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Pair of AC&E 120 O twisted pair (Krone IDC) to 75 O coaxial cable balun transformers. Actual length is about 3 cm. Balun-twisted-pair-to-coaxial-hdr-0a.jpg
Pair of AC&E 120 Ω twisted pair (Krone IDC) to 75 Ω coaxial cable balun transformers. Actual length is about 3 cm.

A balun /ˈbælʌn/ (for balanced to unbalanced) is an electrical device that converts between a balanced signal and an unbalanced signal. A balun can take many forms and may include devices that also transform impedances but need not do so. Transformer baluns can also be used to connect lines of differing impedance. Sometimes, in the case of transformer baluns, they use magnetic coupling but need not do so. Common-mode chokes are also used as baluns and work by eliminating, rather than ignoring, common mode signals.

In telecommunications and professional audio, a balanced line or balanced signal pair is a transmission line consisting of two conductors of the same type, each of which have equal impedances along their lengths and equal impedances to ground and to other circuits. The chief advantage of the balanced line format is good rejection of external noise when fed to a differential amplifier. Common forms of balanced line are twin-lead, used for radio frequency signals and twisted pair, used for lower frequencies. They are to be contrasted to unbalanced lines, such as coaxial cable, which is designed to have its return conductor connected to ground, or circuits whose return conductor actually is ground. Balanced and unbalanced circuits can be interconnected using a transformer called a balun.

Unbalanced line

In electrical engineering, an unbalanced line is a transmission line, often coaxial cable, whose conductors have unequal impedances with respect to ground; as opposed to a balanced line. Microstrip and single-wire lines are also unbalanced lines.

Characteristic impedance ratio of the amplitudes of voltage and current of a single wave propagating along the line

The characteristic impedance or surge impedance (usually written Z0) of a uniform transmission line is the ratio of the amplitudes of voltage and current of a single wave propagating along the line; that is, a wave travelling in one direction in the absence of reflections in the other direction. Alternatively and equivalently it can be defined as the input impedance of a transmission line when its length is infinite. Characteristic impedance is determined by the geometry and materials of the transmission line and, for a uniform line, is not dependent on its length. The SI unit of characteristic impedance is the ohm.


There are two variations of this device - they are:

Types of balun

Classical transformer type

Isolation transformer Transformer under load.svg
Isolation transformer

In classical transformers, there are two electrically separate windings of wire coils around the transformer's core. The advantage of transformer-type over other types of balun is that the electrically separate windings for input and output allow these baluns to connect circuits whose ground-level voltages are subject to ground loops or are otherwise electrically incompatible; for that reason they are often called isolation transformers.

Electromagnetic coil electrical component

An electromagnetic coil is an electrical conductor such as a wire in the shape of a coil, spiral or helix. Electromagnetic coils are used in electrical engineering, in applications where electric currents interact with magnetic fields, in devices such as electric motors, generators, inductors, electromagnets, transformers, and sensor coils. Either an electric current is passed through the wire of the coil to generate a magnetic field, or conversely an external time-varying magnetic field through the interior of the coil generates an EMF (voltage) in the conductor.

In an electrical system, a ground loop or earth loop occurs when two points of a circuit both intended to be at ground reference potential have a potential between them. This can be caused, for example, in a signal circuit referenced to ground, if enough current is flowing in the ground to cause two points to be at different potentials.

This type is sometimes called a voltage balun. The primary winding receives the input signal, and the secondary winding puts out the converted signal. The core that they are wound on may either be empty (air core) or, equivalently, a magnetically neutral material like a porcelain support, or it may be a material which is good magnetic conductor like ferrite in modern high-frequency (HF) baluns, or soft iron as in the early days of telegraphy.

Permeability (electromagnetism) measure of the ability of a material to support the formation of a magnetic field within itself

In electromagnetism, permeability is the measure of the ability of a material to support the formation of a magnetic field within itself, otherwise known as distributed inductance in transmission line theory. Hence, it is the degree of magnetization that a material obtains in response to an applied magnetic field. Magnetic permeability is typically represented by the (italicized) Greek letter μ. The term was coined in September 1885 by Oliver Heaviside. The reciprocal of magnetic permeability is magnetic reluctivity.

