clippers and clampers



A circuit which removes the peak of a waveform is known as a clipper. A negative clipper is shown in Figure below.

This schematic diagram was produced with Xcircuit schematic capture program. Xcircuit produced the SPICE net list Figure below, except for the second, and next to last pair of lines which were inserted with a text editor.

*SPICE 03437.eps
*  A K ModelName
D1 0 2 diode
R1 2 1 1.0k
V1 1 0 SIN(0 5 1k)
.model diode d
.tran .05m 3m

below. Since the output positive peaks actually overlays the input sinewave V(1), the input has been shifted upward in the plot for clarity. In Nutmeg, the SPICE display module, the command “plot v(1)+1)” accomplishes this.

Clipper: clips negative peak at -0.7 V.

During the positive half cycle of the 5 V peak input, the diode is reversed biased. The diode does not conduct. It is as if the diode were not there. The positive half cycle is unchanged at the output V(2) in Figure

V(1)+1 is actually V(1), a 5 Vptp sinewave, offset by 1 V for display clarity. V(2) output is clipped at -0.7 V, by diode D1.

During the negative half cycle of sinewave input of Figure above, the diode is forward biased, that is, conducting. The negative half cycle of the sinewave is shorted out. The negative half cycle of V(2) would be clipped at 0 V for an ideal diode. The waveform is clipped at -0.7 V due to the forward voltage drop of the silicon diode. The spice model defaults to 0.7 V unless parameters in the model statement specify otherwise. Germanium or Schottky diodes clip at lower voltages.

Closer examination of the negative clipped peak (Figure above) reveals that it follows the input for a slight period of time while the sinewave is moving toward -0.7 V. The clipping action is only effective after the input sinewave exceeds -0.7 V. The diode is not conducting for the complete half cycle, though, during most of it.

The addition of an anti-parallel diode to the existing diode in Figure above yields the symmetrical clipper in

Figure below.

*SPICE 03438.eps
D1 0 2 diode
D2 2 0 diode
R1 2 1 1.0k
V1 1 0 SIN(0 5 1k)
.model diode d
.tran 0.05m 3m

below. The net list is in Figure above

Symmetrical clipper: Anti-parallel diodes clip both positive and negative peak, leaving a ± 0.7 V output.

Diode D1 clips the negative peak at -0.7 V as before. The additional diode D2 conducts for positive half cycles of the sine wave as it exceeds 0.7 V, the forward diode drop. The remainder of the voltage drops across the series resistor. Thus, both peaks of the input sinewave are clipped in Figure

Diode D1 clips at -0.7 V as it conducts during negative peaks. D2 conducts for positive peaks, clipping at 0.7V.

The most general form of the diode clipper is shown in Figure below. For an ideal diode, the clipping occurs at the level of the clipping voltage, V1 and V2. However, the voltage sources have been adjusted to account for the 0.7 V forward drop of the real silicon diodes. D1 clips at 1.3V +0.7V=2.0V when the diode begins to conduct. D2 clips at -2.3V -0.7V=-3.0V when D2 conducts.

*SPICE 03439.eps
V1 3 0 1.3
V2 4 0 -2.3
D1 2 3 diode
D2 4 2 diode
R1 2 1 1.0k
V3 1 0 SIN(0 5 1k)
.model diode d
.tran 0.05m 3m

above does not have to clip both levels. To clip at one level with one diode and one voltage source, remove the other diode and source.

D1 clips the input sinewave at 2V. D2 clips at -3V.

The clipper in Figure

The net list is in Figure above.

The waveforms in Figure below show the clipping of v(1) at output v(2).

D1 clips the sinewave at 2V. D2 clips at -3V.

There is also a zener diode clipper circuit in the “Zener diode” section. A zener diode replaces both the diode and the DC voltage source.

A practical application of a clipper is to prevent an amplified speech signal from overdriving a radio transmitter in Figure below. Over driving the transmitter generates spurious radio signals which causes interference with other stations. The clipper is a protective measure.

Clipper prevents over driving radio transmitter by voice peaks.

A sinewave may be squared up by overdriving a clipper. Another clipper application is the protection of exposed inputs of integrated circuits. The input of the IC is connected to a pair of diodes as at node “2” of Figure above . The voltage sources are replaced by the power supply rails of the IC. For example, CMOS IC's use 0V and +5 V. Analog amplifiers might use ±12V for the V1 and V2 sources.

