Alliance Audio
Alum Rock Technology
American Trans-Coil
American Zettler
Angela Instruments
Antrim Transformers
Ask Jan First
Audio Parts
Automatic Electric Europe
BH Electronics
Black Art
BOI AudioWorks
CDK International
DIY Club
Dr. Feickert GbR
E. A. Sowter
Electra Print Audio
Electro Junk
Electronic Specialists
ESL Information eXch.
Galaxy Transformers
Jensen Transformers
Lampy elektronowe
Magnetic SA.
Metrum Acoustics
Moyers Electronics
Parallax Transformers
Peerless Electronics
SAC thailand
Shinrock GbR
Toroid Corporation
Trafo Baule
Trafomic Oy
Trans Audio
Triode Electronics
United Transformer Corp.
Vintage HiFi
Wagner plus Grimm AG
Weber Speakers


On the top of this page you can find an overview of all brands that supply stator material.

A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors — the transformer's coils or "windings". Except for air-core transformers, the conductors are commonly wound around a single iron-rich core, or around separate but magnetically-coupled cores. A varying current in the first or "primary" winding creates a varying magnetic field in the core (or cores) of the transformer. This varying magnetic field induces a varying electromotive force (EMF) or "voltage" in the "secondary" winding. This effect is called mutual induction.

If a load is connected to the secondary, an electric current will flow in the secondary winding and electrical energy will flow from the primary circuit through the transformer to the load. In an ideal transformer, the induced voltage in the secondary winding (VS) is in proportion to the primary voltage (VP), and is given by the ratio of the number of turns in the secondary to the number of turns in the primary as follows:

 frac{V_{S}}{V_{P}} = frac{N_{S}}{N_{P}}

By appropriate selection of the ratio of turns, a transformer thus allows an alternating current (AC) voltage to be "stepped up" by making NS greater than NP, or "stepped down" by making NS less than NP.

Transformers come in a range of sizes from a thumbnail-sized coupling transformer hidden inside a stage microphone to huge units weighing hundreds of tons used to interconnect portions of national power grids. All operate with the same basic principles, although the range of designs is wide. While new technologies have eliminated the need for transformers in some electronic circuits, transformers are still found in nearly all electronic devices designed for household ("mains") voltage. Transformers are essential for high voltage power transmission, which makes long distance transmission economically practical.



First steps: experiments with induction coils

What would become the "transformer principle" was revealed in 1831 by Michael Faraday in his demonstration of electromagnetic induction, but without recognition of its future role in manipulating EMF. The first "induction coils" to see wide use were invented by Rev. Nicholas Callan of Maynooth College, Ireland in 1836, one of the first researchers to realize that the more turns the secondary winding has in relation to the primary winding, the larger the increase in EMF. Induction coils evolved from scientists' and inventors' efforts to get higher voltages from batteries. Rather than alternating current (AC), their action relied upon a vibrating "make-and-break" mechanism that regularly interrupted the flow of direct current (DC) from the batteries. Between the 1830s and the 1870s, efforts to build better induction coils, mostly by trial and error, slowly revealed the basic principles of transformers. Efficient, practical designs did not appear until the 1880s, but within a decade the "transformer" would be instrumental in the "War of Currents", and in seeing AC distribution systems triumph over their DC counterparts, a position in which they have remained dominant ever since.

In 1876, Russian engineer Pavel Yablochkov invented a lighting system based on a set of induction coils where the primary windings were connected to a source of alternating current and the secondary windings could be connected to several "electric candles" (arc lamps) of his own design. The coils used in the system behaved as primitive transformers. The patent claimed the system could "provide separate supply to several lighting fixtures with different luminous intensities from a single source of electric power".

In 1878, the engineers of the Ganz Company in Hungary assigned part of its extensive engineering works to the manufacture of electric lighting apparatus for Austria-Hungary, and by 1883 made over fifty installations. It offered an entire system consisting of both arc and incandescent lamps, generators, and other accessories.

Lucien Gaulard and John Dixon Gibbs first exhibited a device with an open iron core called a "secondary generator" in London in 1882, then sold the idea to the Westinghouse company in the United States. They also exhibited the invention in Turin, Italy in 1884, where it was adopted for an electric lighting system.

