# Noise Specs Confusing

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1 Noise Specs Confusing It s really all very simple once you understand it Then here s the inside story on noise for those of us who haven t been designing low noise amplifiers for ten years You hear all sorts of terms like signal-to-noise ratio noise figure noise factor noise voltage noise current noise power noise spectral density noise per root Hertz broadband noise spot noise shot noise flicker noise excess noise I F noise fluctuation noise thermal noise white noise pink noise popcorn noise bipolar spike noise low noise no noise and loud noise No wonder not everyone understands noise specifications In a case like noise it is probably best to sort it all out from the beginning So in the beginning there was noise and then there was signal The whole idea is to have the noise very small compared to the signal or conversely we desire a high signal-to-noise ratio S N Now it happens that S N is related to noise figure NF noise factor F noise power noise voltage e n and noise current i n To simplify matters it also happens that any noisy channel or amplifier can be completely specified for noise in terms of two noise generators e n and i n as shown in Figure 1 TL H FIGURE 1 Noise Characterization of Amplifier All we really need to understand are NF e n and i n So here is a rundown on these three NOISE VOLTAGE e n or more properly EQUIVALENT SHORT-CIRCUIT INPUT RMS NOISE VOLTAGE is simply that noise voltage which would appear to originate at the input of the noiseless amplifier if the input terminals were shorted It is expressed in nanovolts per root Hertz nv 0Hz at a specified frequency or in microvolts in a given frequency band It is determined or measured by shorting the input terminals measuring the output rms noise dividing by amplifier gain and referencing to the input Hence the term equivalent noise voltage An output bandpass filter of known characteristic is used in measurements and the measured value is divided by the square root of the bandwidth 0B if data is to be expressed per unit bandwidth or per root Hertz The level of e n is not constant over the frequency band typically it increases at lower frequencies as shown in Figure This increase is 1 f NOISE NOISE CURRENT i n or more properly EQUIVALENT OPEN-CIRCUIT RMS NOISE CURRENT is that noise which National Semiconductor Application Note 104 May 1974 TL H 7414 FIGURE Noise Voltage and Current for an Op Amp occurs apparently at the input of the noiseless amplifier due only to noise currents It is expressed in picoamps per root Hertz pa 0Hz at a specified frequency or in nanoamps in a given frequency band It is measured by shunting a capacitor or resistor across the input terminals such that the noise current will give rise to an additional noise voltage which is i n xr in (or X cin ) The output is measured divided by amplifier gain referenced to input and that contribution known to be due to e n and resistor noise is appropriately subtracted from the total measured noise If a capacitor is used at the input there is only e n and i n X cin The i n is measured with a bandpass filter and converted to pa0hz if appropriate typically it increases at lower frequencies for op amps and bipolar transistors but increases at higher frequencies for fieldeffect transistors NOISE FIGURE NF is the logarithm of the ratio of input signal-to-noise and output signal-to-noise NF e 10 Log (S N) in (1) (S N) out where S and N are power or (voltage) levels This is measured by determining the S N at the input with no amplifier present and then dividing by the measured S N at the output with signal source present The values of R gen and any X gen as well as frequency must be known to properly express NF in meaningful terms This is because the amplifier i n xz gen as well as R gen itself produces input noise The signal source in Figure 1 contains some noise However e sig is generally considered to be noise free and input noise is present as the THERMAL NOISE of the resistive component of the signal generator impedance R gen This thermal noise is WHITE in nature as it contains constant NOISE POWER DENSITY per unit bandwidth It is easily seen from Equation that the e n has the units V Hz and that (e n ) has the units V 0Hz e R e 4kTRB () where T is the temperature in K R is resistor value in X B is bandwidth in Hz k is Boltzman s constant Noise Specs Confusing AN-104 C1995 National Semiconductor Corporation TL H 7414 RRD-B30M115 Printed in U S A

