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by Paul Stamler 24 min read original

Lines, dots, squiggles, circles and arrows... What do they all mean?

Recording regularly prints construction and modification projects. To do them

you have to read the schematic. Its also a useful skill when troubleshooting
equipment; if you can open up a box and find a particular component is
carbonized, a schematic may tell you which one it is, allowing you to replace it
yourself and save a big repair bill. Theres another reason toobut Ill save it for
the end

A week ago I wrote an article about guitar amplifiers: how to clean them up for
use in the studio and how to modify them for increased flexibility. In that article
I described the process as relatively straightforward if you can handle a
soldering iron and read a schematic diagram. That article will appear in a
couple of months; meanwhile, Im here to show you how to read a circuit
diagram and translate it into the real world. Well start with a real circuit.

Into the deep end

Take a look at Figure 1. This is the input section of a very good quality
microphone preamp I designed a few years ago (a more detailed description
should appear within a few months). Ill take the bits one at a time, but first
some geography.

In general, schematic diagrams read from left to right: the signal comes in
somewhere at the left side of the page and goes out somewhere on the right side.
(There are exceptions, of course, which can drive you round the bend when
trying to trace circuits, but most authors and manufacturers abide by this

Many schematic diagrams, showing circuits that have a single (positive) power
supply voltage, also obey the convention of showing the power supply rail at the
top of the page and the ground connections at the bottom. Since this circuit uses
both V+ and V- supplies, it doesnt do thatbut were getting ahead of ourselves.

I want to emphasize that a schematic is not a pictorial diagram showing where

each part is mounted. Instead its a conceptual diagram showing how each part
is electrically connected to the other. Later on Ill show you how a schematic
might translate into a physical layout.

Well start where the signal comes in: at the three terminals on the left side of
the page, collectively labeled Mic Input Jack. The small white circles represent
connection points; theyre labeled with numbers corresponding to the pins of an
XLR jackbecause this is an XLR jack, mounted in the back panel of the preamp.

The little triangular doodad connected to pin 1 is the symbol for ground; in
other words, pin 1 is connected to the ground wire (or ground bus) of the
preamp. (Ground is also sometimes symbolized by a plain triangle rather than
the parallel line drawing shown here.)

There are often several ground systems in a piece of equipment, including signal
ground, power supply ground, cable-shield ground, and chassis ground.
Occasionally schematics will use different symbols to denote each of these
grounds. For the moment we wont worry about that.

The next devices we encounter are a pair of zig-zags. These are resistors, and
most analog equipment uses more of these than anything else. Theyre
designated by the letter R and a number, which is useful in correlating the
schematic diagram with a parts list or pictorial diagram.

Resistors are measured in ohms; 1,000 ohms = 1 kilohm, abbreviated 1K, while
1,000,000 ohms = 1 megohm, abbreviated 1M or sometimes 1 MEG. These
resistors are 5.62K, meaning their resistance is 5,260 ohms. The three digits
indicate that these are high precision resistors, and in fact the parts list will tell
you theyre 1% tolerance metal film unitsvery high quality. (Sometimes the
tolerance is shown on the schematic; often, however, there will be a note saying
something like All resistors 5% 1/2W unless otherwise specified.)

Resistors are also characterized by their wattage, a measure of how much power
they can handle before they go up in smoke. Most resistors in audio equipment
carry minuscule amounts of power, so their wattage rating isnt specified.

In between the two resistors is another connection point labeled +48V. This is
a DC voltage obtained from somewhere in the preamps power supply that
provides phantom power for the microphone. The line running from this point
to the junction between the two resistors indicates that the phantom supply is

connected to those resistors; the black dot where they all meet indicates that
there is, in fact, an electrical connection there. (Some diagrams omit the black
dots and simply indicate junctions wherever lines intersect.)

Next comes T101. This is a transformer, a device that can step voltages and
impedances up and down (relax, we wont go near impedances today), and/or
isolate one section of a circuit from another. A transformer in its simplest form
comprises two coils of wire wrapped tightly around an iron core. When signal
flows in one coil (termed the primary) it induces signal to flow in the other coil
(the secondary). (Some transformers have several secondaries; well get to those
in a bit.)

