An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the magnitude of a signal (a time-varying voltage or current). It may increase the power significantly, or its main effect may be to boost the voltage or current (power, voltage or current amplifier). It is a two-port electronic circuit that uses electric power from a power supply to increase the amplitude of a signal applied to its input terminals, producing a greater amplitude signal at its output. The ratio of output to input voltage, current, or power is termed gain (voltage, current, or power gain). An amplifier, by definition has gain greater than unity (if the gain is less than unity, the device is an attenuator).
An amplifier can either be a separate piece of equipment or an electrical circuit contained within another device. Amplification is fundamental to modern electronics, and amplifiers are widely used in almost all electronic equipment. Amplifiers can be categorized in different ways. One is by the frequency of the electronic signal being amplified. For example, audio amplifiers amplify signals in the audio (sound) range of less than 20 kHz, RF amplifiers amplify frequencies in the radio frequency range between 20 kHz and 300 GHz, and servo amplifiers and instrumentation amplifiers may work with very low frequencies down to direct current. Amplifiers can also be categorized by their physical placement in the signal chain; a preamplifier may precede other signal processing stages, for example. The first practical electrical device which could amplify was the triode vacuum tube, invented in 1906 by Lee De Forest, which led to the first amplifiers around 1912. Today most amplifiers use transistors.
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