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The purpose of this report is to document the design, construction and testing of a
50W high quality audio power amplifier. This amplifier was developed at The
University of Sheffield over a period of seven weeks during the second semester of
the 2002/2003 academic year.

The idea behind a power amplifier is to take a signal produced by a microphone or

some form of player (e.g. a CD/record player) and amplify it to such a power that it
can be reproduced through a loud speaker. Often there is a pre-amplifier placed
before the power amplifier which controls the volume and other signal parameters
such as bass and treble. Pre-amplifier design will not be considered here.

The vast majority of power amplifiers have the same high level layout consisting of a
differential amplifier stage, followed by a voltage amplification stage (VAS),
followed by a third stage providing the required current gain. The current gain stage
is often two devices working in a “Push – Pull” arrangement. Negative feedback
connects the output to the input differential stage to provide a stable circuit. (See
Figure 1)

Figure 1 – General Power Amplifier Circuit

Three classes of the topology in figure 1 exist and relate to the different biasing (DC
quiescent operating point) of the output current gain stage. Class A circuits are biased
so that both output devices are on for the whole input cycle. This requires a large bias
current and large heat sinks to dissipate the heat generated in the output devices.
Class A circuits are therefore relatively inefficient. Maximum efficiency is reached
at full volume when one of the output devices comes close to turning off. However
class A circuits have low distortions due to the output devices never turning off.

Class B circuits are biased so that the output devices are never on together and never
off together. [1] (I.e. the instant one device turns off the other turns on.) This results
in much better efficiency than class A but distortion occurs at the point of conduction
changeover between the two devices. At an extreme, crossover distortion results
(where there is a delay between one device turning on after the other has turned off.)
This distortion would sound very unpleasant to a listener.

It is possible to have a circuit biased so that it operates in class A for small signals and
then switches over to class B operation for larger signals. This is called class AB
operation. It is somewhat of a compromise between the high quiescent power
dissipations and high linearity of class A operation and lower quiescent power
dissipations and lower linearity of class B operation.

Class C circuits are very efficient but are generally only used in radio frequency (RF)
applications. The output devices conduct for less than 50% of the input cycle. [2]
This results in severe cross over distortion and therefore class C circuits do not have a
use in audio circuits.

A slight variation on figure 1 is a class G amplifier. [3] This makes use of the fact
that musical signals spend most of their time at low levels and occasionally jump up
to higher levels. Therefore to keep power dissipations low in the output devices they
are powered from a low voltage most of the time with the ability to switch to a higher
voltage when the input signal is large.

A totally different way of amplification which is not based on figure 1 is a class D

amplifier. This uses the input signal to pulse width modulate (PWM) a high
frequency, high power signal. This PWM signal is then low pass filtered to remove
the high frequency component leaving only a larger version of the input signal. Class
D amplifiers are potentially very efficient because the output devices are either fully
on or fully off in which case little power is dissipated within them.

This report will consider the design of a class AB power amplifier with bipolar
junction transistors (BJTs) as the output devices. It was designed to meet the
following specification given to us at the start of the project.

Output power Up to 50W into an 8Ω resistive load with a sinusoidal

drive. (This was increased from 20W in hope of a better
chance of annoying the neighbours.)
Input signal level 0dBV from a source with an internal impedance of 1kΩ
for full output.
Output resistance <0.1Ω
Frequency response -1dB points of 20Hz and 20kHz.
Stability Unconditionally stable for inductive and resistive loads,
and for magnitudes of capacitive loads likely to be
caused by speaker cables.
Dynamic Range (DR)  max m.s signal voltage 
>100dB DR = 20 log  
 max m.s hum and noise voltage 

Short circuit protection To prevent against accidental shorting of the output

Linearity Total harmonic distortion < 0.1% at 10W.

Extra functionality was included that was not in the specification given to us. This
was DC offset protection and Anti-Thud protection which will be discussed later in
this report.

The rest of the report is organised such that an overview of the circuit topology is
given next, followed by a detailed design explanation. SPICE circuit simulation is
then considered before a section on the physical construction of the amplifier is
included. The results obtained through testing are then discussed before the report is

2. Circuit Topology

2.1 High Level Topology

Figure 2 shows the amplifier circuit in a high level block diagram form.

Figure 2 – High Level Block Diagram

2.2 Band-Pass Filter

The band-pass filter prevents any unwanted frequencies from entering the amplifier.
It is therefore designed to have -1dB points at 20Hz and 20kHz which is the
frequency response required in the specification. It is simply a first order high-pass
filter in series with a first order low-pass filter. See figure 3

Figure 3 – Band Pass Filter

2.3 Differential Amplifier

The output from the band-pass filter is fed into the differential amplifier stage (also
known as a long tailed pair). See figure 4

Figure 4 – Simple Differential Amplifier

The differential amplifier stage has two inputs at the transistor base connections
shown in figure 4. It operates such that differential signals (those which do not appear
the same at both inputs) are amplified and common mode signals (those which do
appear the same at both inputs) are attenuated. R1 in figure 4 sets a roughly constant
current and under steady state conditions this is shared equally between both
transistors, Q1 and Q2. R2 converts the current flowing in the left hand arm of the
differential amplifier into a voltage to drive the voltage amplification stage (VAS). A
differential signal has the effect of unbalancing the two arms so current would now be
shared unequally between the two halves. This would cause a change in voltage
across R2. For a common mode signal the voltage across R2 will remain constant as
the two halves remain balanced (R1 has defined a constant current which continues to
be split equally between both halves.) An example of a common mode signal could
be noise present on both inputs to the differential amplifier. The differential amplifier
therefore helps to keep noise out of the power amplifier.

