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Cascode Amplifier Configuration: Advantages and Disadvantages

Key Takeaways

  • The cascode amplifier configuration consists of a common-emitter stage and a common-base stage. Since there's no direct coupling from output to input, the cascode improves input-output isolation.

  • Cascode configurations provide high voltage gain, better bandwidth, and improved linearity, but they are more complex and consume more power.

  • Incorporating a cascode amplifier circuit into a PCB layout involves several considerations to ensure proper functionality and performance.

N-channel class-A cascode amplifier

N-channel class-A cascode amplifier

The cascode amplifier configuration consists of a common-emitter stage and a common-base stage. Since there's no direct coupling from output to input, the cascode improves input-output isolation (reducing reverse transmission). As a result, the Miller effect is eliminated, so the bandwidth is much higher.

The Miller effect occurs in amplifier designs using transistors or vacuum tubes. It describes how a relatively small input capacitance can appear much larger at the input of an amplifier because of the amplification process. This results in unwanted frequency response changes and instability in amplifiers.

Due to their ability to provide good gain and bandwidth characteristics, cascode amplifiers are commonly used in radio frequency (RF) and other high-frequency applications. The cascode configurations can be more complicated than single-transistor amplifiers. So careful biasing is needed to ensure proper isolation.

Cascode Amplifier Configuration



Reduced Miller effect

Greater complexity

Improved bandwidth

Reduced voltage swing

High voltage gain

Increased power consumption

Enhanced linearity

Limited input range

High output impedance

Additional components and cost

Cascode Advantages and Disadvantages

The cascode amplifier configuration offers several advantages and disadvantages:


  • Reduced Miller Effect: A cascode configuration reduces the Miller capacitance effect and improves stability by minimizing effective input capacitance.

  • Improved Bandwidth: The cascode arrangement reduces the Miller effect, so it's better at high frequencies and has a broader bandwidth. As a result, cascode amplifiers are suitable for applications requiring higher frequency response.

  • High Voltage Gain: The cascode configuration provides a high voltage gain due to the cascaded amplification stages. As the common-base stage has a high input impedance, the common-emitter stage can drive it effectively.

  • Enhanced Linearity: A high input impedance on the common-base stage helps reduce the loading effect on the common-emitter stage, contributing to enhanced linearity.

  • High Output Impedance: Cascode configurations are less sensitive to load variations because the common-emitter stage has a high output impedance. In impedance-matching applications, this can be helpful.


  • Complexity: A cascode configuration has two amplifier stages, so the circuit is more complex than a one-stage amplifier.

  • Reduced Voltage Swing: Cascode can reduce the amplifier's overall output voltage swing by limiting the common-emitter stage's voltage swing.

  • Power Consumption: Two amplifier stages can increase power consumption compared to simpler amplifier configurations.

  • Limited Input Range: The cascode configuration’s common-base stage can limit the input voltage range because of its input biasing requirements.

  • Additional Components and Cost: Cascode configurations require additional components for biasing and interconnecting the two stages, which adds cost.

High voltage gain, better bandwidth, and improved linearity are some of the benefits of cascode configurations. However, there are trade-offs in complexity, power consumption, and input range. Designers need to consider these factors to determine if a cascode configuration is right for their application.

Cascode Amplifier Circuit and PCB Design

Incorporating a cascode amplifier circuit into a PCB layout involves several considerations to ensure proper functionality and performance. By following the steps below, you can design and implement a cascode amplifier circuit on a PCB while ensuring its functionality, stability, and desired performance characteristics. Here are 12 steps for success: 

  1. Schematic Design

    1. Create a schematic diagram of your cascode amplifier circuit. Define the components, such as transistors, resistors, capacitors, and biasing networks.

  2. Component Selection

    1. Choose appropriate transistors that match your desired specifications, such as gain, frequency response, and power handling.

    2. Select high-quality passive components that meet the required tolerances and temperature ratings.

  3. Biasing and Direct Current (DC) Analysis

    1. Implement proper biasing for both stages to ensure the transistors operate in their desired operating regions.

    2. Perform DC analysis to ensure that the transistors are biased correctly and that the voltage and current levels are within safe limits.

  4. Alternating Current (AC) Analysis and Frequency Compensation

    1. Perform AC analysis to determine the amplifier's frequency response, gain, and bandwidth.

    2. Implement compensation techniques if needed to maintain stability and prevent oscillations. This is particularly important in high-frequency applications.

  5. PCB Layout

    1. Plan the PCB layout, considering the physical arrangement of components, signal paths, and ground connections.

    2. Keep input and output paths short and minimize trace lengths to reduce parasitic capacitance and inductance.

    3. Separate sensitive analog and noisy digital components and signals to avoid interference.

    4. Place decoupling capacitors near the power supply pins of transistors and other active components to provide local energy storage and reduce voltage fluctuations.

  6. Grounding and Return Paths

    1. Design a solid ground plane to minimize ground loops and ensure low impedance paths for return currents.

    2. If necessary, use separate analog and digital ground planes, and connect them at a single point to prevent ground noise coupling.

  7. Power Supply Decoupling

    1. Place bypass capacitors close to the power supply pins of active components to filter out high-frequency noise and provide stable operating voltages.

  8. Thermal Considerations

    1. Ensure that the heat generated by the transistors is adequately dissipated. Use appropriate heat sinks or thermal vias if required.

    2. Consider the thermal coupling between transistors and other components to avoid thermal runaway.

  9. Signal Integrity

    1. Minimize the impact of parasitic capacitance and inductance by using controlled impedance traces, avoiding sharp bends, and optimizing trace widths.

  10. Simulation and Testing

    1. Simulate the circuit using SPICE simulation tools to verify its performance before fabricating the PCB.

    2. Prototype and test the circuit to verify that it meets the desired specifications. Adjust component values if needed.

  11. EMI/EMC Considerations

    1. Implement proper shielding, grounding, and filtering techniques to minimize electromagnetic interference (EMI) and ensure electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

  12. Documentation

    1. Create comprehensive documentation that includes the schematic, PCB layout, component placement, and any design considerations or trade-offs made during the process.

If you are incorporating a cascode amplifier on your PCB, you will need the right set of PCB layout and design software. OrCAD PCB Designer and Cadence's full suite of design tools can help you create your cascaded amplifier from verified component models and then analyze all aspects of its functionality. You'll also have access to a set of tools for MCAD design and preparing for manufacturing.

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