A CDE Definition
Analog amplifiers are cataloged by how much current flows during each wave cycle. Measured in degrees, 360º means current flows 100% of the time. The more current, the more inefficient and the more heat generated.
The amplifier conducts current throughout the entire cycle (360º). The Class A design is the most inefficient and is used in low-power applications as well as in very high-end stereo. Such devices may be as little as 15% efficient, with 85% of the energy wasted as heat.
The current flows only 180º for half the cycle, or two transistors can be used in a push-pull fashion, each one operating for 180º. More efficient than Class A, it is typically used in low-end products.
Combines Class A and B and current flows for 180º to 200º. Class AB designs are the most widely used for audio applications. Class AB amplifiers are typically about 50% efficient.
Operating for less than half of one wave cycle (100º to 150º), Class C amplifiers are the most efficient, but not used for audio applications because of their excessive distortion.
A variation of the Class AB design that improves efficiency by switching to different fixed voltages as the signal approaches them.
An enhancement of the Class G amplifier in which the power supply voltage is modulated and always slightly higher than the input signal.
Class D is a digital-like amplifier that works by turning a transistor fully on or off, but the "D" technically does not stand for digital. See Class D amplifier.
A variation of the Class D technique from Tripath. Class T modulates the pulses based on the individual characteristics of the output transistors.
Class D amplifier
An audio amplifier that works in the digital domain. It generates the equivalent analog output for the speakers by using pulse width modulation (PWM) or pulse density modulation (PDM) rather than the traditional digital-to-analog conversion. See PWM and PDM.
Less Heat than Analog
Because pulse modulation output signals are either on or off, Class D amplifiers produce far less heat than analog amplifiers. Reaching efficiencies greater than 90% compared to only 50% for analog, they are widely used for every amplification requirement from cellphone speakers to high-end stereos.
Digital and Analog
Class D was not coined for "digital;" it was the next letter after Class C. However, it does produce a "digital-like" output because the signals are generated by turning a switch fully on or off. But it is not technically digital because the output is not digital data. It is a modulated audio signal that is feeding analog speakers and is equivalent to the output of a traditional analog amplifier. Some call this a "synthesized analog" output. See amplifier classes.
Before/After Your Search Term
Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.