The ability of a circuit to reject common mode signals is quantified by its’ common
mode rejection ratio (CMRR). Others have shown [4] that the larger the emitter
resistance is (R1 in figure 4) the larger the CMRR is. However making R1 too large
means only a small bias current will flow. This means the transistors will be
operating on a less linear part of its base-emitter voltage / collector current
characteristic. (See figure 5)

Figure 5 – Transistor Transconductance Characteristic

However, replacing R1 in figure 4 with a current source means that any collector
current can be set while the effective impedance of the current source is high giving a
large value for the CMRR. The current source will also help to improve the power
supply rejection ratio (PSRR). The PSRR is a measure of a circuits’ ability to operate
normally should the power supply vary. It is possible to have a mains frequency hum
on top of the supply voltage. The current source would continue to supply a roughly
uniform current in this case.

Improvements in linearity of the differential amplifier can be made by adding emitter

degeneration resistors in both arms. [5] This effectively swamps the variation of
internal emitter resistance of the transistors as the collector current varies. I.e. include
a linear resistor so that the non linear variation of the transistors internal resistance
becomes less significant. This leads to an improved differential amplifier shown in
figure 6.

Figure 6 – Improved Differential Amplifier

2.4 Voltage Amplification Stage (VAS)

This is based around a common emitter amplifier operating in the class A region.
This is where most of the voltage gain occurs and it must be capable of the full output
voltage swing. Figure 7 shows a simplified diagram. R1 models the collector load
and C1 is the dominant pole compensation capacitor. This is used to help stabilise the
circuit and prevent it oscillating. The gain of any multistage amplifier begins to roll
off at -20dB/decade at some frequency [6] i.e. the circuit acts as a first order low-pass
filter. At a higher frequency a second pole will be reached and the gain will roll off at
-40dB/decade and then a third pole for -60dB/decade and so on. Each pole creates a
90º phase shift. In order to prevent positive feedback the gain of the amplifier must
be less than unity before a 180º inversion has occurred. Positive feedback causes
instability and would effectively make an oscillator. Adding C1 as in figure 7 has the
effect of taking the first pole, reducing the frequency at which it occurs and therefore
making it dominate the amplifiers frequency response. This helps ensure that the gain
falls below unity before a phase shift of 180º occurs.
The voltage gain of the VAS is proportional to the effective value of the collector
resistance (R1 in figure 7.) This relationship is derived in appendix 1. To produce a
high gain R1 must be made large but, again as in the differential amplifier case,
making it too large leads to nonlinearities with the transistor operating on a very
nonlinear part of its I-V characteristic. A current source is therefore used in place of
R1 to allow the current to be precisely set and to have a high effective collector
resistance at the same time.

Figure 7 – VAS Stage

Also in the collector arm of the VAS circuit is the biasing arrangement which puts the
output devices into slight conduction under DC conditions. This reduces crossover
distortion and depending on the voltage dropped across the biasing arrangement, it
takes the circuit from a class C (crossover distortion) to a class B (one output device
turns on as the other turns off) to a class AB (both devices on for small signals).
Figure 8 shows the VAS with the current source and biasing arrangement included.

Figure 8 – VAS with Current Source as Collector Load

R1 in figure 8 allow the quiescent voltage between the two output devices to be
trimmed. The diodes help to keep the circuit thermally stable (this will be discussed

2.5 Output Devices

This stage provides the current gain required to drive the speaker load and is shown in
figure 9. Q1 and Q2 perform the positive half signal cycles and Q3 and Q4 perform
the negative half cycles. Q2 and Q4 are power devices designed to dissipate
relatively large powers within themselves (if properly heat-sinked). Q1 and Q3 are
smaller signal driver transistors. The arrangement of the two output sections are
known as a compound pairs or the Sziklai connection.[7] It is an improvement over
the usual darlington pair arrangement as there is only one base emitter voltage drop in
the direct signal path whereas with a darlington pair there are two. Each base emitter
drop has a temperature coefficient of around -2.5mV/ºC. As the devices warm up due
to quiescent current flow the base emitter voltage drops allowing more collector
current to flow heating the device further thus reducing the base emitter voltage
further and so still more collector current flows and so on. This is called thermal
runaway. Placing two base emitter drops in the signal path (as in the darlington
arrangement) means the combination has an overall temperature coefficient of around
-5 mV/ºC, thus increasing the chances of thermal runaway. The output signal can also
get closer to the supply voltage with only one base emitter voltage drop.

Diodes D1 and D2 in figure 9 help to thermally stabilise the circuit. If D1and D2 are
arranged on the circuit board so that they are in they are in thermal contact with Q1
and Q3 then as the arrangement warms up the bias voltage will drop at the same rate
as the base emitter voltages drop, keeping the collector current of Q1 and Q3 roughly

Resistors R2 and R5 in figure 9 help to speed up the turn off time of Q2 and Q4. [8]
They also prevent the collector leakage current of Q1 and Q3 from turning Q2 and Q4
on. Resistors R3 and R4 provide a cushion to drop any extra voltage created in the
bias circuit that is not dropped across the base emitter junctions of Q1 and Q3.[9]
They provide some local negative feedback so that when quiescent current increase in
the output stage more voltage is dropped across them reducing the collector current of
Q1 and Q3 and hence helping to improve thermal stability.

Figure 9 – Output Stage

2.6 Negative Feedback (NFB)

Putting all the above sections together effectively makes a high power Op-Amp with,
hopefully, a high voltage gain and good linearity. Negative feedback is used to define
the gain accurately provide stability for the circuit. It takes the output voltage from
across the load and feeds a proportion of it back to the differential amplifier stage.
The gain is reduced to unity at DC such that DC offsets at the differential amplifier
are not amplified. This is done by adding a capacitor into the resistive feedback
divider. Shown in figure 10.

Figure 10 – NFB connected between output and differential amplifier

The feedback divider consists of R1, R6 and C1 shown in figure 10. This will be
discussed further in the design section. All the fundamental parts of the circuit have
now been discussed and all the parts are shown together in a circuit diagram in figure
11. Still to be discussed is the protection circuitry employed.

2.7 Short Circuit Protection

If the output of the amplifier is shorted to ground in some way, while the amplifier is
turned on and an input signal is present, then large currents will flow and all the
output voltage will appear across the output transistors. Therefore power dissipated
within the output transistors will be very high causing the output devices to fail in the
order of microseconds. These transistors and possibly other devices in the circuit
would then have to be replaced before the amplifier could be operated again. A
simple current limiting circuit is therefore included to prevent too much current
flowing (and hence power dissipation within the device) should the output be shorted
to ground. The implementation for this is shown in figure 12.

