# The Class-D Amplifier

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1 The Class-D Amplifier (From the book Introduction to Electroacoustics and Audio Amplifier Design, Second Edition - Revised Printing, by W. Marshall Leach, Jr., published by Kendall/Hunt, c 2001.) A class-d amplifier is one in which the output transistors are operated as switches. When a transistor is off, the current through it is zero. When it is on, the voltage across it is small, ideally zero. In each case, the power dissipation is very low. This increases the efficiency, thus requiring less power from the power supply and smaller heat sinks for the amplifier. These are important advantages in portable battery-powered equipment. The D in class-d is sometimes said to stand for digital. This is not correct because the operation of the class-d amplifier is based on analog principles. There is no digital coding of the signal. Before the advent of the class-d amplifier, the standard classes were class-a, class-ab, class-b, and class-c. The D is simply the next letter in the alphabet after C. Indeed, the earliest work on class-d amplifiers involved vacuum tubes and can be traced to the early 1950s. Fig. 1 shows the basic simplified circuit of a class-d amplifier. We assume a bipolar power supply so that V = V +. The amplifier consists of a comparator driving two MOSFET transistors which operate as switches. The comparator has two inputs. One is a triangle wave, the other is the audio signal. The frequency of the triangle wave must be much higher than that of the audio input. The voltage output of the comparator can be written v C = V 1 for v S >v T v C =+V 1 for v S <v T (1) This voltage is applied to the input of a complementary common-source MOSFET output stage. Each transistor operates as a switch. For v C = V 1, M 1 is on and M 2 is off. If the voltage drop across M 1 is negligible, then vo 0 = V +. Similarly, for v C =+V 1, M 2 is on, M 1 is off, andvo 0 = V. In practice, there is a small voltage drop across the on MOSFET switch so that the peak output voltage is less than the power supply voltage. For the case v S =0, vo 0 is a symmetrical square wave. The low-pass filter consisting of L 1 and C 1 passes the average value of the square wave to the loudspeaker, which is zero. Thus v O =0for v S =0. The network consisting of R 1 and C 2 compensates for the inductive impedance of the loudspeaker voice coil so that the filter sees a resistive load at high frequencies. Figure 1: Basic class-d amplifier. Fig. 2 shows the circuit waveforms for the case where v S is a sine wave. For purposes of illustration, the sine wave frequency is f S =1kHzandthetrianglewavefrequencyisf T =20kHz. Thesinewaveamplitudeis0.75V TP. For v S > 0, the duty cycle of the square wave changes so that vo 0 spends more time at its positive level than at its negative level. This causes v0 O to have a positive average value. Similarly, for v S < 0, vo 0 has a negative average value. The waveform for v0 O 1

2 is said to be pulse-width-modulated. The passive filter consisting of L 1 and C 1 passes the average or low-frequency value of vo 0 to the loudspeaker load and rejects the higher-frequency harmonics of the switching waveform. Figure 2: Amplifier voltage waveforms. The effective gain of the amplifier can be determined by applying a dc voltage at the input and calculating the ratio of hvo 0 i to v S,wherehvO 0 i denotes the low-frequency time average of v0 O.Ifv S is increased, hvo 0 i increases linearly until it reaches the level V OP, which corresponds to the positive clipping voltage at the output. This occurs when v S = V TP. It follows that the effective gain k is given by k = hv0 O i = V OP (2) v S V TP Fig. 3 shows the waveforms of the output voltage v O for two values of the cutoff frequency of the LC filter. The transfer function of the filter is V o 1 Vo 0 = (s/ω c ) 2 (3) +(1/Q c )(s/ω c )+1 where ω c =2πf c =1/ L 1 C 1 is the resonance frequency and Q c =1/ (ω c R L C 1 ) is the quality factor. The load resistance R L is the effective high-frequency resistance of the loudspeaker voice coil in parallel with the matching network consisting of R 1 and C 2. The quality factor is Q c =1/ 2 for the waveforms in Fig. 3 so that the gain is down by 3 db at ω c. The signal frequency is f S =1 khz. The filter resonance frequency for the v O1 waveform is f c =1kHz. For the v O2 waveform, it is f c =8kHz. The harmonics of the pulse-width-modulated signal are clearly visible on the v O2 waveform. For minimum distortion, the frequency of the triangle wave should be as high as possible compared to the cutoff frequency of the filter. Because the filter resonance frequency corresponds to the signal frequency for the v O1 waveform in Fig. 3, the phase lag is 90 o. The phase lag for the v O2 waveform is less because the resonance frequency is greater than the signal frequency. A higherorder filter can be used to more effectively remove the high-frequency switching harmonics. For example, a third-order LC filter or a fourth-order filter consisting of the cascade of two second-order LC filters could be used. Fig. 4 shows the spectrum of the v 0 O waveform. It contains a fundamental at f S. Above f S, the significant switching harmonics are at f T, f T ± 2f S, 2f T ± f S, 2f T ± 3f S,etc. Thelowestof these is at the frequency f T 2f S. The triangle wave frequency must be chosen high enough so 2

