Introduction: Headphone Amplifier

Picture of Headphone Amplifier

This instructable describes how to "make" a simple audio headphone amplifier.
It can be used with different devices - MP3 players, Walkmans, Radios, .etc. It can be used also for your own designs - can be connected to the analog outputs of audio DACs, to the outputs of self made radios (for example using TDA7000, or TA7642) or other gadgets.
In comparison with the other instructables, this will not give you an exact instructions how to do the job, but will give you the idea and show you for example how it can be realized in a particular case. The success of this project will relay on your imagination and capabilities ...

The main idea here is - why to make something from scratch, if it exists...
Where an existing audio amplifier can be taken from?
The answer is - from a defect computer CD-R,W, DVD-R,W reader, writer, ROM-drive..
All they have audio output for headphones, which has almost always a volume control.
When those devices broke, normally the malfunction is always in the mechanics, in the laser system, in the optics, but, I think never in the audio headphone amplifier.
Where to find a defect drive?
You decide - at scrapyard, at the place were you company throws away the broken equipment for recycling, in some garage sale, to ask your friends, eBay...

Let's suppose, we have found our defected drive.
Let's go for the first step.

Step 1: Exctracting the Audio Amplifier Board

Picture of Exctracting the Audio Amplifier Board

First step is to disassemble the drive.
The audio amplifier board is normally placed directly behind the front panel of the drive. The PCB in most cases has a long narrow shape. Between the audio amplifier board and the "main" board of the drive a flat cable connection is done. Unsolder it from the main board. May be will be possible to use it, if needed.
Do not forget to extract also the laser diodes and the electric motors - they can be used for other instructables.
On the pictures can be seen the extracted board, which was placed behind the front panel and contains the audio amplifier.

Step 2: Shaping the Amplifier Board.

Picture of Shaping the Amplifier Board.

The second step is to investigate what you have.
It is good practice to take a picture of the board by a digital camera in macro modus, to plot it, if possible on A3 sheet, and to try to understand the structure of the board. You can see that also some additional electric components are placed on the board - switches, LED's for read/write operations.. etc. You have to decide what should be used - do you need light indication of the supply presence, do you need the volume control..
Normally, for the low noise reasons, the audio amplifier occupies a compact area, which must be identified. In this case it is about 1/3 of the whole PCB area placed at the end of the board where the chip is mounted.

The next action is to mark the part of the board which should be used, in the way that the signal paths and supply for the audio amp tracks should be kept safe. There are always some tracks which connect switches, sensors, LED's placed on the other part of the board and can be cut without any influence on the audio amp performance. For the marking I used a dark marker. Now the board can be cut. For that purpose I use usual scissors. You have to cut the board carefully some distance away from the marker line - because of the cracks, which appear during the cut. After cutting the board, it must be shaped - all sharp edges have to be polished. For that purpose an abrasive paper can be used.

Step 3: The Research Work

Picture of The Research Work

Now starts the real research work. We have to identify which chip is used for the audio amplifier, to find the technical data (the datasheet), and to track all connections. In this case it is easy to see that the chip is from the type APA3541 (product of ANPEC - ). Using the "Google" the datasheet can be found very easy. The APA3541/4 is an integrated class AB stereo headphone driver contained in an SO-8 or a DIP-8 plastic package with Mute feature . For us the most interesting information, found in the datasheet is : 1)the block diagram with the function pin description ;2) the typical supply voltage -for this case it is 5V ; 3) the possible driven load (can be 16 Ohm).

The task is now to connect the amplifier in the correct way.
I removed the flat cable. I plotted the picture of the PCB with the metal tracks view on a A3 sheet - to be easy to follow each track and connection. You can use markers with different color for each signal.
Let's start with the ground pin - normally the ground is the "fattest" wire on the PCB. It is chip pin #4.Using Ohmmeter you can check this. A suitable place where the ground cable ( "-" of the battery) shall be soldered must be found. There the green lack must removed from the PCB. I scratch it using a big needle. A hole for the ground cable must be drilled there.

Step 4: Power Supply Connection

Picture of Power Supply Connection

Next step is to guarantee the proper power supply of the chip. We found that the chip must be supplied by 5V source. Such kind of batteries are not often seen. It is better to use a voltage regulator , which will produce the needed voltage. The most suitable, I found to be a regulator from the type 78L05 - it has 3 pins and small package. Practically it doesn't need an external components. To mount it on the PCB we need to scratch the green lack again in the proper places and to drill 3 holes for its pins.
After that we can mount the regulator, solder it and to bridge the ground line.