Figure 12 – Short Circuit Protection Circuitry

From figure 12, R1 and R7 form a potential divider measuring the voltage across the
output resistor R3. When too much current flows (short circuit condition) sufficient
voltage appears across the output resistor R3 to turn transistor Q5 on via the potential
divider formed by R1 and R7. This shunts current away from the base of Q1 turning
off Q2 and hopefully preventing Q2 from being destroyed. The arrangement based
around Q5 serves for positive signal half cycles and that around Q6 serves the
negative half cycles.

2.8 DC Offset Protection

This prevents damage to the speaker load should the output somehow sit at the supply
voltage. Possible damage could be speaker coil burn out or permanent displacement
of the speaker cone when too much current flows for too longer duration. A DC
offset could occur if, for some reason, the feedback loop became open circuit. Under
this case any slight DC offset at the differential amplifier would be amplified by the
open loop gain (designed to be very large) thus causing the output to jump to one of
the supply voltages. Protection is provided in the form of a slow blow fuse connected
in series with the speaker load which will blow should too much current flow into the
speaker due to a DC offset. The blown fuse disconnects the speaker from the circuit
preventing damage to it. A slow blow fuse is specified so that it will not blow under
normal operation when large peak currents are demanded.

2.9 Anti Thud Protection

When power is applied to the circuit it takes time to stabilise. This is due to various
time constants within the circuit such as that formed in the feedback loop. The output
at turn on is likely to jump in voltage taking time to settle back to 0V. This causes a
“thud” to be produced by the speaker load which is unpleasant to the ear and possibly
damaging to the speaker. The speaker is there foreleft disconnected, via a relay, for a
period of time until the circuit has stabilised. The implementation is shown in figure
Figure 13 – Anti Thud and DC Offset Protection Circuitry

From figure 13 R2 and D1 derive 12V from the main amplifier positive supply
voltage. The 12V is used to power a relay coil which when energised connects the
speaker to the amplifier output. However the relay coil takes time to energise after
the power is applied due to the time delay formed by R3 and C2. This produces the
required turn on delay to prevent a turn on thud. F1 in figure 13 is the slow blow fuse
required for DC offset protection.

3. Design Section

This section of the report will discuss the method of component choice for the circuit
topology described in the previous section. In this section all components are
referenced to figure 11

3.1 Power Supply and Output Stage

For 50W RMS sinusoidal drive into an 8Ω resistive load the peak voltage required:

Vp = 2 PRL which comes from P = and Vp = 2VRMS

where P is the RMS power and RL is the load resistance.

So Vp = 28.3 V

Therefore in order to achieve 50W into 8Ω then the power supply rails must be at
least +/- 28.3V. However, there will be some voltage drop across the output
transistors and output resistors such that the full power supply voltage will not all
appear across the load. This means a greater supply voltage is required. Making it
too large increases power dissipation within the output devices making the circuit less
efficient. A supply of +/- 30V was therefore chosen.

The peak current required from the supply is given by:

Ip =

So Ip = 3.53 A and therefore IRMS = 1.12 A
The maximum power dissipated within one of the output devices is given by:

PDMAX = Where VCC is the supply voltage.
π 2 RL

Giving PDMAX = 11.4 W

(This relationship is derived in appendix 2)

Output transistors (Q5 and Q7 in figure 11) were therefore chosen to cope with a
maximum collector current of at least 3.5A, a maximum collector emitter voltage of at
least 30V and a maximum internal power dissipation of at least 11.4W. Q5 was
chosen as an MJ15023 and Q7 chosen as an MJ15022. Both these transistors have
maximum collector currents of 8A, collector emitter voltages of 250V and power
dissipations of 250W (If properly heat-sunk). These transistors therefore give large
safety margins over the absolute minimum requirements calculated above. This
conservative design will help make sure the circuit operates reliably.

These output transistors require heatsinks to prevent the semiconductor junction from
overheating. The data sheet specifies a maximum junction temperature of 200 ºC and
a junction to case thermal resistance of 0.7 ºC/W. Therefore at a maximum power
dissipation of 11.4 W, calculated above, the transistor case will be 8.2 ºC (0.7 x 11.4)
cooler than the junction. Another condition is the maximum temperature of the
heatsink. If this has the possibility of coming into contact with a person then the
temperature of the heatsink should be limited to around 80 ºC to prevent injury.
Therefore if the transistor case is thermally bonded to the heatsink such that a low
thermal resistance is created (normally around 0.4 ºC/W if heat conductive paste is
used) then the limiting condition will be the maximum heatsink temperature. The
situation is modelled in figure 14.

Rjc = junction to case

thermal resistance
Rcs = case to heatsink
thermal resistance
Rsa = heatsink to ambient
thermal resistance

Figure 14 – Model of Amplifiers Thermal Characteristics

Assuming the ambient temperature is 25 ºC then the thermal resistance of the heatsink
(Rsa in figure 14) should be a maximum of:

(80 – 25) / 11.7 = 4.7 ºC/W

It should be noted that this is for one transistor. If both transistors are to be mounted
on the same heatsink then the maximum thermal resistance should be half of this

Two heatsinks of thermal resistance 3.3 ºC/W were therefore chosen. These were
purchased predrilled to take the transistor case (TO3) and had spare holes so they
could be mounted on the circuit board.

The choice of the output resistors (R14 and R15 in figure 11) depends on both
electrical and thermal properties. If they are too small then thermal runaway becomes
more likely, if they are too large energy is wasted and the maximum voltage that can
appear across the load is reduced. Others have shown [10] that in order to prevent
thermal runaway:

RE ≥ αVCCθJA where RE is the value of an output resistor, α is the

temperature coefficient of the base emitter voltage (typically
2.5mV/ºC, VCC is the supply voltage and θJA is the junction to
ambient thermal resistance.