Induction coils with open magnetic circuits are inefficient for transfer of power to loads. Various methods of adjusting the cores or bypassing magnetic flux around part of a coil were developed, since until about 1880 the paradigm for AC power transmission from a high voltage supply to a low voltage load was a series circuit. In practice, several coils with a ratio near 1:1 were connected with their primaries in series to allow use of a high voltage for transmission while presenting a low voltage to the lamps. The inherent flaw in this method was that turning off a single lamp affected all the others on the circuit, and many adjustable coil designs were introduced in an effort to accommodate this problematic characteristic of the series circuit.

First transformers


Between 1884 and 1885, Hungarian engineers Zipernowsky, Bláthy and Déri from the Ganz company in Budapest created the efficient "ZBD" closed-core model, which were based on the design by Gaulard and Gibbs. (Gaulard and Gibbs designed just an open core model) They discovered that all former (coreless or open-core) devices were incapable of regulating voltage, and were therefore impracticable. Their joint patent described a transformer with no poles and comprised two versions of it, the "closed-core transformer" and the "shell-core transformer. In the closed-core transformer the iron core is a closed ring around which the two coils are arranged uniformly. In the shell type transformer, the copper induction cables are passed through the core. In both designs, the magnetic flux linking the primary and secondary coils travels (almost entirely) in the iron core, with no intentional path through air. The core consists of iron cables or plates. Based on this invention, it became possible to provide economical and cheap lighting for industry and households." Zipernowsky, Bláthy and Déri discovered the mathematical formula of transformers: Vs/Vp = Ns/Np. With this formula, transformers became calculable and proportionable. Their patent application made the first use of the word "transformer", a word that had been coined by Ottó Bláthy. George Westinghouse had bought both Gaulard and Gibbs' and the "ZBD" patents in 1885. He entrusted William Stanley with the building of a ZBD-type transformer for commercial use. Stanley built the core from interlocking E-shaped iron plates. This design was first used commercially in 1886.

Early developments and applications

Russian engineer Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky developed the first three-phase transformer in 1889. In 1891 Nikola Tesla invented the Tesla coil, an air-cored, dual-tuned resonant transformer for generating very high voltages at high frequency. Audio frequency transformers (at the time called repeating coils) were used by the earliest experimenters in the development of the telephone.


A wide variety of transformer designs are used for different applications, though they share several common features. Important common transformer types include:


An autotransformer has only a single winding with two end terminals, plus a third at an intermediate tap point. The primary voltage is applied across two of the terminals, and the secondary voltage taken from one of these and the third terminal. The primary and secondary circuits therefore have a number of windings turns in common. Since the volts-per-turn is the same in both windings, each develops a voltage in proportion to its number of turns. An adjustable autotransformer is made by exposing part of the winding coils and making the secondary connection through a sliding brush, giving a variable turns ratio.

Polyphase transformers

For three-phase supplies, a bank of three individual single-phase transformers can be used, or all three phases can be incorporated as a single three-phase transformer. In this case, the magnetic circuits are connected together, the core thus containing a three-phase flow of flux. A number of winding configurations are possible, giving rise to different attributes and phase shifts. One particular polyphase configuration is the zigzag transformer, used for grounding and in the suppression of harmonic currents.

Leakage transformers

A leakage transformer, also called a stray-field transformer, has a significantly higher leakage inductance than other transformers, sometimes increased by a magnetic bypass or shunt in its core between primary and secondary, which is sometimes adjustable with a set screw. This provides a transformer with an inherent current limitation due to the loose coupling between its primary and the secondary windings. The output and input currents are low enough to prevent thermal overload under all load conditions – even if the secondary is shorted.

Leakage transformers are used for arc welding and high voltage discharge lamps (neon lamps and cold cathode fluorescent lamps, which are series-connected up to 7.5 kV AC). It acts then both as a voltage transformer and as a magnetic ballast.

Other applications are short-circuit-proof extra-low voltage transformers for toys or doorbell installations.

Resonant transformers

A resonant transformer is a kind of the leakage transformer. It uses the leakage inductance of its secondary windings in combination with external capacitors, to create one or more resonant circuits. Resonant transformers such as the Tesla coil can generate very high voltages, and are able to provide much higher current than electrostatic high-voltage generation machines such as the Van de Graaff generator. One of the applications of the resonant transformer is for the CCFL inverter. Another application of the resonant transformer is to couple between stages of a superheterodyne receiver, where the selectivity of the receiver is provided by tuned transformers in the intermediate-frequency amplifiers.

