Tech's Files: The Pride of D.I.Y.

May 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Eddie Ciletti



Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

Between solderless breadboard and printed circuit boards are prototype boards (plated through-holes to make soldering easier) and perf board (a perforated board without any copper or traces). Hole spacing is typically one-tenth of an inch to accommodate an IC's pin spacing. RadioShack has the most accessible options, which are all made on a phenolic-base material. Those boards can easily break when stressed. However, that same trait becomes useful when cutting a large board down to size — the board easily snaps along the grid.

Darren Hovsepian — president of DH Labs, a company specializing in high-end cabling — created the D-4 Proto Board to try out op amps and some application-specific audio ICs. This $5 prototype board allows a seamless transition from the solderless breadboard. While it can be used for any simple circuit application, it is intended for op amps. The three large horizontal traces are for bipolar power distribution, plus rail (common-neg rail). Like the solderless breadboard, the op amp straddles the horizontal center path/ground bus. Each vertical trace can connect multiple parts to each op amp pin.

High-quality circuit boards are made of a Fiberglas-epoxy material. These are typically green, but also come in red, blue and black. Suppliers of generic boards include DH Labs, Electronics Plus, Ocean State Electronics and SchmartBoards.

Building a Prototype

Once you are confident that your circuit achieves the goal, be sure to annotate the original schematic, or draw a new one, before constructing the real deal. If you have a prefab kit, you can hope that all of your variations will fit into the existing holes. While it's easier now than ever to make a professional-looking project inside and out, I highly recommend first building a prototype to get all of the kinks out. Live with what you've built for a while before making it beautiful.

Be curious enough to tinker and you will master the basics. Keep up the tinkering and the ultimate reward is the ability to think “circuits,” like thinking in another language, and eventually derive your own custom circuits from a mental library of “stuff that does this or that.”

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