Classification of Power Amplifiers:

Classification of Power Amplifiers are primarily divided into two categories viz. audio power amplifiers and radio power amplifiers.

Audio power amplifiers, also called the small signal power amplifiers, raise the power levels of signals that have audio frequency range (20 Hz-20 kHz).

Radio power amplifiers, also called large signal or power amplifiers, raise the power level of signals that have radio frequency range. They amplify a specific frequency or narrowband of frequencies while rejecting all other frequencies.

Classification According To Mode of Operation:

Transistor power amplifiers handle large signals. Many of them are driven so hard by the input large signal that collector current is either cutoff or is in saturation region during a large portion of the input cycle. So such amplifiers are generally classified according to their mode of operation. This Classification of Power Amplifiers is based on the amount of transistor bias and amplitude of the input signal. It takes into account the portion of the cycle for which the transistor conducts. They are classified as below :

1. Class A Power Amplifiers: In this case, transistor is so biased that the output current flows for the entire cycle of the input signal. Thus the operating point is so selected that the transistor operates only over the linear region of its load line. So such an amplifier can amplify input signal of small amplitude. As the transistor operates over the linear portion of load line, the output waveform is exactly similar to input waveform. So class A amplifiers are characterized by a high fidelity of the output. Such amplifiers are used where freedom from distortion is prime aim. Operation is restricted only over a small central region of the load line so such amplifiers can be used for amplifying signals of small amplitude. Also ac power output per transistor is small. The maximum possible overall efficiency with resistive load is 25%. The maximum possible collector efficiency with resistive load is 50%. In case an output transformer is used, both of these efficiencies are 50%.

2. Class B Power Amplifiers: In this case, the transistor bias and signal amplitude are such that output current flows only during positive half cycle of the input signal. At zero signal, the collector current is zero and no biasing system is required in class B amplifiers. The operating point is selected at collector cutoff voltage. Because of total absence of negative half cycle from the output the signal distortion is high. Zero signal input represents the best condition for class B amplifiers because of zero collector current. The transistor dissipates more power with increase in signal strength. In comparison to class A amplifiers average current is less, power dissipation is less. So overall efficiency is increased. The theoretical efficiency in class B operation is about 78.5% while it is only 50% in class A operation.

3. Class AB Power Amplifiers: An amplifier may be biased at a dc level above the zero base current level of class B power amplifiers and above one-half the supply voltage level of class A; this bias condition is class AB. Class AB operation still needs a push-pull connection to achieve a full output cycle, but the dc bias level is usually closer to zero base current level for better power efficiency. For class AB operation the output signal swing occurs between 180° and 360° and is neither class A nor class B

4. Class C Power Amplifiers: A class C power amplifier is biased for operation for less than 180° of the input signal cycle and will operate only with a tuned or resonant circuit which provides a full cycle of operation for the tuned or resonant frequency. Such power amplifiers are, therefore, employed in special areas of tuned circuits, such as radio or communications.

5. Class D Power Amplifiers: Class D power amplifiers are designed to operate with digital or pulse type signals. Using digital techniques makes it possible to have a signal that varies over the entire cycle (using sample-and-hold circuitry) to recre­ate the output from many pieces of input signal. The main ad­vantage of class D power amplifiers is that it is on (using power) only for short intervals and the overall efficiency can practically be very high (above 90%).

Classification Based on Deriving Output:

Transistor amplifiers, according to the method of deriving output, are classified as single-ended, double-ended (or push-pull) and complementary symmetry push-pull power amplifiers.

Single-ended power amplifier uses single transistor and derives output power w.r.t. one end permanently grounded.

Double-ended or push-pull amplifier uses two transistors in a single stage. It consists of two loops in which the transistor collector currents flow in opposite directions but add in the load.

Complementary symmetry push-pull power amplifier uses two transistors having complementary symmetry (one N-P-N and another P-N-P). The term complementary arises from the fact that one transistor is the N-P-N type and the other is P-N-P type. They have symmetry as they are made with the same material and technology and are of same maximum ratings.

Classification of Power Amplifiers based on Use:

The amplifiers, according to use, may be classified as voltage, power, current or general purpose amplifiers. In general, the load of an amplifier is impedance. The two most important special cases are the idealized resistive load and the tuned circuit operating near its resonant frequency. Class AB and class B operation are used with untuned power amplifiers whereas class C operation is employed with tuned radio frequency amplifiers. Many important waveshaping functions may be accomplished by class B or class C overdriven amplifiers.