Resources for the Audio Hobbyist
A little of everything to help you move foward.

Quick Index:


1. Where can I buy electronic parts & components online?
2. Where can I buy electronic parts & components in Colorado?
3. Where can I buy loudspeaker parts & components online?
4. Ack! I can't find obsolete part number xyz!
5. Where can I buy a transformer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg?
6. Where can I get a good chassis?
7. How can I find parts on eBay?

Print Resources for further reading

Note: Links to external sites should open in a new window. I try to vet any sites I link, but the Internet is a big place. I cannot control external content.

First among the budding enthusiast's questions is, Where I can get the parts to make this stuff work? And later, Where can I learn the theory behind the design?

Other than sub-assembly replacement options common for restoring mobile devices, the aftermarket parts and repair industry has nearly vanished due to surface mount design and continual miniaturization. Fortunatley, one area of design and manufacturing still requires some discrete parts: High Current Anything. The pickings are slim, though, so it helps to enter the market with a few pointers.

This section of my site is intended to jump-start the hobbyist in locating some of those resources. These are mainly applicable to visitors from the United States, although some do operate internationally.

1. Where can I buy electronic parts & components online?

The following companies are available to customers in the United States, and most ship throughought North America. Some of them also ship worldwide or have alternate worldwide operations.

Allied Electronics
Allied is a general-purpose supplier of new parts and components.
AmpsLab is primarily a DIY audio kit site, but they also sell a small-but-valuable selection of new and obsolete parts.

Apex Jr.
Apex Jr. is a surplus clearinghouse, and the selection varies regularly. Among other things, this can be a good place to find large or unusual heatsinks.

Arrow Electronics
Arrow is a general-purpose supplier of new parts and components.

Digi-Key is a general-purpose supplier of new parts and components, and also includes a good selection of transformers. I have ordered from them many times and received good service.

eBay, Inc.
eBay can be an excellent resource for finding both new and used components. If you are unfamiliar with how to find the good stuff, check out my eBay-specific guide farther down on the page.

Mouser Electronics
Mouser is a general-purpose supplier of new parts and components, and does offer some transformers. I have ordered from them many times and received good service.

Newark is a general-purpose supplier of parts and components. Newark also has a direct-order relationship with Farnell in the UK, and can sometimes obtain -- for a price -- specialty UK or European-market components that are not widely available from other US suppliers.

NTE (Nam Tai Electronics) Inc.
NTE is the company you go to when you need to replace a long-obsolte part and cannot find a reliable datasheet for it. The NTE cross reference will find a rebadged substitute in the NTE library. Although NTE does not sell online, their website offers an online version of the cross reference and can point you to the nearest distributor. Note that Mouser, among others, carries NTE stock.

Parts Express
Parts Express is an audio-focused supplier of new parts and components.
RadioShack: Not Dead Yet. After going through a nasty bankruptcy and a failed re-organization merger with wireless carrier Sprint, RadioShack is still somehow in business with a website and a small number of RadioShack Express operations co-located inside other hardware and hobby shops.

Surplus Sales of Nebraska
Surplus Sales of Nebraska is one of the few large surplus shops that keeps a reliable inventory and thus can list its inventory online. Among other things, they usually have a selection of heatsinks.

2. Where can I buy specialty electronic parts & components in Colorado?

Sadly, this list has gotten much shorter in the decade since I started this website. There are still a few local shops that may be helpful:

Centennial Electronics -- 2324 East Bijou Street, Colorado Springs, CO, 80909
Centennial Electronics is one of those locally-owned shops that looks like the living incarnation of RadioShack from three or four decades ago. They stock a very wide range of electronic parts, components, and tools as well as a full range of both A/V and computer cables.

Electronica -- 2828 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO, 80206
Electronica is primarily a repair shop, but last I checked, they do have a selection of obsolete audio ICs. If you are trying to repair a receiver from the 1975-1990 range and it happens to use some oddball amp or preamp chip, you may be able to get your part here.

McGuckin Hardware -- 2525 Arapahoe Street, Boulder, CO, 80302
One of those shops that has to be seen to be believed. Nominally a hardware store, it contains five varieties of anything that could even be remotely considered hardware. This includes a fair selection of cables and connectors for audio, and some parts-related stuff like switches and conectors, as well. Even if you've got no reason to stop...stop anyway.

OEM Parts Inc. -- 3029 N. Hancock Ave, Colorado Springs, CO, 80907
Yet another place that has to be seen to be believed. The shop is enormous, and surplus of any and all varieties can be found here. The store suffers from clutter, but the basic parts stock is well-organized. Among other things you can find an extremely wide range of resistors, relays, capacitors, ICs, large transformers, and transistors here. Most important, they have an entire aisle of heatsinks and a lot of miscellaneous aluminum and steel stock.