Ferrite (magnet) ceramic materials, many of them magnetic

A ferrite is a ceramic material made by mixing and firing large proportions of iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3, rust) blended with small proportions of one or more additional metallic elements, such as barium, manganese, nickel, and zinc. They are both electrically non-conductive, meaning that they are insulators, and ferrimagnetic, meaning they can easily be magnetized or attracted to a magnet. Ferrites can be divided into two families based on their resistance to being demagnetized (magnetic coercivity).

The electrical signal in the primary coil is converted into a magnetic field in the transformer's core. When the electrical current through the primary reverses, it causes the established magnetic field to collapse. The collapsing magnetic field then induces an electric field in the secondary winding.

The ratio of loops in each winding and the efficiency of the coils' magnetic coupling determines the ratio of electrical potential (voltage) to electrical current and the total power of the output. For idealized transformers, although the ratio of voltage to current will change in exact proportion to the square of the winding ratio, the power (measured in watts) remains identical. In real transformers, some energy is lost inside to heating of the metallic core of the transformer, and lost outside to the surrounding environment because of imperfect magnetic coupling between the two coils.

Voltage difference in the electric potential between two points in space

Voltage, electric potential difference, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points. The difference in electric potential between two points in a static electric field is defined as the work needed per unit of charge to move a test charge between the two points. In the International System of Units, the derived unit for voltage is named volt. In SI units, work per unit charge is expressed as joules per coulomb, where 1 volt = 1 joule per 1 coulomb. The official SI definition for volt uses power and current, where 1 volt = 1 watt per 1 ampere. This definition is equivalent to the more commonly used 'joules per coulomb'. Voltage or electric potential difference is denoted symbolically by V, but more often simply as V, for instance in the context of Ohm's or Kirchhoff's circuit laws.

Electrical impedance intensive physical property

Electrical impedance is the measure of the opposition that a circuit presents to a current when a voltage is applied. The term complex impedance may be used interchangeably.

The watt is a unit of power. In the International System of Units (SI) it is defined as a derived unit of 1 joule per second, and is used to quantify the rate of energy transfer. In dimensional analysis, power is described by .

Autotransformer type

Circuit diagram of a 4:1 autotransformer balun using three taps on a single winding on a ferrite rod. Cdbalun2.svg
Circuit diagram of a 4:1 autotransformer balun using three taps on a single winding on a ferrite rod.

Generally a balun consists of two wires (primary and secondary) and a toroid core: the current in the primary wire generates a magnetic field in the core, which in turn induces an electric field in the secondary wire. An autotransformer balun has only one coil, or is made of two or more coils that have an electrical connection. The coil is typically wound on a ferrite rod or doughnut-shaped toroid. One can also make an autotransformer from an ordinary transformer by cross-wiring the primary and secondary windings. Baluns made with autotransformer windings are also called voltage baluns, since they produce balanced output voltage, but not necessarily balanced current.

Toroidal inductors and transformers

Toroidal inductors and transformers are inductors and transformers which use magnetic cores with a toroidal shape. They are passive electronic components, consisting of a circular ring or donut shaped magnetic core of ferromagnetic material such as laminated iron, iron powder, or ferrite, around which wire is wound.

An autotransformer is an electrical transformer with only one winding. The "auto" prefix refers to the single coil acting alone, not to any kind of automatic mechanism. In an autotransformer, portions of the same winding act as both the primary and secondary sides of the transformer. In contrast, an ordinary transformer has separate primary and secondary windings which are not electrically connected.

Picture a 4:1 balun of the same design, wound on ferrite toroid. Notice that the black and red winding wires are joined at the threaded connector. T200A2.jpg
Picture a 4:1 balun of the same design, wound on ferrite toroid. Notice that the black and red winding wires are joined at the threaded connector.

