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Development of the NiWatt – Part 3

Galibier Design - NiWatt Prototyping Photo

It dawns on me that we haven’t had any NiWatt updates in a while, and as we near production, it’s time to bring you up to date (stay tuned for news).

I went through photos taken at  various stages of prototyping and have a bit more of the story to tell.

Somewhere in the mid-stages of prototyping (iteration #11?), we refocused our attention to the power supply design for the input/driver stage.  Gaining access to the components to change values was a bit cramped for our taste.  We had already addressed this in our production drawings, but we rolled up our sleeves and returned our attention to this to see if we could do better.

The production version was initially slated to have a much cleaner version of the terminal strips shown in the top photo in this post. 

Flexibility and modularity has always been our calling card, and the more we considered it, the more the terminal strip version seemed a bit too “locked in” (inflexible), and free-form hard-wired circuits (while infinitely flexible) were out of the question due to their relative fragility. 

Galibier Design - NiWatt Prototyping PhotoAs we’ve written before, we love the robust construction techniques used in guitar amplifiers.  There are no sonic compromises and they’re designed to withstand years of abuse by roadies.  Turret board construction it was, and we began to design the board.

A turret board design would appear to be no more flexible than terminal strips, but because we design and fabricate the boards in-house, we can rapidly adapt to change, in a way that cannot be done with terminal strips.

Well, if it’s in the design, it has to be built before getting a production sign-off.  You can’t find build errors on a computer screen the way you can by physically interacting with the parts.  All too many products (by no means limited to audio) consider service access as an afterthought. 

I frequently joke about the ease of working on a mid ’50’s automobile and comment that you can practically stand in the engine compartment to change spark plugs.  Obviously, that’s wasted space, but contrast that to some of the early mini-vans produced by Toyota where the engine had to be lifted off its mounts in order to change its spark plugs.  Somewhere between the two extremes lies a happy medium.

Galibier Design - NiWatt Prototyping PhotoSo, the output of this effort was the preliminary turret board shown here.  It’s not perfect, but it gave us the understanding to make the final changes to this section of the design.

I’m reminded of the comment attributed to Mark Twain “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time”. 

It took a long time to simplify the design to its current state. 

We live by St. Exupery’s philosophy:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

One could easily call the NiWatt’s initial release the Mk III if one were using other manufacturers’ product release criteria. Think about that for a minute!

The previous installment of our NiWatt discussion can be found here.

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