Audio transformers

Audio transformers are those specifically designed for use in audio circuits. They can be used to block radio frequency interference or the DC component of an audio signal, to split or combine audio signals, or to provide impedance matching between high and low impedance circuits, such as between a high impedance tube (valve) amplifier output and a low impedance loudspeaker, or between a high impedance instrument output and the low impedance input of a mixing console.

Such transformers were originally designed to connect different telephone systems to one another while keeping their respective power supplies isolated, and are still commonly used to interconnect professional audio systems or system components.

Being magnetic devices, audio transformers are susceptible to external magnetic fields such as those generated by AC current-carrying conductors. "Hum" is a term commonly used to describe unwanted signals originating from the "mains" power supply (typically 50 or 60 Hz). Audio transformers used for low-level signals, such as those from microphones, often included shielding to protect against extraneous magnetically-coupled signals.

Instrument transformers

Instrument transformers are used for measuring voltge,current, power and energy in electrical systems, and for protection and control. Where a voltage or current is too large to be conveniently measured by an instrument, it can be scaled down to a standardized low value. Instrument transformers isolate measurement and control circuitry from the high currents or voltages present on the circuits being measured or controlled.

A current transformer is a transformer designed to provide a current in its secondary coil proportional to the current flowing in its primary coil.

Voltage transformers (VTs), also referred to as "potential transformers" (PTs), are used in high-voltage circuits. They are designed to present a negligible load to the supply being measured, to allow protective relay equipment to be operated at a lower voltages, and to have a precise winding ratio for accurate metering.


Laminated steel cores

Transformers for use at power or audio frequencies typically have cores made of high permeability silicon steel. The steel has a permeability many times that of free space, and the core thus serves to greatly reduce the magnetizing current, and confine the flux to a path which closely couples the windings. Early transformer developers soon realized that cores constructed from solid iron resulted in prohibitive eddy-current losses, and their designs mitigated this effect with cores consisting of bundles of insulated iron wires. Later designs constructed the core by stacking layers of thin steel laminations, a principle that has remained in use. Each lamination is insulated from its neighbors by a thin non-conducting layer of insulation. The universal transformer equation indicates a minimum cross-sectional area for the core to avoid saturation.


The effect of laminations is to confine eddy currents to highly elliptical paths that enclose little flux, and so reduce their magnitude. Thinner laminations reduce losses, but are more laborious and expensive to construct. Thin laminations are generally used on high frequency transformers, with some types of very thin steel laminations able to operate up to 10kHz.

One common design of laminated core is made from interleaved stacks of E-shaped steel sheets capped with I-shaped pieces, leading to its name of "E-I transformer". Such a design tends to exhibit more losses, but is very economical to manufacture. The cut-core or C-core type is made by winding a steel strip around a rectangular form and then bonding the layers together. It is then cut in two, forming two C shapes, and the core assembled by binding the two C halves together with a steel strap. They have the advantage that the flux is always oriented parallel to the metal grains, reducing reluctance.

A steel core's remanence means that it retains a static magnetic field when power is removed. When power is then reapplied, the residual field will cause a high inrush current until the effect of the remaining magnetism is reduced, usually after a few cycles of the applied alternating current. Overcurrent protection devices such as fuses must be selected to allow this harmless inrush to pass. On transformers connected to long, overhead power transmission lines, induced currents due to geomagnetic disturbances during solar storms can cause saturation of the core and operation of transformer protection devices.

Distribution transformers can achieve low no-load losses by using cores made with low-loss high-permeability silicon steel or amorphous (non-crystalline) metal alloy. The higher initial cost of the core material is offset over the life of the transformer by its lower losses at light load.

Solid cores

Powdered iron cores are used in circuits (such as switch-mode power supplies) that operate above main frequencies and up to a few tens of kilohertz. These materials combine high magnetic permeability with high bulk electrical resistivity. For frequencies extending beyond the VHF band, cores made from non-conductive magnetic ceramic materials called ferrites are common. Some radio-frequency transformers also have movable cores (sometimes called 'slugs') which allow adjustment of the coupling coefficient (and bandwidth) of tuned radio-frequency circuits.

