A High-Efficiency 4x45W Car Audio Power Amplifier using Load Current Sharing
C. Mensink1, E. van Tuijl1,2, S. Gierkink1, F. Mostert3 and R. van der Zee2
1Axiom IC, Enschede, The Netherlands
2University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
3NXP, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
A 4x45W (EIAJ) monolithic car audio power amplifier is
presented that achieves a power dissipation decrease of nearly
2x over standard class AB operation by sharing load currents
between loudspeakers. Output signals are conditioned using a
common-mode control loop to allow switch placement between
loads with minimal THD increase. A prototype is realized in a
SOI bipolar-CMOS-DMOS process with 0.5µm feature size.
Die area is 7.5x4.6mm2. THD+N @(1kHz,10W) is 0.05%.
Keywords: audio power amplifier, class AB, efficiency.
Car audio power amplifiers typically operate in class AB due
to lower EMI, compared to class D. The switching in class D
requires costly and bulky external filters to prevent jamming of
particularly AM radio reception through the long, unshielded
loudspeaker cables. At the same time, efficiency becomes more
important as car manufacturers put more audio channels (≥12)
into ever less center-console space, due to added features like
GPS and entertainment. Any reduction in heat sink size is
therefore welcomed. This paper presents a High-Efficiency
(HE) add-on to the standard class AB Bridge Tied Load (BTL)
topology by enabling speakers to share load current. Compared
to  additional 4-channel sharing of load current is
implemented and significantly lower THD is achieved.
Principle of Operation
Fig. 1 shows the class AB output stages and voltages of front-
and rear-bridge in BTL- and HE-mode, assuming that switch
sw1 has no resistance. Two distinct cases apply to HE-mode:
• Case I: for output voltages just below the clipping level,
the outer stages have doubled swing compared to BTL-mode,
whereas the outputs directly connected to switch sw1 are held
constant. This is done by adding a signal-dependent
common-mode voltage to both outputs of the bridge, thus
keeping the differential output undistorted. Switch sw1 remains
closed, and load current flows between the outer stages, thus
halving the supply current (α=0.5). The output stages on both
sides of the switch remain active, but carry minimal current.
• Case II: for larger swings, the outer outputs are held
constant just below the clipping level and the remainder of the
signal peaks appears at the outputs directly connected to the
switch. Now switch sw1 is open, and supply current is the same
as in BTL-mode for these portions of the waveform (α=1).
Whether or not the loads actually share (portions of) current
depends on the signal correlation (amplitude and phase)
between channels. Correlation between channels is generally
high at low frequencies, where most of the audio power is.
Hence, significant power dissipation reduction is achieved.
Fig. 2a shows the block diagram of the complete 4-channel
implementation. The class AB bridge amplifiers are based on
. The HE-mode circuitry is drawn in fat lines. Each bridge is
supplied with a signal-dependent feed-forward common-mode
current Icom, to create the waveforms of fig. 1b.
Fig. 2b shows the signal-dependent common current Icom.
Suppose the outputs in BTL-mode approach clipping when
Vin=Vin_max. In HE-mode the outer outputs have doubled swing,
see fig. 1b. To prevent clipping, these outputs are held constant
whenever Vin>0.5·Vin_max. The remaining swing appears at the
outputs on both sides of a switch, by reducing Icom proportional
to Vin. In this region, the switch is opened.
However, without additional measures, no current flows
through the closed switches in case I, since no voltage is
developed across them. A common-mode fine-tuning of the
output voltages per bridge is required, to develop just the right
voltage drop across the switches to enable current sharing.
Fig. 1 Output stages and voltage waveforms of BTL- (a) and
HE-mode (b); the latter with additional switch sw1.
Iload Iload Iload
Fig. 2a Block diagram of quad audio power amplifier with HE-mode.
