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April 27, 2011

Silver Plated Copper Mini to RCA Cable

We've all been in that position when we want to plug our iPod / MP3 player / PCDP or other portable device into our home stereo. Today's smartphones let you stream music from your computer, radio stations and services like Pandora straight through the web; it's tough to disregard all this utility and flexibility when compared to something like the single disc CD player plugged into your rig. In today's blog, I will be constructing a simple but excellent sounding mini to RCA cable that can bring all those modern features to your home amplifier.

A mini connector, also known as a 1/8" or 3.5mm TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) is the de facto standard for portable headphone connections and has been around since the mid 20th century, being used with earpieces on transistor radios. The original 1/4" version dates all the way back to 1878 (!) and was used for telephone switchboards.  This mini connector is connected to a braid of wires that then convert to a left and right RCA connection. RCA connectors were designed in the 1940s to connect phonographs to amplifiers. It's a mild curiosity why the industry is still using such an age-old connector designs. More modern and esoteric designs like the iBasso Toucan and Ray Samuels SR-71B make use of unique balanced connectors such as the 6 pin Hirose and 4 pin Protector, designs that will likely never make it to mainstream audio equipment, but it's nice to see the designers offering these options.

I'll be starting this mini to RCA cable by trimming four strands of equally long wire in preparation for braiding. I'm choosing silver plated copper in Teflon as it has nice sonic properties and is relatively inexpensive compared to boutique audio wire. Silver plated copper (SPC, as I call it) in Teflon is offered by companies such as Belden and can sometimes be found as military surplus (mil-spec). Not all SPC is created equal, and you'll want to be sure you're getting silver plated copper and not tin plated copper. SPC is discussed in more detail in my post describing custom made SPC Speaker Cables.

Four Strands of Silver Plated Copper in Teflon
Once the wire is laid out, the strands are braided into a formation of four wires so that the cable maintains the same EMI/RFI rejecting geometry all the way across the length of the cable. Do note that one needs to cut the wire a little longer than necessary as a few inches of length will be lost in the braiding process. 

A nice, tight litz braid leading to two twisted pairs
Once the braiding is complete, the wire is fed into a sleeve of soft black nylon multifilament. This gives the finished product an attractive look. Nylon sleeving can also help negate microphonics in headphone cables. At the Y-split, I melt the multifilament together to ensure that it does not separate when pulled or tugged. A Y-split is also added with multiple layers of adhesive heatshrink. You can see an another take on a Y-split in my custom AKG K1000 cable post.

The sleeved cable with Y-Split
RCA connectors will now be added to the two twisted pairs of wires. Some sleek-looking chrome plated RCAs were selected for this particular cable, but I will typically use Canare F-09 or Switchcraft 3502 series gold plated RCAs as I have found them both to be well-built and reasonably priced. 

Chrome RCAs attached
Next comes the mini to mini connector. I almost exclusively use Switchcraft 35HD series connectors. They are made in the USA, sturdy, and not too large. The Canare F-12 minis are nicely made, but the barrel is very large compared to other connectors. If one needs a plug that's physically smaller than the Switchcraft, the Neutrik NYS231 will fit the bill. It's about a quarter of the price of the Switchcraft but doesn't seem quite as solid in my humble opinion.

The Switchcraft connector has a small piece of metal on the ground connection that I personally don't use, so it's trimmed off with metal snips. Once the soldering connections are made, all connectors are tested for continuity and shorts using a multimeter. They are then isolated with heatshrink as an added precaution to prevent shorting. The crimp on the ground connection holds both the wire and sleeving in place and prevents strain on the soldered connections.  

Switchcraft mini connector attached
As an added strain relief, a piece of 1/4" polyolefin black heatshrink secures the sleeve to the ground crimp.

Added heatshrink as a strain relief
The barrel is now screwed onto the Switchcraft mini connector and that completes the mini to RCA cable.  

The finished mini to RCA cable
I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step walk-through. If you are interested in purchasing a custom, hand made mini to RCA cable, they are more affordable than you think, and are available from Zynsonix.com

April 24, 2011

AKG K1000 Extension Cable with Spades

Any headphone enthusiast worth his/her salt is going to be very familiar with the AKG K1000 headphones (or more appropriately, earspeakers). The K1000s succeeded the K340s in AKGs lineup and make use of a dynamic driver, and with a low 74dB/mW free field sensitivity, they take a good amount of wattage to sound their best. When they were initially released, they commanded a sticker price of $1200. Now that they are discontinued, they still garner about the same amount on the used market. I've had the pleasure of hearing the K1000s at a number of meets; they have a sound all their own with a very enveloping, larger-than-life soundstage.  

