Armstrong oscillator. Identify the Hartley oscillator. ">

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Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

  • List the two broad classifications of oscillators (wave generators).
  • Identify the three frequency-determining devices for sine-wave oscillators.
  • Describe the differences between series-fed and shunt-fed oscillators.
  • Explain how the crystal is equivalent to the series and parallel LC circuit.
  • Identify the Armstrong oscillator.
  • Identify the Hartley oscillator.
  • Identify the Colpitts oscillator.
  • Identify the resistive-capacitive oscillator.
  • Determine the frequency of a resistive-capacitive oscillator.
  • Explain the operation of a pulsed oscillator.
  • Determine how many cycles are present in the output of a pulsed oscillator.
  • Explain how frequency multiplication takes place.


WAVE GENERATORS play a prominent role in the field of electronics. They generate signals from a few hertz to several gigahertz (109 hertz). Modern wave generators use many different circuits and generate such outputs as SINUSOIDAL, SQUARE, RECTANGULAR, SAWTOOTH, and TRAPEZOIDAL waveshapes. These waveshapes serve many useful purposes in the electronic circuits you will be studying. For example, they are used extensively throughout the television receiver to reproduce both picture and sound.

One type of wave generator is known as an OSCILLATOR. An oscillator can be regarded as an amplifier which provides its own input signal. Oscillators are classified according to the waveshapes they produce and the requirements needed for them to produce oscillations.


Wave generators can be classified into two broad categories according to their output waveshapes, SINUSOIDAL and NONSINUSOIDAL.

Sinusoidal Oscillators

A sinusoidal oscillator produces a sine-wave output signal. Ideally, the output signal is of constant amplitude with no variation in frequency. Actually, something less than this is usually obtained. The degree to which the ideal is approached depends upon such factors as class of amplifier operation, amplifier characteristics, frequency stability, and amplitude stability.

Sine-wave generators produce signals ranging from low audio frequencies to ultrahigh radio and microwave frequencies. Many low-frequency generators use resistors and capacitors to form their frequency-determining networks and are referred to as RC OSCILLATORS. They are widely used in the audio-frequency range.

Another type of sine-wave generator uses inductors and capacitors for its frequency-determining network. This type is known as the LC OSCILLATOR. LC oscillators, which use tank circuits, are commonly used for the higher radio frequencies. They are not suitable for use as extremely low-frequency oscillators because the inductors and capacitors would be large in size, heavy, and costly to manufacture.

A third type of sine-wave generator is the CRYSTAL-CONTROLLED OSCILLATOR.

The crystal-controlled oscillator provides excellent frequency stability and is used from the middle of the audio range through the radio frequency range.

Nonsinusoidal Oscillators

Nonsinusoidal oscillators generate complex waveforms, such as square, rectangular, trigger, sawtooth, or trapezoidal. Because their outputs are generally characterized by a sudden change, or relaxation, they are often referred to as RELAXATION OSCILLATORS. The signal frequency of these oscillators is usually governed by the charge or discharge time of a capacitor in series with a resistor. Some types, however, contain inductors that affect the output frequency. Thus, like sinusoidal oscillators, both RC and LC networks are used for determining the frequency of oscillation. Within this category of nonsinusoidal oscillators are MULTIVIBRATORS, BLOCKING OSCILLATORS, SAWTOOTH GENERATORS, and TRAPEZOIDAL GENERATORS.


An oscillator can be thought of as an amplifier that provides itself (through feedback) with an input signal. By definition, it is a nonrotating device for producing alternating current, the output frequency of which is determined by the characteristics of the device. The primary purpose of an oscillator is to generate a given waveform at a constant peak amplitude and specific frequency and to maintain this waveform within certain limits of amplitude and frequency.

An oscillator must provide amplification. Amplification of signal power occurs from input to output. In an oscillator, a portion of the output is fed back to sustain the input, as shown in figure 2-1.Enough power must be fed back to the input circuit for the oscillator to drive itself as does a signal generator. To cause the oscillator to be self-driven, the feedback signal must also be

Figure 2-1. - Basic oscillator block diagram.

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REGENERATIVE (positive). Regenerative signals must have enough power to compensate for circuit losses and to maintain oscillations.

Since a practical oscillator must oscillate at a predetermined frequency, a FREQUENCY-DETERMINING DEVICE (fdd), sometimes referred to as a FREQUENCY-DETERMINING NETWORK (fdn), is needed. This device acts as a filter, allowing only the desired frequency to pass. Without a frequency-determining device, the stage will oscillate in a random manner, and a constant frequency will not be maintained.

