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Transistorized Wien Bridge Oscillator


By F. BUTLER, O.B.E., B.Sc., M.I.E.E., M.Brit.1.R.E.

IT is not altogether a simple matter to design a sidering the design of a transistor oscillator it is
wide -range variable-frequency oscillator using ther- instructive to examine some of the features of a
mionic valves in the driving amplifier, and it is conventional valve-operated RC bridge circuit. Fig.
considerably more difficult to do so using transistors. 1 illustrates a version recently described in Wireless
In the case of the Wien bridge circuit there are three World'. It is a fixed-frequency device designed to
principal factors which complicate the task. The operate at 50 c /s. The frequency -determining
input impedance of a normal transistor amplifier elements R,C, and R2C2 are of high resistance and
is relatively low and it has a reactive component reactance. They place almost negligible loading on
which can prove troublesome at high frequencies. the driving amplifier. The valve input impedances
The low impedance affects the performance of the are virtually infinite so that the attenuation and
frequency-determining components of the bridge, phase shift of the interstage coupling networks can
restricting the frequency range and making impos- be held at an acceptable level, even at very low
sible demands on the maintaining amplifier. In the frequencies, by using conventional values of coup-
second place it is difficult to design a satisfactory ling capacitors and grid resistors. So much gain
circuit for amplitude control which will work effec- is available from the two -stage amplifier that it is
tively under the very-low power conditions which possible to dispense with cathode circuit by -pass
are normal in transistor circuits. Lastly, the char- capacitors. The resulting negative feedback causes
acteristics of transistors vary widely from one an increase in the already high input impedance of
sample to another of the same nominal type and the valves.
these characteristics are strongly temperature de- There is, in consequence of the high impedance
pendent. With care it is possible to circumvent of the bridge elements, some risk of high- frequency
these troubles and to build a transistor oscillator attenuation and phase shift due to the inevitable
comparable in performance with its valve- operated capacitance to ground of these and other corn-
counterpart except in respect of output power and ponents, particularly the interstage coupling capaci-
frequency stability. Wide range, low distortion and tors. This is of little consequence in fixed-frequency
a good signal -to -noise ratio are readily obtainable. oscillators but in wide-range circuits it may result
The small size, low power consumption and hum - in a requirement for separate scales on the various
free output of the battery- operated transistor ranges. For example, in a three -range oscillator
,oscillator are all points in its favour, and a long it will normally be found that on the lowest fre-
trouble-free life can be expected since all the elec- quency range the phase shift due to the interstage
trical components are operated conservatively. coupling capacitor contributes considerably to the
Valve- Operated Wien Bridge Circuits.- Before con - overall loop phase shift of the amplifier and feed-
back network. On the highest frequency range the
+3ooV interstage phase shift due to the coupling capacitor
ÿ is negligible but on this range shunt capacitance
IOmA¡ 1 o
becomes important. On the middle range, series
and shunt capacitance in the amplifier circuit have
only a small effect on the oscillator frequency which
is determined almost completely by the Wien bridge
elements. The effect of amplifier phase shift is to
cramp the tuning range of the oscillator. Padding
or trimming capacitance is thus required on some
ranges if it is desired to use a single scale with
decimal or decade multipliers to cover three ranges.
At this point it is worth drawing attention to
another design feature of variable-frequency oscil-
lators. In principle a change in either R or C in the
bridge elements serves equally well to effect a
change in frequency. If C is increased, the operat-
ing frequency will be lowered in such a way that the
impedance of both arms of the bridge remains
unchanged. The load on the driving amplifier stays
constant and a change in frequency is not accom-
panied by a change in output level due to this
U cause. By contrast, if a frequency change is
effected by varying R, then there is a change in the
Fig. I. Wien bridge oscillator using thermionic valves magnitude of the bridge impedance and a conse-
(design due to D. E. D. Hickman). quential change in oscillator output unless the
-20V Figs. 1 and 2, the transistor version would perform
indifferently even if it worked at all. As shown,
the input impedances of VI and V2 might be of the
order of 5,00052 (using OC 71s, for example). That
of V1 would impose a gross load on the parallel RC
arm of the bridge, while that of V, would shunt
the collector load of V, and reduce the stage gain.
Even though coupling and by -pass capacitors of high
values are used, they are associated with such low
resistances that unacceptably large phase shifts
would be experienced. Objectionable as these may
o be there are still worse defects to be overcome.
RIO Low-frequency operation calls for very large values
100 OUTPUT of capacitance in the bridge network. Fixed capaci-
tors must be used and frequency variation must be
achieved by the use of ganged potentiometers. A
practical difficulty is at once encountered, since any
change of the resistances in the base circuit of V1
will alter its working bias. To avoid this trouble it
might be possible to devise some complex resistance
network which would serve to provide a fixed base
Fig. 2. Transistorized version o" the Wein bridge oscilla- bias current. It might be argued that some of the
tor of Fig. 1. criticisms of the direct transistor analogue of the
valve circuit are too sweeping and severe. For
example, the low working voltages of transistor
driving valve is of ,abnormally low output impedance. circuits make it quite practicable to use very high
The thermistor in Fig. 1 serves as an amplitude values of coupling capacitance, and to counteract
limiter. It has a large negative temperature co- the relatively high shunt capacitance it is sufficient
efficient which is exploited to control the oscillator to use very low collector load resistances. How-
output. Any increase in the output level causes a ever, the amplifier gain then falls to an unacceptably
rise in the power dissipated in the thermistor ele- low level and the current consumption rises to an
ment. Its temperature rises and the resistance falls uneconomic figure.
proportionately. Since it is the series element in Fortunately it is possible tò employ direct coupl-
the negative-feedback circuit, the resulting de- ing between transistor, with few of the penalties
generation restores the output very nearly to the which are incurred when this technique is used
original value. There are of course thermistor with thermionic valves. This at once solves the
resistance changes due to room temperature varia- problem of interstage phase shift and attenuation,
tions but these are effectively swamped by the much though it calls for additional care in bias stabiliza-
larger changes due to internal energy dissipation tion.
changes caused by feedback from the output stage. Finally, the use of negative feedback can trans-
Consider now the direct transistor equivalent of form the amplifier input and output impedances to
Fig. 1 which is shown in Fig. 2. Typical component almost any desired values. This practice can become
values are shown on both diagrams. In general, the extravagant in transistors if extremely high input
lower impedances of the transistors call for cor- or very low output impedances are required. The
responding reductions in resistance and for large use of a single extra stage, properly employed, can
increases in the value of coupling and by-pass raise the input impedance by a factor of 100 or more.
capacitors. Minor changes in the input circuit
of the first transistor Vl are called for to satisfy Transistor Amplifiers of High Input Impedance.
Fig. 3 shows three amplifier configurations which
the base bias requirements. Corresponding changes
are also required in the interstage coupling net- have a high input impedance. An emitter follower
works, but in other respects the circuits are virtually is shown in Fig. 3(a). It is roughly analogous to a
identical. cathode follower but the parallel is not exact. In-
In spite of the superficial resemblances between ternal feedback in the transistor circuit is respon-

