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Biasing in electronics means establishing predetermined voltages or currents at various points of an electronic circuit for the purpose of establishing proper operating conditions in electronic components. Many electronic devices such as diodes, transistors and vacuum tubes, whose function is processing time-varying (AC) signals also require a steady (DC) current or voltage to operate correctly — a bias. The AC signal applied to them is superposed on this DC bias current or voltage. The operating point of a device, also known as bias point, quiescent point, or Q-point, is the DC voltage or current at a specified terminal of an active device (a transistor or vacuum tube) with no input signal applied. A bias circuit is a portion of the device's circuit which supplies this steady current or voltage.


In electronic engineering, the term bias has the following meanings:[citation needed]

  1. A systematic deviation of a value from a reference value.
  2. The amount by which the average of a set of values departs from a reference value.
  3. Electrical, mechanical, magnetic, or other force (field) applied to a device to establish a reference level to operate the device.
  4. In telegraph signaling systems, the development of a positive or negative DC voltage at a point on a line that should remain at a specified reference level, such as zero.

In electronics, bias usually refers to a fixed DC voltage or current applied to a terminal of an electronic component such as a diode, transistor or vacuum tube in an circuit in which alternating current (AC) signals are also present, in order to establish proper operating conditions for the device. For example, a bias voltage is applied to a transistor in an electronic amplifier to allow the transistor to operate in a particular region of its transconductance curve. For vacuum tubes, a grid bias voltage is often applied to the grid electrodes for the same reason.

In magnetic tape recording, the term bias is also used for a high-frequency signal added to the audio signal applied to the recording head, to improve the quality of the recording on the tape. This is called tape bias.

Importance in linear circuits[edit]

Linear circuits involving transistors typically require specific DC voltages and currents for correct operation, which can be achieved using a biasing circuit. As an example of the need for careful biasing, consider a transistor amplifier. In linear amplifiers, a small input signal gives larger output signal without any change in shape (low distortion): the input signal causes the output signal to vary up and down about the Q-point in a manner strictly proportional to the input. However, because a transistor is nonlinear, the transistor amplifier only approximates linear operation. For low distortion, the transistor must be biased so the output signal swing does not drive the transistor into a region of extremely nonlinear operation. For a bipolar transistor amplifier, this requirement means that the transistor must stay in the active mode, and avoid cut-off or saturation. The same requirement applies to a MOSFET amplifier, although the terminology differs a little: the MOSFET must stay in the active mode (or saturation mode), and avoid cut-off or ohmic operation (or triode mode).

Bipolar junction transistors[edit]

For bipolar junction transistors the bias point is chosen to keep the transistor operating in the active mode, using a variety of circuit techniques, establishing the Q-point DC voltage and current. A small signal is then applied on top of the Q-point bias voltage, thereby either modulating or switching the current, depending on the purpose of the circuit.

The quiescent point of operation is typically near the middle of the DC load line, so as to obtain the maximum available peak-to-peak signal amplitude without distortion due to clipping. The process of obtaining an appropriate DC collector current at a certain DC collector voltage by setting up the operating point is called biasing.

After establishing the operating point, when an input signal is applied, the output signal should not move the transistor either to saturation or to cut-off. However, this unwanted shift still might occur, due to the following reasons:

  1. Parameters of transistors depend on junction temperature. As junction temperature increases, leakage current due to minority charge carriers (ICBO)(collector base current with emitter open) increases. As ICBO increases, ICEO(collector emitter current with base open) also increases, causing an increase in collector current IC. This produces heat at the collector junction. This process repeats, and, finally, the Q-point may shift into the saturation region. Sometimes, the excess heat produced at the junction may even burn the transistor due to thermal runaway.
  2. When a transistor is replaced by another of the same type, the Q-point may shift, due to changes in parameters of the transistor, such as current gain () which varies slightly for each unique transistor.

To avoid a shift of Q-point, bias-stabilization is necessary. Various biasing circuits can be used for this purpose.

