T-pad Attenuator

Table of Contents

Although not as common, this “T” (tee) configuration can also be thought of as a wye “Y” attenuator configuration as well. Unlike the previous L-pad Attenuator, which has a different resistive value looking into the attenuator from either end making it an asymmetrical, the T-pad attenuator is symmetrical in its design.

The formation of the resistive elements into a letter “T” shape means that the T-pad attenuator has the same value of resistance looking from either end. This formation then makes the “T-pad attenuator” a perfectly symmetrical attenuator enabling their input and output terminals to be transposed as shown.

Basic T-pad Attenuator Circuit

T-pad attenuator

We can see that the T-pad attenuator is symmetrical in its design looking from either end and this type of attenuator design can be used to impedance match either equal or unequal transmission lines. Generally, resistors R1 and R2 are of the same value but when designed to operate between circuits of unequal impedance these two resistor can be of different values. In this instance the T-pad attenuator is often referred to as a “taper pad attenuator”.

But before we look at T-pad Attenuators in more detail we first need to understand the use of the “K factor” used in calculating attenuator impedances and which can make the reduction of the maths and our lives a little easier.

The Attenuators “K” Factor

The “K” factor, also known as the “impedance factor” is commonly used with attenuators to simplify the design process of complex attenuator circuits. This “K” factor or value is the ratio of the voltage, current or power corresponding to a given value of attenuation. The general equation for “K” is given as:

K factor equation

In other words, the voltage ratio, Kv is given as: Vin/Vout = 10dB/20, the current ratio, Ki is given as: Iin/Iout = 10dB/20, and the power ratio, Kp is given as: Pin/Pout = 10dB/10.

So for example, the “K” value for a voltage attenuation of 6dB will be 10 (6/20) = 1.9953, and an attenuation of 18dB will be 10 (18/20) = 7.9433, and so on. But instead of calculating this “K” value every time we want to design a new attenuator circuit, we can produce a “K” factor table for calculating attenuator loss as follows.

Attenuator Loss Table

dB Loss 0.5 1.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 7.5 9.0 10.0
K value 1.0593 1.1220 1.2589 1.4125 1.9953 2.3714 2.8184 3.1623
dB Loss 12.0 18.0 24.0 30.0 36.0 48.0 60.0 100
K value 3.9811 7.9433 15.849 31.623 63.096 251.19 1000 105

and so on, producing an attenuation loss table with as many decibel values as we require for our attenuator design.

T-pad Attenuator with Equal Impedances

We have said previously, that the T-pad attenuator is a symmetrical attenuator design whose input and output terminals can be transposed with each other. This makes the T-pad attenuator ideal for insertion between two equal impedances ( ZS = ZL ) to reduce signal levels.

In this case the three resistive elements are chosen to ensure that the input impedance and output impedance match the load impedance which forms part of the attenuator network. As the T-pad’s input and output impedances are designed to perfectly match the load, this value is called the “characteristic impedance” of the symmetrical T-pad network.

Then the equations given to calculated the resistor values of a T-pad attenuator circuit used for impedance matching at any desired attenuation are given as:

T-pad Attenuator Equations

T-pad attenuator resistor values

where: K is the impedance factor from the table above, and Z is the source/load impedance.

T-pad Attenuator Example No1

A T-pad attenuator is required to reduce the level of an audio signal by 18dB while matching the impedance of the 600Ω network. Calculate the values of the three resistors required.

T-pad attenuator values

T-pad attenuator circuit

Then resistors R1 and R2 are equal to 466Ω and resistor R3 is equal to 154Ω, or the nearest preferred values.

Again as before, we can produce standard tables for the values of the series and parallel impedances required to construct a 50Ω, 75Ω or 600Ω symmetrical T-pad attenuator circuit as these values will always be the same regardless of application. The calculated values of resistors, R1R2 and R3 are given below.

dB Loss K factor 50Ω Impedance 75Ω Impedance 600Ω Impedance
R1, R2 R3 R1, R2 R3 R1, R2 R3
1.0 1.1220 2.9Ω 433.3Ω 4.3Ω 650.0Ω 34.5Ω 5K2Ω
2.0 1.2589 5.7Ω 215.2Ω 8.6Ω 322.9Ω 68.8Ω 2K58Ω
3.0 1.4125 8.5Ω 141.9Ω 12.8Ω 212.9Ω 102.6Ω 1K7Ω
6.0 1.9953 16.6Ω 66.9Ω 24.9Ω 100.4Ω 199.4Ω 803.2Ω
10.0 3.1623 26.0Ω 35.1Ω 39.0Ω 52.7Ω 311.7Ω 421.6Ω
18.0 7.9433 38.8Ω 12.8Ω 58.2Ω 19.2Ω 465.8Ω 153.5Ω
24.0 15.8489 44.1Ω 6.3Ω 66.Ω 9.5Ω 528.8Ω 76.0Ω
32.0 39.8107 47.5Ω 2.5Ω 71.3Ω 3.8Ω 570.6Ω 30.2Ω

Note, as the amount of attenuation required by the circuit increases the series impedance values for R1 and R2 also increase while the parallel shunt impedance value of R3 decreases. This is characteristic of a symmetrical T-pad attenuator circuit used between equal impedances.

