Know Your IC: LM386




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Welcome to the next installment of "Know Your Integrated Circuit"!

Know Your IC seeks to demystify common Integrated Circuits and allows people to understand them to a point where they can use them in their own projects.

This episode will feature the LM386 a popular op amp chip. We will go over the chip functions and a bit of history.

And we will teach you how to build a simple amplifier with the chip!

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Step 1: Introducing Op Amps

Op-amps are a little hard to explain, but essentially they take something small and make it big!

Op-amps are perfect when you need to take a signal and have it go much higher than the original, for example doing audio amplification.  Wikipedia has a great history of the op-amp and it's development. 

LM386 is made specificly for low voltage applications. Different op-amps will have different requirements, always check out the data sheet! The LM386 can take 4V-12V or 5V-18V depending on the wiring and pump that up 20 to 200 times.

You can use this chip to build any of the following:
AM-FM radio amplifiers
Portable tape player amplifiers
Intercoms and
Small Servo Drivers

Step 2: Pin-Outs

The pin-out of the LM386 is as follows:

Pin 1: Gain
Pin 2: Input -
Pin 3: Input +
Pin 4: Ground
Pin 5: Vout (Output)
Pin 6: Vs (Power)
Pin 7: Bypass
Pin 8: Gain

The input obviously goes to pins 3&2. The most interesting part about this chip i feel is the gain function. If you put a capacitor between pins 1 and 8, you can control the amount of gain the amp has. The bypass allows you to access the input un-amplified, if you so desire.

Step 3: Project: Audio Amp

Our project we will be doing to demonstrate the LM386 is a simple audio amp. A similar design is used in "cracker box" amps.

This version is completed using minimal parts, you will need:
1 LM386
1 10 Ohm Resistor
1 220uf Electrolytic Capicitor
1. .047uf Film Capicitor
1 9v battery
1 10k Ohm Potentiometer
1 8ohm Speaker
1 1/8" mono audio jack
some solid hook up wire
1 breadboard

Step 4: Project: Layout

Once you have the parts layout the circuit, please review the circuit and the layout pictures i've included. If any parts smell like burning or are hot, disconnect the power right away!

Pin 1: Unused
Pin 2: Ground of audio plug
Pin 3: To the Potentiometer  and to the audio plug
Pin 4: Ground
Pin 5: Power of speaker
Pin 6: Power from Regulator
Pin 7: Unused
Pin 8 Unused

Once its together plug in your iPod and rock out. You can control the volume with the knob. 

Step 5: Final Thoughts

Now that you have your own little amp you can easily make projects like the cracker box amp. Using Integrated circuits can be fun and easy once you get into it!

Hope you enjoyed this latest Know Your IC installment. Feel free to do you own as well, and maybe we can get a full guide together.

Thanks for Reading!

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56 Discussions


6 years ago on Step 4

What's the point of the .047uF capacitor and the resistor coming off pin 5? They don't seem to be necessary in my setup (part of the GND line?)

I'm using the 250uF film capacitor, but I tried using a few electrolytic capacitors that also worked fine (though had small volume differences): 100uF, 470uF and 1000uF.

I'm actually using this for a "HDD speaker". It sounds ok, and I can make the HDD actuator move pretty well with this, though I think I need to boost the voltage to make that sucker really dance.

2 replies

Reply 1 year ago

The extra parts prevent high frequency oscillation. At extreme frequencies the inductance of the speaker means it doesn't load the circuit, and the IC needs load resistance to operate correctly.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Hey, im wondering the same question as you about the 250uf cap. i have a set of plans that says to use a 10uf cap. but i cant get the thing to work...grr. when you tried the 1k and the 100 which was louder? thank


4 years ago

hi , what is the need for two capacitors in the output plz reply

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

FWIW the 250uF part prevents DC flowing through the speaker, as the IC output will be at half the supply voltage. It has to be at half supply so it can output AC waveforms.

The 0.05uF and 10R network is needed to suppress instability (oscillation) at frequencies above the audio range. It isn't always needed but as the oscillation is difficult to diagnose it is safest to just fit them to be sure.


1 year ago

For clarification the LM386 is not an op-amp, and it may cause unnecessary confusion to describe it as one.

Unlike an op-amp the LM386 has built in bias that allows it to accept a ground-referenced AC signal when running from a single DC supply (one battery), and output AC voltage offset to half the DC supply without the need for an input capacitor or external gain-setting resistors.

The special input configuration has more in common with an instrumentation amplifier.


3 years ago

I am doing a project that involves converting sound energy to electrical energy. my greatest worry is how to use the ics without powering them. please can you help me out?


3 years ago

Hi could you please tell me if I have to read the IC number legs (any IC) from the top or from the bottom ?




3 years ago

How would you connect rt


3 years ago



4 years ago on Introduction

But I used TBA820M amplifier instead of LM386.

.Is there any difference?


4 years ago on Introduction

Hi! I'm making my project like in this picture.It used LM386 board amplifier..But it doesn't show where the terminal of input is connected..Can you help me with this?..Thank you..


5 years ago on Introduction

Hi All,

I'm buying the parts to get started with this instructable, one thing is confusing me, what voltage is the .047uf film capacitor supposed to be? There are a bazillion options and I am totally new to!

Many thanks.

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


There is a 9Vbattery in the picture so buy one suitable for that range of voltage. Buy several if youre uncertain!


4 years ago on Introduction

Hi, I have a question regarding the LM386. I saw some schematics online that feature this amplifier, and in most of them pin 2 (- input) was grounded, and input signal with a 10k potentiometer is hooked up to pin 3 (+ input). I was wondering, why is pin 2 always grounded, and can we use this IC in a negative feedback configuration as we do with a standard operational amplifier, such as LM741? Thanks in advance.


5 years ago on Step 4

can i put female audio jack instead of the speaker so i can connect it to my transmitter