If a transformer has more turns in its secondary than its primary, the voltage on
the secondary will be correspondingly greater than the voltage on the primary.
This is a step-up transformer, and T101 is an example. Ive symbolized that by
making the squiggle representing the secondary longer than the one
representing the primary. In practice, transformers usually have wires coming
out of them that are color-coded to indicate which is which; on the final version
of this drawing I promise to label the wires by color.

Get on board

We now come to more connection points, labeled T and U in big square

boxes. I use these boxes to indicate points where the signal enters or leaves the
circuit board; the actual connection points on the board are labeled similarly.
Lettered or numbered connection points can mean many things depending on
the manufacturer. Usually you can figure out the meaning from the context.

Our next landmark is a triangular device labeled IC101. A triangle is the

generic symbol for an amplifier of some sort, and the - and + signs at the left
side indicate that this is an operational amplifier or opamp (sometimes
hyphenated or written as two words, op amp). Most opamps are constructed as
microchips, or integrated circuits (ICs), but they can sometimes be built of
separate partsso-called discrete opamps.

This ones made from an integrated circuit, the Burr-Brown OPA-604, so the
part number is included in the label. This amplifier could also be labeled A101.
If it was one of several units in a single IC package, each amp might be
designated IC101a, IC101b, etc.

An opamp typically has two inputs. The first passes the signal through without
inverting its polarity; a positive-going input yields a positive-going output,
perhaps of greater voltage. This noninverting input is symbolized by the +
sign inside the triangle (not to be confused with the positive power supply
terminal, labeled V+).

The second input flips the signal upside down so that a positive-going input
yields a negative-going output, again perhaps of greater voltage. This inverting
input is symbolized by the - sign inside the triangle. The output of an
amplifier is always at the far end of the triangle, away from the inputs.

Most ICs in audio gear come in dual-inline packages, or DIPs. A few come as
surface-mounted devices or SMDs. If your gear has these, you probably cant
work on them. SMDs require specialized equipment to install or remove.

If the manufacturer is nice to you, they will show which pins on the IC package
correspond to which connections in the schematic diagram. Ive done so, being a
nice guy at heart. If a manufacturer doesnt tell you, there are standard layouts
that most DIP IC opamp packages in audio gear follow, shown in Table 1.

DIP ICs usually have a small indentation in the top of the package next to pin 1.
The pin numbers go counterclockwise around the package, as seen from the top.
Some ICs have a notch at one end instead of an indentation; if the notch is at the
top end viewing the IC from the top, then pin 1 is directly to its left.

ICs need power, so there are connections to V+ and V-, the positive and
negative power supplies. Each power supply also has a small device attached to
it, with two parallel lines in the middle connected to ground at the other end.
These are capacitors, or caps for short, designated by the letter C and usually
measured in microfarads, abbreviated

F or (in some old gear) mF. (A

microfarad is a millionth of a farad, which is a very, very large unit of

capacitanceyoull never see a cap measured in farads in the audio world, or
anywhere else for that matter, unless youre into lasers that can blow holes in
sheet metal.)

F, or 47/1000ths of a microfarad. Extremely small caps are

measured in picofarads (trillionths of a farad), or pF; 1pF = 1/1,000,000 of a F.
These caps are .047

(C103 at the top of the page is an example.) Older equipment, including some
guitar amplifiers, may designate pF as micro-microfarads, or

F, or sometimes

mmF. And some equipment, especially European made gear, uses an

intermediate measurement called nanofarads (billionths of a farad), or nF; 1nF =
1,000pF = .001


Im going to ignore the funny-looking resistor under the opamp temporarily.

Proceeding downwards and to the right, we find Q101. It has a flat bar with a
line coming out at a right angle and two more lines at acute angles. This is a
transistor, and why its abbreviated Q is beyond me. (Okay, T was already
taken by transformers.)

In some schematics theres a circle around the symbol. In others, like this one,
its naked. The right angled line is the base of the transistor (B); the diagonal
line with an arrowhead on it is the emitter (E), and the diagonal line without
an arrowhead is the collector (C).

There are two types of standard (bipolar) transistors, called NPN and PNP.
Never mind the difference; all you need to know here is that this transistor is
NPN. If the arrowhead on the emitter pointed inward instead of outward it
would be PNP. MPS-A06 is the part number of the transistor.

Different transistors have different ways of placing their pins. Often a schematic
diagram will include a small picture of the transistor showing which pins
correspond to B, C, and E.

