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This paper describes the design of a low-noise optical receiver using Si bipolar transistors for high-speed optical transmission. The conventional common emitter-common collector circuit (CE-CC pair) and Darlingtou circuit (transimpedance amplifiers with parallel feedback) are studied. Optimal CE-CC pair collector-biasing current for attaining minimum noise current with a 400-MHz bandwidth is 2.7 mA, and less than 1.2 mA for the Darlington circuit. It is confirmed that the Darlington circuit is better than the CE-CC pair in signal-to-noise ratio by about 1.5 dB. The low-noise Darlington optical receiver with a Ge-avalanche photodiode has achieved an optical sensitivity of -41 dBm for a 400 Mbit/s RZ pulse with a bit error rate of 10-10. This is a 2.5-dB improvement in optical sensitivity over that of the conventional CE-CC receiver.