Basic Steps in designing RF filters

RF filters are important in wireless or radio communication system such as in AM transmitter, FM transmitter or in WLAN superheterodyne receiver etc. Designing RF filters requires careful consideration of various factors and parameters to achieve the desired performance. Below is a basic guide on the step-by-step process of starting an RF filter design to provide insights into how RF filter design starts: selecting the filter response, transfer function, structure, and evaluating its capabilities.

  • Specify the Required Filter Response

To begin the filter design process, it is essential to determine the desired response type: lowpass, highpass, bandpass, or bandstop. Each response type serves different filtering purposes and sets the foundation for subsequent design decisions.

  • Selecting the Transfer Function

The two most common filter types in RF design are Chebyshev and Butterworth filters. Chebyshev filters offer excellent amplitude rolloff and predictable output impedance, while Butterworth filters provide a flat passband response without any amplitude ripple. Understanding the characteristics of these filter types helps in selecting the appropriate transfer function for the design. Chebyshev filters exhibit amplitude and return loss ripple within their passbands, but they offer a remarkable amplitude rolloff of approximately 10 dB/octave/order, depending on the selected ripple design amplitude. For a predictable 50-Ω output impedance, Chebyshev filters should always have an odd order. On the other hand, Butterworth filters have a flat passband response without any amplitude ripple and an amplitude rolloff of 6 dB/octave/order. The Bessel filter also provides a flat passband response with no amplitude ripple but has a less favorable amplitude rolloff of only 3 dB/octave/order. Another filter type known as the elliptical filter exhibits a highly sharp rejection response, but it is generally limited to frequencies below 500 MHz due to its sensitivity to component variations that can degrade its RF performance.

  • Exploring Filter Types and Topologies

There are different types of RF filters. Consideration must be given to the specific filter type and topology that suits the design requirements. Factors such as frequency range, component variation sensitivity, and size constraints influence the choice between microstrip distributed filters and lumped passive LC filters. Off-the-shelf multilayer ceramic filters can also offer compact and quick solutions for specific applications. If designing a custom filter, the options include microstrip distributed structures or lumped passive LC structures. In cases where size is a constraint and the frequency is around 1 GHz, and when working with cost-effective consumer-grade FR-4 PCBs, it is typically advisable to select LC lumped filter types instead of distributed structures. Below is an example of Lumped LCband pass filter design.

Lumped LCband pass filter design

 Alternatively, one can opt for off-the-shelf multilayer ceramic filters for a compact and efficient solution, which is particularly advantageous at higher frequencies (> 1 GHz) or when time constraints are a factor.

  • Understanding Filter Capabilities

To ensure the filter meets the desired performance criteria, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of its capabilities. This includes determining the reliable frequency range, sensitivity to component tolerances, extent of stopbands, ultimate attenuation, insertion loss within the passband, presence of ripple, percentage bandwidth, and response steepness. See online passive filter calculator.


Starting an RF filter design requires careful consideration of various factors, such as response type, transfer function selection, filter structure, and understanding the filter's capabilities. By following a systematic approach and considering these factors, designers can achieve successful RF filter designs. 

Below are tutorials that delve deeper into the design and optimization of different kinds of RF filters.


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