  • A resistor and diode driven by an AC voltage source clips the signal observed across the diode.
  • A pair of anti-parallel Si diodes clip symmetrically at ±0.7V
  • The grounded end of a clipper diode(s) can be disconnected and wired to a DC voltage to clip at an arbitrary level.
  • A clipper can serve as a protective measure, preventing a signal from exceeding the clip limits


The circuits in Figure below are known as clampers or DC restorers.

The corresponding netlist is in Figure below. These circuits clamp a peak of a waveform to a specific DC level compared with a capacitively coupled signal which swings about its average DC level (usually 0V). If the diode is removed from the clamper, it defaults to a simple coupling capacitor– no clamping.

What is the clamp voltage? And, which peak gets clamped? In Figure below (a) the clamp voltage is 0 V ignoring diode drop, (more exactly 0.7 V with Si diode drop).

In Figure below, the positive peak of V(1) is clamped to the 0 V (0.7 V) clamp level. Why is this? On the first positive half cycle, the diode conducts charging the capacitor left end to +5 V (4.3 V). This is -5 V (-4.3 V) on the right end at V(1,4).

Note the polarity marked on the capacitor in Figure below (a). The right end of the capacitor is -5 V DC (-4.3 V) with respect to ground. It also has an AC 5 V peak sinewave coupled across it from source V(4) to node 1. The sum of the two is a 5 V peak sine riding on a - 5 V DC (-4.3 V) level. The diode only conducts on successive positive excursions of source V(4) if the peak V(4) exceeds the charge on the capacitor. This only happens if the charge on the capacitor drained off due to a load, not shown. The charge on the capacitor is equal to the positive peak of V(4) (less 0.7 diode drop). The AC riding on the negative end, right end, is shifted down. The positive peak of the waveform is clamped to 0 V (0.7 V) because the diode conducts on the positive peak.

Clampers: (a) Positive peak clamped to 0 V. (b) Negative peak clamped to 0 V. (c) Negative peak clamped to 5 V.

*SPICE 03443.eps
V1 6 0 5
D1 6 3 diode
C1 4 3 1000p
D2 0 2 diode
C2 4 2 1000p
C3 4 1 1000p
D3 1 0 diode
V2 4 0 SIN(0 5 1k)
.model diode d
.tran 0.01m 5m

above (a). V(1,4) DC voltage on capacitor in Figure (a). V(2) clamper output from Figure (b). V(3) clamper output from Figure (c).

V(4) source voltage 5 V peak used in all clampers. V(1) clamper output from Figure

Suppose the polarity of the diode is reversed as in Figure above (b)? The diode conducts on the negative peak of source V(4).

The negative peak is clamped to 0 V (-0.7 V). See V(2) in Figure above.

The most general realization of the clamper is shown in Figure above (c) with the diode connected to a DC reference. The capacitor still charges during the negative peak of the source. Note that the polarities of the AC source and the DC reference are series aiding. Thus, the capacitor charges to the sum to the two, 10 V DC (9.3 V). Coupling the 5 V peak sinewave across the capacitor yields

Figure above V(3), the sum of the charge on the capacitor and the sinewave. The negative peak appears to be clamped to 5 V DC (4.3V), the value of the DC clamp reference (less diode drop).

Describe the waveform if the DC clamp reference is changed from 5 V to 10 V. The clamped waveform will shift up. The negative peak will be clamped to 10 V (9.3). Suppose that the amplitude of the sine wave source is increased from 5 V to 7 V? The negative peak clamp level will remain unchanged. Though, the amplitude of the sinewave output will increase.

An application of the clamper circuit is as a “DC restorer” in “composite video” circuitry in both television transmitters and receivers. An NTSC (US video standard) video signal “white level” corresponds to minimum (12.5%) transmitted power. The video “black level” corresponds to a high level (75% of transmitter power. There is a “blacker than black level” corresponding to 100% transmitted power assigned to synchronization signals. The NTSC signal contains both video and synchronization pulses. The problem with the composite video is that its average DC level varies with the scene, dark vs light. The video itself is supposed to vary. However, the sync must always peak at 100%. To prevent the sync signals from drifting with changing scenes, a “DC restorer” clamps the top of the sync pulses to a voltage corresponding to 100% transmitter modulation. [ATCO]

  • A capacitively coupled signal alternates about its average DC level (0 V).
  • The signal out of a clamper appears the have one peak clamped to a DC voltage. Example: The negative peak is clamped to 0 VDC, the waveform appears to be shifted upward. The polarity of the diode determines which peak is clamped.
  • An application of a clamper, or DC restorer, is in clamping the sync pulses of composite video to a voltage corresponding to 100% of transmitter power.

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