The story of RebelAmp
This story of creating RebelAmp headphone amplifier starts as a birthday gift.
I got a DIY headphone amplifier from a friend on my birthday. A few months later, I had a chance to compare it to a different brand gear from US, Chinese and European manufacturers. I was amazed that some DIY amp sounded competitive to world's most popular audio brands. And let's not jump ahead and leave audiophile adjectives to reviewers.
Later on, I asked my friend why he does not make amps for other people and suggested to start an audio electronics company. Well, he said that this was too challenging. And it is true. If I knew how difficult it would be and how frustrating this journey turns out to be, I would not have started this project.
An idea of creating a cool product for other people started to run through my head.
Finally I made a decision to start this project and make it happen. The next big thing was to decide what features my headphone amplifier should have. But, thanks to Steve Guttenberg and his Audiophiliac Youtube channel I made a simple decision. In one of his videos he asked viewers "do product's features heavily influence your buying decision?" Most people answered, "Do the best for sound quality and a volume knob". Because of these answers, I made only preamp output, because lots of headphone amps have it. I left everything simple: no LCD screens, no microcontrollers and software, no full CNC milled aluminum chassis. If I tried to do that, this project would have never been finished. In addition, I wanted this high-end amp to be at least affordable, if not cheap.
Instead of making unnecessary features, I spent money on quality audio grade components. For example Takman carbon resistors, Nichicon Fine Gold capacitors, Wima capacitors, Alps rk27 potentiometer. My friend suggested these components as an experiment. As appeared in future they make impact on sound quality. I don't know how and why. I thought resistor is just a resistor, but it is not and Japanese engineers do know something.
I called this amplifier RebelAmp and the company Rebel Audio because it was a protest against high prices in high-end audio and I wanted to go beyond that black/silverish crowd and decided to add some color. Green is comfortable for human eye and it goes with black and silver:)
The simple plan looked like this:
- Study free circuit design software.
- Invest a lot of time.
- Create my first PCB layout using circuit diagram and topology suggestions.
- Invest some more time.
- Make it simple to assemble and add preamp feature.
- Give it to technical expertise.
- Master FreeCAD and design a chassis.
- Manufacture all parts somewhere:) I was so naive. It is so difficult to find a proper contractor.
- Wishing to drop everything.
- Assemble everything.
- Make a few more.
- Try to sell it.
- Create new products.
With a budget of 1700 USD I started my journey into the unknown.
Now I show you the result of 18 months of painful and difficult journey.
By purchasing RebelAmp you are helping me to bring it to mass production.
P.S. Thank you to all, who supported me through this journey.
RebelAmp is based on AMB Laboratories technology published
by Ti Kan (www.amb.org), and is used with permission.
P.P.S. I added a contrast pointer on volume knob because Z Reviews and Joshua Valour made remarks on other products. Otherwise, I would have left it invisible in some lighting environment.