C5D Shipments Continue

This morning we’re glad to resume production of C5D! UPS delivered parts at 10am and I’ve been listening to C5D for more than two hours with a smile on my face.

C5_Intro2

In case you missed the drama, we caught a tiny error in the first batch of C5D and temporarily halted production. Our terrific engineers, George Boudreau and Ken Mathews, collaboratively resolved the mistake in less than 48 hours. We owe them many thanks.

Customers

A few C5D’s shipped on Monday and Tuesday without the correction. We’re emailing affected customers today and will offer an easy exchange.

Distributors

C5D shipments to distributors resume next week:

  • Headphone Bar / Canada
  • Munkong Gadget / Thailand
  • Headsound Audio / Germany
  • Kingsound Audio / Hong Kong
  • Noisy Motel / Australia

C5D samples also ship to reviewers by Monday.

Technical Explanation

If you’re curious, C5D is a complex device that makes use of 12 highly regulated, onboard power supplies.

C5D Printed Circuit Board
C5D Printed Circuit Board

Prior to the production fix, the first batch of C5D exhibited an extremely low level hum under USB data transfer. Hum vanished while music was not playing over USB, so it was easy to miss while listening. And by nature of its presence, it could never appear in Noise measurements, and was simply a tiny component of THD measurements (all excellent). This type of problem could only be found by an engineer actively looking for it. Conclusion: Subjective results matter as much as Objective measurements!

Working backwards, we disabled individual power supplies in C5D to isolate the issue. We found that when the USB controller placed its heavy load during data transfer (0.5W), it brought the primary +7V rail to 60% capacity. The +7V rail has been stable in C5, and the amplifier and DAC measure well independently. While powering both amp and DAC, the higher power draw pushed the rail slightly out of regulation. Line ripple increased by a factor of 10.

The solution was shockingly simple–we added a larger capacitor to the +7V rail (this capacitor will be hand soldered on the first batch of C5Ds). Ripple decreased more than 10x, to levels better than ever. Performance is restored. Low level hum is gone.

Setting Up Shop

Each Friday I realize how much we’ve accomplished over the week, and wish I had more time to share the news. This entire month has been huge. In trusty bullet point format, we’ve recently:

  • Moved into a new 900 sq. ft. office in Glen Carbon, IL
  • Shipped several hundred ODAC preorders
  • Hired ‘Jimmy’, a new solder technician
  • Added two massive new machines to the shop
The office is still a mess, but here are couple pictures as we moved in:
Engineering and “Business” Workstations
Semi-Automated Shipping Table

Stepping up Production

First of all, ODAC looks as awesome as it sounds, so we were eager to get these out the door and into your hands.

Standalone ODAC

After shipping the first 100 ODACs, our machine shop informed us that they were 1 week behind on ODAC endplate production. “Okay”, I told them. Rushing a job tends to compound problems, as frustrated workers make more mistakes. I flew to California that weekend and visited the shop Monday afternoon. They were doing excellent work, so we waited.

Around this time, we began receiving upwards of five e-mails per hour from customers requesting shipping updates. To keep the story short, 75% of our machined endplates arrived late, in a series of small shipments over a course of 4 weeks. The final box of O2+ODAC endplates shipped this morning.

Nice, Smooth Edges – O2 Front Panel from California Machine Shop

Delays forced us to reevaluate how we handle production. Every machine shop delivers their own mix of quality, cost, and lead time. In two years, we’ve found several excellent machine shops, but none who can build what we want either as fast as required, or as well as required. Balancing cost/quality/time is impossible when you need low cost, high quality, and delivery NOW!

We came up with one daunting solution: If we can’t find a machine shop that meets our customers’ needs, let’s make our own.

Will a 700lb CNC fit through the front door? Yes!

The first challenge was getting a 700lb CNC into the office. After we learn how to use it, this machine will produce our endplates from raw metal.

We’re stocked up on endplates for the summer. This gives Nick has a few weeks to overcome the second hurdle of learning the CNC. He’s already come a long way:

Nick’s Early CNC Attempts – Making progress! Screw holes and edges not programmed.