Before discussing oscillators further, let's review the requirements for an oscillator. First, amplification is required to provide the necessary gain for the signal. Second, sufficient regenerative feedback is required to sustain oscillations. Third, a frequency-determining device is needed to maintain the desired output frequency.

The basic oscillator requirements, in addition to the application, determine the type of oscillator to be used. Let's consider some factors that account for the complexity and unique characteristics of oscillators.

Virtually every piece of equipment that uses an oscillator has two stability requirements, AMPLITUDE STABILITY and FREQUENCY STABILITY. Amplitude stability refers to the ability of the oscillator to maintain a constant amplitude in the output waveform. The more constant the amplitude of the output waveform, the better the amplitude stability. Frequency stability refers to the ability of the oscillator to maintain its operating frequency. The less the oscillator varies from its operating frequency, the better the frequency stability.

A constant frequency and amplitude can be achieved by taking extreme care to prevent variations in LOAD, BIAS, and COMPONENT CHARACTERISTICS. Load variations can greatly affect the amplitude and frequency stability of the output of an oscillator. Therefore, maintaining the load as constant as possible is necessary to ensure a stable output.

As you should know from your study of transistor biasing, bias variations affect the operating point of the transistor. These variations may alter the amplification capabilities of the oscillator circuits as well. A well-regulated power supply and a bias-stabilizing circuit are required to ensure a constant, uniform signal output.

As a result of changing temperature and humidity conditions, the value or characteristics of components such as capacitors, resistors, and transistors can change. The changes in these components also cause changes in amplitude and frequency.

Output power is another consideration in the use of oscillators. Generally speaking, high power is obtained at some sacrifice to stability. When both requirements are to be met, a low-power, stable oscillator can be followed by a higher-power BUFFER AMPLIFIER. The buffer provides isolation between the oscillator and the load to prevent changes in the load from affecting the oscillator.

If the oscillator stage must develop high power, efficiency becomes important. Many oscillators use class C bias to increase efficiency. Other types of oscillators may use class A bias when a high efficiency is not required but distortion must be kept at a minimum. Other classes of bias may also be used with certain oscillators.


RC networks, LC tanks, and crystals may appear in sine-wave oscillator circuits. An amplifier can be made into a sine-wave oscillator by providing regenerative feedback through an RC network.

RC Network

Figure 2-2, view (A), shows the block diagram of an amplifier with an RC network through which regenerative feedback is provided. The RC network also acts as the frequency-determining device. View (B) shows a vector analysis of the signal E at various points in the circuit.


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Figure 2-2B. - RC oscillator. VECTOR ANALYSIS

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To analyze the operation of the circuit in view (A), assume that the amplifier is a common-emitter configuration. The signal on the collector (M) is 180 degrees out of phase with the signal (input) on the base (R). For the circuit to produce regenerative feedback, the RC network must provide a 180-degree phase shift of the collector signal. When power is applied to the circuit, a noise voltage (noise contains many different frequencies) will appear on the collector. This noise signal is represented by vector LM in view (B). As the signal couples through C1 and across R1 (view (A)), a phase shift occurs. The voltage across R1 (ER1), represented by vector LN, has been shifted in phase (about 60 degrees) and reduced in amplitude. The signal at point N (view (A)) is then coupled to the next RC section (R2 and C2). Using the same size resistor and capacitor as before will cause another 60-degree phase shift to take place. The signal at point P is the voltage across R2, represented by vector LP. Now the signal at point P has been shifted about 120 degrees and its amplitude is reduced still further. The same actions occur for the last section (R3 and C3). This signal experiences another 60-degree phase shift and has further amplitude reduction. The signal at point R (ER3) has been shifted 180 degrees and is represented by vector LR.

Notice that point R is the input to the base of the common-emitter amplifier. Also, vector LR shows that the signal on the base is regenerative (aiding the circuit operation). This meets the regenerative feedback requirement. An exact 60-degree phase shift per stage is not required, but the sum of the three phase shifts must equal 180 degrees.

For a given RC network, only one frequency of the initial noise signal will be shifted exactly 180 degrees. In other words, the network is frequency selective. Therefore, the RC network is the frequency-determining device since the lengths of the vectors and their phase relationships depend on frequency. The frequency of oscillations is governed by the values of resistance and capacitance in these sections. Variable resistors and capacitors may be used to provide tuning in the feedback network to allow for minor variations in phase shift. For an RC phase-shift oscillator, the amplifier is biased for class A operation to minimize distortion of the wave or signal.

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