The AKG K1000 Earspeakers
Because they require so much juice, many users opt to use an adapter tail for the K1000s to plug into a standard speaker amplifier, more often than not, a tube-based amp that outputs 10+ watts. This post is focused on the creation of an adapter tail for the K1000s so the owner can use said speaker amplifier to power them. 

The process begins by selecting a nice suitable wire that is flexible, but is also able to transfer a suitable amount of juice to the power-hungry AKGs, something two to three times as thick as a typical 24 gauge wire. In this case, I'm using a thick, internally-litzed Cardas conductor in Teflon dielectric.  

How nearly all Zynsonix cables start their life

This wire is hand braided in a litz formation of four wires so that the cable maintains the same EMI/RFI rejecting geometry all the way across the length of the cable. 

A hand-braided litz of Cardas wire

Once this process is complete, the braided wire is fed into a sleeve of soft black nylon multifilament to not only give it a nice, vintage look, but help prevent microphonics when the listener inadvertently brushes the cable against something. At the Y-split, I melt the multifilament together to ensure that it does not separate when pulled or tugged. 

Wire sleeved with black nylon multifilament

There are many different ways to handle a Y-split on a cable, whether a simple bit of adhesive heatshrink, cable pants, or something fancy like ViaBlue splitter. In this case I'll be using the barrel of an unused RCA connector just for the sake of making it look nice. 

RCA Barrel that will be covering the Y-split

Once this barrel is slipped over the split, heatshrink and adhesive is used to keep it in place. 

A heatshrink covered RCA barrel

Now that the dressing is complete, a four pin gold Neutrik female connector is installed on one end and identifying heatshrink is added to the speaker connector ends of the wire. The Cardas wire is stripped and the enamel is melted away using some piping-hot 900 degree solder. 

Nearly complete with Neutrik 4 Pin connector

For the speaker connectors, I'm using some very nice Homegrown LOK rhodium over silver plated spades. Rhodium requires quite a bit of heat to solder to, so the wire is set in place and ample solder and iron heat are used to make a solid connection. Before this is done, additional heatshrink is slipped on the speaker ends to fasten the sleeve to the termination and keep it from moving. I also added a set of clear heatshrink to cover the positive and negative identification tags for aesthetic purposes. 

The final cable

The cable is finally complete! If you're a K1000 owner (or any headphone owner) looking for a headphone to speaker cable, Zynsonix.com would be happy to help. 

April 18, 2011

The Norman Koren Dynaco PAS Preamp

Some of you may have seen Geek's rebuild of a Dynaco PAS using some specially designed boards based on  Norman Koren's SPICE design back in May of 2010. Below you can see his very nicely appointed PAS preamp.

Geek's PAS rebuild using the Norman Koren boards

Geek, who runs ClassicValve, is now offering the Norman Koren boards for sale, calling them the Norman Koren PAS Purist Mod as it eliminates the tone controls from the original PAS 2 / 3 / 3X design. From what I read, these boards are a much more modern sounding design, with more detail and clarity than the stock boards. The Dynaco PAS has a warm and endearing sound, but it really isn't the last word in detail. Both the line and phono boards make use of three tubes each rather than the stock boards that only use two, so an additional tranformer is necessary for the 12X4 rectifier tube and pilot light to prevent overloading the PA211 transformer. You can also mix and match other PAS boards with any combination of the Norman Koren boards by changing a few parts and running the leads in a different configuration. Below are the board schematics from ClassicValve.

Norman Koren PAS Line Board Schematic

Norman Koren PAS Phono Board Schematic

If you've kept up with my earlier blogs, you've seen that I've already done a complete rebuild on a Dynaco PAS, but after all that I've heard about the Norman Koren design, I just couldn't resist building another. Geek offers the two purist boards, along with his own PAS regulated power supply for the special package price of $75 (as of this writing). He also has the tube sockets and MOSFET & heatsink for the power supply board. Below, you will see my mostly populated set of boards with the obligatory Kiwame and Takman carbon film resistors and Obbligato Gold caps. It took a little bit of time to find the correctly-sized polypropylene film caps on Mouser, if using something like a square polyester film cap, it would likely be difficult to squeeze in place. The silver mica caps are all 1% for the sake of accuracy in the phono board. There's a fancy pants pair of Mundorf caps that will be occupying the left and right capacitor slots on the line stage, but will have to be installed after the boards are mounted due to spacing.