Starting from the transistor, travel an inch to the right and down. Youll see two
things that look like peculiar top hats. These are diodes, symbolized by D. The
end with the hat brim is called the cathode, while the other end is the anode.
Diodes only pass current in one direction: from the anode to the cathode.

Most solid-state diodes (like these) come in a small tubular case looking very like
a resistor, and have a band printed around one end. This designates the cathode.
The part number in this case is 1N4148. (A 1N prefix denotes a diode, while a 2N
prefix denotes a transistor. However, many transistors and diodes use other
naming conventions.)

Above the diodes youll notice that R107 connects to V+. This is the same V+ that
the opamp is connected to. Although they appear in different places on the
schematic, theyre connected to the same terminals or circuit-board traces in the
real world.

Jump, switch, and fade

Above R107 is a little hillock labeled J102. This is a jumper, a small piece of
wire soldered into the circuit board. Jumpers are versatile tools for the circuit
designer; in the original version of this board, you could install J102 and

connect the opamp directly to the output section or you could leave it off, install
another jumper (elsewhere on the board), and insert an eq section.

Movable jumpers are common enough in computer hardware (you probably use
them on your modem), but hard-wired ones can also be useful in letting you
custom-configure a board. (Confusingly, jacks and jumpers share the
abbreviation J.)

Follow the circuit up and to the right. There youll find a switch labeled S101.
In this circuit the switch selects varying degrees of bass rolloff. The switch has
three positions (designated by the three small circles on the left) and a terminal
connected to the swinger of the switch (on the rightthe swinger is sy
mbolized by the arrow).

This is a center-off toggle switch; the middle terminal doesnt actually exist,
and the swinger doesnt connect to anything when the switch is in the centered
(100Hz) position. When the switch connects to the 30Hz position, C107 is
connected in parallel with C106, creating a composite capacitor thats larger
than C106 by itself. This gives a lower bass cutoff frequency. Connecting to the
Flat position bypasses both capacitors, eliminating the bass rolloff altogether;
the circuit is now flat down to DC, or zero Hz.

Its important to know that miniature switches of the kind usually found on
modern audio equipment have the swinger terminal in the middle and the
other two terminals on either end. In these miniature switches, moving the lever
upwards connects the swinger to the lower terminal, not the upperthe switch
works backwards from what youd expect. Remember this, or someday youll
wind up installing a switch where up equals off and youll feel silly like I did.

Switches are typically designated by the number of poles they have (each pole
comprises a swinger and a set of terminals) and the throw (how many terminals
are connected to each pole). This switch has one swinger, so its single pole, and
there are two terminals with a center off position, so its double throw, centeroff. It would be abbreviated SPDT-CO for short. Double-pole switches are also
common (DPDT for example) and rotary switches can have multiple poles and
multiple contacts (4P12T).

Below the switch is the Channel Fader, VR103. This is in essence a resistor
with a slider attached; the slider taps the resistor at any level from top to
bottom. This device is a variable resistor, often called a fader or potentiometer

(pot for shortdont inhale). Its usually designated VR, but sometimes is
called P or even RV. Its measured in the same units as resistors (ohms,

kilohms, and megohms).

On a rotary pot, typically the clockwise position (as seen from the front) is
shown at the top, the counterclockwise position at the bottom. On most pots the
terminal for the slider is mounted between the two terminals at the ends of the
resistor. (Extremely nice schematic makers label the ends of the pot CW and
CCW; these designations always refer to the clockwise and counterclockwise
positions as seen from the front.)

Taper is a specialized designation. Most of the pots sold in the world are linear
taper; turn them halfway down and the voltage goes down halfway. That wont
work for most audio functions. If you use a linear taper pot for a volume control,
youll find as you turn it up from silence that it comes on very quickly, then
increases only slightly during the rest of its travel. This makes for
inconvenience, so manufacturers invented audio taper or log taper (short for
logarithmic) pots. Most volume controls in audio gear are audio taper, while
some tone controls are linear taper.

Before we jump off this board, go back to the triangle in the middle, IC101. Look
again at the resistor directly underneath it. Youll now recognize this as a
variable resistor, similar to VR103. Theres a small symbol to the left of the slider
that looks like a screw head; this signifies that VR102 is a screwdriver-adjusting
pot rather than one controlled by a knob on the front panel. These are known as
trim pots, or trimmers; theyre typically used for an adjustment youd make once
when the device is new, then leave alone.