2 RELATION BETWEEN e n i n NF Now we can examine the relationship between e n and i n at the amplifier input When the signal source is connected the e n appears in series with the e sig and e R The i n flows through R gen thus producing another noise voltage of value i n xr gen This noise voltage is clearly dependent upon the value of R gen All of these noise voltages add at the input in rms fashion that is as the square root of the sum of the squares Thus neglecting possible correlation between e n and i n the total input noise is e e N en a er a in R gen (3) Further examination of the NF equation shows the relationship of e N i n and NF NF e 10 log S in xn out S out xn in e 10 log S in G p e N S in G p er where G p e power gain e 10 log e N e R e 10 log e n a e R a in R gen e R NF e 10 log 1 a e n a i n R gen (4) e R J Thus for small R gen noise voltage dominates and for large R gen noise current becomes important A clear advantage accrues to FET input amplifiers especially at high values of R gen as the FET has essentially zero i n Note that for an NF value to have meaning it must be accompanied by a value for R gen as well as frequency CALCULATING TOTAL NOISE e N We can generate a plot of e N for various values of R gen if noise voltage and current are known vs frequency Such a graph is shown in Figure 3 drawn from Figure To make this plot the thermal noise e R of the input resistance must be calculated from Equation or taken from the graph of Figure 4 Remember that each term in Equation 3 must be squared prior to addition so the data from Figure 4 and from Figure is squared A sample of this calculation follows TL H FIGURE 3 Total Noise for the Op Amp of Figure TL H FIGURE 4 Thermal Noise of Resistor Example 1 Determine total equivalent input noise per unit bandwidth for an amplifier operating at 1 khz from a source resistance of 10 kx Use the data from Figures and 4 1 Read e R from Figure 4 at 10 kx the value is 1 7 nv 0Hz Read e n from Figure at 1 khz the value is 9 5 nv 0Hz 3 Read i n from Figure at 1 khz the value is 0 68 pa 0Hz Multiply by 10 kx to obtain 6 8 nv 0Hz 4 Square each term individually and enter into Equation 3 e N e 0 e n a e R a in R gen e a 1 a 6 8 e 0 79 e N e 17 4 nv 0Hz This is total rms noise at the input in one Hertz bandwidth at 1 khz If total noise in a given bandwidth is desired one must integrate the noise over a bandwidth as specified This is most easily done in a noise measurement set-up but may be approximated as follows 1 If the frequency range of interest is in the flat band i e between 1 khz and 10 khz in Figure it is simply a matter of multiplying e N by the square root of the bandwidth Then in the 1 khz 10 khz band total noise is e N e e 1 65 mv If the frequency band of interest is not in the flat band of Figure one must break the band into sections calculating average noise in each section squaring multiplying by section bandwidth summing all sections and finally taking square root of the sum as follows e N e 0 e R i B a (e n a i n R gen ) i B i (5) 1 where i is the total number of sub-blocks For most purposes a sub-block may be one or two octaves Example details such a calculation Example Determine the rms noise level in the frequency band 50 Hz to 10 khz for the amplifier of Figure operating from R gen e k 1 Read e R from Figure 4 at k square the value and multiply by the entire bandwidth Easiest way is to construct a table as shown on the next page Read the median value of e n in a relatively small frequency band say 50 Hz 100 Hz from Figure square it and enter into the table

