In state-of-the-art implementations of instrument devices, a single amplifier stage may be required to provide a THD figure of better than -140 dB for a 5V RMS, 20 kHz signal in order to support a total instrument dynamic range of 120 dB in an 80 kHz measurement bandwidth. Currently it is not possible to achieve this performance level using available commercial monolithic operational amplifiers in a standard configuration. A proposed design approach achieves this goal. A unity gain stable composite operational amplifier is presented that consists of a cascade of two operational amplifiers, an intermediate compensation network and a frequency-selective feedback network for the second amplifier. This configuration achieves very high open-loop gain (100 dB at 100 kHz) and thus shows exceptionally good distortion characteristics. Furthermore, the noise characteristics of the first operational amplifier are preserved. The open-loop response is designed for conditional stability, such that a very-large-gain-bandwidth product at signal frequencies can be achieved. A numerical optimization procedure is then introduced to derive the frequency compensation, based on specific stability criteria. Measurement results confirm the predicted high-gain-bandwidth product (10 GHz at 100 kHz) and excellent distortion performance (-180 dB). Applications for the new composite operational amplifier include audio frequency distortion measurement equipment.
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