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Chapter 3: ADC and DAC

Analog Filters for Data Conversion

Figure 3-7 shows a block diagram of a DSP system, as the sampling theorem dictates it should be. Before encountering the analog-to-digital converter,

the input signal is processed with an electronic low-pass filter to remove all frequencies above the Nyquist frequency (one-half the sampling rate). This is done to prevent aliasing during sampling, and is correspondingly called an antialias filter. On the other end, the digitized signal is passed through a digital-to-analog converter and another low-pass filter set to the Nyquist frequency. This output filter is called a reconstruction filter, and may include the previously described frequency boost. Unfortunately, there is a serious problem with this simple model: the limitations of electronic filters can be as bad as the problems they are trying to prevent.

If your main interest is in software, you are probably thinking that you don't need to read this section. Wrong! Even if you have vowed never to touch an oscilloscope, an understanding of the properties of analog filters is important for successful DSP. First, the characteristics of every digitized signal you encounter will depend on what type of antialias filter was used when it was acquired. If you don't understand the nature of the antialias filter, you cannot understand the nature of the digital signal. Second, the future of DSP is to replace hardware with software. For example, the multirate techniques presented later in this chapter reduce the need for antialias and reconstruction filters by fancy software tricks. If you don't understand the hardware, you cannot design software to replace it. Third, much of DSP is related to digital filter design. A common strategy is to start with an equivalent analog filter, and convert it into software. Later chapters assume you have a basic knowledge of analog filter techniques.

Three types of analog filters are commonly used: Chebyshev, Butterworth, and Bessel (also called a Thompson filter). Each of these is designed to optimize a different performance parameter. The complexity of each filter can be adjusted by selecting the number of poles, a mathematical term that will be discussed in later chapters. The more poles in a filter, the more electronics it requires, and the better it performs. Each of these names describe what the filter does, not a particular arrangement of resistors and capacitors. For example, a six pole Bessel filter can be implemented by many different types of circuits, all of which have the same overall characteristics. For DSP purposes, the characteristics of these filters are more important than how they are constructed. Nevertheless, we will start with a short segment on the electronic design of these filters to provide an overall framework.

Figure 3-8 shows a common building block for analog filter design, the modified Sallen-Key circuit. This is named after the authors of a 1950s paper describing the technique. The circuit shown is a two pole low-pass filter that can be configured as any of the three basic types. Table 3-1 provides the necessary information to select the appropriate resistors and capacitors. For example, to design a 1 kHz, 2 pole Butterworth filter, Table 3-1 provides the parameters: k1 = 0.1592 and k2 = 0.586. Arbitrarily selecting R1 = 10K and C = 0.01uF (common values for op amp circuits), R and Rf can be calculated as 15.95K and 5.86K, respectively. Rounding these last two values to the nearest 1% standard resistors, results in R = 15.8K and Rf = 5.90K All of the components should be 1% precision or better.

The particular op amp use isn't critical, as long as the unity gain frequency is more than 30 to 100 times higher than the filter's cutoff frequency. This is an easy requirement as long as the filter's cutoff frequency is below about 100 kHz.

Four, six, and eight pole filters are formed by cascading 2,3, and 4 of these circuits, respectively. For example, Fig. 3-9 shows the schematic of a 6 pole

Bessel filter created by cascading three stages. Each stage has different values for k1 and k2 as provided by Table 3-1, resulting in different resistors and capacitors being used. Need a high-pass filter? Simply swap the R and C components in the circuits (leaving Rf and R1 alone).

This type of circuit is very common for small quantity manufacturing and R&D applications; however, serious production requires the filter to be made as an integrated circuit. The problem is, it is difficult to make resistors directly in silicon. The answer is the switched capacitor filter. Figure 3-10 illustrates its operation by comparing it to a simple RC network. If a step function is fed into an RC low-pass filter, the output rises exponentially until it matches the input. The voltage on the capacitor doesn't change instantaneously, because the resistor restricts the flow of electrical charge.

The switched capacitor filter operates by replacing the basic resistor-capacitor network with two capacitors and an electronic switch. The newly added capacitor is much smaller in value than the already existing capacitor, say, 1% of its value. The switch alternately connects the small capacitor between the input and the output at a very high frequency, typically 100 times faster than the cutoff frequency of the filter. When the switch is connected to the input, the small capacitor rapidly charges to whatever voltage is presently on the input. When the switch is connected to the output, the charge on the small capacitor is transferred to the large capacitor. In a resistor, the rate of charge transfer is determined by its resistance. In a switched capacitor circuit, the rate of charge transfer is determined by the value of the small capacitor and by the switching frequency. This results in a very useful feature of switched capacitor

filters: the cutoff frequency of the filter is directly proportional to the clock frequency used to drive the switches. This makes the switched capacitor filter ideal for data acquisition systems that operate with more than one sampling rate. These are easy-to-use devices; pay ten bucks and have the performance of an eight pole filter inside a single 8 pin IC.