With VCC = 30V and θJA = 4.4 ºC/W gives a minimum RE of 0.33Ω. A value of
0.43Ω was chosen. This value was not available from the supplier (RS) therefore
0.50Ω resistors were used instead. A maximum current of 3.5A flows through the
output resistors therefore the maximum power dissipated within them will be:


PMAX = 6.13 W

15 W, 0.5 Ω resistors were therefore used for the output resistors (R14 and R15).

For the driver transistors (Q4 and Q6 in figure 11) ZTX653 and ZTX753 were
chosen. These transistors have to provide enough current to drive the output
transistors Q5 and Q7. The current gain of the output transistors is typically 40 and
for a peak output current of 3.5A the collector current required in the driver transistors
is therefore:

(3.5 / 40) = 87.5mA

The maximum collector to emitter voltage that can occur equals the supply voltage
VCC (30V). The ZTX753/653 are capable of 500mA collector current and 100V
collector to emitter voltage and are therefore suitable for use as the driver transistors.

For the resistors R13 and R12 a value of 200 Ω has been used. If this value is too
large then the output transistors may turn on due to the collector leakage current of the
driver transistors Q4 and Q6. If this value is too small the output transistors may
never turn on. So for the first condition:

ILEAKAGER ≤ VBE where ILEAKAGE is the collector leakage current of Q4 and Q6,
R is the resistance of R12 and R13 and VBE is the base emitter
turn on voltage of the output transistors.

From data sheets [11] the maximum value of ILEAKAGE is quoted as 10µA and VBE is
typically 0.6V. Therefore:

R ≤ 60 kΩ

For the second condition, roughly 0.7V must be developed across R12 and R13 when
in normal operation in order to turn the output devices on. This is not easy to
calculate but a few hundred ohms are recommended by others [7]. The value was set
at 200Ω and appeared to work under simulation.

3.2 VAS Stage and Biasing

The quiescent collector current for the VAS transistor (Q2 in figure 11) must be
chosen so that it is always operating in the class A region. The quiescent collector
current should therefore be between 1.5 to 5 times the maximum current required by
the driver transistors Q4 and Q6.[8] The combined current gain for the compound
pair is typically 8000 (40 x 200). So for a peak current of 3.5A in the output the peak
base current into the driver transistors is 0.44mA (3.5 / 8000). Therefore choosing a
VAS quiescent collector current of three times this value gives 1.3mA.

The VAS quiescent collector current is produced by the current source based around
Q3 in figure 11. It operates such that roughly one diode voltage drop appears across
R10. This voltage is roughly constant for varying loads and a varying power supply,
hence a constant current is produced. The value of R10 required is therefore:

VBE 0. 7
R10 = = = 533 Ω

The nearest preferred value being 510Ω

Diodes D5 and D6 are chosen as small signal 1N4148 as only a small current is
required to set up a voltage reference at the base of Q3. Resistor R11 is chosen to put
the diodes D5 and D6 into conduction and also so that the current flowing through
R11 is much larger than the current flowing into the base of Q3. With a value of
4.3kΩ for R11, the current through D5 and D6 is:

VCC − (2VBE ) 30 − (1.4)

IDIODE = = = 6.7mA
R11 4300

The base current required by Q3 is:

IC 0.0013
IB = = = 6.5µA
hFE 200

The current through R11 is therefore roughly 1000 times larger than the base current
of Q3.

The VAS transistor (Q2) is chosen such that a full signal swing (60V) does not exceed
the maximum collector emitter voltage. Also a small signal transistor with a large
current gain ( hFE ) is preferable as hFE is proportional to voltage gain in the VAS stage
(See appendix 1 for relationship). A ZTX 653, with a maximum collector emitter
voltage of 100V and a typical hFE of 200, is therefore chosen.

The dominant pole compensation capacitor (C3) is chosen as 100pF. If it is too large
the slew rate of the amplifier is limited and distortion results when driving fast
signals. If it is too small then it does not reduce the pole frequency sufficiently and
there is danger of instability due to positive feedback around the feedback loop.
Under simulation 100pF seemed to perform its task in providing stability and did not
appear to cause any slewing effects at high frequency.

In the bias circuit D3 and D4 are chosen as small signal types (1N4148) to match the
base emitter junctions of the driver transistors Q4 and Q6.

The variable resistor R9 is chosen so that the quiescent current can be varied in the
output stage. Assuming that D3 and D4 exactly match the base emitter junctions of
Q4 and Q6 then any voltage appearing across R9 will directly appear across both
output resistors. For a maximum output quiescent current of 65mA, to put the circuit
well into class AB operation, then the voltage that must be developed across R9 is:

VR 9 = IQUIESCENT (2 × ROUTPUT ) = 0.065 × 2 × 0.5 = 0.065V

therefore R9:

VR 9 0.065
R9 = = = 50Ω
IVAS 0.0013

where IVAS is the current flowing in the VAS collector.

R9 was therefore chosen as a 50Ω multi-turn preset potentiometer. A Multi-turn was

chosen to ease setting the quiescent output current accurately.

Capacitor C4 is present to couple the signal across the biasing arrangement such that
both Q4 and Q6 see the same signal. A value of 10µF was an arbitrary choice which
performed the required task under simulation.

3.3 Differential Amplifier Stage

As with the design of the VAS stage the first step is to choose the quiescent current
that is to flow through both halves of this circuit. If it is chosen too small then the
differential stage may struggle to supply the required current to the VAS transistor

Q2. If it is too large then the input impedance of the differential amplifier will be too
low, loading the input filter down. The quiescent current required in the VAS
collector is 1.3mA (Calculated above). The base current required by the VAS stage is

IC 0.0013
IB = = = 6.5µA
hFE 200

To keep transistor Q8 operating in class A mode then the quiescent current should be
between 1.5 to 5 time the above value.[8] However a quiescent current of 1.2mA was
chosen to improve linearity and allow the addition of the two emitter degeneration
resistors (R5 and R6 chosen as 16Ω each) [5]. Also, increasing the quiescent current
through this stage helps provide the current required by the dominant pole
compensation capacitor (C3) at high frequencies. Therefore high frequency linearity
is improved. [12]

The design of the current source for this stage follows the same lines as for the VAS
stage. Diodes D1, D2 and resistor R8 provide the same voltage reference and
therefore take the same values as before. 1.2mA is required in both arms so a 2.4mA
current is required from the current source. Therefore,

VBE 0. 7
R7 = = = 290Ω

The preferred value of 300Ω was therefore used for R7.