Toroidal cores


Toroidal transformers are built around a ring-shaped core, which, depending on operating frequency, is made from a long strip of silicon steel or permalloy wound into a coil, powdered iron, or ferrite. A strip construction ensures that the grain boundaries are optimally aligned, improving the transformer's efficiency by reducing the core's reluctance. The closed ring shape eliminates air gaps inherent in the construction of an E-I core. The cross-section of the ring is usually square or rectangular, but more expensive cores with circular cross-sections are also available. The primary and secondary coils are often wound concentrically to cover the entire surface of the core. This minimizes the length of wire needed, and also provides screening to minimize the core's magnetic field from generating electromagnetic interference.

Toroidal transformers are more efficient than the cheaper laminated E-I types for a similar power level. Other advantages compared to E-I types, include smaller size (about half), lower weight (about half), less mechanical hum (making them superior in audio amplifiers), lower exterior magnetic field (about one tenth), low off-load losses (making them more efficient in standby circuits), single-bolt mounting, and greater choice of shapes. The main disadvantages are higher cost and limited power capacity (see "Classification" above).

Ferrite toroidal cores are used at higher frequencies, typically between a few tens of kilohertz to a megahertz, to reduce losses, physical size, and weight of switch-mode power supplies. A drawback of toroidal transformer construction is the higher cost of windings. As a consequence, toroidal transformers are uncommon above ratings of a few kVA. Small distribution transformers may achieve some of the benefits of a toroidal core by splitting it and forcing it open, then inserting a bobbin containing primary and secondary windings.

Air cores

A physical core is not an absolute requisite and a functioning transformer can be produced simply by placing the windings in close proximity to each other, an arrangement termed an "air-core" transformer. The air which comprises the magnetic circuit is essentially lossless, and so an air-core transformer eliminates loss due to hysteresis in the core material. The leakage inductance is inevitably high, resulting in very poor regulation, and so such designs are unsuitable for use in power distribution. They have however very high bandwidth, and are frequently employed in radio-frequency applications, for which a satisfactory coupling coefficient is maintained by carefully overlapping the primary and secondary windings.


High-frequency transformers operating in the tens to hundreds of kilohertz often have windings made of braided litz wire to minimize the skin-effect and proximity effect losses. Large power transformers use multiple-stranded conductors as well, since even at low power frequencies non-uniform distribution of current would otherwise exist in high-current windings. Each strand is individually insulated, and the strands are arranged so that at certain points in the winding, or throughout the whole winding, each portion occupies different relative positions in the complete conductor. The transposition equalizes the current flowing in each strand of the conductor, and reduces eddy current losses in the winding itself. The stranded conductor is also more flexible than a solid conductor of similar size, aiding manufacture.

For signal transformers, the windings may be arranged in a way to minimize leakage inductance and stray capacitance to improve high-frequency response. This can be done by splitting up each coil into sections, and those sections placed in layers between the sections of the other winding. This is known as a stacked type or interleaved winding.

Both the primary and secondary windings on power transformers may have external connections, called taps, to intermediate points on the winding to allow selection of the voltage ratio. The taps may be connected to an automatic on-load tap changer for voltage regulation of distribution circuits. Audio-frequency transformers, used for the distribution of audio to public address loudspeakers, have taps to allow adjustment of impedance to each speaker. A center-tapped transformer is often used in the output stage of an audio power amplifier in a push-pull circuit. Modulation transformers in AM transmitters are very similar.

Certain transformers have the windings protected by epoxy resin. By impregnating the transformer with epoxy under a vacuum, one can replace air spaces within the windings with epoxy, thus sealing the windings and helping to prevent the possible formation of corona and absorption of dirt or water. This produces transformers more suited to damp or dirty environments, but at increased manufacturing cost.


Cut away view of three-phase oil-cooled transformer. The oil reservoir is visible at the top. Radiative fins aid the dissipation of heat.