(a) (b) (C)

Fig. 3. Transistor amplifiers Paving a high input impe'ance :(a) is on emitter follower. (bl a feedback amplifier in which
resistor, and (c) a " super -alpha " pair.
there is no deroupling capacitor in parallel with the emitter
earthed -emitter amplifier
o like that shown in Fig. 3 (b).
R8 - 20V Components may be saved
0.O1,u 730 13mA and the composite ampli-
fier may be used down to

Sw I -

R3 \ 13k
zero frequency by directly
coupling the two stages. To
do this it is sufficient to set
the operating points of the
R5 488 two transistors at an opti-
7 k 2 mum value by proper
choice of the base bias re-
a- sistances of the first tran-
10k LOG \ VI sistor. This first transistor
is then an emitter follower
Rn of which the load resis-
t tance is simply the input
10k LOG
__ R9
loo R12 resistance of the second
r z?) 2

stage amplifier. The com-
posite amplifier then has
the high input impedance
Th 1

R4 900 of an emitter follower. A

°'AT 2'7 k R10
single circuit change is
2 5/-4 1k now sufficient to arrive at
the " super -alpha " connec-
tion shown in Fig. 3(c). It
Fig. 4. Circuit diagram of a transistorized Wien bridge oscillator covering 20-20,000 c/s.
involves disconnecting the
collector of the emitter fol-
(Half -watt resistors can be used throughout.) lower from the negative
h.t. line and joining it to
the collector of the second
sible for the differences. An emitter follower has a transistor. The principal effect of this change is to
high input impedance only if it has a large load place in series with the collector circuit of the first
resistance. It has a low output impedance only if transistor the whole output voltage developed across
it is driven from a signal source of low impedance. the load resistance R,. This voltage is opposite in
Fig. 3(b) shows a feedback amplifier in which there phase to the amplifier input voltage and constitutes
is no decoupling capacitance in parallel with the a large series negative- feedback signal. The effect
emitter resistor. In this case the high input imped- of this is to cause a further increase in the already
ance is achieved at the expense of amplifier gain. high input resistance of the first transistor
To be really effective a two-stage amplifier is linearize the characteristics of the transistorand to
required with feedback over the two stages from Wide -range Oscillator Circuit. -Fig. 4 shows the
the second collector to the first emitter. Using this complete circuit diagram of a Wien bridge oscillator
technique it is easy to raise the first stage input covering 20 c/s to 20 kc /s in three overlapping
impedance to a value of several megohms. ranges. A point-to -point wiring diagram is given
A rather less expensive solution is shown in Fig. in Fig. 5. Coarse frequency changes are made by
3(c). Two transistors are used to form a " super - a 2-gang 3 -pole switch, used to select matched pairs
alpha " pair. The base current of the second stage of capacitors. Fine tuning is effected by a 2 -gang
is the emitter current of the first. The first-stage potentiometer, R, R,, having a semi -logarithmic
base current is smaller than its emitter current winding law. A linear winding is acceptable for
by a factor which is of the same order as the current most purposes and such a component may be more
gain. Assuming that this is 100 and that the input readily available than that actually used in the
impedance of the second transistor is 5,0001), the prototype oscillator.
effective input impedance of the first stage becomes Because of the very high input impedance of the
0.5M5). The arrangement has other desirable pro- first transistor its bias current is quite small and is
perties. A large amount of negative feedback is not seriously affected by variations of the main
provided which tends to linearize the characteristics tuning resistances R, and R,. Direct coupling
of the transistor pair, and there is some improve- between the three transistors saves components
ment in the stability of the composite circuit in avoids the phase shifts which would be caused and by
respect of temperature changes. Most textbooks on coupling capacitors and base -bias resistors. Varia-
transistor circuits contain only a brief reference to tions of bridge impedance over each tuning range
the "super-alpha" connection although its special are due to changes in the resistive arms the
properties have been exploited, without explanation, bridge. These effects are minimized by the of use of
in many recent circuits. Some of the foregoing an amplifier V3 of very low output impedance. A
remarks about its special characteristics thus warrant Mullard OC 72 is used in this stage. Transistors
further comment. An emitter follower of the type Vl and V2 should have characteristics similar to
shown in Fig. 3(a) has a voltage gain which is always the OC 71.
less than unity. It can nevertheless provide a Two thermistors are used for amplitude limita-
