Oscillator Phase Noise: A Tutorial

T. H. Lee and A. Hajimiri

Linear time-invariant (LTI) phase noise theories provide important qualitative design insights but are limited in their quantitative predictive power. Part of the difficulty is that device noise undergoes multiple frequency translations to become oscillator phase noise. A quantitative understanding of this process requires abandoning the principle of time invariance assumed in most older theories of phase noise. Fortunately, the noise-to-phase transfer function of oscillators is still linear, despite the existence of the nonlinearities necessary for amplitude stabilization. In addition to providing a quantitative reconciliation between theory and measurement, the time-varying phase-noise model presented in this tutorial identifies the importance of symmetry in suppressing the upconversion of 1/f noise into close-in phase noise, andprovides an explicit appreciation of cyclostationary effects and AM–PM conversion. These insights allow a reinterpretation of why the Colpitts oscillator exhibits good performance, and suggest new oscillator topologies. Tuned LC and ring oscillator circuit examples are presented to reinforce the theoretical considerations developed. Simulation issues and the accommodation of amplitude noise are considered in appendixes.