High temperatures will damage the winding insulation. Small transformers do not generate significant heat and are cooled by air circulation and radiation of heat. Power transformers rated up to several hundred kVA can be adequately cooled by natural convective air-cooling, sometimes assisted by fans. In larger transformers, part of the design problem is removal of heat. Some power transformers are immersed in transformer oil that both cools and insulates the windings. The oil is a highly refined mineral oil that remains stable at transformer operating temperature. Indoor liquid-filled transformers must use a non-flammable liquid, or must be located in fire resistant rooms. Air-cooled dry transformers are preferred for indoor applications even at capacity ratings where oil-cooled construction would be more economical, because their cost is offset by the reduced building construction cost.

The oil-filled tank often has radiators through which the oil circulates by natural convection; some large transformers employ forced circulation of the oil by electric pumps, aided by external fans or water-cooled heat exchangers. Oil-filled transformers undergo prolonged drying processes to ensure that the transformer is completely free of water vapor before the cooling oil is introduced. This helps prevent electrical breakdown under load. Oil-filled transformers may be equipped with Buchholz relays, which detect gas evolved during internal arcing and rapidly de-energize the transformer to avert catastrophic failure.

Polychlorinated biphenyls have properties that once favored their use as a coolant, though concerns over their environmental persistence led to a widespread ban on their use. Today, non-toxic, stable silicone-based oils, or fluorinated hydrocarbons may be used where the expense of a fire-resistant liquid offsets additional building cost for a transformer vault. Before 1977, even transformers that were nominally filled only with mineral oils may also have been contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls at 10-20 ppm. Since mineral oil and PCB fluid mix, maintenance equipment used for both PCB and oil-filled transformers could carry over small amounts of PCB, contaminating oil-filled transformers.

Some "dry" transformers (containing no liquid) are enclosed in sealed, pressurized tanks and cooled by nitrogen or sulfur hexafluoride gas.

Experimental power transformers in the 2 MVA range have been built with superconducting windings which eliminates the copper losses, but not the core steel loss. These are cooled by liquid nitrogen or helium.


Very small transformers will have wire leads connected directly to the ends of the coils, and brought out to the base of the unit for circuit connections. Larger transformers may have heavy bolted terminals, bus bars or high-voltage insulated bushings made of polymers or porcelain. A large bushing can be a complex structure since it must provide careful control of the electric field gradient without letting the transformer leak oil.


A major application of transformers is to increase voltage before transmitting electrical energy over long distances through wires. Wires have resistance and so dissipate electrical energy at a rate proportional to the square of the current through the wire. By transforming electrical power to a high-voltage (and therefore low-current) form for transmission and back again afterwards, transformers enable economic transmission of power over long distances. Consequently, transformers have shaped the electricity supply industry, permitting generation to be located remotely from points of demand. All but a tiny fraction of the world's electrical power has passed through a series of transformers by the time it reaches the consumer.

Transformers are also used extensively in electronic products to step down the supply voltage to a level suitable for the low voltage circuits they contain. The transformer also electrically isolates the end user from contact with the supply voltage.

Signal and audio transformers are used to couple stages of amplifiers and to match devices such as microphones and record player s to the input of amplifiers. Audio transformers allowed telephone circuits to carry on a two-way conversation over a single pair of wires. Transformers are also used when it is necessary to couple a differential-mode signal to a ground-referenced signal, and for between external cables and internal circuits.


Transformers can be classified in different ways:

  • By power capacity: from a fraction of a volt-ampere (VA) to over a thousand MVA;
  • By frequency range: power-, audio-, or radio frequency;
  • By voltage class: from a few volts to hundreds of kilovolts;
  • By cooling type: air cooled, oil filled, fan cooled, or water cooled;
  • By application: such as power supply, impedance matching, output voltage and current stabilizer, or circuit isolation;
  • By end purpose: distribution, rectifier, arc furnace, amplifier output;
  • By winding turns ratio: step-up, step-down, isolating (equal or near-equal ratio), variable.


Jukka M. Mononen (December 2001) I found contact information of one dutch ESL-transformer manufacturer (Amplino), thanks for your pages! They are making toroidal audio transformers, and that was the main reason why my interest increased. You see, I've been looking for toroidal transformers for quite a long time. Well, they promised to send me the data sheet of their transformers. The price is no object if the quality is excellent (it was about 300 guldens)

Toroidal transformers have so many advantages over traditional ones, lower distortion, better phase response etc. As you know, better amplifiers have toroidal transformers in power supply. The difference to traditional transformers is, if possible, even more dramatic in the signal path (where audio transformers are used) :-) Well, toroidal technology is no end in itself, but the base upon to build sophisticated audio transformer is more concrete.