Norman Koren Populated Line Board
Norman Koren Populated Phono Board
Regulated PAS Power Supply in Progress

Rather than going the route of using a PAS donor chassis like I did in a previous build, this special PAS will be built using a brand new PAS chassis from Dynakit Parts. Up until now, no such thing was available on the market, but Kevin @ Dynakitparts has been working for most of this year on this offering. The chassis is the same identical size to the original, but is made of thicker Zinc plated steel. Two different color covers are available in polyeurethane textured brown or black, and three different faceplates are available, on that resembles the original, a full-function version, and a black "purist" faceplate that eliminates any unnecessary controls. 

The new chassis feels much more solid and durable than the original PAS chassis, and there are a number of new mounting options to mount the transformer to the back or add an additional filament transformer in place of the multicap. The fourth power outlet was removed, which is ideal as there was really no room for it in my other build. The outlets are included, which appear to be from Radio Daze, so they are ever-so-slightly larger than the ones included in the original PAS. The cover includes some much needed vent holes on the left and right sides, as the PAS can get rather hot on the inside. The textured black paint on the cover looks excellent. The original plan was to sand it down and powdercoat it, but the finish excellent and it will be kept as-is. Overall this is a very thoughtful offering, it's obvious that a lot of time and energy went into the planning. Color me very impressed (in the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a small discount on the chassis from DynaKitParts, since this is a semi-review). The cost isn't much more than a vintage PAS on that auction site, and often times vintage PASs have some dents and dings to worry about. 

One thing I'd like to see Kevin offer in the future is a gold faceplate like the original. A gold faceplate and brown cover would look vintage-chic for sure. 

This build will be using the PAS Purist Faceplate in black. The Purist faceplate only has slots for tone controls, volume, balance and power. Most modern boards for the PAS do not offer the tone controls anyway, so I'd imagine the majority of modern builds will make use of this faceplate. 

The Faceplate is very attractive, featuring engraved fonts that are color-filled light blue and white. One minor quibble, the same issue I take with Front Panel Express panels, is that the sides are not anodized black. I'd imagine that would only bother anal people though ;) A quick trace around the border with a Sharpie is really all that's needed to make it black as well. 

PAS chassis with cover off

PAS Purist black faceplate
In the above photos you will notice a Dynakitparts reproduction PA-211 transformer. This unit has the same dimensions as the original, but appears to have a little bit more headroom in the specs: 120 vac, 50/60 hz primary. 330-0-330 vac secondary @ 15 mA DC rectified current plus 10.9 vac secondary @ 1.25 A supply for tube filaments and pilot light.

The power supply board has now been completed. Due to a shortage on a few of the parts, some substitutes were used which will require a half ohm power resistor in line with the heater section.

Completed PAS power board from Classic Valve

In the interest of having the interior and back match the exterior, the chassis will be taken to the powdercoater for a nice textured black finish. Before that happens, the RCA back panel will be fashioned out of FRP material and I would need the chassis to verify the measurements and hole placement. There are already a number of replacements for this board pre-made by Tubes4HiFi and Dynakitparts, but I wanted to challenge myself and save a few bucks in the process.

The FRP board was purchased at ClassicValve for about $10 shipped. A few lines and circles were drawn in with a black marker which would be a guide for the drill press. These will be rubbed away with isl-propyl alcohol after the fact.

Marked FRP board for RCA panel

Since the six inputs on the original PAS is a little overkill in my humble opinion, I will only be including four on this example, the phono, which is off to the left, and three other inputs. The output RCAs will be fastened directly on the chassis using slightly larger Cardas RCAs. The RCAs included below are very reasonably priced gold-plated RCA jacks with Teflon insulation made by Philmore, the MTG12. The two dremelled-away areas on the left of the board will be to allow clearance for the Cardas RCAs.

RCA panel front

The grounds on the three inputs (not including the phono) are all connected using a single piece of UP-OCC copper wire. The ground solder tab is twisted slightly on each so the wire can be fed through without issue.