In this case,VR102 is connected to a couple of the ICs pins and to V-. It serves to
adjust the output of the amplifier to exactly zero volts when theres no signal
going through it. If there was a voltage present on the output when the bass
rolloff switch was set to Flat, this voltage would appear across the fader,
which would eventually get noisy and crackly.

More squiggles

Figure 2 shows a different type of schematic. This is a simplified diagram; youll

see these when a manufacturer (or an author) wants to illustrate a few salient
points about a circuit without including extraneous detail.

The drawing is a simplified schematic of the power supply from a guitar

amplifier (youll be seeing it again with discussion in the guitar mods article).
Notably absent are labels for most of the parts, along with such necessities as an
on/off switch. They exist, obviously, but they werent relevant to the article I
was writing.

Lets look at the new bits. We start again at the left side with a pair of terminals.
This being a power supply, these are probably intended to connect to a wall
outlet (117V in the USA). Occasionally youll see this indicated by a small
drawing of an electrical plug.

On the wires running from the input there are two small cylinders. These are
ferrite beads, hollow pieces of magnetically permeable material designed to slip
over wires. They can help filter out radio frequency garbage thats riding the
power line; you may also find them (or decide to install them) on signal inputs
and connections from wall-warts. (See Shut Up! part 2 in the 7/97 issue.)

Next comes a weird looking thing resembling an hourglass. This is one way of
denoting a metal oxide varistor, or MOV. These devices clamp voltages to a
specified level, preventing short-term overloads and spikes from making their
way into audio circuits (or digital circuits, where they can play havoc with the
data). Hanging a 150V MOV across the incoming AC line can help keep
equipment from making popping noises during line surges (as when, for
example, an air conditioning or refrigerator compressor turns on or off). MOVs
are also denoted by the symbol shown just below this one (its not connected to

Next is a transformer, familiar from the previous drawing, but this one has some
new wrinkles. In the first place there are two secondary windings, one for the
main voltage that feeds the amp (for this is the power supply of a tube
amplifier), another for the filament of the first tube. (In fact, theres a third
winding for the filaments of the other tubes in the amplifier but its not shown
here.) Most tube equipment has multiple secondaries; most solid-state gear

Another new feature is a dot in the middle of the high-voltage winding. This is a
center-tap, a connection to the middle of the coil of wire that forms the
secondary. Center-taps are usually grounded; the voltage in the secondary can
be thought of as swinging across the stationary fulcrum of the center-tap, which
is anchored at zero volts (ground). Transformers can have other taps too. A

single tap off-center on the coil might connect to the bias circuits of a tube
power amplifier. Or an output transformer (again on a tube power amp) might
have taps for various speaker impedances4, 8, and/or 16 ohms.

The next gadget is a circle containing two vertical lines on the left and an angled
line on the right. This is a rectifier tube or vacuum diode. The two vertical lines
are plates or anodes, the angled line is a filament that in this case also serves as
the cathode.

A rectifier tube performs the same function as the solid-state diode we met
before: it only passes current in one direction, from the plates to the cathode.
Unlike a solid-state diode, however, it only passes current when its filament is
hot (the heating is done by the special transformer winding mentioned earlier).
An actual rectifier tube looks like a small electric lamp (and in fact the diode
tube was developed from the light bulb).

Moving right along, we come to a capacitor, C1, with some new twists. There is a
+ sign at one end, and the other end has a curved line instead of a straight one.
This is an electrolytic capacitor, one of a class of capacitors known as polarized
capacitors. Polarized caps (which include aluminum electrolytics and tantalum
capacitors) must be connected with the correct polarity: the + side must be
hooked to a voltage that is more positive than the - side, or the cap will
overheat and eventually explode, frightening the cat. In practice, polarized caps
are ubiquitous in power supplies, with the + end hooked to the positive
voltage and the - end to ground. (In a supply that includes negative voltages
the + end connects to ground and the - end to V-.)

Polarized capacitors are also often used as coupling capacitors, connecting

signal from one stage of an amplifying circuit to another without passing along
any DC voltage that might be on the first stage. Although this isnt the best
possible design, it works reasonably well and keeps down both the cost and the
bulk (electrolytics pack more capacitance into a given size of case than nonpolarized capacitors).

