LM386 chips: Do branded ones sound better?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Micklos, Feb 25, 2015.

  1. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    I currently have no practice amp and want to build a simple little one based on the smokey amps, with maybe one or two mods.
    Since they are so cheap to build, I'm tempted to make maybe 10 of them and get creative with making the enclosures, maybe to give as gifts or sell on the bay.
    But...is there really any difference in tone between chips from a named manufacturer, and those for a fraction of the price from China or Hong Kong? At least a difference that you'd hear in a little amp that's going to sound like a wasp stuck in a beer can anyway.
     
  2. PB Wilson

    PB Wilson Member

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    After building a variety of small circuits (mostly guitar pedals) I've been able to compare the same circuits with different chips, caps, resistors and transistors.

    There are subtle differences, but I have not been able to pinpoint a huge difference due to one part substitution. I've used parts that cost next to nothing and others that are supposed to be the bees knees. They may have sounded a tiny bit different but the entire circuit really determined the overall sound.

    A solution is to solder in an 8-pin socket and swap chips in and out. You can get 386 chips at Radio Shack (I think) and can get a handful from Mouser, SmallBear, DigiKey or a number of other sources to do your own testing. Have fun.
     
  3. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Supporting Member

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    IIRC Bruce Zinky had a particular 386 that he liked in the Smokey amps but I don't know which one it was. Buy a few different ones and see. Report back.
     
  4. teemuk

    teemuk Member

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    Brand and manufacturer is most likely insignificant but do note that LM386 chips are made in assortment of different versions with different output power ratings and supply voltage limits. THAT is much bigger issue.
     
  5. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    I'm making one with all carbon comp resistors, and one with all metal film, so see just what the effect on noise and tone is, but I suspect the variables beyond my control might swamp any difference this makes. I also might make one using 2 watt resistors to see what effect the geometry really has. Again, I doubt the difference would be as great as that simply caused by random uncontrollable variables, but it seems a simple little DC powered amp would be a better test than in a large tube amp
     
  6. amphog

    amphog Silver Supporting Member

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    The high voltages and heat in tube amps can change the response of components.
     

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