When people refer to "amplifiers," they're usually talking about stereo components or musical equipment. But this is only a small representation of the spectrum of audio amplifiers. There are actually amplifiers all around us. You'll find them in televisions, computers, portable CD players and most other devices that use a speaker to produce sound.
In this article, we'll see what amplifiers do and how they do it. Amplifiers can be very complex devices, with hundreds of tiny pieces, but the basic concept behind them is pretty simple. You can get a clear picture of how an amplifier works by examining the most basic components.
Sound is a fascinating phenomenon. When something vibrates in the atmosphere, it moves the air particles around it. Those air particles in turn move the air particles around them, carrying the pulse of the vibration through the air. Our ears pick up these fluctuations in air pressure and translate them into electrical signals the brain can process.
Pump it Up In the last section, we saw that an amplifier's job is to take a weak audio signal and boost it to generate a signal that is powerful enough to drive a speaker. This is an accurate description when you consider the amplifier as a whole, but the process inside the amplifier is a little more complex. In actuality, the amplifier generates a completely new output signal based on the input signal. You can understand these signals as two separate circuits. The output circuit is generated by the amplifier's power supply, which draws energy from a battery or power outlet. If the amplifier is powered by household alternating current, where the flow of charge changes directions, the power supply will convert it into direct current, where the charge always flows in the same direction. The power supply also smoothes out the current to generate an absolutely even, uninterrupted signal. The output circuit's load (the work it does) is moving the speaker cone.
The input circuit is the electrical audio signal recorded on tape or running in from a microphone. Its load is modifying the output circuit. It applies a varying resistance to the output circuit to re-create the voltage fluctuations of the original audio signal.
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