Differences Between Amplifier & Oscillator

Written by kurt larsen
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Differences Between Amplifier & Oscillator
While oscillators and amplifiers share some similarities, they each have their own unique function. (amplifier knobs image by Darko Draskovic from Fotolia.com)

For many people, the similarities and differences between an amplifier and an oscillator are quite confusing. The fact is, amplifiers and oscillators share a host of similarities, yet the differences between the two make them distinctly different pieces of equipment. Once learnt, it becomes quite clear how the two differ from one another.

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The primary function of an amplifier is to convert an input signal into an output signal, amplifying it during the process. For example, an electric guitar that is plugged into the input of an amplifier will transmit a signal to be converted to an output that is louder than it initially was. Amplifiers can also be used to shape the sound of an input signal through the adjustment of bass, treble and other variables.

Unlike amplifiers, oscillators have a built-in autonomous circuit that creates an overlap between the input and output signals. The result is an ever-repeating oscillation, which can be a square wave, chaotic wave or other signal.

Oscillators and amplifiers are similar in that amplifiers can be made to oscillate through an increase in gain, and oscillators can be made to amplify simply by the nature of how they work. The major difference between the two is the autonomous circuit that is characteristic of the oscillator; while amplifiers are capable of replicating such a circuit, it is not what they are most commonly used for.

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