Step 5: Connecting the Mute Signal.

Picture of Connecting the Mute Signal.

In the datasheet was seen that the audio amp has a mute pin - your decision : You can have a switch to mute the amplifier, or to connect the pin hard to the supply line for continuous operation.
I connected it directly to supply line.

Step 6: Connecting the LED As Power Indicator

Picture of Connecting the LED As Power Indicator

Because of the existing LED - I decided to connect it as power indicator. Two connection must be done for that purpose :
- the resistor limiting the current through the LED must be connected to the supply line
- the cathode of the LED must be connected to the ground line

Step 7: Connecting the Inputs

Picture of Connecting the Inputs

Now remains to connect the inputs of the amplifier. I used a cable of defected stereo phones. Depending on the way of use of the amplifier, different cable connections can be implemented. Following the input tracks using the ohmmeter (the inputs of the audio amp chip are connected to the volume control potentiometer, after that through electrolyte capacitors ) I identified the pads for the flat cable where the input signals come. Two holes for the left and right audio signals and an additional hole for the ground cable wire were done there.The audio and the power supply cables were soldered.In the case, you want to connect the amplifier to a mono audio signal source, it is better to short the both inputs together.

Step 8: The Joy...

Picture of The Joy...

It is good to find a suitable box for the amplifier and the battery. It can be plastic or metal - in the second case an insulation must be put between the internal walls of the box and the PCB, to prevent a short. A hole for the volume control must be cut.
I used a plastic box suitable for small radio, where a special place for the 9V ( 6LR61type) battery was reserved. I added an ON/OFF micro switch at the cable from the battery "+". I cut a holes on the box side wall for the volume control, for the audio jack, for the LED and for the micro switch knob using a dremel like tool. Finally I fixed the board using 3 small screws.

I connected the battery, switched the amplifier on.....
The sound was quite good...

Enjoy, you too!


Milen (author)2016-08-22

Hi ChristinD,

It is difficult to say what exactly happens. I think that if at lower levels of input the signal the sound is without distortion, and it sounds strange only at higher input signal - then could be clipping, if it sounds vibrating at lower signal levels - this could be oscillations. I do not think that this could be a problem for the opamp. To make the signal distorted you could add some filters on the input of the amplifier, or clamp the output signal. You could look here and take some idea from ...:

for example

step 2 (the circuit - the part after the 0.1uF capacitor.

ChristinD (author)Milen2016-09-02

Hi Milen,

I didn't see your response sooner than today. I have been experimenting with things like this, so far no working mods. But I was wrong originally. The 100k resistors did add a tiny bit of distortion and no noticeable vibrato. I think the error occurred because I tested the guitar while it was hanging on the wall so it was unhindered enough to vibrate.

Now after trying to mod it so much, I'm instead liking the small distortion it has and am in favor of building that pedal you showed me, I just need to scrounge together the parts. Thanks again :)

ChristinD (author)2016-08-22

Hey again Milen!
It worked!! I boosted the feedback resistors and it totally got louder. (Sidenote: mounting smd devices is very very tedious!).

I did however go beyond the 2x ratio you mentioned (43kOhms -> 100kOhms) as a sound experiment, as I'm using this for guitar and I wanted to test how it would be because you mentioned that it might clip and I desired a bit if distorted sound. It ended up sounding a bit vibratoish. Is that oscillation and is that dangerous for the OP amp? Any thoughts on how to get a crunchy sound?

Thank you, your so helpful!

ChristinD (author)2016-08-07

I really want to make this, but I'm totally lost, and have never done anything like this before, will someone help me out? Here's the board I got to work with

ChristinD (author)ChristinD2016-08-17

Well after popping open a few other drives I found a super easy pcb and got it to work! it's a bit quiet tho, any way to make it louder by chance?

Milen (author)ChristinD2016-08-17

You could try to boost the gain of the op-amp changing the feedback resistors if possible.

ChristinD (author)Milen2016-08-17

Oh, thank you! But I'm a super novice at this, how exactly do I do that?

By the way, thanks for your instructable, it's the only one like it that I found and it's got me interested in all this sort of stuff.

Milen (author)ChristinD2016-08-17

I am glad that I could attract another guy in the world of the electronics.

You can identify the amplifier chip and find it datasheet. Some of the used chips are simply internally defined as buffers (no gain - only source-load resistance matching) - in this case nothing can be done. But is a standard power operational amplifier is used as amplifier stage, normally its gain is fixed by the feedback resistors. (these which connect the output of the amplifier with the corresponding input). If you increase their value - you also increase the gain. You should not increase them a lot because the amplifier can saturate (clip at the supply rails) or the gain increase can cause stability problems (the amplifier can start to oscillate).

