Tag Archives: bjt

Differential Amplifier w/ Cathode Follower

Differential Amplifier with Cathode Follower

This is a circuit designed for a classroom project whereby the instructions were to “improve” a differential amplifier circuit. The differential amplifier design is essentially an exercise in understanding the inner workings of an opamp, and it effectively works in the same way. The figure below is a schematic for the differential amplifier without the cathode follower output stage. In the LTspice simulation, the input signal is connected to the V+ terminal and the V- terminal is connected to ground. There is no feedback loop between the output and either input terminal making this a high-gain open-loop configuration. However, adding a resistor from V- to ground and one from the output terminal to V- would accomplish the same results as a non-inverting opamp.


I wouldn’t say that adding a cathode follower “improves” the output stage of the amp. It was more an experiment in comparing different solid-state output stages with a vacuum tube stage operating at very low voltages. However, I will say that this thing sounded amazing with the couple of guitars I tested through it. Putting a potentiometer in the feedback network allowed me to play with different gain settings. It’s a very bright sound overall giving lots of high-end sparkle, but the breakup was quite remarkable. I suspect this might be a very usable configuration for a tube mic preamp or a number of audio applications. Hopefully, I will get an opportunity to revisit this before too long.

For those of you interested in the ins and outs of this experiment, you can download our full report here.

mellotronium 2.0: rebuild


after our move to Oregon two months ago, i’m finally getting back to a spot where i can do more building and experimentation. that being said, my arduino-based sampler/synth is getting a rebuild to make it more capable and road-worthy.

the LED segment display is currently showing voltage out what should be 5v DC. i think the power adapter might be limited on the amount of current it can provide which is creating a voltage drop. either that or the 3.3v and 5v pins are reading the load from the BJT stage which stabilizes and adds sonic color to the PWM output. also, i’ve dropped in an ATMega2560 board and removed the 328p for added storage and memory for more sample time. with some code revisions, i’m hoping to keep the processor for locking up when adding lots of modulations.


a good rule of thumb pulled from this forum thread (http://www.electro-tech-online.com/general-electronics-chat/39339-mosfet-vs-bjt.html):

  1. Need a switch to be fully-on fully-off and carry lots of current -MOSFET
  2. Need a switch that needs to have lowish capacitance – BIPOLAR
  3. Need a cheap, dirty 2 or 3 component current source – BIPOLAR
  4. Need a low voltage/noise amplifier – BIPOLAR
  5. Need an amplifier with VERY low input/bias current – MOSFET
  6. Need a low noise AND low input current amplifier – JFET
  7. Need a one component current source – JFET
  8. Need switch or amp that must cost almost nothing – BIPOLAR
  9. Need multiple transistor package that has matching – BIPOLOAR
  10. Need switch that may be over-voltaged – MOSFET
  11. need switch/amp that sits in nasty RF environment – MOSFET (BIPOLARS rectify & cause offsets)

MOSFETs can generally switch faster (they certainly require less complex and less power to drive their gates). But if I’m not mistaken, BJTs designed for the task can switch very very fast since they have no gate capacitance to charge and can also operate in quasi-saturation mode for even faster switching at the expense of conduction efficiency. MOSFETs have less losses when used as a switch at “lower” voltages (lower as in industry’s definition which is <~200V). MOSFETs act like a resistor when on while BJTs act more like diodes. The resistance can be modified by changing the “dimensions” of the MOSFET while the BJT’s “diode voltage drop” can’t be changed so easily unless the materials are changed. THis tends to make MOSFETs have less losses at the lower voltages but also means MOSFETs can be paralleled since current imbalances will cancel out. With parallel BJTs, the best BJT will hog the current from the other “not so good BJTs” and burn out and the cycle repeats with the remaining BJTs until they are all burned. This is similar to parallel diodes. You can correct for imbalances by manually tuning resistors in series with each BJT, but for power applications that’s needing massive resistors and wasting lots of power.

thanks guys…