In all autotransformers, the single winding must have at least one extra electrical connection – called a tap or tap point – between the two ends of the winding. The current sent into the balun through one pair of connections acts as if it were a primary coil, and magnetizes the entire core. When the electric current in the input segment of the coil changes, the induced magnetic field collapses and the collapse of the magnetic field in the core induces an electric current in the entire coil. Electrical connections to parts of the coil different from the input connections have higher or lower voltages depending on the length of the coil that the output is tapped from.

As with a two-winding transformer balun, the ratio of voltage to current changes in proportion to the square of number of windings between the two input wires divided by the number of windings between the two output wires.

Unlike transformer-type baluns, an autotransformer balun provides a path for DC current to ground from every terminal. Since outdoor antennas are prone build-up of static electric charge, the path for the static to drain to ground through an autotransformer balun can be a distinct advantage.

Transmission-line transformer type

Transmission line or choke baluns can be considered as simple forms of transmission line transformers. This type is sometimes called a current balun, since it ensures equal current on both sides of its output, but not necessarily equal voltage. These are normally called ununs, because they go from unbalanced to unbalanced or un-un. Baluns are balanced to unbalanced or bal-un.

Homemade 1:1 balun using a toroidal core and coaxial cable. This simple RF choke works as a balun by preventing signals passing along the outside of the braid. Such a device can be used to cure television interference by acting as a braid-breaker. Homemade balun.jpg
Homemade 1:1 balun using a toroidal core and coaxial cable. This simple RF choke works as a balun by preventing signals passing along the outside of the braid. Such a device can be used to cure television interference by acting as a braid-breaker.

A more subtle type results when the transformer type (magnetic coupling) is combined with the transmission line type (electro-magnetic coupling). Most typically the same kind of transmission line wires are used for the windings as carry the signal from the radio to the antenna, although these baluns can be made using any type of wire. The resulting devices have very wideband operation. [1] Transmission line transformers commonly use small ferrite cores in toroidal rings or two-hole, binocular, shapes. Something as simple as 10 turns of coaxial cable coiled up on a diameter about the size of a dinner plate makes an effective choke balun for frequencies from about 10 MHz to beyond 30 MHz. The magnetic material may be air, but it is a transmission line transformer.

The Guanella transmission line transformer (Guanella 1944) is often combined with a balun to act as an impedance matching transformer. Putting balancing aside a 1:4 transformer of this type consists of a 75 Ω transmission line divided in parallel into two 150 Ω cables, which are then combined in series for 300 Ω. It is implemented as a specific wiring around the ferrite core of the balun.

Delay-line type

A large class of baluns uses connected transmission lines of specific lengths, with no obvious "transformer" part. These are usually built for (narrow) frequency ranges where the lengths involved are some multiple of a quarter wavelength of the intended frequency in the transmission line medium. A common application is in making a coaxial connection to a balanced antenna, and designs include many types involving coaxial loops and variously connected "stubs".

One easy way to make a balun is a one-half wavelength (λ/2) length of coaxial cable. The inner core of the cable is linked at each end to one of the balanced connections for a feeder or dipole. One of these terminals should be connected to the inner core of the coaxial feeder. All three braids should be connected. This then forms a 4:1 balun which works at only one frequency.

Another narrow band design is to use a λ/4 length of metal pipe. The coaxial cable is placed inside the pipe; at one end the braid is wired to the pipe while at the other end no connection is made to the pipe. The balanced end of this balun is at the end where no connection is made to the pipe. The λ/4 conductor acts as a transformer, converting the zero impedance at the short to the braid into an infinite impedance at the open end. This infinite impedance at the open end of the pipe prevents current flowing into the outer coax formed by the outside of the inner coax shield and the pipe, forcing the current to remain in the inside coax. This balun design is not good for low frequencies because of the long length of pipe that will be needed. An easy way to make such a balun is to paint the outside of the coax with conductive paint, then to connect this paint to the braid through a break in the outer insulation 1/4 wave from the end. For both forms (pipe or paint), the length is dependent on the velocity factor for the outer transmission line.