ChristinD (author)Milen2016-08-18

Thank you! You really did get me into electronics, I've never even used a soldering gun or an ohmeter before I read your article!

Now, I couldn't originally find the datasheet for an unknown reason. (I just plugged in a 9 volt battery and it didn't work so I plugged in 2x 3 volt batteries I had lying around and it worked. Which in itself has me concerned because I just was able to find the data sheet and it's max voltage is 5.5 volts, is it ok to use 6?)

But anyways, now that I've found the datasheet (here: ), I think it says I can do what you're saying, if I'm not mistaken. I just have to figure out what and where the feedback resisters are lol. If you'd like to help, I appreciate it, but if you're busy, I understand.

Thank you very much

Milen (author)ChristinD2016-08-18


The feedback resistors should be these placed between pins 1 - 2 and 6-7.

May be they are SMD devices. Try to unsolder them and to measure their value with a ohmmeter. After that you could put new ones with higher value - but not more than 1.5-2 times.

The maximum supply allowed is 5.5V. 6 V is the absolute maximum rating - applying this voltage for a long time could damage the amp and it is not guaranteed that it can have the full functionality when supplied with 6V.

May be better solution could be 3 batteries 1.5V, or as in my case to add a voltage regulator from the type 7805. Then you could apply voltage till 30V.



ChristinD (author)Milen2016-08-19

Thanks I'll have to check them then. :)

And thanks for the advice and the suggestion about the voltage. I remembered that it could be supplied by as little as 2 volts so I just use one 3v battery and it seems to work fine. Plus they're very compact and cheap if you know where to get them.

Many thanks,

newbeatle (author)2015-09-03

congratulations you are like me in the mood of recycling all you can

_Blamoo made it! (author)2014-11-21

it worked as expected, but mine uses a dual op amp instead of a specific IC.

The only problem is that in my case, the output is as low as the input as the input ):

lfors1 (author)2014-05-24

Thank you. Try to do. Can you give a lesson on creating cellular amplifier. That this example

WilsonA1 (author)lfors12014-11-07

Hi I am James, thanks for referring to us. If you need any help just email me at and we can provide you with boosted cellular data

Milen (author)lfors12014-05-25

I do not have experience with cellular amplifiers.
I think you can google about this. I have seen sometime ago circuits of GSM jammers, having as output stage a power RF amplifier. This could be useful. There are such kind of modules ( check the NXP, Freescale, TI ..etc sites for GSM RF power amplifiers ). If you find such product - in the datasheet should typical connections circuit. A simple cellular amplifiers could be done in this way...Good luck.

MaterialBall (author)2014-11-06

Great idea, I am trying to accomplish a similar thing with an old cd drive, but I am clueless where to connect the audio in. I trace all lines, but some only seem to go round.

The chip on the board I want to use is an opamp, not an audio driver, but if I would use the entire circuit, that should work too right?

Does anyone have a clue where to connect the audio in?


demonas made it! (author)2014-03-15

Great idea and exactly what I was looking for :) Had my headphones connected directly to my PS3's RCA outs and it was a bit lacking in volume so this is perfect. The PCB I had even seems to be almost identical to the OP's as far as component placement goes :)

Milen (author)demonas2014-03-15


Thanks :-)

Only as a warning...

If you look the previous comments, you will find that this topic was discussed once -the OPA3541 practically act as buffer - you will not have increase in the voltage gain, but if your output stage has high output resistance, and can not drive well the low resistive load, then the improvement will exist.

If you want to have also voltage gain - than you have to look for another board, where real OpAmp is used (or Headphone amplifier special chip) and there you can try also to change the feedback resistors and to increase the voltage gain....

But in all cases, the fun remains :-)

demonas (author)Milen2014-03-15

Thanks for the advice, I'll be aware of that. Maybe there's any cheap and decent chips you could recomend? OPA132 are hard to find here and quite expensive. I've tried making an amp with a TDA2822 but the results were underwhelming, ofcourse it was on a protoboard rather than a proper PCB but the amount of noise was definitely an issue. I should probably come back to it and put some resistors on the output to reduce the noise, maybe redo the board aswell. Kinda ditched the TDA after powering it up the first time.

Milen (author)demonas2014-03-16


You could try with LM4880M (see my other instructable : )

I have seen CD/DVD boards with APA2308, where you can change the feedback resistors.