T-pad Attenuator with Unequal Impedances

As well as using the T-pad attenuator to reduce signal levels in a circuit with equal impedances, we can also use it for impedance matching between unequal impedances ( ZS ≠ ZL ). When used for impedance matching, the T-pad attenuator is called a Taper Pad Attenuator. However, to do so we need to modify the previous equations a little to take into account the unequal loading of the source and load impedances on the attenuator circuit. The new equations become.

Taper Pad Attenuator Equations for Unequal Impedances

t-pad circuit taper pad equations

where: K is the impedance factor from the table above, and Z1 is the larger of the source/load impedances and Z2 is the smaller of the source/load impedances.

T-pad Attenuator Example No2

A taper pad attenuator connected to a load impedance of 50Ω is required to reduce the level of an audio signal by 18dB from an impedance source of 75Ω. Calculate the values of the three resistors required.

Then: Z1 = 75Ω (the largest impedance), Z2 = 50Ω (the smallest impedance) and K = 18dB = 7.9433 from the table above.

Taper pad attenuator values

So resistor R1 is equal to 15.67Ω, resistor R2 is equal to 62Ω and resistor R3 is equal to 36Ω, or the nearest preferred values.

For T-pad attenuators that have reactive components such as inductors and capacitors within their design, EEWeb have a free online T-pad Attenuator Tool for calculating component values at the require frequency.

Balanced-T Attenuator

The balanced T-pad attenuator or Balanced-T Attenuator for short, uses two T-pad attenuator circuits connected together to form a balanced mirror image network as shown below.

Balanced-T Attenuator Circuit

balanced-T attenuator

The balanced-T attenuator is also referred to an H-pad attenuator because the layout of its resistive elements form the shape of a letter “H” and hence their name, “H-pad attenuators”. The resistive values of the balanced-T circuit are firstly calculated as an unbalanced T-pad configuration the same as before, but this time the values of the series resistive in each leg are halved (divided by two) to provide a mirror image either side of ground. The total calculated resistive value of the center parallel resistor remains at the same value but is divided into two with the center connected to ground producing a balanced circuit.

Using the calculated values above for the unbalanced T-pad attenuator gives, series resistor R1 = R2 = 466Ω ÷ 2 = 233Ω for all four series resistors and the parallel shunt resistor, R3 = 154Ω the same as before and these values can be calculated using the following modified equations for a balanced-T attenuator.

Balanced-T Attenuator Equations

balanced-T attenuator equation

T-pad Attenuator Summary

The T-pad attenuator is a symmetrical attenuator network that can be used in a transmission line circuit that has either equal or unequal impedances. As the T-pad attenuator is symmetrical in its design it can be connected in either direction making it a bi-directional circuit.

One of the main characteristics of the T attenuator, is that the shunt arm (parallel) impedance becomes smaller as the attenuation increases. T-pad attenuators that are used as impedance matching circuits are usually called “taper pad attenuators”.

We have seen that T-pad attenuators can be either unbalanced or balanced resistive networks. Fixed value unbalanced T-pad attenuators are the most common and are generally used in radio frequency and TV coaxial cable transmission lines were one side of the line is earthed.

Balanced-T attenuators are also called H-pad Attenuators due to their design and construction. H-pad attenuators are mainly used on data transmission lines which use balanced or twisted pair cabling.

In the next tutorial about Attenuators, we will look at another type of T-pad attenuator design called the Bridged-T Attenuator that uses an additional resistive component in the series line.


Similar Articles & Blogs

Explore similar articles on various electronics and electrical topics – 

Logic AND Function

In 1854, George Boole performed an investigation into the “laws of thought” which were based around a simplified version of the “group” or “set” theory, and from

Learn More >>

Binary Coded Decimal

As we have seen in this Binary Numbers section of tutorials, there are many different binary codes used in digital and electronic circuits, each with

Learn More >>

Binary Fractions

We know that decimal (or denary) numbers use the base ten (base-10) numbering system where each digit in a decimal number is allowed to take one

Learn More >>

Octal Number System

The Octal Numbering System is very similar in principle to the previous hexadecimal numbering system except that in Octal, a binary number is divided up into groups

Learn More >>