Multistage Amplifiers

by Kenneth A. Kuhn Nov. 11, 2007, rev. July 26, 2009 Introduction There is a limit to how much gain can be achieved from a single stage amplifier. Single stage amplifiers also have limits on input and output impedance. Multistage amplifiers are used to achieve higher gain and to provide better control of input and output impedances. Two significant advantages that multistage amplifiers have over single stage amplifiers are flexibility in input and output impedance and much higher gain. Multistage amplifiers can be divided into two general classes, open-loop and negative feedback. Open-loop amplifiers are easy to understand and design but are sensitive to environment and component variations. Negative feedback amplifiers are a bit more difficult to understand but have the advantage of being much less sensitive to environment and component variations. This note will focus on the open-loop class. A good closed-loop amplifier begins with a good open-loop design. For many amplifier applications it is desirable for the input impedance to be very high. Thus, it is common for the first amplifier stage to be either a common-collector (a.k.a. emitter follower) bipolar junction transistor stage or a common-drain (a.k.a. source follower) or even common-source field effect transistor stage. Sometimes high input impedance is not important and the first stage may be a common-emitter. Field effect transistors are normally used only for the input stage and for the specific application of very high input impedance. It is also common situation that it is desirable for the output impedance of an amplifier to be low. A common-collector circuit is typically used. But in some cases there is no need for very low output impedance and the last stage may be a common-emitter. For the amplifier stages in-between it is common to employ common-emitter circuits because those can achieve high voltage gain. Analysis of multistage amplifiers is performed stage at a time starting with the input stage and progressing to the output stage. The analysis methods are identical to that of single stage amplifiers. One point of confusion for students analyzing direct coupled amplifiers is that the collector resistor for one stage becomes the base resistor for the next stage. In stages involving common-collector amplifiers some modified approaches, including some simplifying approximations, are necessary because characteristics of commoncollector stages are dependent on external impedances. The student should not be afraid of approximations since that is routinely done all the time in the profession. An advantage of closed loop amplifiers is that approximation errors are greatly reduced. The design of multistage amplifiers begins at the output and progresses backwards to the input. Initially the number of stages is not known. The design progresses with additional stages until the requirements are met. It is common for there to be a lot of iteration in the design and the number of stages might vary with each iteration.


Figure 1: Multistage amplifier with AC coupling 2 .Multistage Amplifiers The following table is a summary of some different multistage amplifiers constructions and their characteristics. AC coupling blocks DC paths and makes the bias design or analysis of each stage simple. A typical example is shown in Figure 1.000 Rin or Rout less than a few hundred Ohms A few hundred to a few thousand Ohms a few thousand to a few ten thousand Ohms many tens of thousands of Ohms Over one hundred thousand Ohms AC coupled versus DC coupled stages The simplest method to construct a multistage amplifier is to cascade several single stage amplifiers with their usual AC coupling. General Characteristics of Typical Multistage Amplifier Structures Stage Number 1 2 3 4 CE CE CE CC CC CE CC CC CE CE CE CE CE CC CE CC CE CE CC CC CC CE CE CC CE CC CC CC CE CC CC CC CC CE CE CC Descriptor Low Medium High Very high Extremely high Characteristics Rin Rout Medium Medium Medium Low High Medium Very high Very low Medium Medium Medium Low Medium Medium Medium Very low High Medium High Low Very high Medium Very high Very low High Low Voltage gain High Medium Medium <1 Extremely high Very high Very high Medium Very high Medium Medium <1 Very high Voltage gain less than 50 50 to 500 500 to 5000 Over 5.