RCA panel back

It's common knowledge that the original PAS chassis could benefit from some additional airflow. I was very pleased to see that Kevin opted to add side ventilation to the cover, which can be seen below:
Ventilated PAS Chassis Cover

Similar to the previous PAS rebuild, I opted to add even more ventilation to the chassis by punching 6 holes in the rear of the chassis using a Greenlee die punch. These would be right behind the power supply and centimeters away from the transformer. A perforated metal sheet was added in combination with the holes which would prevent fingers from touching the power supply unit. The RCA panel was also secured to the back of the unit using copper pop rivets. Cardas rhodium-plated RCAs were installed next to the RCA panel to act as the output RCAs. The chassis conveniently includes some hole covers, plastic grommets and snap-in power outlets which should be visible in the photos below. 

PAS Chassis Side

Rather than run a lamp cord directly into the unit, a removable C7 power cord would be used. A little bit of filing of one of the power outlet holes was all that was necessary to fit a C8 inlet with a pair of pop rivets.

PAS Chassis Back

Finally those beautiful circuit boards could be installed. Since the 0.47uF capacitors were oversized, they had to be installed after the board was fitted. The Dynakit Parts transformer was then dropped in place with a set of rubber washers underneath to ward off excess vibration. A fuse holder was also installed to the front panel next to where the power switch will be located. 

Chassis interior with PCBs in place

The front controls could now be mounted. Selected for the task was an Elma 6 position switch, DACT CT2 stepped attenuator, Audio Note balance control and a DPST silver cadmium power switch from Dynakit Parts. 

DACT CT2 stepped attenuator and Elma 6 position switch

Also installed was an LED power indicator board which takes the place of the incandescent pilot light from the original PAS. These boards can be purchased from a number of places including ClassicValve and DynakitParts and put a lot less strain on the transformer than a pilot light would. 

Controls and LED board installed

The pre-amp could now be wired up. Chosen for the task was Neotech 24 gauge UP-OCC copper in Teflon for signal wiring and Kimber 19 gauge TCSS for power / heater wiring. Cardas 2x24 shielded wire was also used for the phono input wire and pre-amp output, as both traveled a little closer to the power supply.

Norman Koren PAS fully wired up

I didn't bother wiring up the convenience outlets as they'll likely never be used, which keeps the interior wiring a little cleaner on the bottom. As can be seen below, only the power wire to the fuse & transformer, 12V wires to the LED, ground connections and output wiring were run in the lower part of the chassis.

Bottom of chassis

In some instances, wires were soldered directly to the board rather than using the screw down terminals. I tend to prefer a solder joint over a screw terminal when possible, just seems more secure ;)

Interior side view

So, the Norman Koren PAS is fully up and running. The sound is a real delight, definitely reference-level in my humble opinion. Everything is very crisp, clear and engaging, no detectable noise either, and this is with low-cost Sovtek long plate 12AX7s. It will be interesting to try some NOS tubes at some point. I want to thank Gregg over at Classic Valve and J.P. as they were able to answer my questions during the build process.

One minor quibble I have with the build is the gain is quite high, and you reach full volume just a few clicks in on the attenuator. Gregg mentioned there is a way to remedy this with a small modification to add more NFB to the line stage, so I will be performing this next.

Replacing the 120K resistors on R6C (the cathode follower load) with a series of a smaller value resistor and a capacitor will assist in reducing the gain. The reactance of the cap in series should be equal to the series resistor at 10Hz, then multiplying that resulting value by 10+ is necessary to avoid LF instabilities. Choosing a 62K resistor, then calculating the value of the capacitor and multiplying the result by 10 led to a value of 2.7uF, since this value is not critical and can be increased without issue, 3.3uF caps were used as Obbligato does not offer 2.7uF. Since there is little real estate left in the PAS chassis at this point, this little mini circuit would be mounted where the tone controls normally reside. In order to mount the mini circuit, a small turret board was fabricated to contain the two caps and two resistors. Fly leads would run to and from this to the board where the existing 120K resistors resided.

DIY turret board with Obbligato caps and Kiwame resistors

Mounting this small board proved to be a little tricky. After a couple of tries, the final mounting place for the board was directly behind the LED power indicator and power switch using a pair of standoffs. The existing 120K resistors were removed and Neotech UP-OCC wire was run to the board in their place.

Final interior Norman Koren PAS
Indeed the mod reduced the gain substantially. I'd have to say this is one of the best sounding pre-amps I've heard, and an extremely good value for the cost of parts. Highly recommended!