3 3 Read the median value of i n in the 50 Hz 100 Hz band from Figure multiply by R gen e k square the result and enter in the table 4 Sum the squared results from steps and 3 multiply the sum by Df e e 50 Hz and enter in the table 5 Repeat steps 4 for band sections of 100 Hz 300 Hz 300 Hz 1000 Hz and 1 khz 10 khz Enter results in the table 6 Sum all entires in the last column and finally take the square root of this sum for the total rms noise in the 50 Hz Hz band 7 Total e n is 1 6 mv in the 50 Hz Hz band CALCULATING S N and NF Signal-to-noise ratio can be easily calculated from known signal levels once total rms noise in the band is determined Example 3 shows this rather simple calculation from Equation 6 for the data of Example S N e 0 log e sig (6) e N Example 3 Determine S N for an rms e sig e 4mVatthe input to the amplifier operated in Example 1 RMS signal is e sig e 4mV RMS noise from Example is 1 6 mv 3 Calculate S N from Equation 6 S Ne 0 log 4mV 1 6 mv e 0 log ( 47 x 10 3 ) e 0 (log 103 a log 47) e 0 (3 a 0 393) S N e 68 db It is also possible to plot NF vs frequency at various R gen for any given plot of e n and i n However there is no specific allpurpose conversion plot relating NF e n i n R gen and f If either e n or i n is neglected a reference chart can be constructed Figure 5 is such a plot when only e n is considered It is useful for most op amps when R gen is less than about 00X and for FETs at any R gen (because there is no significant i n for FETs) however actual NF for op amps with R gen l 00X is higher than indicated on the chart The graph of Figure 5 can be used to find spot NF if e n and R gen are known or to find e n if NF and R gen are known It can also be used to find max R gen allowed for a given max NF when e n is known In any case values are only valid if i n is negligible and at the specific frequency of interest for NF and e n and for 1 Hz bandwidth If bandwidth increases the plot is valid so long as e n is multiplied by 0B TL H FIGURE 5 Spot NF vs R gen when Considering Only e n and e R (not valid when i n R gen is significant) THE NOISE FIGURE MYTH Noise figure is easy to calculate because the signal level need not be specified (note that e sig drops out of Equation 4) Because NF is so easy to handle in calculations many designers tend to lose sight of the fact that signal-to-noise ratio (S N) out is what is important in the final analysis be it an audio video or digital data system One can in fact choose a high R gen to reduce NF to near zero if i n is very small In this case e R is the major source of noise overshadowing e n completely The result is very low NF but very low S N as well because of very high noise Don t be fooled into believing that low NF means low noise per se Another term is worth considering that is optimum source resistance R OPT This is a value of R gen which produces the lowest NF in a given system It is calculated as R OPT e e n (7) i n This has been arrived at by differentiating Equation 4 with respect to R gen and equating it to zero (see Appendix) Note that this does not mean lowest noise For example using Figure to calculate R OPT at say 600 Hz 10 nv R OPT e e 14 kx 0 7 pa TABLE I Noise Calculations for Example B (Hz) Df (Hz) e n (nv Hz) a i n R gen SUM x Df e (nv) (0) e 400 (8 7 x 0k) e x (13) e 169 (8 x 0k) e x (10) e 100 (7 x 0k) e x k 10k 9000 (9) e 81 (6 x 0k) e x e R e (5 3) e 8 8 x Total e N e e 160 nv e 1 6 mv The units are as follows (0 nv 0Hz) e 400 (nv) Hz (8 7 pa 0Hz x 0 kx) e (17 4 na 0Hz) e 30 (nv) Hz Sum e 70 (nv) Hzx50Hze (nv) 3

4 Then note in Figure 3 that e N is in the neighborhood of 0 nv 0Hz for R gen of 14k while e N e 10 nv 0Hz for R gen e 0 100X STOP Do not pass GO Do not be fooled Using R gen e R OPT does not guarantee lowest noise UN- LESS e sig e kr gen as in the case of transformer coupling When e sig l kr gen as is the case where signal level is proportional to R gen (e sig e kr gen ) it makes sense to use the highest practical value of R gen When e sig k kr gen it makes sense to use a value of R gen k R OPT These conclusions are verified in the Appendix This all means that it does not make sense to tamper with the R gen of existing signal sources in an attempt to make R gen e R OPT Especially do not add series resistance to a source for this purpose It does make sense to adjust R gen in transformer coupled circuits by manipulating turns ratio or to design R gen of a magnetic pick-up to operate with preamps where R OPT is known It does make sense to increase the design resistance of signal sources to match or exceed R OPT so long as the signal voltage increases with R gen in at least the ratio e sig * R gen It does not necessarily make sense to select an amplifier with R OPT to match R gen because one amplifier operating at R gen e R OPT may produce lower S N than another (quieter) amplifier operating with R gen i R OPT With some amplifiers it is possible to adjust R OPT over a limited range by adjusting the first stage operating current (the National LM11 and LM381 for example) With these one might increase operating current varying R OPT to find a condition of minimum S N Increasing input stage current decreases R OPT as e n is decreased and i n is simultaneously increased Let us consider one additional case of a fairly complex nature just as a practical example which will point up some factors often overlooked Example 4 Determine the S N apparent to the ear of the amplifier of Figure operating over Hz when driven by a phonograph cartridge exhibiting R gen e 1350X L gen e 0 5H and average e sig e 4 0 mvrms The cartridge is to be loaded by 47k as in Figure 6 This is equivalent to using a Shure V15 Type 3 for average level recorded music 1 Choose sectional bandwidths of 1 octave each these are listed in the following table Read e n from Figure as average for each octave and enter in the table 3 Read i n from Figure as average for each octave and enter in the table 4 Read e R for the R gen e 1350X from Figure 4 and enter in the table 5 Determine the values of Z gen at the midpoint of each octave and enter in the table 6 Determine the amount of e R which reaches the amplifier input this is R1 e R R1 a Z gen 7 Read the noise contribution e 47k of R1 e 47k from Figure 4 8 Determine the amount of e 47K which reaches the amplifier input this is Z gen e 47k R1 a Z gen TL H FIGURE 7 Relative Gain for RIAA ASA Weighting A and H-F Boost Curves FIGURE 6 Phono Preamp Noise Sources TL H

