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| What is an Oscillator? | How Oscillators are Classified |

How Oscillators are Classified

Oscillators can be classified in a variety of different ways. Some of the more common classes are:

Of course, there is a lot of overlap between classes. For example, the local oscillator in a radio receiver will typically be a radio frequency (rf) sine wave LC oscillator of the Hartley or Colpitts configuration.

Audio oscillators almost always use RC circuits for tuning, for the very practical reason that inductors for low frequencies are typically very large, heavy, and expensive. There are exceptions, of course. The earliest touch-tone telephones used LC oscillators to generate the audio tones. They were relatively expensive, but they were also rugged and reliable. Fortunately, newer technology has made it possible to make circuits that are just as rugged and reliable, but cheaper and lighter.

On the other hand, radio frequency oscillators typically use tuned LC circuits. At these frequencies, inductors are small and cheap. For applications which require a single, accurate, fixed frequency, a quartz crystal is a very common tuning element.

As you explore the oscillator circuits on these pages, you'll see certain patterns repeated in the circuit designs. Recognizing these patterns is a large part of understanding how these oscillators work.

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