The value of R4 was chosen so that roughly 0.7V would be dropped across it under
quiescent conditions in order to put the VAS transistor (Q2) into conduction.

VBE 0. 7
R4 = = = 583Ω

The preferred value of 560Ω was therefore used.

Transistors Q8 and Q9 where chosen as small signal BC212 types. Most small signal
transistor would be adequate for this job providing they had a maximum collector
emitter voltage of more than around 35V. The BC212’s has a maximum collector
emitter voltage of 50V.

3.4 Negative Feedback

Connecting the differential amplifier to the VAS stage and then to the output devices
effectively produces a high power operational amplifier with a high open loop gain.
(Most of this gain occurs in the VAS stage and providing this has a high collector
resistance the gain can be thought of as being very large. The constant current source
has a very high impedance.) The circuit can therefore be modelled as an op-amp
shown in figure 15.

Figure 15 – Op - Amp Model

Assuming that the gain of the op-amp stage is infinite the circuit in figure 15 has a
pole-zero transfer function given as: (This is derived in appendix 3)

vo kl ω0
= +
vi 1 + j ω ω
1+ j
ω0 ω0

Where kl is the low frequency gain.

kh is the higher frequency gain.
ω is the angular frequency.
ω 0 is the angular frequency at which the high frequency gain drops by -3dB.

From the circuit in figure 15:

kl = 1, i.e. the gain is reduced to unity at DC.

R1 + R 2
kh =
ω0 =
R 2C

ω 0 is chosen such that it is less than 20Hz, other wise it will interfere with the
frequency response set by the input filter. kh should be set so that the maximum input
voltage produce the maximum output voltage available. The specification states that
1Vrms should produce the maximum output which is about 20Vrms (allowing for
drops across the output transistors and resistors). kh should therefore be around 20.
However a design error was made here such that a 1V peak value produces the
maximum output and therefore the gain was set to 28. I.e. R1 was chosen as 27kΩ
(R17 in figure 11) and R2 chosen as 1kΩ (R18 in figure 11).

The value of C (C5 in figure 11) used was 100µF such that the pole ( ω 0 ) occurs at
1.6Hz. This is far enough below 20Hz not to affect the low frequency response of the

3.5 Input Filter

This is where the frequency response of the amplifier is limited. The specification
states -1dB points at 20Hz and 20kHz. This is achieved by a high pass filter (C1 and
R2 in figure 11) in series with a low pass filter (R3 and C2). The signal source
internal impedance of 1kΩ (R1 in figure 11) must be taken into account when
calculating component values for the filters. Connecting a first order high pass filter
in series with a first order low pass filter produces a second order band pass filter.
However the poles of these two filters are sufficiently far apart for one not to affect
the other. This means they can be treated as separate first order circuits simplifying
the design considerably. It is also assumed that the input impedance of the
differential amplifier is large so as not to affect the filters.

The high pass filter requires a -1dB point at 20Hz which corresponds to a -3dB point
at around 10Hz. The transfer function for the high pass filter is: (Derived in appendix

vo R2 jωC1(R1 + R 2 )
vi R1 + R 2 1 + jωC1(R1 + R 2 )

Therefore if R2 is much larger than R1 (1kΩ source impedance) the gain will be close
to unity above the pole frequency. The pole ω 0 , occurs at:

1 1
ω0 = and therefore, f 0 =
C1( R1 + R 2 ) 2πC1(R1 + R 2 )

Another condition in the choice of R2 is that R2 + R3 ≈ R17 in figure 11. This is to

keep the bases of Q8 and Q9 at the same quiescent potential to avoid any DC offset
occurring. Therefore making R2 = 20kΩ, the source resistance, R1 being 1kΩ and the
pole frequency f 0 being 10Hz, C1 must be around 760nF. Under simulation this
value was ‘tweaked’ to 820nF before 1µF was actually used in the real circuit due to
available components.

The low pass circuit requires a -1dB point at 20kHz. The transfer function for this
circuit is:

vo 1
= , therefore:
vi 1 + jωC 2 R3

vo 1
= , Rearranging this gives:
vi 12 + (ωC 2 R3)

1 1
−1 2
vo vo
vi vi
C 2 R3 = or C 2 R3 =
ω 2πf

At -1dB vo = 0.891 and so for a frequency of 20kHz
C 2 R3 = 4.05 ×10 −6

If R3 = 8.2kΩ to balance the DC offset then C3 = 500pF. A preferred value of 470pF

was therefore chosen.

3.6 Short Circuit Protection

The first stage in designing this circuit is to decide on a power dissipation limit for the
output transistors. The manufacturer publishes a Safe Operating Area (SOA) curve
on their datasheet [13] shown in figure 16.

