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Describe the operation of a push-pull amplifier.

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A push-pull amplifier is a type of electronic amplifier circuit used to increase the amplitude of an input signal. It is commonly employed in audio amplification, but can also be used in other applications like radio frequency amplification. The primary advantage of a push-pull amplifier is its ability to reduce even-order harmonic distortion and increase efficiency compared to single-ended amplifiers.

The basic principle of a push-pull amplifier involves using two active devices (usually transistors) that work in tandem to amplify the input signal. These two devices are configured in such a way that when one is in the active (conducting) state, the other is in the inactive (non-conducting) state, and vice versa. This setup enables the amplifier to handle both halves of the input waveform.

Here's how a push-pull amplifier operates:

Phase Splitter: To drive the push-pull amplifier, a phase splitter circuit is often used to generate two identical but opposite-phase signals from the input signal. One of these signals is applied to the base (or gate) of one transistor, while the other is applied to the base (or gate) of the other transistor. The most common type of phase splitter is the transformer-based "long-tail pair" or "differential amplifier."

Complementary Pair Transistors: The push-pull amplifier employs two transistors - one NPN (negative-positive-negative) and one PNP (positive-negative-positive) - or their equivalent for other types of active devices like FETs or vacuum tubes. These transistors are chosen to have complementary characteristics and are mounted in a way that their collector (or drain) currents oppose each other.

Input Signal Amplification: The two transistors amplify the input signal with opposite polarities. When one transistor is conducting (in the active state), it amplifies one half of the input waveform (positive or negative), while the other transistor remains off. When the input signal crosses the zero point, the roles of the transistors are reversed. This results in the combined amplified output being a larger version of the input signal, effectively doubling the output power compared to a single-ended amplifier.

Output Stage: The outputs of the two transistors are then combined using a transformer or a center-tapped output transformer (for vacuum tube amplifiers) or a common load resistor (for solid-state amplifiers). This arrangement cancels even-order harmonic distortion since any distortion generated by one transistor is compensated by the other, provided the transistors have closely matched characteristics.

Balanced Operation: The push-pull configuration inherently rejects common-mode noise and interference because any noise picked up by both transistors tends to cancel out due to their opposite phase inputs.

Efficiency and Reduced Distortion: One of the main benefits of a push-pull amplifier is its improved efficiency, as each transistor works during only half of the input waveform cycle. Additionally, the even-order harmonics, which tend to cause harsh distortion, are largely cancelled out by the push-pull arrangement, resulting in cleaner output.

In summary, a push-pull amplifier combines the amplified outputs of two complementary active devices to provide higher efficiency and reduced distortion, making it a popular choice for audio and RF amplification applications.
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