However, many manufacturers also use polarized capacitors in places where

there is no DC voltage across them, and thats a major no-no; designs like this
add distortion and muddiness to the signal. If you find capacitors misused in
this way, you should replace them with non-polar electrolytics. Hrmph.

Incidentally, the curved line in the symbol for electrolytic caps denotes the
outer shell of the capacitor (in earlier days, usually a metal can). Some
manufacturers dont use the curved line, denoting polarized capacitors with

only the + symbol. Power supply capacitors, especially in old tube gear, often
come in multiple-unit packages with up to four caps in a single case. Inevitably
these have a single negative terminal (usually the case) and up to four positive

At the bottom of C1 is a standard ground symbol; directly to its right is

something that looks like a letter E lying on its side. This is the chassis ground.
In earlier days most electronic equipment made all of its ground connections to
the metal chassis. Thats seldom done anymore (most modern equipment uses
printed circuit boards to hold everything, including the grounding system) but
most equipment still connects the ground system to the chassis somewhere,
usually at a single point, and the schematic may indicate that with this symbol.

Above the chassis ground is the Standby switch, which we can recognize from
before as a single-pole single-throw device (SPST). To its right is a lumpy
gadget that runs to the top of C2. If you said it looks like half of a transformer,
go to the head of the class: its a single coil of wire and its called an inductor or
sometimes a choke.

Power supply chokes look like transformers, being wound on steel cores; smaller
inductors are wound on plastic or ferrite cores and are used in the crossover
networks of loudspeakers. Youll also find small inductors in old-style equalizers
such as Pultecs and their derivatives.

The Phantom strikes

Figure 3 shows a regulator for phantom power, creating a clean +48V supply to
power solid-state condenser microphones. Most of the parts are familiar, but
there are three new ones.

At the center of the diagram is a rectangular box labeled VR801. In a schematic

diagram, rectangles denote functional blocksblack boxes that can perform
almost any function. This one is an adjustable voltage regulator, the LM-317T,
and it has three terminals: Input (I), Adjust (A), and Output (O). Non-adjustable
regulators are similar, but substitute a Ground (G) terminal for Adjust.

A functional block can be almost anything: a digital device, a microprocessor, an

analog processing device such as a compressor chip, or something that combines
several functions. Usually functional blocks terminals are labeled with cryptic
abbreviations like DCON, FNDOC, or KVTCH22; if the manufacturer is being
really nice to you the pin numbers will be included. Dont bet on it though.

When I drew this diagram, I labeled the regulator chip VR801. This is a logical
abbreviation for a voltage regulator, but its one I regret because VR also
denotes a variable resistor as found in figure 1. When I go back and revise this
drawing for another article, I think Id better change this designation to
something like REG801 or IC801 for claritys sake.

Below the voltage regulator is a diode with a twisty line at the top, D806. This is
a zener diode, used in circuits to establish a reference voltage. (My only
reference says it was named after C. Zener, who elucidated the mechanism by
which it works. Anyone out there know his full name? [Note from MM to MM:
Get this name or hand in your Physicists Club membership card!]) Zener diodes
are specified by voltage and wattage; this ones a 47V 1W unit, which seems to
have vanished from current catalogs. Uh-oh, time to revise the design with a 5watter

Finally, at the lower right-hand corner of the drawing we find a diode with a
lightning bolt next to it. This is a light-emitting diode, or LED.

Bits and pieces

In Figure 4 Ive shown some active devices youre likely to encounter in audio
gear. Junction Field-Effect Transistors (JFETs) are small signal, low-power
devices that are often found in audio circuits. They have three terminals: Drain
(D), Gate (G), and Source (S). (Confusingly, the drain and source terminals look
the same on the schematic. If youre lucky, theyll be labeled on the diagram,
either by terminal name or pin number.)

JFETs come in two flavors: N-channel and P-channel. The terminal with the
arrow is the gate; an inward-pointing arrow signifies an n-channel FET, while
an outward-pointing arrow means its P-channel.

Metal-Oxide-Silicon Field Effect Transistors (MOSFETs) are similar to JFETs,

but in addition to small signal low-power units you can now get high-power and
high-voltage MOSFETs, which are often used in the output stages of power
amplifiers. Their terminals are the same as those of JFETs.

Weve already looked at bipolar transistors.