moderately high power gain which is due to current tion. The main control is exercised by Th 2, which
amplification within the transistor. An emitter fol- is the negative-feedback element. It is a glass -
lower can be used as a pre-amplifier to drive an (Continued on page 389)
sealed Type A thermistor, manufactured by Standard is to be used only at normal room temperatures
Telephones and Cables. The sample used had a and is not exposed to extreme variations the diodes
resistance of 120052, measured at room temperature may be omitted, or a short-circuiting switch may
and near -zero current. This element is not ideally be fitted if it is desired to retain them for use under
suitable for transistor applications. Preferred types, abnormal conditions. If a thermistor Type R.53
specially manufactured for low power control and is substituted for Th 2 the diodes are certainly
regulation, are the S.T.C. thermistor Types R.53 unnecessary, but a Type A unit should still be Used
or R.14. The difficulty with physically large ther- in the emitter circuit of V2.
mistors is that the resistance changes due to ambient It might be thought that amplitude control by
temperature variations may exceed those due to thermistors must necessarily result in some non-
changing oscillator signal levels. linear distortion. This is not the case, since the
The use of a second Type A thermistor, Th 1, thermal capacity of the resistance element is so
(whose resistance should not be significantly greater large that, except at the very lowest frequencies,
than that of Th 2) serves to give partial compensa- the resistance does not change significantly during
tion for room-temperature changes. In series with a the time of one cycle of the oscillator frequency.
large capacitor, it is connected in shunt with the The actual distortion produced by the diodes is
emitter resistor of V2. Here the signal level is so dependent on the signal level and on the value of
low that it has a negligible effect on the thennistor the shunting resistance R,,. It is very slightly
resistance. By contrast, the resistance of Th 1 is affected by the thermistor resistance in series with
markedly dependent on the room temperature. A the shunted diodes. Diode distortion is a function
rise in temperature causes a fall in resistance and of signal amplitude and is virtually independent of
a consequent reduction in the negative- feedback frequency.
voltage applied to V2. This, in part, neutralizes As regards components, those shown in Fig. 4 are
the effect of a decrease in the resistance of Th 2 a mixture of preferred and non -preferred values,
caused by the same room-temperature changes. The arrived at by actual measurement. There are only
signal level in Th 2 is high enough to cause two really critical components, R, and R,. These
additional resistance changes, sufficient in practice set the high -frequency limits on each tuning range
to give a reasonable degree of control of the output and their ratio affects the bridge attenuation which,
amplitude. in turn, calls for corresponding adjustments of
Ip series with Th 2 is another control element. amplifier gain. The base-bias resistance R, is also
This consists of a pair of germanium junction diodes fairly critical. The best procedure is to complete
(such as B.T. -H. Type GJ3 -M) connected in parallel all the circuit wiring with the exception of R R,
but with opposed polarity. These constitute a non- and R,. External variable resistances should then
linear resistance, the magnitude of which depends be connected temporarily in circuit and the correct
on the instantaneous voltage drop across the diodes. settings established by trial. The aim should be
With an infinitesimal p.d. across the diodes their to produce the best possible waveform on each
effective resistance is almost infinite. It drops to range and to equalize the output level at the extreme
a few ohms with an applied e.m.f. of about 250 mV. ends of each range. The maximum undistorted out-
A resistance shunt R across the diodes limits their put is 1V r.m.s. into 1,00011.
As regards frequency calibration, the best pro-
maximum effective resistance at low signal levels.
The use of this non-linear circuit element ensures cedure on the low- frequency range is to establish the
reliable oscillation over a wide range of tempera- main points on the scale by reference to a 50 c/s
tures. This it does at the expense of some waveform signal. A precise comparison of frequencies which
distortion. The degradation is barely perceptible are integral or simple fractional multiples of each
on an oscillogram, but is undesirable when the other can be made by observation of Lissajous
oscillator is being used to make distortion measure- figures on an oscilloscope.
ments on high -grade amplifiers. If the oscillator The high-frequency ranges call for the use of

