Learn PCB design tips for Differential pair routing

In this tutorial we are going to learn about PCB design tips for Differential pair routing?

Because some device technologies utilize differential techniques, it’s worth explaining some of the advantages & key layout aspects of differential circuitry & comparing them to similar single ended op amp circuitry. Differential circuitry is superior to single ended circuitry for a number of reasons. The CMR of differential inputs lets balanced circuitry reject common mode interference, including GND noise that would be amplified by single ended circuits.


Also, a differential circuit’s balanced properties usually reduce non-linearity & improve distortion. ICs with differential outputs have inherent common-mode output noise that is cancelled if the DAC is followed by a differential-input amplifier or filter. Because a differential signal’s 2 conductors carry a balanced signal, reduced EMI generation & reduced susceptibility to magnetic pickup are additional benefits of differential circuitry.


Even “quasi-differential” circuitry, with its GND taken adjacent to a single ended source but shipped to a differential load as if it were the II half of a differential signal, is superior to single ended circuitry. This is because the small common mode interfering currents between the source & load are still reduced by the differential input.


Examples of these concept, generally the single-ended connection in standard op – amp, although it could also apply to single ended connections into Devices gain blocks if the GND referenced signals were instead referred to 2.5 volts. In general, the rules fall into one or more of these five categories:

Planes: There should be a continuous power system plane underneath the differential pair.
Length: Care must be taken to ensure that differential traces are of equal length.
Spacing 1: Care must be taken to place the traces as close together as possible.
Spacing 2: Care must be taken to ensure that the spacing between traces is constant everywhere along the length of the traces.

Impedance: Differential impedance rules must be applied.


Learn PCB design tips for Differential pair routing


1)  Make D > 2S to minimize crosstalk.


S: Space between the two traces of a Differential Pair

D: Space between two adjacent differential pair

2) Route the 2 traces of a differential pair as close to each other as possible after they leave the device to ensure minimal reflection.

3) Maintain a constant distance between the 2 traces of a differential pair over their entire length.

4) Keep the electrical length between the 2 traces of a differential pair the same. This minimizes the skew and phase difference.

5) To minimize impedance mismatch and inductance, avoid using vias.
To minimize the crosstalk, keep the traces for the differential pairs as short as possible. If the pair has to be routed for an extended length, observe the following guidelines.

Keep the differential pairs as far away as possible to eliminate cross talk between the pair.
In PCB design ground strip should be on the top layer to separate the differential pairs.
Use vias to connect the top layer GND strip to the bottom plane extensively (every several hundred mils)

Keep the distance of the differential pairs constant when routing the signal.
Keep the distance of the differential pairs to the ground strip as a constant.
Try to match the length of the differential pairs.

The receiver pair closer to the Receiver pins of IC chips rather than to the transformer.

This is because the crosstalk current depends on the physical layout of the signals & the characteristics of the board. The voltage strength of the crosstalk signal is equal to the impedance of the load times to the crosstalk current. The higher the input load, the higher the crosstalk created on the same board because it is impossible on the board to match the input impedance. It’s better to keep the trace from the termination to the input as short as possible.


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