Vacuum tubes come in a great range of designs, but there are three types (in
addition to rectifier tubes) most often found in audio circuits. The triode has
three elements, the Plate (P) or Anode, the Grid (G), and the Cathode (K). (The

latter abbreviation, from the German Kathode, is intended to prevent

confusion with capacitors.)

Like a diode, the triode wont work unless the cathode is heated. In modern
audio tubes this is done with a filament, not shown in most schematics. (Usually
the drawing of the power supply will show the filaments of the various tubes
hooked across the transformer secondary from which they are powered.)

In early years the filament itself served as a cathode (tubes like these are known
as directly-heated); some early power triodes such as the 2A3 and the 300B have
become popular again in low-powered, high priced audiophile amplifiers. Most
modern triodes are lower powered devices, such as the 6SN7 and the 12AX7.

Incidentally, tubes with this type of designation tell you something about how
theyre designed. The first number gives the filament voltage (usually 6.3V or
12.6V), while the second number tells how many elements the tube has. In the
case of a 12AX7 there are two separate triodes in a single bulb, adding up to six
elementsthe seventh is a 12.6V filament.

When tubes incorporating multiple elements are used, they are usually drawn
on the schematic with part of the circle dashed, and the designator will usually
read something like V102: 1/2 6SN7.

If the elements of a triode look suspiciously like those of a diode or rectifier

tube, youre right. A triode is basically a diode with a piece of metal screening
(the grid) between the cathode and the plate. Like a diode it can only pass
current in one direction; the voltage on the grid controls the amount of current,
turning the tube into an amplifying device.

The action of the tube is rather like that of a valve that controls the flow of a
stream of water, and in fact the British call vacuum tubes valves for this
reason. The V in the designator stands for vacuum tube or valve, making it
suitable on both sides of the Atlantic. (The Russians call them electronic
lamps, also apt.) On a nice day, manufacturers will tell you which tube pins
connect to which elements. Tube pin designations always go clockwise, as
viewed from below the socket.

Tetrodes are similar to triodes, but they have a second grid between the main
grid and the plate, sometimes called the screen grid. A similar design is called a
beam-power tube; the famous 6L6, used in millions of guitar amps worldwide, is
a classic example. Pentodes add a third grid, the suppressor; power pentodes

include the tall, thin EL-34, which put the muscle behind Marshall guitar
amplifiers. Low-power, small-signal pentodes were common in years past but
dont show up much these days.

Figure 5 shows a few more passive parts that you might encounter. The fuse is
familiar; these are normally rated in amperes, and you should never use a larger
one than the manufacturer recommends. Slow blow fuses can withstand a
momentary surge of current when the device is turned on, but will pop if the
current is sustained.

A relay consists of a swinger like the one in a switch, and an electromagnet.

When current passes through the coil of the electromagnet it flips the swinger.
Most relays are double-throw with varying numbers of poles. And now you
know what a neon lamp looks like.

Reality, and welcome to it

Schematic drawings only show the electrical connections between parts. They
may translate into very different arrangements in a piece of equipment.

Check out Figure 6. This is a printed circuit board layout for the phantom power
regulator we looked at in Figure 3, shown life-size. The location of the parts on
the component side is quite different from their layout on the schematic
(although Ive managed to keep the left-to-right flow intact), and the shape of
the traces on the foil side is different from their shape on the schematic.

But if you parse out the connections, keeping in mind that the foil side is flipped
left-and-right, youll discover that the electrical circuit is the same.
(Incidentally, if you dont have a schematic, its often possible to generate your
own by tracing out connections on the circuit board.)

Older equipment, especially tubed gear, was often built point-to-point with
components soldered directly to tube sockets or terminal strips, which are small
plastic strips with metal terminals mounted in a row. Figure 7 shows a typical
layout, in this case the vacuum tube power supply shown in Figure 2.

The transformer and choke arent visibletheyre mounted above the chassis on
bolts or studs, and their wires poke through holes in the chassis. (The holes
typically include grommets: rubber rings shaped like doughnuts, which prevent
the wires from abrading against the metal chassis.) At the top is a terminal strip
with the MOV mounted on it and with wires leading off to the power switch and
fuse (neither of which is shown on the schematic).

The same terminals connect to the two ends of the transformer primary. Power
transformers are color-coded, and the codes for tube-type transformers have
been standardized; Ive listed the code in Table 3.