Figure 16 – SOA Curve for MJ15023

To avoid damage to the output devices they must be operated below the thick black
line shown in figure 16. The scheme chosen was a simple current limit shown in
figure 12 but implementations are possible which follow the thick black line more
closely. Under a short circuit situation nearly all the output voltage appears across the
output transistors, so 30V will appear across the collector – emitter junction of the
output transistors. From figure 16 the maximum collector current allowed at 30V is
8A. Therefore the protection circuit must limit at 8A. It is undesirable for the
protection circuitry to operate under normal conditions as lots of distortion would
occur. The maximum collector current under normal operation is 3.5A and so
hopefully the protection circuitry will not operate under normal conditions. Referring
to figure 12 the voltage dropped across an output resistor (R3) when maximum
current flows is:

VR 3 = IMAXR 3

where IMAX = 8A and R 3 = 0.5Ω. Therefore:

VR 3 = 4V

This 4V is then divided by resistors R1 and R7 such that 0.7V appears across R7 to
turn transistor Q5 on. Therefore:

4 × R7
0.7 =
R1 + R 7

Rearranging this gives:

R 7 = 0.212 × R1

Also the series resistance of R1 and R7 needs to be much greater than the resistance
of the output resistor R3 so that R1 and R7 do not alter the effective output resistance.
A value of 100Ω was chosen for R1 and 24Ω was chosen for R7. This circuit is
duplicated for protection on positive and negative parts of the signal cycle. Therefore
R6 was 100Ω and R8, 24Ω. Transistors Q5 and Q6 were again chosen as the ZTX653
and ZTX753 as the choice here was not critical. Diodes D1 and D2 where chosen as
small signal 1N4148 as only small currents will flow (the base current of the driver
transistor ≈ 0.5mA). The short circuit protection circuitry with component values
included is shown in figure 17. (The protection circuitry was not included in figure
11 due to limitations designed into the evaluation edition of the circuit simulation
software used.)

Figure 17 – Short Circuit Protection Circuitry Containing Component Values

3.7 DC Offset Protection

If the output was to somehow sit at one of the supply voltages then the steady DC
current flowing would be:


where VCC is the supply voltage (30V) and RLOAD is the DC resistance of the speaker
load. This is often around 6Ω for an 8Ω impedance speaker [14] (8Ω is the
impedance at a given frequency, often 1kHz). Therefore:


A 3.15A slow blow fuse was therefore included in series with the speaker load.
Hopefully if a 5A DC current was to flow in the output then this fuse would blow
before damage occurred to the speaker and also hopefully it will not blow under short
current spikes of up to 3.5A in normal operation.

3.8 Anti Thud Protection

Referring to figure 13, it is first necessary to decide on a value of R2 in order to put

zener diode D1 into its’ active region. The maximum value that R2 can be is given
R2 =

where VIN is the supply voltage (30V), VOUT is the zener voltage (12V), ILOAD is the
current required by the relay coils (≈ 35mA) and IZENER is the minimum current
required by the zener diode to put it into its’ active region (5mA). Therefore the
maximum value of R2 is:

30 − 12
R2 = = 450Ω
0.035 + 0.005

R2 was therefore chosen as 390Ω.

The relay load is never disconnected from the zener and so the power dissipation
within it is simply:

PZENER = VOUT × IZENER = 12 × 0.005 = 60mW

A standard 12V 500mW zener is therefore sufficient.

Capacitor C1 in figure 13 is a smoothing/decoupling capacitor and is a 100µF

electrolytic type.

Resistors R2 and C2 in figure 13 provide the time delay to prevent the turn on thud.
R2 should be smaller than the resistance of the relay coil so that most of the 12V
appears across the relay coil once a steady state has been reached. The relay has a
coil resistance of around 350Ω and so R2 was chosen as 100Ω. (This may seem a
little large but the relay still seems to operate). The capacitor C2 is chosen as a 220µF
to give a time constant of 22mS. There will therefore be a delay in the order of a few
10’s of milliseconds between power supply switch on and the connection of the load
speaker to the output. This will hopefully be sufficient to prevent any turn on thud.

The relay chosen was a standard 12V double pole double throw type such that another
channel (for stereo operation) could also be switched into circuit at the same time.
Figure 18 shows the component values for the anti thud protection circuitry. Fuse F1
is the slow blow type included for DC off set protection.

Figure 18 – Anti Thud and DC Offset Protection Circuitry Including Component


4. Circuit Simulation

The amplifier circuit (excluding the protection circuitry) was entered into a SPICE
circuit simulation package called Circuit Maker that was developed by Protel
Technologies. This was a student version downloaded for free from the Internet. It
had a number of restrictions including a maximum number of components allowed,
however it was sufficient to simulate the main parts of the amplifier. SPICE
simulation is not perfect but gives an idea as to whether the designed circuit will work
or not.

First to be tested was the DC offset at the output. 4.2mV was measured which is
good. Anything under 50mV appears to be acceptable. [15]

Next a sinusoidal input signal was applied to see if the output was a larger version of
the input and by the right amount. At 1V peak a 26.5V peak sinusoid was produced at
the output, shown in figure 19. Therefore the voltage gain is around 26.5 as opposed
to the calculated value of 28. This is possibly due to the open loop gain of the circuit
not being large enough so that the operational amplifier assumption can be applied
without error.

Clipping occurs after the output goes above 27V peak. This corresponds to a
maximum power output of 45W. This is 5W less than specified and is down to
voltage drops across the output transistors and resistors. In order to get the extra 5W
it would be necessary to increase the supply rail voltage.

The frequency magnitude response of the circuit as measured by the circuit

simulator’s bode plotter is shown in figure 20. X-cursor (d) in figure 20 is at -1dB
from the peak value (X-cursor c). -1dB corresponds to frequencies of 19Hz and
20kHz which is very close to the expected values.

The phase response is shown in figure 21. A 180º phase inversion occurs at 1.4Mhz
and comparing this to the magnitude response shown in figure 22 it can be seen that
the gain has dropped to almost -20dB. This is well below a gain of unity and
therefore the circuit is stable. (A circuit becomes unstable when positive feedback
occurs. i.e. signals with a frequency high enough, to have a phase difference of 180º
or greater, are amplified)

Modelling speaker cable as having a capacitance of 15pF/m to ground and having a

maximum cable length of 15m gives a total capacitance to ground of 900pF. With
this capacitance in series with the load, a -180º phase inversion occurs at 1.22Mhz
where the gain of the circuit -17dB and so the circuit is still stable.

Modelling the speaker as a 6Ω resistance in series with a 0.32mH inductor (2Ω at

1kHz) gives a -180º phase shift at a gain of -11.5dB and therefore the circuit still
remains stable. The simulated circuit can therefore be considered to be stable for all
expected loads.

