TPA6120 Headphone Amplifier – COMPOSITE TOPOLOGY

Yet another TAP6120 based headphone amplifier you’d say. Well maybe you are right. This one started as a group project involving myself and few other guys forum mates. So here it is – the UBIQUITOUS TPA6120 amp.
The TPA6120 chip is a rather strange beast. Looking at the TI’s portfolio of headphone amplifiers you would not find any other amp similar to this. Especially if you look at the slew rate. So why is that? The answer is rather simple. The TPA6120 chip is actually a re-branded high speed line driver that had failed to meet the requirements. This is a common practice among the manufacturers. Many so called “audio opamps” are actually the same thing – lower grade opamps that had failed to meet the criteria.

However failing to comply with the high speed line driver requirements does not make the TPA6120 chip a useless junk. Believe it or not it’s an excellent performer. Many people believe that it can outperform much more expensive headphone amplifiers. I don’t want to put any thoughts on this mater though.

Some facts about the TPA6120 chip – as it’s a high speed IC it requires a careful PCB layout. Any parasitic capacitance may cause the amp to go unstable; – the chip is rather hard to run alone. The simple truth is that you may destroy your headphones if you don’t put any attention to this. The chip will have a severe DC offset at the output depending on the volume pot setting. This can go up to several volts. You wont find this in the datasheet so BE CAREFUL!

This being said I’ve decided to go safe. This design uses an input opamp based stage. It’s not an ordinary two stage project though. This design is based on the so called COMPOSITE opamp design. This approach uses the best of both CFB and VFB design worlds. More info on this matter can be found here:

I went for the non inverting design.

So my input stage is based on a precision opamp. Few candidates here:
OPA2132 –
LT1057 –
LT1215 –

I’ve decided to use opamps in DIP package for an easy experimenting. However you could use just about anything you find suitable and use a DIP->SOIC adapters. Just remember that you need a PRECISION opamp in this stage. This would help keeping the DC offset low.

Few words about the project realization. This one is completed on a two-sided PCB using smd components and TH metalization. A special attention was paid on the bottom ground plane to minimize the parasitic capacitance. More info on this matter can be found in the TPA6120’s datasheet:

“A ground plane should be used on the board to provide a low inductive ground connection. Having a ground plane underneath traces adds capacitance, so care must be taken when laying out the ground plane on the underside of the board (assuming a 2-layer board). The ground plane is necessary on the bottom for therma reasons. However, certain areas of the ground plane should be left unfilled. The area underneath the device where the PowerPAD is soldered down should remain, but there should be no ground plane underneath any of the input and output pins. This places capacitance directly on those pins and leads to oscillation problems. The underside ground plane should remain unfilled until it crosses the device side of the input resistors and the output series resistor.

The power supply regulation is complete on the board itself near the TPA chip. This requires a +/-18 to +/-21VDC prefiltered.

The complete schematic for this project can be downloaded HERE.

Here is how the PCB looks like:

Since it was the first batch of PCB’s I had some problems with the silkscreen printing. However it’s not a big issue at the moment. In order to keep the return paths as short as possible I was forced to use jumpers. This could be easily solved with a 4-layer PCB. These come at a price though.

WARNING: This project was brought to the DIY community for free. It is intended for personal DIY needs only. Commercial usage of this project is not allowed!

UPDATE 20.04.2013
I’ve added the PDF files for both BOT and TOP layers. Those are available HERE


+++T H A N K  Y O U  F O R  R E A D I N G  T H I S  A R T I C L E+++


This entry was posted in Headphone Amplifiers, Op-amps. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

    Headphone amplifiers are of good use if you want to listen to the sounds more closely.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted September 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Permalink


    Are you selling the PCB’s ?


  3. Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:30 AM | Permalink

    Hi Max,

    No I don’t have PCB’s for sale for this project.

    Regards, Venci.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted March 30, 2013 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

    Hi! My name is Vlad and I would like to build a headphone amp based on your project. Can you post on this blog, please, the files nedeed to buil the pcb? I will try to make this pcb in home with uv method.
    Thank you.
    Regerds, Vlad.

  5. Posted April 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

    Hi Vlad. Sorry for the late response. I will post the PDF files for the board soon.

    Thank you.

  6. Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:47 AM | Permalink

    PDF files have been uploaded and the article has been updated. I’m sorry about the delay.


  7. richard
    Posted January 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Permalink


    thank you Venci, great job !

    Could you give us gerber or eagle files ?
    The pdf files are ok, but there is no printing and due to the number of components and jumper, it would be great !



Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>