3. Where can I buy loudspeaker parts & components online?

If you are into building speaker systems, then you need to find good drivers and crossover components. Or, maybe you just want a bare kit that will work, but gives you the pleasure assembling and finishing the cabinets to suit your taste. Local shops with that kind of supply are exceedingly rare, but online resources are available.

Apex Jr.
Apex Jr. was mentioned above, but in addition to small components, they often have plate amplifiers and loudspeaker drivers in their stock.

Crutchfield primarily targets the home theater and car audio markets, but sometimes you can find a suitable raw subwoofer driver.

eBay, Inc.
eBay often has a well-rounded selection of speaker drviers available, ranging from new to surplus to impossible-to-find driver pulls from working systems.

Madisound offers a wide range of raw speaker drivers, crossovers and crossover components, pre-cut enclosures, kits, plastic grill hardware, cloth, etc. Pretty much everything you need that can't otherwise be bought at the hardware store, is available here. In my experience the service is good, too.

Meniscus Audio
Similar concept as Madisound.

Parts Express
Already listed above as a supplier of audio-focused component parts, this site also offers a wide range of drivers and speaker hardware and a selection of cables.

Speaker City
Yet another Madisound-themed site offering drivers, kits, and accessories.

4. Ack! I can't find obsolete part number xyz!

Few things are so frsutrating as attempting a repair on that cherished old receiver or DIY audio project from twenty years ago, and discovering that a couple parts do not exist. Worse, the datasheet seems to no longer exist, either. Fortunately, there are options.

First, try tracking down the datasheet at a free site like DatasheetCatalog or AllDatasheet. Knowing the specs of the part can be an important step in locating a suitable alternate. Often if a newer part that you are familiar with has similar or better ratings, it is possible to swap just the part in question (or the part and its complement as necessary) and have the project running again.

Second, as already noted in an earlier section, try cross-referencing the part with NTE. If you find a substitute, check the local suppliers referenced from the NTE website, or see if the NTE part number can be matched at an online distributor such as Mouser.

If that fails, try contacting Consolidated Electronics. You can try the website, but a phone call may be faster.

5. Where can I buy a transformer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg?

Without a good transformer, your project options are limited. And many shops, especially places like DigiKey and Mouser (see above), tend to charge high prices for their higher-powered units in addition to the obvious shipping penalty for heavy objects.

First, some manufacturers may sell direct. Manufacturers operating in North America include companies such as Amveco Toroidal Power Products, Bridgeport Magnetics, Plitron Toroidal Transformers, and Toroid of Maryland. Unless the company is accustomed to sell direct, however, you may not get much response unless you represent a potential commercial customer.

Personally, I would skip all of the above and simply go straight to AnTek Inc.. These transformers are, as far as I know, a Chinese build; but apart from being a bit bulkier than some, they tend to be tightly constructed and free of extraneous hum. Visit a variety of DIY audio forums and you will see the US visitors referring to them frequently. Once at the webstite, skip the "email" option, as it doesn't get checked very often, and call instead. The phone is usually answered by Jeannie as "Par-Metal Products" (see the chassis section, below); indicate immediately that you are inquiring about a transformer, and she will transfer you to the shop owner, Jon Ango. Or, if you use eBay, simply go straight to the AnTek eBay Store. The prices rarely vary from the website price by more than about $5.

Finally, there's eBay as a general supplier. If you have a little patience and good searching skills, you can usually find an ideal unit within a month or two.

6. Where can I get a good chassis?

This one can be difficult. If you know of a locally-owned machine shop in your area that accepts small jobs, they may be able to fulfill your custom design in aluminum at a price equivalent to anything you can order. If not, you can try LMB Heeger. Their chasses products are of very high quality but also very expensive.

For a medium-grade chassis with a good finish and a competitive price, Par-Metal Products is a hard to beat. It is run out of the same shop that sells transformers as AnTek, Inc. (see above), and email is a waste of time; simply call and Jeannie usually answers the phone. The website is a bit outdated but the basic chassis design series are current enough. Unless you have a specific need for a rack-mount chassis, go with a 20-series amplifier chassis, as these have the best ventilation. I recommend asking for, and paying the corresponding upgrade price, for a 0.177" or thicker front panel (depending on what material they have in stock). The defaul panel can be used but it is a little too thin IMO.

Alternately, try the AnTek Inc. eBay store, as it usually has a small selection of chasses listed in with the transformers. If you want color options, however, you will need to call and order directly.