o oty.
--o-z--1 Fo



o 9



10k LOG 10k LOG Fig. 5. Wiring diagram corres- o

ponding to the transistorized os-
cillator of Fig. 4.

feedback, variations in transistor parameters due to
temperature and supply voltage changes have only
a minor effect on the frequency stability. Consider-
able development work would be required to bring
up the performance of such an oscillator to meet the
exacting specifications of modern frequency stan-
dards. It would be necessary to employ v.h.f. tran-
sistors in order to reduce the amplifier phase shift
to a satisfactory level. Temperature control of both
crystal and amplifier would be required and the
supply voltage would need to be stabilized. Pre-
liminary tests show that the performance of the
simple circuit is good enough for many purposes.
Its outstanding feature is that the operating condi-
tions can be adjusted to set a definite limit to the
amplitude of vibration of the crystal. The harmonic
content of the oscillator output is then extremely
Fig. 6. 1,000 c/s auxiliary oscillator for calibration pur- low.
poses. (Half-watt resistors can be used throughout.) Variable Inductors. -It
seems probable that suitably
designed variable inductors could be used in con-
auxiliary oscillators. Fig. 6 gives a simple circuit junction with fixed resistors as the frequency deter-
mining elements of an audio oscillator instead of the
of a 1 kc /s oscillator which can be calibrated against variable resistors and capacitors normally used.
a 50 c/s signal and set precisely on frequency by
the adjustment of the 2kS2 potentiometer, again One possible scheme would be to use twin solen-
oids with moveable ferrite cores. Range -changing
using a Lissajous display. The 50kû variable resis- requirements could be met by the use of suitably
tor has a small effect on the generated frequency but tapped coils. Such a system would present a con-
its main function is to set the transistor base bias for stant impedance to the driving amplifier and this
maximum undistorted output. This oscillator can would ease the problem of securing constant output
be used to check most of the mid- frequency and over a wide range of frequencies.
high- frequency ranges. On the 20 kc /s range, the
higher- frequency points can be checked against a REFERENCES.
100 kc /s crystal -controlled oscillator. 1. Hickman, D. E. D., " Wien Bridge Oscillators ",
To avoid the considerable labour of matching all Wireless World, Vol. 65, No. 11, December 1959, p. 550.
the ranges to permit the use of a single scale with 2. Bailey, A. R., " Low -Distortion Sine -Wave Gen-
decade multipliers, it is much simpler and less erator ", Electronic Technology, Vol. 37, No. 2, February
cumbersome to use separate scales for each range. 1960, p. 64.
Alternatively an arbitrary scale of 100 or 180 divi- 3. Melehy, M. A., " A Wide Range Junction Tran-
sions may be used in conjunction with conversion sistor Audio Oscillator ", I.R.E., Wescon Convention
tables or charts.
Range Extension. Experiments show that with
high -frequency transistors there is little difficulty in
Record, 1958, Part II, Circuit Theory, p. 74.