There also a lot of other dedicated chips :

From TI:

From Maxim :

From STM :


The easiest solution would be to use amplifier with limited number external components. There are few from TI, which require only few capacitors. Another interesting solution could be to use class D amplifier - they also require limited number external devices. If you want to try on a breadboard, better to use DIP package. All of the listed companies provide free samples - you can try to order...:-)

hippydog (author)2013-10-16

A little involved but a great way to recycle all the old computer CD drives..

Milen (author)2013-09-11


It seems that the output stage is realized by the use of the JRC opamp NMJ3414A (IC501). I have marked the place where I think the output stage should be. Using Ohmmeter you can track the input paths and the supply lines of the power opamp and limit the area only to needed parts. The neighbor big chip is Mitsubisshi M63020 motor driver chip, so I think it will be easy to distinct which R,C device, which of both chips support. Good luck.

Bogdi (author)2013-09-11

Hello, i ended up with this kind of board and i dont know single thing of what is going on there.

botho_cc (author)2013-04-03

I used an old DVD drive for the laser and now I could also use it to build a headphone amp. Thank you very much! I checked with the datasheet and the multimeter and the pins on the flat cable were next to each other:
[?] [5V] [GND] [in1] [in2] [...]

casey321b (author)2013-01-12

I had just taken apart a CD drive for the motors. I'll attempt to try this soon. Looks great.

Mr.Gizmo (author)2012-06-14

I copied this project perfectly. The circuit board was even identical off an old cd rom I had laying around. I can truly say the sound is the same with or without the so called amp. Sorry to burst your bubble but after doing some hard research I came to find that this IC chip is simply an audio driver its not an OPA amp IC. Waste of time. Should have researched first!

Milen (author)Mr.Gizmo2012-06-15

Hi Gizmo,

As I wrote :

"This instructable describes how to "make" a simple audio headphone amplifier.
It can be used with different devices - MP3 players, Walkmans, Radios, .etc. It can be used also for your own designs - can be connected to the analog outputs of audio DACs, to the outputs of self made radios (for example using TDA7000, or TA7642) or other gadgets.
In comparison with the other instructables, this will not give you an exact instructions how to do the job, but will give you the idea and show you for example how it can be realized in a particular case. The success of this project will relay on your imagination and capabilities ..".

I want to give only an idea how to do the amplifier, without saying that exactly this type of opamp must be used.
Ofcourse, if your CD ROM has a driver chip inside, you can use it only as buffer to some audio DAC or chip without output stage.

If you want to have real amplifier - than you have to find such kind of pcb.
May be you can even change the feedback resistors in the way that you have the gain that you want.

And finaly, I do not think that the hoby activities are lost of time.
It is way of learning...

Best Regards

Ebrahimn (author)2012-03-22

I want to make a mini amp and have all the chip on the board, but it is a full board and not the strip that is shown on your design. How do I indentify wher the cut line should be.

Milen (author)Ebrahimn2012-03-22

Hi Ebrahimn,

It is diffucult to say.
can you publish a photos of the pcb taken from the both sides?


Ebrahimn (author)Milen2012-03-22

Hi this is how my board looks!

Milen (author)Ebrahimn2012-03-23

Sorry - the image uploader was not working

Milen (author)Ebrahimn2012-03-23

It is difficult to say, but i think somewhere here.
You have to know which is the audio chip. I thnik they use alos 7805 or some similar chip there (the 3 pin one). You have to decide - shall you use it also fro the supply of the audio, or you will use some batteries.
Find the inputs for the audio signal - may be they are close to the volume control potentiometer. Practically you have to have around 4-6 connections from the PCB which you cut - the inputs, GND - the biggest area plate, supply, and may be some controls (for LED, mute...etc)

wobbler (author)2011-12-08

I like the idea- these are ten a penny on car boots and I've been thinking of making something similar for my guitar.

As the specs for the PSU voltage are 3-6v (typically 5v) you could make the project simpler by using three AA/AAA baterries to run this and cut out the regulator. You might even get away with just two batteries. This would mean you are not having to bother with making up the voltage dropper bit, AA/AAA batteries are cheaper than 9v ones and last longer and in addition you are not wasting power in the voltage dropper so they should effectively last even longer. Three AAAs wouldn't be much bigger either.

I'll get one and try it.

FuzzyBearGeek (author)2011-06-05

This is fantastic!, Also, wtg, CrazyG! Geeks are so cool it's ridiculous.

mightywombat (author)2011-01-31

Bril, mate! I was taking apart a CD drive the other day and saw the amp in it and that got me thinking of doing exactly this. Thanks for the great instructable!

cyber02000 (author)2011-01-14

hey ...!! great instructable it got me started the moment i saw it.....but i am having a little problem.....not to be offensive in any way but their are some steps missing....or maybe because i am a total noob and dont get the figure it yourself part

Milen (author)cyber020002011-01-14

Hi cyber02000,

If you do not understand something, do not hesitate to ask me. I will try to answer all your questions.


