Difference Between Switching and Linear CB Power Supplies

Choosing between switching and linear CB power supplies can feel like navigating uncharted waters. The nuances between these two types of power supplies have a significant impact on the performance and reliability of your CB radio. Understanding these distinctions is crucial in making an informed decision and steering you towards the best choice for your specific needs.

Switching power supplies offer high power efficiency, making them suitable for compact setups. They also tend to be lighter and more compact than linear power supplies, which is beneficial for portable or space-constrained installations. However, they may introduce RF noise that can affect the audio quality of your CB radio transmission.

On the other hand, linear power supplies are known for their low RF noise, which helps maintain clear audio signals. They are generally simpler to operate and may be preferred for applications where minimizing electromagnetic interference is a priority. However, linear power supplies are typically larger and heavier than switching power supplies, which may be a consideration for certain setups.

Key Differences Between Linear and Switching Power Supplies

The power supplies differ in several key aspects. Power efficiency, RF noise, size/weight, complexity, and voltage regulation are all essential factors.

Power Efficiency

Switching power supplies outperform linear power supplies due to their operational differences. The key factors contributing to this difference include the operating principle, regulation method, and load variations.

Switching power supplies rapidly switch the input voltage on and off, reducing energy loss. In contrast, linear power supplies dissipate excess energy as heat.

The regulation of output voltage is adjusted by the duty cycle of the switching frequency in switching power supplies, resulting in higher efficiency. Linear power supplies regulate voltage by dissipating excess power.

Switching power supplies also adapt more efficiently to varying loads compared to linear power supplies. Linear power supplies experience decreased efficiency as the load fluctuates.

RF Noise

Switching power supplies inherently generate higher radio frequency (RF) noise due to their high-frequency switching operation. The rapid transistor switching in these supplies produces electromagnetic interference, manifesting as RF noise. This interference can potentially disrupt nearby electronic devices, especially in sensitive radio frequency applications.

In contrast, linear power supplies, operating at lower frequencies, typically have fewer sources of high-frequency noise, resulting in lower RF interference. This makes linear power supplies more suitable for applications where minimizing RF noise is critical, such as in radio communication equipment or sensitive electronic instrumentation.

When choosing between the two types of power supplies, it’s crucial to consider the impact of RF noise and select the most suitable option for your specific application.


Linear power supplies come with smaller transformers due to their lower frequency operation. This results in reduced size and weight, making them advantageous in weight-critical applications.

In contrast, switching power supplies generate more heat, requiring larger heat sinks and fans, adding to the overall size and weight.

Additionally, linear power supplies require fewer filtering components, contributing to a smaller and lighter overall design.


The linear power supply’s design is simpler, with fewer components, making it easier to troubleshoot. It regulates the output voltage using a series pass transistor, dissipating excess power as heat.

In contrast, switching power supplies are more complex, using high-frequency switching circuits and additional control circuitry. This complexity allows them to achieve higher efficiency by rapidly switching power on and off, reducing wasted energy. However, it also makes them more challenging to troubleshoot and design.

Understanding these differences is crucial when choosing the right power supply for a specific application.

Voltage Regulation

Voltage regulation methods in power supplies vary significantly based on the type of power supply used.

Linear power supplies employ a series pass element to regulate voltage by dissipating excess power as heat, resulting in lower efficiency.

Switching power supplies, on the other hand, use high-frequency switching elements to regulate voltage by adjusting the duty cycle of the switching element, leading to higher efficiency.

While linear power supplies offer excellent voltage regulation and minimal output ripple, switching power supplies provide good voltage regulation but with higher output ripple compared to linear power supplies.

Understanding these differences is crucial for selecting the appropriate power supply for specific applications.


Switching power supplies are more cost-effective than linear power supplies due to their higher efficiency and smaller size, resulting in lower material costs. The reduced heat dissipation in switching power supplies also leads to lower cooling requirements, saving on operational expenses.

However, it’s important to note that switching power supplies may have higher initial manufacturing and design costs. Linear power supplies, while generally more expensive upfront, may have lower long-term maintenance costs.

It’s important to carefully evaluate the specific requirements and usage scenarios to determine the most cost-effective option for your application based on efficiency, size, heat dissipation, and long-term maintenance.

Application-Specific Criteria for Choosing Between Switching and Linear CB Power Supplies

When choosing between switching and linear CB power supplies, it’s important to consider factors such as electromagnetic interference (EMI), voltage ripple, and noise sensitivity.

Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

Minimizing Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and choosing between switching and linear CB power supplies requires careful consideration of operational requirements and potential EMI impact.

  1. EMI Considerations: Evaluate the susceptibility of sensitive equipment to EMI and the permissible EMI levels in the application.
  2. Switching Power Supplies: High-frequency EMI emissions and the need for additional filtering components to reduce EMI should be considered.
  3. Linear Power Supplies: Assess the lower likelihood of high-frequency EMI emissions and the potential for EMI from the power transformer and rectifier components.