Questions and answers

Daz (December 2001): Winding transformers. Hello, could you help? I would like to wind my own audio transformers to drive the panels which I have built using welding rods . the panels are small and were an "experiment" to see if the idea would work I will be building a full size pair as soon as I can make the transformers to drive them. I have already tested them using a transformer borrowed from a pair of Quad esl's and they sound rather good.

I can not afford to buy them so the only option is to wind them myself. Some time ago I built a winding machine from parts found in a scrap video recorder , I used this to wind a transformer for the power supply, removing the origional secondary winding from an old transformer and replacing it with thinner wire 0.063mm and increasing the turns to obtain the required voltage. This was pretty simple . However I would like some advise on the details below.

Could you suggest the a size for the core ,wire gauge for both primary and secondary and number of turns per winding and multi layer ? Any advise or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks, Daz

Rob Mackinlay (December 2001): Hi Daz, you have asked a question in a very sensitive area. Manufacturers of ESL's guard their transformer designs very closely and go to great lengths to ensure that the transformer presents as much difficulty to open up to discover its secrets as possible. This is primarily due to the very high development costs that most commercial transformers have behind them and the desire to stay one step ahead of the competition. Some manufacturers will not sell a replacement transformer for a current model unless you are registered with them as the purchaser, to protect the design from being analysed.

So, being a manufacturer of factory built and kit ESL's I can't give you exactly what you want in the way of a tried and proven design. However, I can give you some assistance to make a transformer that will work well, and will form a basis for you to work from. As you have not given any design criteria of the panels you propose to drive, I'll suggest a generic design that will work for most panels.

If the panels are full range (which I'll assume they are) you will need a core of sufficient dimensions to avoid saturation at low frequencies at reasonable levels. If you are using grain oriented silicone steel core material (which I strongly suggest you do), you will need a minimum of a 40mm wide central post by 40mm stack. This is "E I" type laminations. The plastic bobbin will need to be at least 50 mm high with a central post dimension of 40 x 40mm. This will give a core size of around 100mm(h) x 120mm (w) and 40mm deep overall. Remember this is a minimum size. This is one of those occasions where size counts!! If you can't obtain GOSS core material, go to at least a size bigger in ordinary steel core material.

You will need a multi layer design to preserve high frequency response so I would suggest at least 3 sets of primary windings of say 40 turns each. These are connected in parallel. To give a turns ratio of 1:100 you will need 4000 turns of secondary windings. 4 layers of 1000 turns per layer connected in series will work. For a 1:50 turns ratio halve the secondary windings. Alternate the windings starting with the first secondary close to the core. Insulate between the windings with Mylar tape. Remember that the potential difference between the secondary and the primary is very high so you must ensure that there is no possibility of flashover from one set of windings to the other. The finish of the second set of secondaries and the start of the third set will provide the centre tap for connection to the EHT supply earth. You may have to split each set of secondary windings into smaller sections and insulate between them to prevent internal arcing and improve high frequency response. I'll leave this for you to try later.

Wire gauge will depend upon power considerations etc but 1.0 mm primary and 0.236 secondary will work just fine.

Remember that this is a simple design and may need some form of external frequency tailoring in series with the primary, in the form of a resistor / capacitor network, to give a flat response. This will at least give a basis to work from for future designs. After you have wound this transformer you will appreciate why transformer costs are high!!

There is a very good section on audio frequency transformer design in The Radio Designers Handbook edited by F Langford-Smith. This book is invaluable to anyone trying to wind either ESL input or valve amplifier output transformers.

As I said earlier Daz, transformer design is one of the trickiest parts of ESL design, with very little practical information being published. A sobering thought is that the speaker will only be as good as the transformer. A very good panel design can be ruined by a poor transformer just as a good transformer can be masked by a poor panel. This means that to achieve a good sonic result both components must perform well.

Hope this helps. If you have any further queries please feel free to contact me on Best of luck with the endeavour and Merry Christmas. Rob

Please contact The Audio Circuit if you can provide an additional answer