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ast month we looked at oscillators, Band-pass: allows frequencies within some range to
which make signals. This month we’ll pass through, blocking lower and higher ones.
look at filters, which manipulate them. See Figure 3.
A filter does just what the name
implies: it allows some frequencies to Notch: allows frequencies below and above some
pass through, while blocking (i.e. filtering range to pass through, blocking those in the range.
out) others. There are four basic types of filters: See Figure 4.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 4 8 6

9 : ; < : = > < ? = @ A B C

Low-pass: allows frequencies lower than some The frequency at which the response curve of a filter
D E F G H I J E K G G K I L E K L G M
threshold value to pass through, blocking higher ones. changes is called the cutoff. Band-pass and notch
N O L P G Q R S N L M E T I U V N L P

See Figure 1. filters have two cutoffs.


L

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Passing a simple, single-frequency sine wave
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High-pass: allows frequencies higher than some through a filter will result in it being passed through
c
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threshold value to pass through, blocking lower ones. to some extent (including not at all), depending on its
See Figure 2. frequency and the cutoff frequency of the filter.
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frequency, the smaller the signal at Vout; the lower


the frequency, the bigger the signal at Vout. What’s
interesting is what happens when the effective
resistance (i.e. reactance) of C is about the same
as the resistance of R. Look at Figure 1. You see
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where the curve drops? The midpoint of the drop is


9*SV^WHZZÄS[LY around where X = R. The frequency is defined by the
capacitor (since R is fixed) and equals 1/RC. There’s
that RC time constant again!
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Given the above, how would we make a high-pass


Recall the discussion of capacitors in issue 10. filter? We’d want the resistance to ground to be the
One key capability is that they can pass varying small side of the divider at low frequencies. At high
signals while blocking steady signals. Let’s dig frequencies it should be the large side. This is the
a little deeper. opposite of what we need in a low-pass filter and all
Capacitors have what is called reactance. This is we need to do is switch the resistor and capacitor.
sort of like resistance, but is frequency dependent. See Figure 6.
Specifically, a capacitor’s reactance, X, is equal We can make band-pass and notch filters by
to 1/КC, where К is the frequency. From this we combining low-pass and high-pass filters with
can see that this effective resistance is inversely appropriate cutoff frequencies.
proportional to both the frequency of the signal û

and the value of the capacitor. So, for a fixed-value


capacitor, the effective resistance goes down as the
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frequency goes up, and the reverse. It also means 9*OPNOWHZZÄS[LY


that capacitors with smaller values have a lower
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reactance at higher frequencies.


This makes sense intuitively. Smaller capacitors
hold less charge, and can be (dis)charged faster.
That means that higher-frequency signals have time
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capacitor. A larger capacitor requires more time to


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do that, thus lets a lower-frequency signal through


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more easily; a high-frequency signal does not have There’s a problem with RC filters: the cutoff isn’t all
time to have as much of an effect on the charge in that sudden. It’s pretty gradual, actually. For simple іԺіѕѕԞȟђ
the capacitor. low- and high-pass filters, that might not be too bad.
¬ µ ¯ ¶ µ · ¬ ¸ ¯ µ ¯ °

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But for an equaliser (which is a series of adjacent


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band-pass filters) you want fairly narrow, sharp іԺіѕԞȶyƺƃɥƃƺȈɽɁɨ
bands. RC filters aren’t up to it. However, we can ɰɁʍɨƺljɁǹ
pull in another component we’ve seen: inductors.
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Inductors are generally labelled L in circuits, so these ƹljƃȶɁɰƺȈȢȢƃɽɁɨӗƃ


ɰȈǼȶƃȢǼljȶljɨƃɽɁɨӗɁɨƃ
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filters are called LC filters. ȴʍɰȈƺɥȢƃʰljɨӰ
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We won’t go into much detail because, as we


said in issue 11, this type of inductor isn’t overly :ɁȶȶljƺɽɁɨɰƃȶǁ
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common any more. In fact, LC filters are typically ɽȃljɰȈǼȶƃȢɰɁʍɨƺljɽɁ