Machined parts come out of a CNC looking plain, as you can see in the top piece. We print artwork to the parts using a laser engraver:

If you want something special on your c421, O2, or ODAC, just ask. Custom engraving on any new amp or DAC is free.

ODAC Orders

PREODERS: We shipped 100% of ODAC boards and Standalone ODAC preorders this week. Most O2+ODAC combo preorders have already shipped. All remaining orders will ship upon arrival of rear endplates (early next week).

NEW ORDERS: We secured the largest batch of ODACs in the world, but demand has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Once sold out, the next batch will arrive in late July.

Raffle Results

Special thanks to everyone who contributed to the 2012 Challenge Tanzania Raffle. We helped raise over $500 in charitable donations. Prizes have been shipped to the lucky winners, #121 and #51.

Preparing for May – ODAC and New Office

ODAC Progress

Those seeking to retrofit their O2’s with an ODAC can now preorder the O2+ODAC rear endplate for the Box B2-080 enclosure:

Not sure why this rendering is so dark (Nick?!). They’ll match our O2 Front Plates.

We’ve switched to a specialty machine shop based in Silicon Valley. Artwork on new endplates will be laser etched instead of silkscreened. Cost is slightly higher, but overall machining quality of our O2 and ODAC plates will be better than ever.

All ODAC options are now available for preorder:

  • Assembled ODAC Board
  • Standalone ODAC
  • O2+ODAC Combos

The assembled ODAC board is sold barely above wholesale price, at the request of NwAvGuy’s manufacturer. This is to keep the DIY project cost low. Longer explanation here.

We’re Moving!

Our case manufacturer asked for a favor earlier this week. He’s speaking today at a big corporate meeting and needed to show off a customer with “the most interesting application”. We provided a short summary:

Growing so quickly hasn’t been easy. We’ve streamlined most tasks to keep up with production and shipping, but now we’re out of space. So, we’re moving 1 mile down the road to a new office in Glen Carbon, Illinois.

Sticky Bumpers

I bought a birthday card this weekend for my grandfather. When I handed the card and envelope to the cashier, he said “Thanks for doing that!”

I asked, ‘Sorry, what do you mean?’

“You placed the barcode face up.” He shook his head and explained that not many customers realize the time he spends flipping cards over for the cash register to read…

No big deal. Similarly, you’ve probably seen these before and will agree that they’re a minor detail, but nevertheless awesome:

Adhesive Bumpers! Unfinished c421 pictured.

These adhesive bumpers attach to any surface. Use four on the bottom of your cMoy, Objective2, or c421 to keep the amplifier from sliding off your desk. They also work great in-between your amp and audio source or phone.

Red 3mm LED

Red 3mm LEDs have also been added to our store. You’ll need one of these to build a rechargeable cMoyBB v2.03R.

Production Updates

The bumper photo above is an engineering sample of our final c421 enclosures (without final brushed coloring). c421’s will ship at the very end of February.

Free adhesive bumpers will be included with every c421 preorder and case shipment. 🙂

Cyber Monday – O2 Front Panels!

It’s doubtful I can convey anything more worthwhile than the pictures, so here’s this week’s big news:

Looks amazing, doesn’t it? Nick had a difficult time stepping away from the 3D model:

Our JDS Labs branded O2 front panels and fully assembled O2’s are available now for preorder.

c421: Quality Inspection 3

Continuing from our last update, the third batch of c421 cases arrived last week. To our great dismay, the manufacturer damaged our $1500 custom die (a tool to make the cases), so batch #3 turned out far worse than the first two batches. Instead of scratches, batch #3 pieces weren’t even the correct shape.

We’re moving case production to a high precision aluminum manufacturer. These guys understand the perfection we’re seeking and will ship nothing less than excellent. Since they’re starting from scratch, it will be February before final c421 cases are ready.

All c421 preorders will be shipped this week in batch #2 cases. You will be able to request a final case for free in February. Batch #2 cases aren’t terrible; they’re simply not up to our standards. Keep watching for more updates…

Side note: We had no trouble with c421 front panels. O2 panel production really will be done by January! We’ll post a “lessons learned” story when this mess is finished.