The Doherty, a hybrid configuration, is currently receiving renewed attention. It was invented in 1934 by William H. Doherty for Bell Laboratories—whose sister company, Western Electric, manufactured radio transmitters. The Doherty amplifier consists of a class-B primary or carrier stages in parallel with a class-C auxiliary or peak stage. The input signal splits to drive the two amplifiers, and a combining network sums the two output signals. Phase shifting networks are used in inputs and outputs. During periods of low signal level, the class-B amplifier efficiently operates on the signal and the class-C amplifier is cutoff and consumes little power. During periods of high signal level, the class-B amplifier delivers its maximum power and the class-C amplifier delivers up to its maximum power. The efficiency of previous AM transmitter designs was proportional to modulation but, with average modulation typically around 20%, transmitters were limited to less than 50% efficiency. In Doherty's design, even with zero modulation, a transmitter could achieve at least 60% efficiency.
As a successor to Western Electric for broadcast transmitters, the Doherty concept was considerably refined by Continental Electronics Manufacturing Company of Dallas, TX. Perhaps, the ultimate refinement was the screen-grid modulation scheme invented by Joseph B. Sainton. The Sainton amplifier consists of a class-C primary or carrier stage in parallel with a class-C auxiliary or peak stage. The stages are split and combined through 90-degree phase shifting networks as in the Doherty amplifier. The unmodulated radio frequency carrier is applied to the control grids of both tubes. Carrier modulation is applied to the screen grids of both tubes. The bias point of the carrier and peak tubes is different, and is established such that the peak tube is cutoff when modulation is absent (and the amplifier is producing rated unmodulated carrier power) whereas both tubes contribute twice the rated carrier power during 100% modulation (as four times the carrier power is required to achieve 100% modulation). As both tubes operate in class C, a significant improvement in efficiency is thereby achieved in the final stage. In addition, as the tetrode carrier and peak tubes require very little drive power, a significant improvement in efficiency within the driver stage is achieved as well (317C, et al.). The released version of the Sainton amplifier employs a cathode-follower modulator, not a push–pull modulator. Previous Continental Electronics designs, by James O. Weldon and others, retained most of the characteristics of the Doherty amplifier but added screen-grid modulation of the driver (317B, et al.).
The Doherty amplifier remains in use in very-high-power AM transmitters, but for lower-power AM transmitters, vacuum-tube amplifiers in general were eclipsed in the 1980s by arrays of solid-state amplifiers, which could be switched on and off with much finer granularity in response to the requirements of the input audio. However, interest in the Doherty configuration has been revived by cellular-telephone and wireless-Internet applications where the sum of several constant envelope users creates an aggregate AM result. The main challenge of the Doherty amplifier for digital transmission modes is in aligning the two stages and getting the class-C amplifier to turn on and off very quickly.
Recently, Doherty amplifiers have found widespread use in cellular base station transmitters for GHz frequencies. Implementations for transmitters in mobile devices have also been demonstrated.