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I've heard this term many times from many different sources, but none of them gave me a definition.

Here is my understanding: "coupled" means "connected together". If two circuits are "capacitively coupled", that means they are connected with capacitors between them.

However, one question remains: What is an "ac coupled signal"? I know circuits can be coupled, but how can we couple a signal?

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The manner of "coupling" is referring to what signals can pass. An AC coupled system is also a DC blocked system. Similarly, a DC coupled system allows both the DC and AC components of the signal to pass through the system.

The relationship between AC coupled and capacitively coupled is in the use of a capacitor to achieved the DC blocking ability of the system. By inserting a capacitor in series with the signal, a slowly changing signal can no longer pass. This is a high-pass filter.

An example of this is the DC/AC/GND selection of an oscilloscope input. In DC coupled mode, there is no filtering other than that inherent in the probe/cable/input, meaning you can measure slowly changing signals and (inaccurately) measure DC voltages. In AC coupled mode, a capacitor is switched in series inside the oscilloscope, creating a high-pass filter, meaning you can more easily measure signals with a large DC offset. This is useful for measuring the small, fast transient of a switching power supply experiencing an output step load change (with a large DC offset) or many other signals. Finally, in GND mode, the internal switch disconnects the external input and grounds the internal circuitry.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So an ac coupled signal is the ac part extracted from an original signal? \$\endgroup\$ – nalzok Jul 9 '16 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sunqingyao exactly. \$\endgroup\$ – user2943160 Jul 9 '16 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ "By inserting a capacitor in series with the signal, a slowly changing signal can no longer pass. This is a high-pass filter." - this isn't quite correct unless the assumptions are made explicit. \$\endgroup\$ – Alfred Centauri Jul 9 '16 at 3:54

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