Now for the important part: the characteristics of the three classic filter types. The first performance parameter we want to explore is cutoff frequency sharpness. A low-pass filter is designed to block all frequencies above the cutoff frequency (the stopband), while passing all frequencies below (the passband). Figure 3-11 shows the frequency response of these three filters on a logarithmic (dB) scale. These graphs are shown for filters with a one hertz cutoff frequency, but they can be directly scaled to whatever cutoff frequency you need to use. How do these filters rate? The Chebyshev is clearly the best, the Butterworth is worse, and the Bessel is absolutely ghastly! As you probably surmised, this is what the Chebyshev is designed to do, roll-off (drop in amplitude) as rapidly as possible.

Unfortunately, even an 8 pole Chebyshev isn't as good as you would like for an antialias filter. For example, imagine a 12 bit system sampling at 10,000 samples per second. The sampling theorem dictates that any frequency above 5 kHz will be aliased, something you want to avoid. With a little guess work, you decide that all frequencies above 5 kHz must be reduced in amplitude by a factor of 100, insuring that any aliased frequencies will have an amplitude of less than one percent. Looking at Fig. 3-11c, you find that an 8 pole Chebyshev filter, with a cutoff frequency of 1 hertz, doesn't reach an attenuation (signal reduction) of 100 until about 1.35 hertz. Scaling this to the example, the filter's cutoff frequency must be set to 3.7 kHz so that everything above 5 kHz will have the required attenuation. This results in the frequency band between 3.7 kHz and 5 kHz being wasted on the inadequate roll-off of the analog filter.

A subtle point: the attenuation factor of 100 in this example is probably sufficient even though there 4096 steps in 12 bit. From Fig. 3-4, 5100 hertz will alias to 4900 hertz, 6000 hertz will alias to 4000 hertz, etc. You don't care what the amplitudes of the signals between 5000 and 6300 hertz are, because they alias into the unusable region between 3700 hertz and 5000 hertz. In order for a frequency to alias into the filter's passband (0 to 3.7 kHz), it must be greater than 6300 hertz, or 1.7 times the filter's cutoff frequency of 3700 hertz. As shown in Fig. 3-11c, the attenuation provided by an 8 pole Chebyshev filter at 1.7 times the cutoff frequency is about 1300, much more adequate than the 100 we started the analysis with. The moral to this story: In most systems, the frequency band between about 0.4 and 0.5 of the sampling frequency is an unusable wasteland of filter roll-off and aliased signals. This is a direct result of the limitations of analog filters.

The frequency response of the perfect low-pass filter is flat across the entire passband. All of the filters look great in this respect in Fig. 3-11, but only because the vertical axis is displayed on a logarithmic scale. Another story is told when the graphs are converted to a linear vertical scale, as is shown

in Fig. 3-12. Passband ripple can now be seen in the Chebyshev filter (wavy variations in the amplitude of the passed frequencies). In fact, the Chebyshev filter obtains its excellent roll-off by allowing this passband ripple. When more passband ripple is allowed in a filter, a faster roll-off can be achieved. All the Chebyshev filters designed by using Table 3-1 have a passband ripple of about 6% (0.5 dB), a good compromise, and a common choice. A similar design, the elliptic filter, allows ripple in both the passband and the stopband. Although harder to design, elliptic filters can achieve an even better tradeoff between roll-off and passband ripple.

In comparison, the Butterworth filter is optimized to provide the sharpest roll-off possible without allowing ripple in the passband. It is commonly called the maximally flat filter, and is identical to a Chebyshev designed for zero passband ripple. The Bessel filter has no ripple in the passband, but the roll-off far worse than the Butterworth.

The last parameter to evaluate is the step response, how the filter responds when the input rapidly changes from one value to another. Figure 3-13 shows the step response of each of the three filters. The horizontal axis is shown for filters with a 1 hertz cutoff frequency, but can be scaled (inversely) for higher cutoff frequencies. For example, a 1000 hertz cutoff frequency would show a step response in milliseconds, rather than seconds. The Butterworth and Chebyshev filters overshoot and show ringing (oscillations that slowly decreasing in amplitude). In comparison, the Bessel filter has neither of these nasty problems.

Figure 3-14 further illustrates this very favorable characteristic of the Bessel filter. Figure (a) shows a pulse waveform, which can be viewed as a rising step followed by a falling step. Figures (b) and (c) show how this waveform

would appear after Bessel and Chebyshev filters, respectively. If this were a video signal, for instance, the distortion introduced by the Chebyshev filter would be devastating! The overshoot would change the brightness of the edges of objects compared to their centers. Worse yet, the left side of objects would look bright, while the right side of objects would look dark. Many applications cannot tolerate poor performance in the step response. This is where the Bessel filter shines; no overshoot and symmetrical edges.

Next Section: Selecting The Antialias Filter