How is this useful? Recall in issue 9 when we limited to RF and some audio circuits. The advantage
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talked about resistors and voltage dividers? Let’s of LC filters is that their response curves can be very ȴɥȢȈˎljǁ
make one, but this time using a capacitor in place steep. This lets them excel at selecting a small range ɰɥljƃȟljɨɰ
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of one of the resistors. See Figure 5. As the of frequencies. Figure 7 (overleaf) shows a simple ɽɁɽȃljɰȈǼȶƃȢӗɁɨƃȶ
ɁɰƺȈȢȢɁɰƺɁɥljɽɁȢɁɁȟ
frequency of Vin increases, the effective resistance LC band-pass filter. As before, the parallel LC circuit º ¿ Ä ¿ Æ

of C goes down. Conversely, as the frequency goes forms a voltage divider with R. Recall that inductors Ë
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down, the effective resistance of C goes up. The and capacitors work in a somewhat opposite way.
ǹʍɨɽȃljɨӗƃʤƃɨȈljɽʰ
lower the effective resistance of C, the lower the Because of this, the parallel combination has a
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amplitude of Vout compared to Vin. This circuit is a resonant frequency given by f = 1/(2єՍ(LC)). At ³ ¶ ® ° ¯ ± · ± µ ¬ ° ±

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frequency-dependent voltage divider. The higher the that frequency the effective resistance of the
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LC combination goes to infinity, dropping to 0 destructively (making the signal lower amplitude).
very quickly on either side. See Figure 8 for the Figures 9a–c show 400, 2400, and 4800Hz sine
response curve. waves. Figure 9d shows the result of combining
400Hz and 2400Hz. Figure 9e shows the result
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when the 4800Hz wave is added to the previous.


All waveforms are the combination of multiple This might seem a little odd – intuitively you might
frequencies and amplitudes of sine waves interfering feel that it should be possible to create a waveform
with each other: sometimes constructively that can’t be constructed entirely from sine waves,
(making the signal higher amplitude), sometimes but you can’t. We won’t go though the mathematics
behind this here, but if you’re interested, look into
Fourier analysis and Fourier transforms. The latter
is the process of breaking down a wave into its
component sine waves. In computing, you’ll often
see this referred to as fast Fourier transform (FFT) as
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The iFunGen iOS app is a handy way to generate


simple or complex signals.
If we take the wave from Figure 9d, run it
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through a low-pass filter whose cutoff is 1400Hz,


we would get something close to the 400Hz wave
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in Figure 9a. Conversely, if we ran it through a high-


pass filter with the same cutoff, we’d get something
close to the wave shown in Figure 9b.
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Now consider a monophonic music recording


(stereo or surround simply has multiple monophonic
channels, so let’s keep it simple). That’s a single
signal, but you can hear all the instruments and
voices. You can recognise melodies and the words
being sung. It’s a very complex waveform that varies
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over time. There’s an incredible number of different
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getting combined to create that one waveform.
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Figure 10 shows a snippet of the waveform from capacitor for C and a 100 k1 potentiometer for R, we
some music. can adjust R to get Vout that is shown in Figure 12.
Now consider an equaliser: a series of band- You can see that most of the 2400Hz signal is
pass filters with increasingly higher frequency filtered out.
cutoffs. Adjusting a band changes the amount of If we swap R and C to make a high-pass filter and
frequencies in the band that get through. On a adjust R, we can get Vout, as shown in Figure 13.
simpler amplifier you might only have bass and Here you can see that there’s not much of the
treble. These would control a low-pass and high-pass 400Hz signal remaining. Try other resistor/capacitor
filter, respectively. If it has a mid(-range) control as combinations and signals and observe (or listen to)
well, that would control how much gets through the results.
a band-pass filter whose low and high cutoffs Last month we looked at oscillators that make
correspond to the cutoffs of the low- and high-pass signals. This month we’ve looked at filters that can
filters. Figure 11 shows the filter response curves remove some ranges of frequencies from a signal.
for a multiband filter. By changing the strength of a Next month, we’ll pull out some transistors again
filter’s response curve (its height), more or less of and have a look at amplifiers that make signals
that range of frequencies gets through. Reducing stronger (louder if you drive a speaker with them).
the responses of the higher bands results in a
bassier sound. Reducing the lower bands results in a
brighter sound.
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Try building some RC filters and feed various signals


into Vin. You can use the oscillators we built last
month, or connect the audio output of a music
player (phone, computer, etc.). For example, if we
take the 400+2400Hz signal, shown in Figure 9d,
and run it through a low-pass RC filter with a 10 nF

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