adding a further range covering up to 200 kc /s and Commercial Literature

in fact a slightly modified circuit using American
2N 499 v.h.f. transistors operated reliably up to 2.3 Anglo- French Microwave System.-Illustrated brochure
describing the 94 -mile radio system working on 4,000Mc /s
Mc /s. At such high frequencies, variable capacitors which links the U.K. and French telephone and television
become more useful than variable resistors as the networks. Phase diversity is used for the over-water section
tuning element. There is little point in using RC to combat fading. From Standard Telephones and Cables,
oscillators at frequencies much higher than 100 kc /s Ltd., Connaught House, Aldwych, London, W.C.2.
since it is simpler and cheaper to use switched tuned Microwave Instruments, including attenuators, loads, oscil-
lators, transformers, wavemeters, power supplies and many
circuits. other special components. An extensive illustrated catalogue
Crystal- Controlled Oscillator.-The amplifier circuit covering the complete range of products from Decca Radar,
shown in Fig. 4 is easily convertible to a precision Ltd., Decca House, 9 Albert Embankment, London, S.E.11.
low- frequency crystal oscillator. The crystal is Bench Assembly Trays and storage bins in polythene and
merely substituted for the series RC arm of the other plastics. Various sizes and shapes, some designed for
stacking and others for interlocking side by side. Leaflets
Wien bridge network. The other arm is reduced to from " K.abi," Precision Components (Barnet), Ltd., 13 Byng
a pure resistance by removal of the shunt capaci- Road, Barnet, Herts.
tance. At its series resonant frequency the crystal Television Aerials, masts and accessories. The complete
behaves as a pure resistance. Off -resonance it range of Band -I, Band -III and combined types, including
v.h.f. aerials, is displayed on a broadsheet from Telecraft,
simulates a very high reactance. The crystal acts as Ltd., Quadrant Works, Wortley Road, Croydon, Surrey.
one segment of a voltage divider, the other being Ultrasonic Cleaning Equipment for use on small parts and
the resistance between the base of Vl and earth. Off assemblies. Operating at 40kc /s, the generator delivers 250
resonance the amplifier input voltage is attenuated watts peak either into a complete tank and transducer assem-
and its phase is changed so that 'oscillation is made bly or into an immersible transducer. Technical details on
a leaflet from Dawe Instruments, Ltd., 99 -101 Uxbridge
impossible. At series resonance the low effective Road, Ealing, London, W.5.
resistance of the crystal results in the development Industrial TV Equipment, with a photoconductive camera
of sufficient amplifier drive to start and sustain oscil- in a cast aluminium weatherproof housing for use under
lation. The amplitude control circuit functions as extreme weather conditions. Pan (up to 350 °) and tilt (up
in the Wien bridge arrangement to ensure strict to ±90 °) equipment is remotely operated from a control
unit. Operation on 625 -line standards. Leaflet from Te-
Class -A operation. Because of the strong negative Ka-De, Nuremberg, W. Germany.