5 9 Determine the effective noise contributed by i n flowing through the parallel combination of R1 and Z gen This is Z gen R1 i n Z gen a R1 10 Square all noise voltage values resulting from steps 6 8 and 9 and sum the squares 11 Determine the relative gain at the midpoint of each octave from the RIAA playback response curve of Figure 7 1 Determine the relative gain at these same midpoints from the A weighted response curve of Figure 7 for sound level meters (this roughly accounts for variations in human hearing) 13 Assume a tone control high frequency boost of 10 db at 10 khz from Figure 7 Again determine relative response of octave midpoints 14 Multiply all relative gain values of steps and square the result 15 Multiply the sum of the squared values from step 10 by the resultant relative gain of step 14 and by the bandwidth in each octave 16 Sum all the values resultant from step 15 and find the square root of the sum This is the total audible rms noise apparent in the band 17 Divide e sig e 4 mv by the total noise to find S N e 69 4 db STEPS FOR EXAMPLE 1 Frequency Band (Hz) k 3 6 4k k Bandwidth B (Hz) Bandcenter f (Hz) Z gen atf(x) k 3k Z gen R1 (X) k 19k Z gen R1 a Z gen ) R1 (R1 a Z gen ) RIAA Gain A RIAA Corr for Hearing A A H-F Boost A boost Product of Gains A A e R (nv 0Hz) e 47k (nv 0Hz) i n (pa 0Hz) e n (nv 0Hz) e 1 e i n (Z gen R1) e e e R R1 (R1 a Z gen ) e 3 e e 47k Z gen (R1 a Z gen ) e n e 1 (from i n ) e (from e R ) e 3 (from e 47k ) Re n (nv Hz) BA (Hz) BARe (nv ) R(e ni a e 1i a e i a e 3i )B i A i e nv e N e 0R e mv 17 S N e 0 log (4 0 mv mv) e 69 4 db 5

