Home > Amplification > First One Build: Heatsink Selection

First One Build: Heatsink Selection

October 31, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the most important parameters for proper operation of the Fist One amplifier module is adequate heat dissipation through a large enough heatsink. The amp module operates in class AB with an idle current of 280 mA.

The idle dissipation of the First One is >30 W at +/-63 V, plus audio power dissipation easily adding extra 50-70 W, so 100 W all together to dissipate.

To calculate the temperature of the heatsink during operation: 100 W * 0.5 K/W=50 K added to room temperature (25 C) resulting in 75 C heatsink temperature. At that point silicon die in output transistor is around 100 C and that is somehow at max acceptability. To calculate idle temperature: 30W* 0,5 K/W=15 K (or C) added to room temperature resulting in 40 C. [link]

Supply DC current to the First One module without input signal present (idle current) is 280 mA, multiplying it with 120 V rails potential, gives 33.6 W of total quiescent power dissipation per module, so in stereo total 67,2 W. That is serious thermal loading for the chassis and heatsink if one would want amp to be below 45 degrees in a room environment. [link]

LC recommends “any heatsink having 0,5 K/W or even lower”. Something like Fischer Elektronik FK157 [link]. Below are the heatsink profiles of the FK157 and other similar profiles that will yield 0.5 K/W dissipation or better. These were extracted from the Fischer Elektronik catalog [link]


Notice that by comparing the 3 profiles shown above, in order to achieve a 0.5 K/W dissipation you would need:

  • 2″ of SK501
  • 2″ of SK 586
  • 2″ of SK 157

Seems longer fins only help if you need a dissipation factor lower than 0.5 K/W or even lower than 0.3K/W

Even a shorter profile would yield a dissipation rate of 0.5 K/W. In this example a 4″ heatsink would achieve a dissipation rate of 0.5K/W


The Semelab application note has a extensive section on heatsink selection [link]. If you read the whole thing, basically the bottom-line thing to do is that the heatsink shall not exceed 70C during operation.

Factory Chassis

LC provides appropriate heatsinks as part of the factory chassis (which cost Euro 300 plus shipping). Following are the photos of the “factory” heatsinks ( I think they are SK 157 with height 70 mm, so having a dissipation coefficient of a bit less than 0.4K/W). The chassis is beautiful and built like a tank. If you want the best, this is it.




In order to obtain the factory heatsinks, you need to purchase the chassis (300 euros plus shipping – I would think US$60-$100 for shipping based on eBay examples. So total cost would be US$450-$500) [link]:


Although it is highly desirable to have an enclosure that is built at the same high standards as the amp module, if budget does not permit, there are other options.

Chinese chassis from eBay

The is the the lowest cost for a chassis plus heatsink meeting the required dissipation rate [link]. This case costs about US$ 160 including shipping.


The heatsink size for this case is 300x50x67mm with a profile similar to SK501 but with the fins 10 mm longer. At 67 mm height, Likely it exceeds the required 0.5 K/W dissipation rate. It probably rates at 0.45K/W. (This is just theory in practice you may need a larger (taller) heatsink depending on different factors such as ambient temp, etc)

You can find an example implementation of this case with the VSSA amp here [link].

A similar but with taller heatsinks can be found here [link] and here [link]

Heatsink Only

If you want the minimum cost and If you live in the USA, a good source is “HeatsinkUSA”. High quality and good prices. The largest one seems to fit the bill [link]. Specs are:

  • Width is 10.080″
  • Fin Height is 2.5″
  • Base Height is .375″
  • Weight is approximately .99 lbs per inch
  • C/W/3″: approximately .80 (for a 3″ heatsink)


This heatsink is similar in profile to  SK524 above except it has one less fin but the fins are much larger at 50 mm. If we use the dissipation curve of the SK524 we find that a 4″ heatsink will meet the required 0.5K/W dissipation. Note that the published thermal dissipation specification for this heatsink is 0.8 s for a 3″. If we go by the dissipation curves shown in the Fischer Elektronik catalog, then this values seems too conservative. But in order to be safe, a 5″ heatsink would likely be more than sufficient.  A pair of 5″ heatsinks would set you back about $90 including shipping.

Thrift Store Amp

Even cheaper than getting heatsink is using an old amp from a thrift store. If you are lucky, you may find an old amp with large heatsinks. I had purchased a used Adcom GFA-5300 amplifier from the local thrift store for $15. This was a few years back. nowadays, even thrift stores are drastically increasing the price of used audio equipment. I would say this amp would probably sell for $50 if bought today.

The heatsink of the Adcom has the following dimensions:

Width: 200 mm; height: 90 mm; depth (fins): 55 mm; base plate thickness: 5 mm; number of fins: 20.



The closest profile I could find from the Fischer Elektronik catalog is the following:


As can be seen, the Adcom heatsink is a bit wider, the fins a tad longer and it has 4 more fins. I would say at 90 mm in height, it would easily meet 0.6K/W. but it does not meet the minimum requirement of 0.5K/W.

Using the power supply of the Adcom Amplifier

What if we use the power supply of the Adcom which provides +/- 52V? We can calculate the required heatsink dissipation with this supply by following the example given at the beginning of this section and the following requirement [link]:

As we don’t want to have more than 45 C in idle, please use heatsink having thermal coeficient of 0,5K/W or less for each channel.

First One module has 35 W idle power dissipation when supplied from +/-63 V PSU.

The idle current of the Amp is 280 mA (how to measure [link]). Even at a lower supply voltage this bias requirement is fixed [link]

Thus at +/- 52V supply we get 29 Watts. With a heastsink of 0.6K/W we get 29*0.6=17.4 C. Adding the room temperature of 25C we get 42.4K which is within spec but this is only at idle.

The service manual of the Adcom Amp gives this power data:


I plan to use this Adcom amp for my first build. It seems to have adequate heatsinks. I will have to build up the amp to know for sure.

Summary of choices

  • Factory case: ~$450-$500
  • eBay Chinese case: ~$150-$200
  • Heatsink Only: ~$90
  • Thrift Store Amp with large heatsinks: ~$30-$60
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