How does an amplifier work and what are the basic components of one?

How does an amplifier work and what are the basic components of one? — WT, Albuquerque, NM

A typical amplifier examines the current flowing in its input circuit and produces a current in its output circuit that’s proportional to but much larger than this input current. The factor by which the amplifier multiplies the input current to produce the output current is sometimes called the amplifier’s “current gain.” The tiny currents produced by a microphone attached to an audio amplifier’s input circuit are boosted into huge currents that flow through speakers attached to the amplifier’s output circuit. Since your voice is controlling these large currents, the speakers reproduce the sound of your voice.

While there are many techniques used to amplify currents, most modern audio amplifiers use transistors to do the amplification. A transistor is a device that permits a small current or electric charge to control the flow of a much larger current. The transistors inside the amplifier examine the current in the amplifier’s input circuit and these transistors control the current passing through the amplifier’s output circuit. Because the current in the output circuit needs electric power to continue flowing, a power supply inside the amplifier provides that current with power. As you talk into the microphone, the transistors adjust the current flowing through the output circuit so that that current is proportional to the current flowing through the input circuit.

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