Vacuum tubes (thermionic valves)[edit]

Grid bias is the DC voltage provided at the control grid of an electron tube relative to the cathode for the purpose of establishing the zero input signal or steady state operating condition of the tube.[1][2]

  • In a typical Class A voltage amplifier, and class A and AB1 power stages of audio power amplifiers, the DC bias voltage is negative relative to the cathode potential. The instantaneous grid voltage (sum of DC bias and AC input signal) does not reach the point where grid current begins.
  • Class B amplifiers using general purpose tubes are biased negatively to the projected plate current cutoff point. The bias voltage source must have low resistance and be able to supply the grid current.[3] When tubes designed for class B are employed, the bias can be as little as zero.
  • Class C amplifiers are biased negatively at a point well beyond plate current cutoff. Grid current occurs during significantly less than 180 degrees of the input frequency cycle.

Methods of obtaining grid bias:

  • Fixed bias - The DC grid potential is determined by connection to an appropriate impedance that will pass DC from an appropriate voltage source.[2][4]
  • Cathode bias (self-bias, automatic bias) - The voltage drop across a resistor in series with the cathode is utilized. The grid circuit DC return is connected to the other end of the resistor, causing the DC grid voltage to be negative relative to the cathode.[4]
  • Grid leak bias - When the grid is driven positive during part of the input frequency cycle, such as in class C operation, rectification in the grid circuit in conjunction with capacitive coupling of the input signal to the grid produces negative DC voltage at the grid. A resistor (the grid leak) permits discharge of the coupling capacitor and passes the DC grid current. The resultant bias voltage is equal to the product of the DC grid current and the grid leak resistance.[5][4][6]
  • Bleeder bias - The voltage drop across a portion of a resistance across the plate voltage supply determines the grid bias. The cathode is connected to a tap on the resistance. The grid is connected to an appropriate impedance that provides a DC path either to the negative side of the plate voltage supply or to another tap on the same resistance.[1][7][8]
  • Initial velocity bias (contact bias) - DC voltage is developed across a grid to cathode resistor, usually in the range of 1 to 10 megohms, due to electrons entering the grid.[9][10][11]

Combinations of bias methods may be used on the same tube.


Electret microphone elements typically include a junction field-effect transistor as an impedance converter to drive other electronics within a few meters of the microphone. The operating current of this JFET is typically 0.1 to 0.5 mA and is often referred to as bias,[12] which is different from the phantom power interface which supplies 48 volts to operate the backplate of a traditional condenser microphone. Electret microphone bias is sometimes supplied on a separate conductor.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Veley, Victor F. C. (1994). The Benchtop Electronics Reference Manual (3rd ed.). New York: Tab Books. pp. 362–365. 
  2. ^ a b Landee, Davis, Albrecht, Electronic Designers' Handbook, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957, p. 2-27
  3. ^ Landee et al, 1957, p. 4-19
  4. ^ a b c Orr, William I., ed. (1962). The Radio Handbook (16th ed.). New Augusta Indiana: Editors and Engineers, LTD. pp. 266–267. 
  5. ^ Headquarters, Department of the Army (1952). C-W and A-M Radio Transmitters and Receivers. Washington DC: USGPO. p. 97. TM 11-665. 
  6. ^ Everitt, William Littell (1937). Communication Engineering (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 538–539. 
  7. ^ RCA Manufacturing Co. (1940). Receiving Tube Manual RC-14. Harrison, NJ: RCA. p. 38. 
  8. ^ Ghirardi, Alfred A. (1932). Radio Physics Course (2nd ed.). New York: Rinehart Books. pp. 505, 770–771. 
  9. ^ Giacoletto, Lawrence Joseph (1977). Electronics Designers' Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 9-27. 
  10. ^ Tomer, Robert B. (1960). Getting the Most Out of Vacuum Tubes. Indianapolis: Howard W. Sams & Co., Inc. / The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. p. 28. Archived from the original on 2009. 
  11. ^ Landee et al, 1957, p. 2-28
  12. ^ "Phantom Power and Bias Voltage: Is There A Difference?". 2007-02-05. Archived from the original on 2009-09-08. 
  13. ^ IEC Standard 61938

Further reading[edit]

  • Sedra, Adel; Smith, Kenneth (2004). Microelectronic Circuits. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514251-9. 
  • Patil, P. K.; Chitnis, M. M. (2005). Basic Electricity and Semiconductor Devices. Phadke Prakashan. 
  • Boylestad, Robert L.; Nashelsky, Louis (2005). Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory. Prentice-Hall Career & Technology. 

External links[edit]

  • Bias - from Sci-Tech Encyclopedia