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 amp class guide

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PostSubject: amp class guide   Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:36 am

Below is a little information about amp classes. If you've ever wondered what the difference is between a Class D amp compared to a Class A amp.

Class A
Where efficiency is not a consideration, most small signal linear amplifiers are designed as Class A, which means that the output devices are always in the conduction region. Class A amplifiers are typically more linear and less complex than other types, but are very inefficient. This type of amplifier is most commonly used in small-signal stages or for low-power applications (such as driving headphones).

Class B
In Class B, there are two output devices (or sets of output devices), each of which conducts alternately for exactly 180 deg (or half cycle) of the input signal.

Class AB
Class AB amplifiers are a compromise between Class A and B, which improves small signal output linearity; conduction angles vary from 180 degrees upwards, selected by the amplifier designer. Usually found in low frequency amplifiers (such as audio and hi-fi) owing to their relatively high efficiency, or other designs where both linearity and efficiency are important (cell phones, cell towers, TV transmitters).

Class C
Popular for high power RF amplifiers, Class C is defined by conduction for less than 180° of the input signal. Linearity is not good, but this is of no significance for single frequency power amplifiers. The signal is restored to near sinusoidal shape by a tuned circuit, and efficiency is much higher than A, AB, or B classes of amplification.

Class D
Class D amplifiers use switching to achieve a very high power efficiency (more than 90% in modern designs). By allowing each output device to be either fully on or off, losses are minimized. A simple approach such as pulse-width modulation is sometimes still used; however, high-performance switching amplifiers use digital techniques, such as sigma-delta modulation, to achieve superior performance. Formerly used only for subwoofers due to their limited bandwidth and relatively high distortion, the evolution of semiconductor devices has made possible the development of high fidelity, full audio range Class D amplifiers, with S/N and distortion levels similar to their linear counterparts.

Other classes
There are several other amplifier classes, although they are mainly variations of the previous classes. For example, Class H and Class I amplifiers are marked by variation of the supply rails (in discrete steps or in a continuous fashion, respectively) following the input signal. Wasted heat on the output devices can be reduced as excess voltage is kept to a minimum. The amplifier that is fed with these rails itself can be of any class. These kinds of amplifiers are more complex, and are mainly used for specialized applications, such as very high-power units. Also, Class E and Class F amplifiers are commonly described in literature for radio frequencies applications where efficiency of the traditional classes deviate substantially from their ideal values. These classes use harmonic tuning of their output networks to achieve higher efficiency and can be considered a subset of Class C due to their conduction angle characteristics.
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