Depending on the desired bandwidth and how much noise can be tolerated in the output the practical limit of gain may range from less than a thousand to many millions. One limiting phenomena is random noise which exists in all electronics. These small voltages often in the nanovolt to microvolt range will dominate or even saturate the output of the amplifier if the gain is high enough. The mathematics is more complicated (again. The power gain might be in the 120 dB range. A good question to ask and explore i “ t ra upr onsoh a on o gia s I h e n pebud t t m ut f a n . The key to this is to arrange for the quiescent voltage at the output of one stage to be the same as the desired quiescent voltage at the input of the next stage. t eed o a ie e f u variety of factors. But. The total voltage gain from microphone to a several hundred watt speaker system in an auditorium can be in the 50.000 range. Virtually one hundred percent of real-world amplifiers are closed loop utilizing negative feedback to reduce undesirable characteristics of the amplifier. that 3 . Many of the challenging bias problems for multistage amplifiers are eliminated with negative feedback.s e e n a p f ra hv? T e nw rs e bthr int seic a e Idpns n m li cn ae” h as eiys u t es o a pc ivl .Multistage Amplifiers The use of AC coupling requires a lot of capacitors and resistors that could be eliminated with innovative design. It is important to design the amplifier such that the DC gain is low. Note the simplicity. Then the AC coupling capacitor and associated bias resistors are not needed. Closed loop amplifiers can achieve a very specific and stable gain with varying temperature and transistor characteristics as well as much lower distortion. In a basic electronics course there is barely enough time to even discuss open-loop amplifiers. The bias resistors and thus reduce the gain of the amplifier. that is what engineers are paid to do. Typical amplifiers in the audio frequency range that operate on microphone or phonograph pickups have voltage gains in the one thousand range as that is what is needed. Amplifiers can be either open-loop (no feedback from output to input) or closed-loop (some of the amplifier output is fed back to the input). Figure 2: Multistage amplifier with DC coupling Direct coupled amplifiers are a challenge for the designer as the bias analysis and design calculations are more complicated. The following circuit shows the first example with unneeded parts removed. An amplifier designed without these can achieve higher gain and with much fewer parts. Using as few parts as needed to accomplish a desired function lowers the costs for the manufacturer.

Each individual voltage drop is very temperature sensitive but the net result is the subtraction of the two. The following are some examples of multistage open-loop amplifiers. Figure 4: High input impedance amplifier The circuit in Figure 4 features an emitter follower input stage for high input impedance followed by a common-emitter amplifier for high voltage gain. These resistors are often non-zero to reduce the gain to a desired level. 4 . This feature provides a much higher power gain than can be achieved with a common-emitter amplifier alone. NPN and PNP transistors are often used in multistage amplifiers for improved characteristics over what could be achieve by using only one type. Temperature sensitivity can be greatly reduced using both types in certain circuits such that the baseemitter voltage drops practically cancel – thus greatly reducing the effect of temperature. The gain can be up to several ten thousand if RE1B and RE2B are zero.Multistage Amplifiers is what engineers are paid for) and one must first understand open-loop amplifiers before delving into closed-loop amplifiers. This circuit features very low temperature sensitivity because the base-emitter voltage drops of the two transistors practically cancel. Use of an NPN common-emitter stage followed by a PNP common-collector stage (or vice-versa) for the output enables near optimum bias conditions for both. Figure 3: High voltage gain amplifier The circuit in Figure 3 is capable of very high gain.

low output impedance. The two common-emitter stages in-between are capable of very high voltage gain as discussed in the circuit for Figure 3. The output DC voltage is generally set to VCC/2 by the ratio of the feedback resistor to the base resistor to ground. The following are some examples of multistage closed-loop amplifiers.Multistage Amplifiers Figure 5: High input impedance. This circuit features an emitter follower for the input stage thus providing high input impedance and an emitter follower for the output stage thus providing low output impedance. 5 . Figure 6: Simple inverting amplifier with feedback The circuit in Figure 6 features simplicity and very high output linear signal swing thanks to the negative feedback. high voltage gain amplifier The circuit in Figure 5 is about the ultimate in what is practical to do with direct coupled amplifiers without negative feedback. The inverting gain is set by the ratio of the feedback resistor to the input resistor.

Operation is similar except that much higher gains can be achieved. Figure 8: Non-inverting amplifier with feedback The circuit in Figure 8 is an example of in-phase feedback to boost input impedance while lowering output impedance. The feedback stabilizes the DC bias and voltage gain. 6 . The open loop gain of the amplifier (not practical to operate in this mode) is in the many hundreds of thousands.Multistage Amplifiers Figure 7: High gain inverting amplifier with feedback The circuit in Figure 7 is a very high gain version of the circuit in Figure 6.

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