Many new devices require a headphone connection, but due to the high level of integration and miniaturisation there is usually little room left. The low supply voltage and/or battery voltage also causes problems. If no special techniques are used, the output power and headroom are severely limited. The MAX4410 made by Maxim overcomes these problems not just by virtue of its small size, but also by including an internal supply inverter (charge-pump). This requires only two small external ceramic SMD capacitors (C6 and C7). The supply voltage to the output stage is now symmetrical and the outputs are therefore relative to ground (no DC offset). This gets round the need for large output capacitors to stop a DC voltage from reaching the headphones. A DC-coupled output can also be implemented using two bridge amplifiers, but virtually all plugs for stereo headphones are asymmetric and use 3-pole connectors (common ground), which can’t be connected to a bridge output.
Each channel can be individually turned off (SHDNL and SHDNR) by jumpers JP1 and JP2. During normal operation these two inputs should be connected to the positive supply. When both channels are turned off the charge pump is also switched off and the current consumption drops to about 6 μA. The IC also has thermal and short-circuit protection built in. The IC switches to standby mode when the supply voltage is too low and it has a circuit that prevents power-on and off plops at the outputs. The recommended supply voltage is between 1.8 V and 3.6 V. The IC can deliver about 80 mW per channel into a 16 Ω load. The power supply should be able to output at least 200 mA. In practice this means that when you use a power supply that also powers other circuits, it should have at least 300 mA in reserve. The amplifiers are configured in inverting mode with a gain set by the ratio of two resistors (R3/R1 or R4/R2); the input impedance is determined by R1 and R2.
C1 and C2 are required to decouple any possible DC-offset from the inputs. In the MAX4410 evaluation kit these are small tantalum capacitors, but we don’t recommend these for use in audio applications. Plastic film types would be much better, although they take up much more room. HF decoupling is provided by 100 pF capacitors connected in parallel with R3 and R4. These set the bandwidth of the amplifiers to just over 150 kHz. The typical distortion is 0.003%. For more details you should refer to the MAX4410 datasheet. It is also worth looking at the datasheet for the associated evaluation kit. The choice of capacitors for decoupling etc., their positioning on the board and the overall layout are very critical and demand a lot of attention. Furthermore, the 14-pin TSSOP package (with a pin spacing of 0.65 mm) and SMDs in 0402 packages make it very difficult to construct this circuit yourself. The IC is also available in a (much more difficult to solder) UCSP 16 package (ball grid array, only 2.02 by 2.02 mm).