Most of the secondary windings shown in the diagram connect to the rectifier
tube. This has an octal base, meaning eight pins in a 1-3/8" diameter base.
(Similar bases can have from four to eleven pins.) Most rectifier and output
tubes use octal bases, while smaller tubes usually have seven or nine pins in a
5/8" or 3/4" base.

Notice the hole in the center of the tube socket with a slot in one edge; this
ensures that the tube is inserted properly. Looking at the tube from the bottom,
pin #1 is the first pin you encounter as you proceed clockwise around the circle,
beginning at the slot.

If you need to solder or desolder anything on a tube socket, take the tube out

The filter capacitor in this amp is a multiple unit with four caps sharing a single
case and the outer shell serving as their common ground. The capacitor is
grounded to the chassis by the simple expedient of inserting the tabs on its shell
into slots cut in the chassis. Twisting the tabs makes the ground connection.
(Some amps use a plastic mounting washer, and connect the cap to chassis
ground with a separate wire.) The center-tap wire from the transformer is
soldered directly to one of the tabs on the shell.

This arrangement is handy for the manufacturer but hell for the guy who has to
replace the capacitor. Trying to desolder a wire from a tab while the entire
chassis is conducting heat away from it is a pain. Sometimes its simpler just to
cut the wire, then snap the tab off the capacitor to free it from the chassis.


I hope that by this point you can decode a schematic diagram and begin to use
its information to figure out whats really happening inside those rack-mounted
boxes. Too many studio people never learn. They trudge through the years
connecting up one black box to another with no conception of whats inside and
how it works. Inevitably their results are diminished.

For several years I was studio manager in a college recording program. I resisted
the urge to order every new toy that came down the pike (just as well, since we
didnt have the money to buy them all). Instead I deliberately kept the studio

bare-bones and insisted that the students solve recording problems using
ingenuity rather than fancy boxes.

Rather than giving the students detailed training on the controls of a stack of
gadgets that would already be obsolescent by the time most of them got studio
jobs, I tried to teach them the fundamentals of sound and recording. Id describe
the problems the boxes were intended to solve, and challenge them to duplicate
the functions without the gear. Many times they succeeded beyond their own

Knowing how your gear is made isnt just an abstract satisfactionalthough it is

satisfying to curious critters like humans. By knowing what lives in the boxes, a
good engineer can come up with new and unauthorized ways to use them. By
making new conceptual connections based on understanding, you find ways to
make all of your gear stand up and do tricks.

And that, my friends, is when youre flying. Enjoy!

Table 1 - IC Opamp Pin Assignments (DIP packages)



(8 pins)(8 pins)(14 pins)

1Offset Comp*Output 1Output 1

2-Input-Input 1-Input 1

3+Input+Input 1+Input 1


5Offset Comp*+Input 2+Input 2

6Output-Input 2-Input 2

7V+Output 2Output 2

8See below**V+Output 3

9-Input 3

10+Input 3


12+Input 4

13-Input 4

14Output 4

*The "Offset Compensation" pins are used to adjust the amplifier for zero volts
DC at the output, as shown in Figure 1.

**A few opamps need an external capacitor for proper operation; depending on
the opamp, this is connected between pin 8 and either pin 1 or pin 5.

Table 2 - Units and Conversion Factors


Basic Working Unit = ohms

1,000 ohms = 1 kilohm (1K)

1,000,000 ohms = 1,000 kilohms = 1 megohm (1M) [alt. abbreviation "1 MEG"]


F) [alt. abbrev. "1mF")

Basic Working Unit = microfarads (

1/1,000,000 microfarad = 1 picofarad (pF) [alt. abbrevs. "1

F" or "1mmF"]

1/1,000 microfarad = 1,000 picofarads = 1 nanofarad (nF)


Basic Working Unit = henries (H)

1/1,000 henry = 1 millihenry (mH)

Table 3 - Power Transformer Color Code (Tube Equipment)

Primary: Black (both wires)

Tapped Primary: One wire black, one wire black/red; the tap is black/yellow


High-Voltage (Plate): Red (both wires); center-tap red/yellow

Rectifier Filament: Yellow (both wires); center-tap yellow/blue

Filament Winding #1: Green (both wires); center-tap green/yellow

Filament Winding #2: Brown (both wires); center-tap brown/yellow

Filament Winding #3: Slate (both wires); center-tap slate/yellow

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