6 Note the significant contributions of i n and the 47k resistor especially at high frequencies Note also that there will be a difference between calculated noise and that noise measured on broadband meters because of the A curve employed in the example If it were not for the A curve attenuation at low frequencies the e n would add a very important contribution below 00 Hz This would be due to the RIAA boost at low frequency As it stands 97% of the 1 35 mv would occur in the khz band alone principally because of the high frequency boost and the A measurement curve If the measurement were made without either the high frequency boost or the A curve the e n would be 1 5 mv In this case 76% of the total noise would arise in the 50 Hz 400 Hz band alone If the A curve were used but the high-frequency boost were deleted e n would be 0 91 mv and 94% would arise in the Hz band alone The three different methods of measuring would only produce a difference of a3 5 db in overall S N however the prime sources of the largest part of the noise and the frequency character of the noise can vary greatly with the test or measurement conditions It is then quite important to know the method of measurement in order to know which individual noise sources in Figure 6 must be reduced in order to significantly improve S N CONCLUSIONS The main points in selecting low noise preamplifiers are 1 Don t pad the signal source live with the existing R gen Select on the basis of low values of e n and especially i n if R gen is over about a thousand X 3 Don t select on the basis of NF or R OPT in most cases NF specs are all right so long as you know precisely how to use them and so long as they are valid over the frequency band for the R gen or Z gen with which you must work 4 Be sure to (root) sum all the noise sources e n i n and e R in your system over appropriate bandwidth 5 The higher frequencies are often the most important unless there is low frequency boost or high frequency attenuation in the system 6 Don t forget the filtering effect of the human ear in audio systems Know the eventual frequency emphasis or filtering to be employed APPENDIX I Derivation of R OPT NF e10 log e R a e n a i n R gen e R enf er e 10 log 1 ae n a i n R gen e R J ktrb (R i n ) b (e n a i n R )4 ktb (4 ktrb) 1 a (e n a i n R ) 4 ktrb where R e R gen Set this e 0 and 4 ktrb(r i n ) e 4 ktb (e n a i n R ) i n Ree n ai n R i n Ree n Ree n i n R OPT e e n i n APPENDIX II Selecting R gen for highest S N e sig S N e B(e R a e n a i n R) For S N to increase with R es N er l 0 es N er e e sig (ee sig er) (e R a e n a i n R ) b e sig (4 kt a i n R) B(e R a e n a i n R) 6

7 APPENDIX II (Continued) If we set l 0 then (ee sig e R) (e R a e n a i n R ) l e sig (4 kt a i n R) For e sig e k 1 0R eesig er e k 1 0R ( k 1 0R) (e R a e n a i n R) l k 10R(4kTain R) e R a e n a i n R l 4 ktr a i n R e n li n R Rke n i n Therefore S N increases with R gen so long as R gen s R OPT For e sig e k 1 R ee sig er e k 1 k 1 (e R a e n a i n R ) l k 1 R(4kTai n R) e R ae n ai n Rl4 ktr a i n R e R ae n l0 Then S N increases with R gen for any amplifier For any e sig k k 1 0R an optimum Rgen may be determined Take for example e sig e k 1 R 0 4 ee sig er e 0 4k 1 R b0 6 (0 8 k 1 R0 6)(e R ae n ai n R)lk 1 R0 4 (4 kt a i n R) 0 8 e R a 0 8 e n a 0 8 i n R l 4 ktr a i n R 0 8 e n l 0 e R a 1 i n R Then S N increases with R gen until 0 5 e R a 1 5 i n R e e n 7

8 AN-104 Noise Specs Confusing LIFE SUPPORT POLICY NATIONAL S PRODUCTS ARE NOT AUTHORIZED FOR USE AS CRITICAL COMPONENTS IN LIFE SUPPORT DEVICES OR SYSTEMS WITHOUT THE EXPRESS WRITTEN APPROVAL OF THE PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORPORATION As used herein 1 Life support devices or systems are devices or A critical component is any component of a life systems which (a) are intended for surgical implant support device or system whose failure to perform can into the body or (b) support or sustain life and whose be reasonably expected to cause the failure of the life failure to perform when properly used in accordance support device or system or to affect its safety or with instructions for use provided in the labeling can effectiveness be reasonably expected to result in a significant injury to the user National Semiconductor National Semiconductor National Semiconductor National Semiconductor Corporation Europe Hong Kong Ltd Japan Ltd 1111 West Bardin Road Fax (a49) th Floor Straight Block Tel Arlington TX cnjwge tevm nsc com Ocean Centre 5 Canton Rd Fax Tel 1(800) Deutsch Tel (a49) Tsimshatsui Kowloon Fax 1(800) English Tel (a49) Hong Kong Fran ais Tel (a49) Tel (85) Italiano Tel (a49) Fax (85) National does not assume any responsibility for use of any circuitry described no circuit patent licenses are implied and National reserves the right at any time without notice to change said circuitry and specifications

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