955josiah (author)2010-11-24

can i use this as a speaker amplifier???

Milen (author)955josiah2010-11-24

Hi 955josiah,

It denends on the amplifier chip and the load resistance of the speaker.
The chip used in this design can drive ~140mW in load 16 Ohm.
Normally the speakers have 4 or 8 Ohm resistance. May be exist also with 16 Ohm...
If you connect only 8 Ohm you can reach more power, but you can overheat and burn the chip. May be if you connect two 8 Ohm speakers in series for a channel - will be OK. Once again - it depends on the chip!

If you use active speakres (PC) - there is not any problem!
The other posible solution - to make additional simple amplifier.
For example two transistors NPN and PNP connected as emitter followers - you can find circuits in the net...


violator1200 (author)2010-08-19

That's what I call a Macgyver! Awesome Instructable Dood! :D

pleabargain (author)2010-08-02

Very interesting. Will be scrounging the flea markets more closely now... btw, typo here: "The sound was quit good..." should be 'quite'.

Milen (author)pleabargain2010-08-02

Thank you for the correction. Now I saw the problem :-). "Lapsus calami" or "Lapsus Keyboard" :-). Good luck in finding the needed toy. Regards Milen

crazyg (author)2010-07-21

THANKS 4 tha idea (how olds yr circuit board i mean like there are proper sized components on there ) heres my first pic of progress so far, luckily our chips are more or less the same so i used your diag, ground is occuring through game boy at moment, though getting some strange eerie sounds at low volume i think its 7 colour changing leds/backlight and pitchbender in the gb causing this!

Milen (author)crazyg2010-07-22

Hi Crazyg, What I see om your pictures is that you apply the input signal directly at the potentiometer pins. Am I correct? It is possible that you have DC connection in the signal path. You have to be sure in which configuration the amp works.Try to apply the input signal through capacitors - I see, there are some around the chip..., or you can use some external- may be this will help. It is possible that the LEDs cause the problem - try with some power source instead the batteries - if it works without the problems - this can explain the cause of the strange behaviour. Regards Milen

crazyg (author)Milen2010-07-22

hey, i didnt mint the background noise,but now iv cut what i thought was all the vital bit of the board out that noise is all iv got,so iv got more guessing to do. since your there,do you know how to boost the output volume up a bit?

Milen (author)crazyg2010-07-22

Hi Crazyg, I see that you use a fixed load - I suppose that you will not go to change some feedback resistors for the opamp to increase the gain. May be the only way ist to increase the supply voltage of the opamp... but be careful with that - not to burn the chip... Regards Milen

crazyg (author)Milen2010-07-23

hi milen..fixed load?,,,erm im putting about 6v in at moment maybe a bit less as the gameboy has got a v regulator in there somewhere(weather active in this config i ??havent mesured it) the connections im using at the moment (test stage) are the neg from the prosound output and the pos direct to the battery, when its wired propley gonna use the same pos as the pitch bender(i think its off the volt regulator board) then it wont have power when gb is off, and the neg from the signal (less wire to cram) as for changing resistors there a bit dinky on this board ,was planning to use a velleman kit* for this job but its still in the post!(continued gratitude for your structable)as are a couple of switches im planning on putting in the gameboy(want to put the rest of the components in in one go as its getting tight in there) as for this board its allready glued into a cut down camcorder tape box with little speakers superglued in added off switch for speaker output(i hate it when that glue leavs its white residue) then ill stick the box on the back as shown , boy with stereo speakers,(the original speaker and headphone stopped working long ago tried replacing speaker no result)headphone out,line out,backlight,pitch bend(goint to be switchable)and wonky ziggy lighting,.:) *got any more detail on boosting the output of these circuits?will have a better idea when the velleman arrives hopefully. here are the latest pics ,all the best from george

Milen (author)crazyg2010-07-24

Hi Crazyg, looks interesting... I wish succes. It is interesting to have such kind of toys to play with them... Regards Milen

crazyg (author)crazyg2010-07-22

yep i used the pot contacts as iv been prosounding gameboys and it works for them,here are some better pics.still trying to figure out what iv broken....whilst loading photos, found if i apply power to pin 2 (second one down on left next to one with spot,incase my number system is wrong) so now i can loose another1.5cm off the width of the thing woohoo

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