The Fine Print:
Please remember that building circuits and performing circuit modifications can be dangerous to you and/or your surroundings and should only be performed by a certified technician. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt a build or modification posted above and cause physical harm to yourself or your surroundings. Many electronics contain high voltages that can kill, and mods, if performed improperly, can be a fire hazard. Please keep this in mind. 

April 10, 2011

Building an easy pair of Cardas RCA Interconnects

The audio world seems to be split into two when it comes to audio wire. Millions of posts argue the point back and forth, believers versus non-believers. It's one of those things, like politics or religion, that should be avoided in conversation, at least on an audio board ;)

I've found that sonic changes in an interconnect cable are subtle, but worthwhile. They won't bang you over the head, but may make slight changes in warmth, bass, treble, etc. I find that headphone recables actually make a larger difference, especially with headphones like Sennheiser or Denon. In seven or so years of experimenting with interconnects, I've settled with Cardas wire for most applications because of it's perceived warmth. Warmth is an audiophile term that means a slightly rolled off treble, not really in the pursuit of accuracy but more pleasing sounding music. My ears tend to be sensitive and a little bit more warmth goes a long way, it can help me listen longer before fatigue sets in, and can warm up the treble on a headphone that would otherwise be difficult to listen to (think Beyerdynamic DT990 / 250 ohm). This may be attributable to the individually enameled strands, so when you have multiple strands of differing gauges all isolated from one another, the slight difference between the signal in all these strands over the length of the cable causes a slight smearing effect which the human ear may perceive as warmth. Just a guess on my part, but it seems logical.

So I picked up some Cardas 21.5 x 2 interconnect / hook up wire. I choose this over the similarly priced Crosslink because it offers the internally litzed copper and less capacitance (21.5 gauge versus 17.5 gauge). It's also nicer to run internally as signal wire as it's not as thick. I suppose if you visually like the thicker cables, you may want to go with the Crosslink ;) I also picked up two pair of Cardas GRMO, which is their silver and rhodium plated RCA, similar to their top-line SRCA but a little less expensive and sheds the spring-loaded ground connector.

Cardas 21.5 x 2 wire - 5mm in diameter

The Cardas 21.5 x 2 is obviously two 21.5 gauge conductors, a signal and return, and a woven shield with cotton spacing. It's a handsome navy blue, but I'm going to cover it up with some Techflex soft black nylon multifilament to give it a little more character.

Cardas Silver and Rhodium Plated GRMO RCAs

The Cardas RCAs are unique in that, aside from being pretty, they don't have a strain relief. You have to craft one yourself with heatshrink. They also require quite a bit of heat to get the solder to stick to that rhodium plating. You pretty much have to have an adjustable soldering station to work with Cardas wire and connectors. If you don't already have one, the Hakko 936 is an incredible value (~$85) and provides the heat you need.

The highly recommended Hakko 936 solder station 

So the first step I performed was to sleeve the wire with the Teckflex nylon multifilament sleeving. This is a soft feeling sleeve that has a vintage look to it, almost like the waxed cotton you'd find so typically on 50s and 60s electronics. It does fray if you're not careful, so be wary not to snag it. I used 3/16" for this application and trimmed it down with a hot knife.

Sleeved with red heatshrink on the ends
I used a pair of runs of 1/4" red heatshrink and a heatgun to shrink them to fit. 1/4" is very snug, so 3/8" can also be used. This will be the right interconnect of the set, which is always labelled with red. I will be configuring these ICs with a floating shield, so the shield is twisted up on the source side and trimmed away on the other. Cardas interconnect wire always has little arrows for directionality, it may have something to do with the direction the copper was drawn, and I'm honestly not sure that it even matters, but I always ensure that the arrow is facing the end without the shield connection.

Close up of the woven shield twisted up
The wire now has to be stripped and "tinned". Tinning simply means that you cover it with solder. Cardas wire is enamelled, so I turned my iron all the way up, and burned the enamel off while simultaneously tinning the tips. I clean the iron tip after each tinned wire to get the enamel off. This process can also be achieved with a solder pot.

Tinned and trimmed

As stated previously, the Cardas RCAs require quite a bit of heat for the solder to melt on them and achieve a strong joint. If one is too cursory with this process, the joint will break off pretty easily. The RCAs will be piping hot after they have been soldered, and will burn like hell if you touch them ;) Once the RCAs have been given time to cool, some adhesive 3:1 1/2" heatshrink is slipped over top and shrunk in place. This will act as a strain relief.