Although baluns are designed as magnetic devices – each winding in a balun is an inductor – all transformers made of real materials also have a small capacitance between the primary and secondary windings, as well as between individual loops in any single winding, forming unwanted self-capacitance .

The electrical connection of capacitance and inductance leads to a frequency where the electrical reactance of the self-inductance and self-capacitance in the balun are equal and opposite: resonance. A balun of any design operates poorly at frequencies at or above its resonance, and some of the design considerations for baluns are for the purpose of making the resonant frequency as far above the operating frequency as possible.

Balun alternatives

An RF choke can be used in place of a balun. If a coil is made using coaxial cable near to the feed point of a balanced antenna, then the RF current that flows on the outer surface of the coaxial cable can be attenuated. One way of doing this would be to pass the cable through a ferrite toroid.(Straw 2005, 25-26)


A balun's function is generally to achieve compatibility between systems, and as such, finds extensive application in modern communications, particularly in realising frequency conversion mixers to make cellular phone and data transmission networks possible. They are also used to convert an E1 carrier signal from coaxial cable (BNC connector, 1.0/2.3 connector, 1.6/5.6 connector, Type 43 connectors) to UTP CAT-5 cable or IDC connector.

Radio and television

A 75-to-300-O balun built into the antenna plug. Tvbalun.jpg
A 75-to-300-Ω balun built into the antenna plug.

In television, amateur radio, and other antenna installations and connections, baluns convert between impedances and symmetry of feedlines and antennas. [2]

For example, transformation of 300-Ω twin-lead or 450-Ω ladder line (balanced) to 75-Ω coaxial cable (unbalanced), or to directly connect a balanced antenna to unbalanced coaxial cable. To avoid feed line radiation, baluns are typically used as a form of common mode choke attached at the antenna feed point to prevent the coaxial cable from acting as an antenna and radiating power. This typically is needed when a balanced antenna (for instance, a dipole) is fed with coax; without a balun, the shield of the coax could couple with one side of the dipole, inducing common mode current, and becoming part of the antenna and unintentionally radiating. [3]

When it comes to transmitting antennas the choice of the toroid core is crucial. A rule of thumb is: the more power the bigger the core. [4]

In measuring the impedance or radiation pattern of a balanced antenna using a coaxial cable, it is important to place a balun between the cable and the antenna feed. Unbalanced currents that may otherwise flow on the cable will make the measured antenna impedance sensitive to the configuration of the feed cable, and the radiation pattern of small antennas may be distorted by radiation from the cable.

Baluns are present in radars, transmitters, satellites, in every telephone network, and probably in most wireless network modem/routers used in homes. It can be combined with transimpedance amplifiers to compose high-voltage amplifiers out of low-voltage components.


Baseband video uses frequencies up to several megahertz. A balun can be used to couple video signals to twisted-pair cables instead of using coaxial cable. Many security cameras now have both a balanced unshielded twisted pair (UTP) output and an unbalanced coaxial one via an internal balun. A balun is also used on the video recorder end to convert back from the 100 Ω balanced to 75 Ω unbalanced. A balun of this type has a BNC connector with two screw terminals. VGA/DVI baluns are baluns with electronic circuitry used to connect VGA/DVI sources (laptop, DVD, etc.) to VGA/DVI display devices over long runs of CAT-5/CAT-6 cable. Runs over 130 m (400 ft) may lose quality because of attenuation and variations in the arrival time of each signal. A skew control and special low skew or skew free cable is used for runs over 130 m (400 ft).[ citation needed ]


Three audio transformers; two of them baluns. Audiobaluns.jpg
Three audio transformers; two of them baluns.

In audio applications, baluns convert between high-impedance unbalanced and low impedance balanced lines. Another application is decoupling of devices (avoidance of earth loops).

