl into account while making their choices, so that these recordings don't sound quite right without that sound.

There are similar facts to consider when discussing the sound of class-A discrete transistor circuitry versus the sound of op-amp circuitry. The nonlinearities in a bipolar transistor per se are caused directly by physics, and the exponential current versus voltage relationship is a smooth curve with an organic shape. Crossover distortion produced by the class-AB output stages of op amps, however, is less "organic," in the sense that the shape of the nonlinearity isn't as smooth or directly connected to physics. What's more, crossover distortion is symmetrical, producing only odd harmonics, while transistor nonlinearities are asymmetrical, producing all harmonics. Surely there are objective differences to the sounds of these two types of distortion, and it's conceivable that one kind is more pleasing to listen to than the other.

Of course it's true that there are large doses of placebo effect in the world of audio, which the author seems to be reacting against. But then even in the world of pro recording, the best microphone preamps are still prized for the characteristic sound they impart, not for their perfect transparency. This is more than ever the case in this digital age. And, well, any characteristic sound must be caused by distortion.

It's worth knowing how to achieve low noise and distortion. But the end goal is still a listening experience, and some of us love analog audio because of its inherent connection with nature, how it sounds, how it breathes. A statement like "vinyl is obsolete" implies that it is simply irrational to prefer vinyl to more modern media. But in fact there's much room for debate on the point of whether digital media actually improve on vinyl in terms of the overall listening experience. And then there are personal preferences to consider.

In this book, it's as if the author were writing a book to subsistence farmers, a book about subsistence farming, in which he continuously extolled the virtues of city life and disparaged the outmoded life of the subsistence farmer.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An excellent way to get an education in audio electronics 7 Mar. 2015
By Jeff Switzer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second edition of Small Signal Design. It's a fascinating book if you are interested in electronic design in the audio field. Mr. Self has included very through explanations of transistor and op amp circuits related to small signal audio design. He explains how circuits work and which characteristics of circuits are important. He builds many of the circuits to prove out theory and his simulations. He then explains the use of these circuits in various pieces of electronic equipment.

This latest edition has a lot more material on design of circuitry that interfaces with for example; phone cartridges. I'm not interested in designing such circuitry, but I still found those sections very interesting and worthwhile, because they added to my overall knowledge of design. This latest edition must be at least 100 pages longer than the first edition, which I also own, and the added pages are very valuable.

I use the knowledge I have gained from Mr. Self's books to better understand audio equipment and to help decide which equipment is well designed. These aren't easy subjects and a couple of readings of the books are required; but, I've found that after reading this book and Mr. Self's book on power amplifiers, I can often look pictures of circuits boards from various pieces of equipment, or the circuit boards themselves, and have an excellent idea of their actual circuitry. I can reference datasheets from say op amps, and tell which ones have better specifications for a particular application. That means Mr. Self is doing a great job of educating me; with some work on my part!

If you enjoy the technical part of audio, especially electronics, this a wonderful book. I also enjoy Mr. Self's humor which makes the material much more interesting.
Another Great Book from Douglas Self 24 Jun. 2015
By djoffe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like all of Douglas Self's books, a model of clarity. Good explanations, good pictures, good measurements and simulations that well illustrate the principles. In addition, his light tone and occasional bits of humor make reading it quite pleasant.
One of the best technical text books I have ever read 27 Sept. 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good and informative book with moments of humor ! Rare in a highly technical manual .
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic 28 Mar. 2015
By Foo Bar - Published on
Format: Paperback
Unique. Fantastic. Well-written. Clear. Indispensable. See the reviews on the first edition -- Amazon should move those to the second edition.
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