What’s new in spectrum analysers

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There are general purpose spectrum analysers as well as the specialised versions. Depending on your needs, this article guides you to pick the right one

By Dilin Anand

N9344C handheld spectrum analyser by Agilent
N9344C handheld spectrum analyser by Agilent

Wednesday, October 10, 2012: If you plan to upgrade your test lab, you naturally would like to get the latest spectrum analyser available in the market. In this article, the latest cutting edge spectrum analysers are featured, along with their pricing, new technology and improved functionality.

There are general purpose spectrum analysers as well as the specialised versions. So what kind of a spectrum analyser do you need? The answer to this question would mostly depend on the maximum frequency range that you want to measure, after including the harmonics and the inter-modulation products of the required signals. Although you can get a lab grade oscilloscope that can analyse low audio frequencies up to microwave, this is overkill if you are going to use it with audio equipment. On the other hand, if you are working on very high frequencies, you might need an analyser that has a resolution good enough to differentiate between the smaller frequencies.

Some new releases in this space are:

  • Tektronix’s MDO4000 mixed domain oscilloscope, which the company claims is the world’s first oscilloscope with a built-in spectrum analyser.
  • The Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) FSW-K91ac signal and spectrum analyser, which supports the new IEEE 802.11ac WLAN standard.
  • Anritsu’s MS2830A + OML MxxHWD, which has a frequency coverage of up to 325 Ghz.
  • Agilent’s N9344C HSA, an MIL PRF 28800 Class 2-compliant handheld spectrum analyser.
  • Scientech’s DSA800 series spectrum analyser, which comes with a wide screen display and is targeted at hobbyists.

The innovative lot includes:

  • Aronia X-Series USB RF spectrum analyser: This features specifications and performance similar to the Spectran handheld spectrum analysers. These RF spectrum analysers are entirely controlled via the USB interface using the real time RF analysis software included with every unit.
  • Metageek’s WiSPY DBX: This is a pocket sized tool designed for enterprise level troubleshooting of Wi-Fi environments. It has an amplitude range of -6.5 dBm to -100 dBm and an amplitude resolution of 0.5 dBm. The device features an RP-SMA antenna too.

Since purchasing an instrument for spectrum analysis is a major investment, make sure that you buy one that not only meets your current requirements but can also cope up with the demands of tomorrow. With this in mind, selecting the ideal instrument should be a well thought out affair, with sufficient inputs from the people who are going to use it. Here are some pointers.

Right instrument for the right application

If your project requires you to work with the upcoming 802.11ac WLAN standard, go for an analyser that is capable of analysing these signals. Although 802.11ac is still being defined, companies that chair the Wi-Fi alliance have already brought out their own solutions using this standard.

The new standard requires 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), up to eight MIMO data streams, and a higher frequency band, along with wide bandwidths of up to 80 MHz. (The 160 MHz bandwidth in this standard is achieved by using the 80+80 MHz mode.) Moreover, due to the 256 QAM, this standard requires an error vector magnitude (EVM) of -32 dB. The R&S FSW-K91ac tool features a very low EVM of less than -45 dB.

Announced on June 20, this year in Munich, the FSW-K91ac option enables the R&S signal and spectrum analyser to record and demodulate the full bandwidth of a WLAN signal in line with the new standard. It has a 31 cm (12.1 inch) touchscreen with the MultiView feature. The latter provides users with a simultaneous view of multiple measurements and applications. Pricing is available only on request.

Millimetre wave (mm-wave) analysers are intended for spectrum and signal analysis of emerging wideband communication systems. Using new capabilities, engineers can evaluate, characterise and manufacture products designed for emerging wideband standards, such as WiGig, including FCC Part 15 compliance emission testing requirements from 40 GHz to 200 GHz.

The MxxHWD harmonic mixer, based on a single diode design, is available in waveguide bands from 26.5 GHz to 325 GHz. The harmonic mixer is a two port frequency extension product with an mm-wave interface for device under test (DUT) connection. The Anritsu MS2830A signal analyser, when coupled with the OML MxxHWD harmonic mixer, offers mm-wave frequency coverage from 26.5 GHz to 325 GHz.

Rapid advances in radar and electronic warfare technology have created the need for leading edge testing technology and tools. Robust radar test equipment reduces the uncertainty during the design process and builds confidence in the integrity of increasingly complex designs.

Traditional signal analysers are unable to trigger on transient problems, and the maximum available acquisition bandwidth in the mid-range is just 40 MHz.

To capture transients for analysis, the Tektronix RSA5000 series offers frequency mask, frequency-edge, density, time qualified and runt triggers. It can also be used to isolate hard to find hardware and software anomalies with cross domain triggering between multiple instruments. It can capture a seamless time record of RF frequencies into deep memory for up to 7 seconds at the 85 MHz bandwidth.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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