Whilst there is a proliferation of DIY audio PCBs available through sites such as Ebay and the many other Chinese based sites, there appears to be a relative dearth of suppliers of DIY kits and boards with accompanying support. For those with a little experience, a PCB with accompanying schematic is all that is required to complete a very capable project. For complete beginners the process is not quite so straightforward. As a newcomer to DIY Audio, I struggled to find sites with kits or projects, and crucially explanations and guidance, to help those non-conversant in electronics, audio or otherwise. I have mentioned before those sites which helped me get to grips with the basics, Tangentsoft, and Decdun in particular were excellent, but neither of those sites offer boards or kits. Recently, I have made use of the boards and the help of theslowdiyer, but I don’t think I would have been able to use this resource when I started out.
There are two sites that do offer very good projects in the form of PCBs and/or kits with helpful resources, building instructions and advice, usually in the form of forums, but also direct customer support; namely the excellent DIYAudio.com with its Nelson Pass designed projects and Rod Elliott’s ESP site. Less comprehensive in terms of the range of projects, but with extremely well detailed guidance and support there is the HiFiSonix site and the web presence of XRKAudio, an extremely helpful member of the DIYAudio forum. I have no experience of building their projects but from what I can gather from reading the forums, their work is exemplary, as is their support. There is another site similar to these, AMB Laboratories, but my only experience of dealing with this site faltered at the checkout stage when I went to order a kit a while ago. Whilst the projects are reasonably priced, the addition of an extortionate postage fee made the purchase unfeasible, especially when considering the additional duty costs and administration charges of importing to the UK. I wanted two small circuit boards at a cost of $8 each…..the postage was $38.42!
Recently I was contacted by Valery Zaichenko, who in conjunction with Jeff Wilhelm run a commercial site, Virtual Zero Audio. Here, kits, boards and modules are offered for sale at a reasonable price, alongside some free public domain designs. Valery offered me a stereo set of their VHex+ amplifier boards for evaluation. I’m certainly not experienced enough to comment on the circuit design or measurements, but I’m intrigued to see how well their documentation and support helps the novice build a good, working amplifier. The boards arrived this morning, nicely packaged (I received the boards for free, no strings attached but I paid for international shipping and customs duties) and the instructions are provided via a download section of the website once you have purchased from them.
This project won’t be started for a few months as I have a couple of other projects in the pipeline and an increased workload at my job, but I look forward to having a go at these. I will be reporting on my experience with a particular focus on the accompanying documentation and any ‘after sales’ support I might need.