Good books on EMC and PCB design

Sergey "brsbrs" Korablin
3 min readOct 28, 2021
Book cover: Signal and Power Integrity simplified, Third edition (Eric Bogatin)
An example of a good book

I’m quite often asked about what to read on electromagnetic compatibility. For short — all the reference books, as many, as you can. There are the same ideas in all the reference books: transmission line concept, its impedance, return path, signal propagation, and so on. The difference is in how these ideas are explained. I love what Eric Bogatin said on this topic: “to help feed our engineering intuition”. If the knowledge you got from the book does not feed your engineering intuition, if you’ve got no new insights, then at the moment this book wasn’t very useful — maybe, you should try again later. That’s why you need to read as many books, as you can, though they all are about the same concepts — to feed your engineering intuition.

Bad books

There are bad books, as there are also some bad articles on sites like EDN, Habr, and similar ones. Application notes from ICs manufacturers are almost always bad: these guys know how to design ICs, but rarely know how to design PCBs. The worst of all — there are books and articles, in which there are both good and questionable (if not ridiculously wrong) recommendations, and that’s really confusing.

Some recommendations are “free”: they will always make things better, and following them do not cost anything. It’s a good thing to always follow them, to make this a habit. There are also recommendations, following which will improve one aspect of the design, and at the same time degrade others (for example, cost, size, consumption, bandwidth). You need to decide each time, whether following them is worth it or not.

Here are the common reasons, why you must not follow some recommendations:

  1. You do not understand, what root problem is addressed by this recommendation, and how this problem is mitigated.
  2. You have not played with numbers (pencil-and-paper, numerical simulation), or have not read books/articles where such quantitative evaluation is shown. Performing verification with your own hands strongly increases the understanding of the phenomenon.
  3. You have no idea, how big is the impact of not following this recommendation (the only way to know — quantitative evaluation).
  4. You have no idea about the range of applicability for this recommendation (for example, above what frequency not following it will always wreck the operation of the device).
  5. The recommendation conflicts with the trustworthy, fundamental knowledge.

Good books

Good books, on the contrary:

  • They never state anything without proper explanation, that’s why they are so big. Every piece of information can be tracked down to fundamental principles like field theory or Maxwell’s equations.
  • They show the quantitative evaluation of the described phenomena, and encourage you to evaluate by yourself.
  • They always describe, what is the root cause of the problem, and how exactly following the recommendation will mitigate it, and to what extent.
  • They always describe both the limitations of used methods and the range of applicability.

The list

  1. Eric Bogatin: Signal and Power Integrity — Simplified (amazon). This is the best first book on EMC and, maybe, the best book ever.
  2. Howard Johnson: High Speed Digital Design: A Handbook of Black Magic (amazon). One of the fundamental books on SI.
  3. Henry W. Ott: Electromagnetic Compatibility Engineering (amazon).
  4. Eric Bogatin: Principles of Power Integrity for PDN Design — Simplified (amazon).

There are also nice videos on the topic:

  1. Be The Signal —the Signal Integrity Academy from Eric Bogatin. EPSI course (Essential Principles of Signal Integrity) is extremely useful.
  2. Amazing webinars from Teledyne LeCroy on the measurements.
  3. Rick Hartley — How to Achieve Proper Grounding (youtube)

The list is, of course, incomplete (and never can be complete), and it covers only main books on the topic, not all of them. There are plenty of other good books, which are not on this list.