Fig. 2b Common-mode current Icom vs. Vin.
switch openswitch open switch closed
978-1-4244-7641-1/10/$26.00 ©2010 IEEE 2010 Symposium on VLSI Circuits/Technical Digest of Technical Papers 61
The gm-stages in fig. 2a implement this fine-tuning by
minimizing the current difference between the output stages on
both sides of the switch through fine-adjustment of the common
currents Icom1..4. A switch and its corresponding gm-stage are
activated simultaneously based on instantaneous signal levels,
as discussed with fig. 1b. This requires input level-detection
circuitry per bridge and a master control, not shown in fig. 2a.
Switches sw1 and sw2 operate independently, allowing
current sharing between front and rear channels (2x2 channel
mode). Switch sw3 is closed only when both sw1 and sw2 are
closed. This allows additional current sharing between left and
right channels (4 channel mode).
Compared to  our solution offers several advantages:
No switches in the signal path: both load-sides are driven
directly by an amplifier, giving less switching distortion.
All bridge amplifiers remain continuously active (no
tri-stating) and no sample and hold circuit is used.
Apart from 2x2 also 4-channel HE-mode for dissipation
reduction over a wider range of signal conditions.
Fig. 3 shows waveforms of left front- and rear (LF and LR)
channels in HE-mode with sinusoidal inputs of equal amplitude
and optimal phase for current sharing. It shows the voltage drop
across the closed switch sw1. Vsupply=14.4V, Rload=4Ω.
Fig. 4 shows total power dissipation vs. output power, with
equal amplitudes on all 4 channels. Curve HE-2x2 is with
optimal front/rear correlation, with current sharing through
switches sw1,2. Curve HE-4 is with no front/rear and optimal
left/right correlation, with current sharing through sw3 and half
of sw1,2; its dissipation is slightly higher due to the extra switch.
The dissipation reduction relative to BTL is largest below 4W
when switches are closed. Above 4W dissipation approaches
BTL because switches are open part of each output cycle.
Fig. 5 shows measured THD+N vs. output power Pout of one
channel in BTL- and HE-mode for 1kHz sinusoidal input, 4Ω
loads and Vsupply=14.4V. Front/rear correlation is optimal and
all channels are driven with equal amplitude. Below 4W the
switches are continuously closed and THD+N is close to the
level of BTL. Above 4W the distortion increases, due to the
switches opening and closing during each output cycle.
THD+N remains well below the 0.1% level reported in .
Fig. 6 shows a chip photograph. Total size is 7.5x4.6mm2.
The HE-mode circuitry including switches occupies 4.5mm2.
Layout is not yet fully optimized. The DMOS output transistors
of the 4 channels along with bonds-on-active are to the left and
right. The switches are center-left and -right. Other features
include load detection, plop-free startup, over-temperature and
short circuit protection and an I2C interface.
A 4x45W quad-bridge audio power amplifier is presented
that shows a nearly 2x decrease in power dissipation compared
to normal class AB operation, depending on signal swing. This
is achieved by sharing load current among loudspeakers when
signal levels allow. Both 2x2- and 4-channel current sharing is
implemented. Measured THD+N @(1kHz,10W) is 0.05%.
 E. Botti, T. Mandrini and F. Stefani, “A High-Efficiency 4x20W
Monolithic Audio Amplifier for Automobile Radios Using a
Complementary D-MOS BCD Technology”, IEEE JSSC, pp.
1895-1901, Dec 1996.
 R. van der Zee and F. Mostert, “Output Impedance Shaping for
Frequency Compensation of MOS Audio Power Amplifiers”,
IEEE JSSC, pp. 928-934, March 2009.
Fig. 5 Measured THD+N vs. Pout of one channel in BTL- and
HE-mode at 1kHz. Vsupply=14.4V, Rload=4Ω, filter 20Hz-40kHz.
Fig.4 Total 4-channel power dissipation vs. output power
of one channel. Vsupply=14.4V, Rload=4Ω.
Fig. 6 Chip photograph. Total size is 7.5x4.6mm2.
Fig. 3 Output waveforms of 2 channels in HE-mode.
978-1-4244-7641-1/10/$26.00 ©2010 IEEE 2010 Symposium on VLSI Circuits/Technical Digest of Technical Papers 62