7. How can I find parts on eBay?

Parts searching on eBay requires a certain amount of trial-and-error refinement, but a few basic search terms will shorten your inquiry. Naturally, you should be very sure that the part matches your specific needs (not all transformers offer 120/240 primaries, some only have center-tapped secondaries and can't be wired in parallel, etc.) and is coming from a buyer with a good feedback history and reasonable shipping rates.

Large filter capacitors can be extravagantly priced when purchased new, but on any given day there will be several hundred surplus units floating around. To find them, it is usually best to search for quality name brands. If you get too many extraneous hits, add the word "capacitor" to the search phrase. Useful names include:

  • Aerovox
  • [Cornell] Dubilier
  • Mallory
  • Nichicon
  • Nippon [Chemi-Con]
  • Philips
  • Sprague
  • Heatsinks
    Usually, you will need to search "heatsink" or "heat sink" initially, then follow the links in the left pane to eliminate extraneous categories such as Personal Computing.

    For relays, you can try popular names such as Omron, Tyco, Potter Brumfield, and Gordos. It is usually more productive, however, to simply search for "relay" and spend time sorting through the results.

    Small Parts
    The best selections of small parts tend to live inside small eBay stores. To find them, it is usually easiest to just search "capacitor" or "resistor", or use an umbrella manufacturer name such as Vishay or Xicon, click on random items that appear, and then follow the See all items from this seller or Visit Seller's Store link.

    For transformers, just search "toroid" and "toroidal". Popular misspellings include "torroid" and "torroidal", so sometimes those will turn up results, too. Usually the number of extraneous results will be small, and will amount to a jewelry pendants, Tesla coil and electrostatic generator miscellania, and a few chokes. You can also try for "transformer" or "CNC transformer" if you don't mind culling through about a million results that include a lot of large industrial surplus.

    Once you've had the joy of seeing a few projects come to life, the next step in your hobby's progression is...How can I learn more about the function of this stuff? Snake oil and magic are abundant throughout the DIY audio world in general, and the Internet acts as a megaphone for bad ideas, but good information is available.

    Initially, I recommend starting with the Elliott Sound Products' Articles section. There's a lot of very useful information there, and best of all, it's free. If you want the feel of a good old fashioned book in your hands, though, then you may wish to start with these, in roughly this order:

    The Art of Electronics by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill
    This book gets high recommendations in many quarters as an electronics text that introduces the basic concepts in the fashion that circuit designers actually use (some basic maths, lots of rules-of-thumb) without overburdening the reader with complicated theories.

    High Power Audio Amplifier Construction Manual by G. Randy Slone
    If you understand basic electronics, and want to begin developing an understanding how an amplifier works and why certain methods are used when building one, this is your next book. Slone establishes the foundation of amplifier function without becoming too esoteric. This is the first of two books that every aspiring amplifier designer should have, particularly for his balanced treatment of BJT versus MOSFET designs.

    The Audiophile's Project Sourcebook by G. Randy Slone
    If you're one of those people who learns best by being able to study a wide range of circuits and examines what they do, then this book is for you. It's also a great place to start if you're planning to practice PCB etching, as it includes PCB overlays for most of what is presented.

    Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook, Fourth Ed. by Douglas Self
    Self's work starts out much like Slone's tome, but goes far deeper in analyzing the causes of amplifier distortion and instability, in the latter case using feedback control theory. This is the second of two books every aspiring amplifier designer should have. Self's comprehensive treatment of optimal BJT amplifier biasing, and accompanying tables, are an excellent reference during an R&D excursion.

    Self on Audio, Second Ed. by Douglas Self
    This book is largely a compilation of Self's past contributions to Electronics World and is an excellent accompaniment to a complete audio design library.

    Loudspeaker Design Cookbook by Vance Dickason
    Dicakson's book generally gets high marks as a being a comprehensive review of modern loudspeaker design theory. If you're looking to build your own speakers, start here.

    Audio Electronics, Second Ed. by John Linsley Hood
    Valve and Transistor Audio Amplifiers by John Linsley Hood
    I have no experience with JLH's work, but he is a recognized expert in the audio field, and one of these titles includes a discussion on tube-based designs if that's your thing.

    WARNING: HIGH VOLTAGE ELECTRICITY IS INHERENTLY DANGEROUS AND CAN CAUSE INJURY AND LOSS OF LIFE OR DESTRUCTION TO PROPERTY. The presentations on this website are given for informational purposes only and are not guaranteed for accuracy or fitness to any use or purpose. Consult your local standards and codes before building or modifying any mains-connected equipment.
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