Total harmonic distortion measured at an output power of 44W, measured up to

24kHz with a fundamental frequency of 1kHz was given as 0.123%. The spectrum is
shown in figure 23 and is produced using the software’s fourier analysis tool. At 10W
total harmonic distortion goes down to 0.032% which is well below the 0.1% set
down in the specification.

5. Construction

The circuit was built up on pin board with the components on one side and most of
the interconnections on the reverse. The output transistors were mounted on heat
sinks with insulating mica washers preventing the TO3 cases from electrifying the
heat sinks. Thermally conducting paste was used to reduce the thermal resistance of
the transistor case to heat sink junction. The heat sinks were mounted vertically either
side of the board with the aid of two small aluminium angle brackets. Mounting the
heat sink with the fins vertical helps the air to flow through the fins via convection,
hence reducing the heat sink to ambient thermal resistance. Connections from the
circuit board to the output transistor were kept as short as possible to prevent these
radiating into the smaller signal stages of the amplifier. Also the input and output
were at opposite ends of the board to prevent crosstalk and feedback effects.

One major star point was used where the grounds of the small current sections
connected to the grounds of the larger current sections. If large ground currents are
run along the grounds of small signal sections then it is possible (due to the finite
resistance of the ground conductor) that the small signal section will become
corrupted by the information carried by the large signal current. The star point
prevents this by connecting all ground currents at the same place before connecting to
the supply.

6. Testing

6.1 DC Conditions

Once the circuit had been built up power was applied and its operation was tested. A
few mistakes were in made in construction which meant it did not work first time.
There was a few poor solder joints, capacitors placed the wrong way around and a
capacitor of the wrong value. After these faults were corrected the DC conditions
were measured with a multimeter. The DC offset at the output was initially fairly
large ≈ 60mV which meant the input differential amplifier was out of balance. The
DC offset was reduced to -24.5mV by connecting an extra 2.2kΩ resistor in parallel
with R4 in figure 11. This reduced the effective resistance at the bottom of the
differential amplifier helping improve the balance.

The quiescent current in the output stage was measured by measuring the voltage
across one of the output resistors (e.g. R14 in figure 11). The quiescent current was
130mA with the preset potentiometer set to its minimum resistance. This was much
higher than anticipated meaning that the biasing diodes (D4 and D3) had much larger
voltage drops than the base emitter junctions of the driver transistors (Q4 and Q6).
Either larger signal diodes should replace the small signal 1N4148 types thus
providing a smaller bias voltage for the same current or only one small signal diode
should be used in the bias arm.

The current flowing into the differential amplifier was measured by measuring the
voltage across R7 in figure 11. This was 2.8mA which was about right (2.4mA
expected). 1.3mA flowed down the left hand side and 1.5mA flowed down the right
hand side of the differential amplifier. This accounts for the DC offset at the output.
To remove this DC offset altogether a preset potentiometer could be placed at the top
of the differential amplifier replacing the emitter degeneration resistors, R5 and R6.
Potential could then be manually varied either side of the differential amplifier to trim
the DC offset at the output to zero. This would have to be done after the circuit had
been switched on for a while because the DC offset varies as the circuit warms up.

The quiescent current flowing into the collector of the VAS transistor (Q2) was
measured by measuring the voltage across R10. This gave 1.24mA which is close to
the 1.3mA expected.

The DC voltage across the base emitter junction of Q2 was only 0.55V which seems a
little low. 0.6 to 0.7 V was expected. This indicates that the VAS transistor (Q2) is
only just turned on and therefore operating in a relatively non linear part of its
transconductance characteristic. Either a smaller signal transistor should be used or
the quiescent current into the VAS collector should be increased.

6.2 AC Conditions

When an input signal was first applied the output was observed with an oscilloscope.
High frequency instability was noticed with the peaks of the output signal blurring.
This was rectified by including two 100µF decoupling capacitors across the supply

With no load applied a sinusoidal signal was applied to the input with a signal
generator. The frequency was fixed at 1kHz and the amplitude varied. The output
voltage was measured with an oscilloscope and the results are graphed in figure 24.
The voltage gain of the circuit is around 26 and this remains constant for all the input
amplitudes (shown by the straight line in figure 24). At an input voltage of 2.16V
peak to peak the output waveform just starts to clip at an output value of 55.7V peak
to peak. The maximum power output for an undistorted sinusoidal waveform is
therefore 47.6W which is only 2.3W from the 50W specified. Again it would be
necessary to increase the supply voltage slightly to get the extra 2.3W but this extra
power would probably not be noticed by a listener. The human ear has an exponential
response to sound such that there is a law of diminishing returns as the output power
is increased.

The output resistance of the amplifier was measured by inputting a sinusoidal signal
of frequency 1kHz and first measuring the open circuit output voltage (no load). This
was 43.98V peak to peak. Connecting an 8Ω load reduced this to 43.70V peak to
peak. Therefore the output resistance of the amplifier is:


ROUT = − RLOAD = − 8 = 0.05Ω

This is better than the 0.1Ω specified.

The frequency response of the amplifier was measured using a spectrum analyser.
This sweeps through a range of frequencies and measures the output and input signal
to produce a plot of circuit gain against frequency. A plot produced by the spectrum
analyser is shown in figure 25. The frequency range scanned was between 10Hz and
50kHz which was sufficient to show that the -1dB points occur at around 20Hz and
20kHz as specified.

In order to check stability the phase response of the amplifier should have been
measured with the spectrum analyser. The circuit would be said to be stable if the
gain had dropped below unity when a phase shift of -180º had occurred. However
this test was not carried out and therefore it is not possible to definitely say the circuit
is stable. However no evidence was found (after the supply decoupling capacitors had
been added) that the circuit was in fact unstable. There was a fairly big safety margin
of -11dB when capacitive speaker cable and inductive speakers were simulated on the
computer. Therefore there is a very good chance that the actual circuit will be stable
for all likely loads.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) was measured using the Fast Fourier Transform
(FFT) function on an oscilloscope. This displays the fundamental frequency and a
number of harmonics as peaks on the oscilloscope screen. The y axis corresponds to
signal strength in dBV and the x axis as frequency. A 1kHz signal was applied with a
magnitude of 18.2dBV (8.1V rms or 8.25W power output) and the harmonic
amplitudes were measured up to 20kHz. Total harmonic distortion can then be
calculated from:

v12 + v 2 2 + v3 2 + v 4 2 + ....
THD = ×100 %

where v1 is the first harmonic rms value

v 2 is the second harmonic rms value, etc

v 0 is the fundamental rms value.