A finished RCA interconnect cable

So without much labor, we have a nice Cardas RCA interconnect. If you'd like an interconnect like this, or something completely custom, contact Zynsonix for a great sounding solution. 

The Fine Print:
The above steps detailing the building of a cable are for entertainment purposes only, and not to be performed under any circumstances. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt the process posted and cause physical harm to yourself, your surroundings or your property. Please keep this in mind.

April 1, 2011

A List of My Favorite Parts Suppliers

So I tend to get a few emails here and there asking me where I find my parts for builds / cables / etc. so I decided that it would be worthwhile to come up with a small list that describes my favorites and what you can expect from them.

PartsConnexion (Boutique): If you have a laundry list of boutique parts to purchase, these guys will likely have the vast majority of what's on your list. The selection of film caps is especially impressive. The prices are typically MSRP, but you really can't beat the selection so you'll save $$ on shipping getting all your parts from one place. They do run sales from time to time; March's happened to be film caps at 15% off. PCX does a lot of business and the time between ordering and shipping is a little longer than some competitors, so be sure to allot a couple of extra days for your order.

PercyAudio (Boutique): Michael Percy has been offering boutique audio parts out of California for as long as I can remember. Selection isn't as vast as PartsConnexion, and it's lacking newer parts like Furutech and various film caps. Pricing is fairly competitive however. The way to order through Percy Audio is to tally up what you want from the Adobe PDF list and send him a payment.

Handmade (Boutique / General): Selection is further reduced compared to PartsConnexion and PercyAudio, but the prices are either on par or better than PercyAudio for what they have. Nice source for silver mica caps, Elna and Nichicon audiophile electrolytics, Cardas RCAs and binding posts. Shipping tends to be pretty quick.

Soniccraft (Boutique): Soniccraft's main attraction is their Sonicap line of capacitors. These are reasonably priced, nice sounding film capacitors that aren't overly large, so you can fit them into some designs that might not necessarily fit a big fat AmpOhm capacitor. They also carry a halfway decent selection of other boutique parts for MSRP and run sales from time to time.

Homegrown Audio (Boutique): Great selection of the companies own spades, bananas and RCAs in gold, silver and rhodium plate. This is actually my preferred source for them, they are well made and priced right. Homegrown also carries a variety of silver and copper wire and other cable building supplies.

Antique Electronics Supply (Vintage): Great selection of vintage-type electronics, good prices on tubes and accessories. If you're building a tube amplifier, you'll likely find some stuff you'll want here (ie: Hammond transformers, chassis, knobs, pilot lights, vintage caps, etc.) You'll also find guitar amp related paraphernalia.

Angela Instruments (Vintage): Great prices on Hammond chassis and transformers. Pretty similar to AES in that they have a number of vintage parts for tube amps. Customer service seems to be on par with other resellers.

Triode Electronics (Vintage): Similar to the above two, good place to check out if you are rebuilding a Dynaco. They have brand new chassis and replacement boards depending on your tastes.

Dynakit Parts (Vintage): Dynakit Parts has an awesome selection of everything you need to rebuild a Dynaco to stock specs. If you'd rather not mess with those new boards out there and want to listen as it was originally built, check these guys out.

RadioDaze (Vintage): Great little shop for vintage parts. I was able to locate some hard to find items here when restoring my Dynaco PAS. Nice prices on pretty much everything. If you like carbon comp resistors, they have great package prices. They are currently rebuilding the website, so if you don't see what you're after, give em a call or email. Customer service is excellent.

Mouser (General): If you've ever build an amplifier, chances are you used Mouser. They are a one stop shop for pretty much all the general parts (read non-boutique) you need. They also have Kiwame resistors branded as Koa Speers on the cheap (16-40 cents versus $1.10 elsewhere). Shipping is quick and fulfillment is accurate.

Digikey (General): Prices are generally a little higher than Mouser, but they tend to keep more capacitors in stock and the shipping isn't as expensive for small orders. Between Mouser and Digikey, you can usually handle most of your BoM (Bill of Materials). Like Mouser, shipping is quick and fulfillment is accurate.

Allied Electronics / Newark (General): Use these guys if you still can't find something between Mouser and Digikey ;)

I'll update this list once I find some more good suppliers.