A third application of baluns in audio systems is in the provision of balanced mains power to the equipment. The common-mode rejection of interference characteristic of balanced mains power, eliminates a wide range of noise coming from the wall plug, e.g. mains-borne interference from air conditioner/furnace/refrigerator motors, switching noise produced by fluorescent lighting and dimmer switches, digital noise from personal computers, and radio frequency signals picked up by the power lines/cords acting as antennae. This noise infiltrates the audio/video system through the power supplies and raises the noise floor of the entire system. [5]

Except for the connections, the three devices in the image are electrically identical, but only the leftmost two can be used as baluns. The device on the left would normally be used to connect a high impedance source, such as a guitar, into a balanced microphone input, serving as a passive DI unit. The one in the centre is for connecting a low impedance balanced source, such as a microphone, into a guitar amplifier. The one at the right is not a balun, as it provides only impedance matching.

Other applications

See also

Related Research Articles

Inductor Passive two-terminal electrical component that stores energy in its magnetic field

An inductor, also called a coil, choke, or reactor, is a passive two-terminal electrical component that stores energy in a magnetic field when electric current flows through it. An inductor typically consists of an insulated wire wound into a coil around a core.

Transformer electrical device that transfers energy through electromagnetic induction

A transformer is a passive electrical device that transfers electrical energy between two or more circuits. A varying current in one coil of the transformer produces a varying magnetic flux, which, in turn, induces a varying electromotive force across a second coil wound around the same core. Electrical energy can be transferred between the two coils, without a metallic connection between the two circuits. Faraday's law of induction discovered in 1831 described the induced voltage effect in any coil due to changing magnetic flux encircled by the coil.

Alternating current electric voltage which periodically reverses direction; form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences; form of electrical energy that consumers typically use when they plug electric appliances into a wall socket

Alternating current (AC) is an electric current which periodically reverses direction, in contrast to direct current (DC) which flows only in one direction. Alternating current is the form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences, and it is the form of electrical energy that consumers typically use when they plug kitchen appliances, televisions, fans and electric lamps into a wall socket. A common source of DC power is a battery cell in a flashlight. The abbreviations AC and DC are often used to mean simply alternating and direct, as when they modify current or voltage.

Coaxial cable A type of electrical cable with an inner conductor surrounded by concentric insulating layer and conducting shield

Coaxial cable, or coax is a type of electrical cable that has an inner conductor surrounded by a tubular insulating layer, surrounded by a tubular conducting shield. Many coaxial cables also have an insulating outer sheath or jacket. The term coaxial comes from the inner conductor and the outer shield sharing a geometric axis. Coaxial cable was invented by English physicist, engineer, and mathematician Oliver Heaviside, who patented the design in 1880.

Twin-lead two-conductor flat cable used to carry radio frequency signals

Twin-lead cable is a two-conductor flat cable used as a balanced transmission line to carry radio frequency (RF) signals. It is constructed of two stranded copper or copper-clad steel wires, held a precise distance apart by a plastic ribbon. The uniform spacing of the wires is the key to the cable's function as a transmission line; any abrupt changes in spacing would reflect some of the signal back toward the source. The plastic also covers and insulates the wires.

Electrical termination electronic circuit

In electronics, electrical termination is the practice of ending a transmission line with a device that matches the characteristic impedance of the line. This is intended to prevent signals from reflecting off the end of the transmission line. Reflections at the ends of unterminated transmission lines cause distortion which can produce ambiguous digital signal levels and mis-operation of digital systems. Reflections in analog signal systems cause such effects as video ghosting, or power loss in radio transmitter transmission lines.

Dipole antenna antenna

In radio and telecommunications a dipole antenna or doublet is the simplest and most widely used class of antenna. The dipole is any one of a class of antennas producing a radiation pattern approximating that of an elementary electric dipole with a radiating structure supporting a line current so energized that the current has only one node at each end. A dipole antenna commonly consists of two identical conductive elements such as metal wires or rods. The driving current from the transmitter is applied, or for receiving antennas the output signal to the receiver is taken, between the two halves of the antenna. Each side of the feedline to the transmitter or receiver is connected to one of the conductors. This contrasts with a monopole antenna, which consists of a single rod or conductor with one side of the feedline connected to it, and the other side connected to some type of ground. A common example of a dipole is the "rabbit ears" television antenna found on broadcast television sets.