This gave a THD of 0.18% at 8.25W which is not too bad. However this does not
meet the 0.10% set down in the specification. Strangely when this test is repeated at
30W output power the THD goes down to 0.15%. This distortion may have come
from the circuit but it is also possible that some was produced in the signal generator
and it is also possible that the power leads were causing distortions too.

The noise performance of the amplifier was also measured using the FFT function on
an oscilloscope. A 1V peak, 1kHz signal was connected to the input and the
difference from the top of the output signal to the top of the noise voltage (noise floor)
was measured. This gave a difference or dynamic range of 98dB which is only 2dB
short of the 100dB set down in the specification.

The last test to be performed was to connect a load speaker onto the output and a CD
player onto the input (via a preamplifier) and listen to the sound quality. It seemed to
sound good and could operate loud enough for it to be unpleasant sitting near the
speaker. The low frequencies were compromised at high signal levels as the current
limit on the power supply would tend to kick in. A better power supply with a higher
current capacity was therefore required. However it was still very pleasing to listen

7. Conclusion

The overall result of this project is the production of a working class AB, 45W power
amplifier. During the design process the author has learnt about power amplifiers and
linear circuits in general. The author used a SPICE circuit package to simulate a
circuit once designed and then constructed the circuit on pin board. The author learnt
to take care over the physical layout which is very important in such a circuit. The
finished circuit was then tested and the author is very pleased with the result.

8. References

[1] R.C.Tozer; Printed notes on “Power Amplifiers” for EEE204

[2] D.Self; Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook; Pg 35; Newnes; 2002.

[3] D.Self; Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook; Pg 36; Newnes; 2002.

[4] Horowitz & Hill; The Art of Electronics; Pg 99; Cambridge University
Press; 1989

[5] D.Self; Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook; Pg 82; Newnes; 2002.

[6] Horowitz & Hill; The Art of Electronics; Pg 243; Cambridge University
Press; 1989

[7] Horowitz & Hill; The Art of Electronics; Pg 95; Cambridge University
Press; 1989

[8] Rod Elliot; Elliot Sound Products – Audio Amplifier Design Guidelines

[9] Horowitz & Hill; The Art of Electronics; Pg 93; Cambridge University
Press; 1989

[10] R.C.Tozer; Printed notes on “Thermal stability of output stage bias”

[11] Data sheet for ZTX 753; Author Unknown; July 1994

[12] D.Self; Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook; Pg 74; Newnes; 2002.

[13] Data sheet for MJ15023; ON Semiconductor; March 2001

[14] R.C.Tozer; Printed notes on “Generic power amplifier circuit”

[15] D.Self; Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook; Pg 89; Newnes; 2002.


Appendix 1

Derivation of voltage gain for the VAS stage.

Simplified VAS stage Equivalent Circuit

Vo = − βibRc
Vi = ibrbe

Vo βRc
Therefore voltage gain: =−
Vi rbe

Appendix 2

Derivation of maximum power dissipated in one output transistor.

(Method taken from R.C. Tozer’s lecture notes for EEE204)

Assumes sinusoidal input

Power in = Power out

PS = PD + PL

where PS is the power delivered by the supply, PD is the power dissipated in

the output devices and PL is the useful power dissipated in the load.

So, = PD +
π 2

Where VCC is the supply voltage.

= PD +
RLπ 2 RL

PD = − (1)
RLπ 2 RL

differentiating PD w.r.t VP gives

= −

For PD to be a maximum = 0. Therefore,

VP = for maximum power dissipation. Substituting back into (1),

2VCC 2
PDMAX = for both output transistors
π 2 RL

PDMAX = for one output transistor.
π 2 RL

Appendix 3

Derivation of the pole-zero response of the feedback network.

Figure 15

If the op-amp is considered to have an infinite input impedance then the voltage gain
for this non inverting arrangement is

vo z1 + z 2
= where z1 = R1 and z 2 = R 2 + 1
vi z2 jω C

1 + jωCR 2
R1 +
vo jω C
this gives =
vi 1 + jωCR 2

vo 1 + jωC ( R1 + R 2)
rearranging to give: = (1)
vi 1 + jωCR 2

vo 1 + jω 
Standard form for a pole zero = k ω1  (2)
vi 1 + jω 
 ω0

So from equation (1) k =1

ω1 =
C ( R1 + R 2)
ω0 =
CR 2

Therefore ω 1 ≤ ω 0

Equation (2) can be rewritten in the form a low pass equation added to a high pass

vo kl klj ω
= + ω1
vi 1 + j ω 1+ j ω
ω0 ω0

vo kl ω0 j ω0
= + kl
vi 1 + j ω ω1 1 + j ω
ω0 ω0

vo 1 jω
= kl + kh ω0
vi 1+ jω 1+ j ω
ω0 ω0

So from (1) kl = 1
ω 0 R1 + R 2
kh = =
ω1 R2
ω0 =
CR 2

Appendix 4

Derivation of high pass filter transfer function.

Assumes that the low pass filter in series with this high pass filter does not affect the
high pass filter characteristics.

Referring to figure 11

vo R2
vi R1 + R 2 + 1
jωC 1

vo jωC 1R 2
= (1)
vi 1 + jωC 1(R1 + R 2 )

Rearranging to get (1) into a standard form gives:

vo R2 jωC 1(R1 + R 2 )
vi R1 + R 2 1 + jωC 1(R1 + R 2 )

With higher frequency gain =
R1 + R 2

1 1
And pole frequency, ω 0 = and so f0=
C1( R1 + R 2 ) 2πC 1(R1 + R 2 )