# What is Transient Intermodulation Distortion?

I've looked at

as well as several papers about the topic but although I may get the basis of what is is I still can't clear my mind about the topic. I've found it is related to the slew-rate of an Op-Amp. What exactly is it? what causes it? can it be ignored if we check some other properties instead?

• I've also found that if more than one signal is present during the slew-rate saturation process, these signals will not be present during the slewing period. So If the slew rate condition is checked so that the circuit does not have this limitation for my input, then can the TIM be definitely ignored? – german gomez germangb Feb 23 '15 at 16:07
• There's lots of info out there on intermodulation (intermodulation distortion). The transient just means it occurs for only a portion of the signal. Is there a particular part that you're having trouble understanding? Your question comes across as very vague and I can't tell if you need clarification on the slew-rate, intermodulation, the transiency of intermodulation? – I. Wolfe Feb 23 '15 at 16:26
• Just expanded on I. Wolfe's comment. Intermodulation distortion is all about the non-linearites in the system, if an opamp is slew rate limited then it's not linear any more... In general you try to pick the opamp so that the signal does not cause slew rate limiting. – George Herold Feb 23 '15 at 16:51

Transient Intermodulation distortion (TIM) is usually measured by putting a burst of a fixed frequency into a amplifier and then measuring what actually comes out. By Fourier analisys, you can see that changing amplitude of a frequency actually implies additional frequencies. This is why AM radio stations can't be spaced too close together. They don't just radiate at the carrier frequency, but some range on either side of the carrier frequency.

The additional frequencies of a single-frequency burst cause particular trouble to some types of amplifiers, and the resulting distortion appears more noticable to human listeners than more general distortion. Put another way, audio quality isn't just about total distortion level, but the type of distortion too. Different types of distortion are more objectionable than others, and TIM is of the more objectionable type. This is why there is sometimes a separate spec for TIM in addition to the overall distortion spec.

TIM seems to be exacerbated by amplifiers that don't have much frequency headroom above the highest desired frequency, and a high global feedback ratio. Design techniques to minimize TIM include:

1. Making the internal signal path of the amplifier still have gain well above the highest frequency of interest. For example, for a "HiFi" audio amp that must work up to 20 kHz, you may want individual stages to be reasonably flat to 100 kHz.

2. A simple passive low pass filter in front of the amp that limits incoming signals above the specified operating range. This together with point 1 means that the active part of the amp will only see frequencies for which it's gain is relatively flat. This can be as simple as a one or two stage R-C filter.

3. The gain of each stage should be stable and well-defined. Do not rely on global feedback to deal with high and unrestrained gain of individual stages.

4. Keep the global feedback fairly low, which is the same as saying keep the open-loop gain of the overall amp only somewhat above the final desired gain of the whole amp. 10-15 dB seems to be a reasonable range. If all the stages individually have reasonably flat gain, then not much feedback will be needed to guarantee overall flat and predictable gain anyway.

Frequent source of TIM is the long tailed pair at the front of the power amplifier circuit. Interesting experience that if you use this kind of power amplifier in non inverting mode you often face with TIM in the sound but if you use it in inverting mode it disappears. In non inverting mode the transistor whose base the feedback is connected causes a tiny delay due to its collector-base capacitance. It results a small phase error at the connected emitters of the two transistors of the long tailed pairs what is a typical source of TIM. You can eve measure them as a peak in the signal at the emitters connected to each others of the long tailed pair. If you connect the negative feedback to the base of the input transistor then the subtraction is not affected by this capacitance mentioned earlier and the TIM disappears.