Voltage Ripple

The voltage ripple of a power supply can affect sensitive equipment and EMI emissions.

Switching and linear CB power supplies differ in their voltage ripple. Linear CB power supplies generally have lower voltage ripple, making them suitable for audio amplifiers and precision measurement equipment.

However, switching power supplies may be preferred for high-power applications due to their higher efficiency.

The acceptable level of voltage ripple is crucial in choosing between the two types of power supplies for specific applications.

Noise Sensitivity

When considering noise sensitivity for specific applications, the choice between switching and linear CB power supplies depends on their respective characteristics and performance under varying load conditions.

Switching CB Power Supplies:

  • Less sensitive to input voltage variations and noise
  • Ideal for applications in telecommunications and data centers
  • Efficiently regulate output voltage but may produce electromagnetic interference (EMI) due to high-frequency switching

Linear CB Power Supplies:

  • More sensitive to input voltage variations and noise
  • Suitable for applications requiring low noise and minimal electromagnetic interference
  • Offer superior voltage regulation and minimal EMI but are less energy-efficient than switching power supplies

Understanding these sensitivities is crucial in selecting the right power supply for specific applications.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Switching or Linear CB Power Supply

Choosing a power supply for your CB radio involves considering several factors.

Output Power

When choosing between a switching or linear CB power supply, the output power is a critical consideration. The power supply’s ability to meet the demands of your CB radio equipment is directly impacted by its output power.

It’s important to assess the power requirements of your CB radio and any additional equipment. This assessment will help you select a power supply with the appropriate output power to meet your needs.

Additionally, you should check the voltage and current ratings of your CB radio and accessories to ensure that the power supply can deliver the required voltage and current without exceeding its limits.

It’s also crucial to consider the stability and regulation of the output power to ensure consistent and reliable performance, especially under varying load conditions.

Input Voltage Range

When choosing between a switching or linear power supply for your CB radio and accessories, it’s important to consider the input voltage range.

Linear power supplies have a narrow input voltage range, typically around ±10% of the specified input voltage, meaning they may not function properly if the input voltage falls outside this range.

On the other hand, switching power supplies offer a wider input voltage range, such as 90-264VAC, making them more versatile and capable of handling varying input voltages.

It’s crucial to ensure that the selected power supply’s input voltage range aligns with the voltage requirements of your CB radio and any additional equipment to prevent damage and ensure reliable operation.

Protection from overvoltage, overcurrent, and short-circuit

Switching Power Supply:

  • Overvoltage protection: The feedback loop regulates the output voltage, preventing overvoltage by shutting down or reducing the output.
  • Overcurrent protection: Current sensing circuits monitor the output current, triggering shutdown or reduction of output to prevent overcurrent conditions.
  • Short-circuit protection: Automatic shutdown mechanisms or current limiting circuits safeguard against short-circuit events to prevent damage to the power supply and connected devices.

Linear Power Supply:

  • Overvoltage protection: Includes overvoltage crowbar circuits that trigger a short circuit to protect downstream components.
  • Overcurrent protection: Uses fuses or current limiters to safeguard against overcurrent situations.
  • Short-circuit protection: Employs circuitry to detect and respond to short-circuit conditions, preventing damage to the power supply and connected equipment.

Compliance with industry standards and certifications

When choosing a switching or linear CB power supply, it’s crucial to prioritize compliance with industry standards and certifications.

For switching power supplies, look for UL, CE, and FCC compliance. These certifications ensure safety, electromagnetic compatibility, and regulatory requirements.

Linear power supplies should adhere to IEC 60950 for IT equipment and IEC 60601 for medical electrical equipment. Also, ensure compliance with RoHS directives to avoid harmful substances.

Prioritizing industry standards and certifications assures that the chosen power supply meets essential quality and safety benchmarks.

Navick Ogutu
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Navick Ogutu
Navick Ogutu

- Hiking
- Birdwatching
- CB Radios
- Ham Radio
- Rock Climbing
- Skiing

Avid hiker and hiking enthusiast based in Nairobi, Kenya with over 20 years of experience exploring the country's most famous trails and natural wonders.

Navick has hiked extensively across Kenya, traversing renowned trails like Mount Kenya, the Aberdare Ranges, Hell's Gate National Park, and the Maasai Mara.

He provides hiking expertise on topics like outdoor skills, wildlife spotting, safety, and employing leave no trace principles.

Navick studied Urban and Regional Planning at The Technical University of Kenya.

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"I want to share awe-inspiring landscapes, slopes, and products for hiking, rock climbing, bird-watching and skiing--not just in Kenya but globally."

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