Meet Muffsy aka Havard Skrodahl, the creator of numerous top quality audio devices featuring audiophile-approved levels of fidelity, using the finest components available. Each item is shipped from Sweden and comes in kit form to build yourself and integrate with your home setup. He has an amazing eye for detail, and is passionate about music and its reproduction.
We caught up with Muffsy to find out about his electronic beginnings, journey and where the inspiration for his designs comes from. Let’s find out more!
You’re clearly talented at what you do – what got you into electronics?
Thanks for the compliment. I got a degree in electronic engineering in the Armed Forces back in the early nineties. I’ve never worked with EE directly, but it’s stayed a hobby of mine.
How long have you been making electronic devices?
On and off for the last thirty years, really. At first it was other people’s designs. I did a few designs of my own once I was able to etch my own hand drawn PCBs. Most of what I’ve done has been during the last ten years, after I learnt to design PCBs with Eagle.
Can you remember the first thing you ever made?
It was actually a 2 Watt FM transmitter, bought as a kit from the UK. It worked well enough for me to transmit Motörhead over one of our national radio stations. Electronics kits used to be abundant, and is what inspired me to make my own kits almost thirty years later.
Did you encounter any pitfalls on the way to learning how to make these things?
Apart from having electrolytic capacitors blowing up in my face now and then? That’s got to be PCB manufacturing, before it became cheap. I had several PCBs produced with layers that didn’t line up, before I got it right. Sourcing components is also quite daunting, before you get the hang of it. Both of these are good reasons for kits to exist, since mistakes can be costly both in cash and in time lost.
Fidelity seems to be a key factor for you – where do you source your high quality components?
High quality, genuine components is the only way to go. I’m not selling anything I wouldn’t use myself. Most of my kit components are sourced from DigiKey and tme.eu. I’ve also got a great local supplier, www.electrokit.com, that I can visit when I need something straight away.
Screws, shims, nuts and thumb nuts are sourced from eBay simply because they only cost a tiny fraction of what I’d have to pay at a local hardware store. I can’t even find a store offering the thumb nuts or the black screws for the Muffsy Back Panel.
What inspires you to create new things?
Most of what I do is based on my own needs combined with curiosity. The Muffsy Phono Preamp was built because I needed a phono pre-amp. The Muffsy MC Head Amp was designed and built because I was curious about MC cartridges (I could never afford one of those in my teens). The fact that I didn’t yet own an MC cartridge was of lesser importance. I also built a headphone amplifier without owning a pair of headphones.
Sometimes people ask me to design boards for them, that’s how I got to try out a tube pre-amp for the very first time. Other things, like my constant current LED tester and the ESP32 stereo relay input selector board, were made just because I needed them.
Being able to bring the projects from the breadboard to something permanent is perhaps the most important thing. The main reason that my projects come to life is that PCB prototyping has become so fast, cheap and easy. I don’t see a lot of PCB etching in my future.
Why do you think offering open-source designs is important?
I wouldn’t be where I am if people didn’t share stuff, so it’s only natural to share what I’m doing as well. Forums like diyaudio.com and blogs like Hackaday are just amazing. So many people sharing their ideas and knowledge out of their love for what they do, and I want to do my bit as well.
It’s also made people contact me from all over the world. I am really happy when I hear from people who’ve bought their first soldering iron and succeeded in building one of my kits. It means that they’ve got a great phono pre-amp, and, for some, it’s the beginning of a new hobby.
Of the things you’ve made, which device are you most proud of?
The Muffsy MC Head Amp is the single most impressive piece of hi-fi equipment I’ve ever owned. I still can’t believe that I made something that performs that well, especially when considering it’s amplifying signal levels in the low µV range.
Practically though, the Muffsy Power Supply is the most important reason for me being able to offer complete kits. It uses an AC wall adapter for safety, and the whole circuit stays within 50 volts. Anything higher usually requires authorization, and it is potentially dangerous. And using a mains transformer often leads to annoying ground loops.
You seem to have a hankering for vintage audio equipment, why is it so special for you?
That’s simple, it’s what I grew up with. Playing a record from the beginning to the end is a different way of experiencing music, one that can almost make certain records feel like old friends. Also, I find that I like both the sound and the design of many vintage loudspeakers. I’m very proud of my Dynaco A25s that I restored myself.
You make a preamp for record players – do you collect records yourself? Which are your favourites?
I sure do. It’s not a huge collection by any means, mainly because I tend to choose records that can be played from beginning to end. While I can sit through an LP, I don’t have the patience to swap 7″ singles or 12″ maxi singles. That’s what streaming is for. My all time favorite album is Supertramp’s “Crime of the Century”.
The popularity of vinyl means that quite a few CD only releases are now becoming available on vinyl, and more and more new releases are available as well. I’m especially fond of The Hold Steady’s vinyl releases.
Can you recommend any resources for getting into electronics?
“The Art of Electronics” by Horowitz and Hill is the best resource for learning the basics. Douglas Self’s books and online resources are invaluable as well, because they focus on practical application of knowledge. Speaking of practical, the Hackaday blog is a daily read. Dave Jones on EEVBlog is my favourite youtuber.
What things are on the horizon for Muffsy?
Your guess is as good as mine. Probably something I need myself, most likely audio related.
There are no new kits planned for now, but the Muffsy Phono Preamp, Power Supply and Back Panel all just got a major upgrade. Thanks to everyone who reached out to me, most of the improvements are based on your suggestions.
Many thanks to Havard Skrodahl for sharing his knowledge and influences with the Tindie Blog. Visit the Muffsy store to see his amazing products and keep our blog bookmarked to hear from more of our talented creators.