3 Figure 3: Output voltage waveforms for two different LC filter cutoff frequencies. that the lowest significant harmonic is well above the highest signal frequency of interest. Thus we have the requirement f T 2f S À f S or f T À 3f S. To minimize ripple on the output, the cutoff frequency of the LC filter should be much lower than f T. For example, in a wideband amplifier with a maximum signal frequency of 20 khz, the switching frequency should ideally be 600 khz or greater. Because of limitations imposed by a high switching frequency, a more practical value might be 300 khz. The 3 db frequency of the LC filter should be much lower than the switching frequency. For example, it might be 30 khz for a 300 khz switching frequency. Note that the amplitude of the harmonic at f T is larger than that of the signal. At the signal clipping level, the signal harmonic becomes 1.5 times as large as the harmonic at f T. Figure 4: Unfiltered spectrum of the output voltage. Negative feedback can be used around the basic amplifier circuit to improve its performance. Fig. 5 shows such a circuit. The input op amp acts as an integrator to set the bandwidth. For a sinusoidal input signal with a frequency much lower than the switching frequency, the effective transfer function for the circuit and its pole frequency are given by Vo 0 = R F 1 ω 0 =2πf 0 = k (4) V s R 2 1+s/ω 0 R F C F The pole frequency must be greater than the highest frequency to amplified but lower than the switching frequency. Because the integrator has a very high gain at dc, it acts to minimize dc offsets at the output. For a wide band amplifier, a typical value of f 0 might be 60 khz. Class-D amplifiers areoftenoperatedinabridgedconfiguration to increase the output power without increasing the power supply voltages. A bridged output stage is shown in Fig. 6. A typical input circuit is shown in Fig. 7. The feedback voltage v F is proportional to the difference voltage 3

4 Figure 5: Amplifier with negative feedback. v 0 O1 v0 O2. The bridge circuit is often designed with V =0and a dc offsetateachoutputofv + /2 V, thus eliminating the need for a bipolar power supply. Figure 6: Bridged output stage. Figure 7: Input stage to the bridged amplifier with feedback. In the circuit of Fig. 7, a diff ampisusedtosubtractv 0 O2 from v0 O1. The capacitors labeled C 3 act as low-pass filters to limit the rise time of the signals applied to the op amp to prevent slewing. The transfer function for the diff amp and its pole frequency are given by V f V 0 o1 V 0 o2 = R 5 1 ω 1 =2πf 1 = R 3 + R 4 1+s/ω 1 1 (R 3 kr 4 ) C 3 (5) 4

5 The overall transfer function for the amplifier is given by V 0 o1 V 0 o2 V s = R F R 2 R 3 + R 4 R 5 1+s/ω 1 s 2 /ω 1 ω 2 + s/ω 2 +1 = R F R 2 R 3 + R 4 R 5 1+s/ω 1 (s/ω 0 ) 2 +(1/Q 0 )(s/ω 0 )+1 (6) where ω 2, ω 0,andQ 0 are given by ω 2 =2πf 2 = R 5 R 3 + R 4 k ω 0 =2πf 0 = r ω2 ω 1 ω 2 Q 0 = (7) R F C F ω 1 The amplifier should exhibit good stability for Q 0 1. Thuswehavetheconditionω 1 ω 2. However, the simple model used here neglects higher order poles. Because the existence of such poles degrades stability, a conservative approach might be to design for Q so that the poles in Eq. (6) are real. This requires ω 1 4ω 2. For example, in a wideband amplifier utilizing a switching frequency of 300 khz, f 1 might be chosen to be equal to the switching frequency and f 2 might be chosen to be 75 khz. An example triangle wave generator circuit is shown in Fig. 8. The circuit consists of an integrator driving a comparator that is connected as a Schmitt trigger. The output of the comparator drives the input to the integrator. Let the comparator output voltages be +V 1 and V 1. When the voltage is at the V 1 level, the triangle wave output rises with the slope m = V 1 /R 6 C 4. Let the peak values of the triangle wave be +V TP and V TP. It follows that 2V TP = mt/2 =V 1 /2f T R 6 C 4, where T =1/f T is the period of the triangle wave. The comparator switches states when the voltage at its non-inverting input goes through zero. This occurs when V 1 /R 8 = V TP /R 7. Solution for f T and V TP yields R 8 f T = V TP = R 7 V 1 (8) 4R 6 R 7 C 4 R 8 Figure 8: Triangle wave generator. A problem called shoot through can reduce the efficiency of class-d amplifiers and lead to potential failure of the output devices. This occurs during the transition when one device is being cut off and another is being cut on. During the transition, both devices are on and a large current pulse can flow through the two. This can be eliminated by driving the gates of the MOSFETs with asymmetrical square waves such that one device is cut off before the other is cut on. One way of achieving this in the circuit of Figs. 1 and 5 is to use two comparators, one for each MOSFET. A positive dc offset is added to the triangle wave input to the comparator which drives M 1 and a negativedcoffset is added to the triangle wave input to the comparator which drives M 2. This effectively adds crossover distortion to the vo 0 output waveform, but the frequency components are above the switching frequency, thus outside the audio band. 5

6 The high switching frequency used in class-d amplifiers is a potential source of rf interference with other electronic equipment. The amplifiers must be properly shielded and grounded to prevent radiation of the switching harmonics. In addition, low-pass filters must be used on all input and output leads, including the power supply leads. A variation of the class-d amplifier is called a filterless class-d amplifier. In the absence of an input signal, its output signal is zero rather than a symmetrical square wave. This eliminates the need of a low-pass filter to prevent application of the square wave to the loudspeaker. When the input voltage goes positive, the output voltage is a train of pulse width modulated pulses which switch between 0 and +V OP. When the input voltage goes negative, the output voltage is a train of pulse width modulated pulses which switch between 0 and V OP.ThisisillustratedinFig.9.The loudspeaker responds to the average value of the signal, which is the audio signal. Because there is no filter, rf interference problems require the amplifier to be mounted as close to the loudspeaker as possible. The spectrum of the output signal is shown in Fig. 10. One problem with the filterless class-d amplifier is crossover distortion. To eliminate this, the FET control logic must be designed so that the amplifier puts out very narrow alternating positive and negative pulses in the absence of an input signal. In effect, this biases the amplifier in the class-ab mode. Figure 9: Amplifier voltage waveforms. Figure 10: Spectrum of the output voltage v 0 O. 6

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