Antenna tuner Telecommunications device

Antenna tuner, matching network, matchbox, transmatch, antenna tuning unit (ATU), antenna coupler, and feedline coupler are all equivalent names for a device connected between a radio transmitter and its antenna, to improve power transfer between them by matching the specified load impedance of the radio to the combined input impedance of the feedline and the antenna.

Ferrite bead passive electric component that suppresses high frequency noise in electronic circuits. It is a specific type of electronic choke

A ferrite bead or ferrite choke is a passive electric component that suppresses high-frequency noise in electronic circuits. It is a specific type of electronic choke. Ferrite beads employ high-frequency current dissipation in a ferrite ceramic to build high-frequency noise suppression devices. Ferrite beads may also be called blocks, cores, rings, EMI filters, or chokes.

Feed line Transmission line in radio antennas

In a radio antenna, the feed line (feedline), or feeder, is the cable or other transmission line that connects the antenna with the radio transmitter or receiver. In a transmitting antenna, it feeds the radio frequency (RF) current from the transmitter to the antenna, where it is radiated as radio waves. In a receiving antenna it transfers the tiny RF voltage induced in the antenna by the radio wave to the receiver. In order to carry RF current efficiently, feed lines are made of specialized types of cable called transmission line. The most widely used types of feed line are coaxial cable, twin-lead, ladder line, and at microwave frequencies, waveguide.

Choke (electronics) A type of electronic inductor

In electronics, a choke is an inductor used to block higher-frequency while passing direct current (DC) and lower-frequencies of alternating current (AC) in an electrical circuit. A choke usually consists of a coil of insulated wire often wound on a magnetic core, although some consist of a doughnut-shaped "bead" of ferrite material strung on a wire. The choke's impedance increases with frequency. Its low electrical resistance passes both AC and DC with little power loss, but its reactance limits the amount of AC passed.


A braid-breaker is a filter that prevents television interference (TVI). In many cases of TVI, caused by a high field strength of a nearby high frequency (HF) transmitter, the aerial down lead plugged into the back of the TV acts as a longwire antenna or as a simple vertical element. The radio frequency (RF) current flowing through the tuner of the TV tends to generate harmonics which then spoil the viewing.

In electronics, a ferrite core is a type of magnetic core made of ferrite on which the windings of electric transformers and other wound components such as inductors are formed. It is used for its properties of high magnetic permeability coupled with low electrical conductivity. Because of their comparatively low losses at high frequencies, they are extensively used in the cores of RF transformers and inductors in applications such as switched-mode power supplies, and ferrite loopstick antennas for AM radio receivers.

Transformer types

A variety of types of electrical transformer are made for different purposes. Despite their design differences, the various types employ the same basic principle as discovered in 1831 by Michael Faraday, and share several key functional parts.

A balanced circuit is circuitry for use with a balanced line or the balanced line itself. Balanced lines are a common method of transmitting many types of electrical communication signals between two points on two wires. In a balanced line the two signal lines are of a matched impedance to help ensure that interference induced in the line is common-mode and can be removed at the receiving end by circuitry with good common-mode rejection. To maintain the balance, circuit blocks which interface to the line, or are connected in the line, must also be balanced.

Sheath current

A sheath current is a form of charge transfer in wires. Sheath currents can run along the outer sheath of a coaxial cable. This can be caused by a geographically proximate or remote ground potential.


  1. Sevick 1990, pp. 1-1
  2. Baluns: What They Do And How They Do It (W7EL)
  3. Feeding a Dipole Antenna with a Balun
  4. Toroid Cores for 1:4 Baluns (DG3OBK) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-22. Retrieved 2012-12-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Balanced Power Technologies