Test & Measurement

Precise measurements with real-time spectrum analysers

7th March 2023
Paige West

Modern circuits, devices and systems are becoming ever faster and more complex. Along with this, the demands on measurement equipment are also increasing when it comes to signal tracking and its analysis. Whether in classic spectrum monitoring, Wi-Fi or wireless network measurements or EMC tests, particularly short and sporadically occurring signals always pose enormous challenges.

Real-time spectrum analysis accelerates and simplifies a wide range of measurement tasks as well as various production and research processes. In contrast to classical spectrum analysis, real-time spectrum analysis mixes down the entire frequency range to be examined to a lower intermediate frequency. This can then be examined in detail by subsequent digitisation and digital signal processing. This allows even very short signals to be reliably detected, localised and thus their cause determined.

Digitisation also makes it possible to display different signal nuances such as intensity and frequency in different colours, thus significantly simplifying the visibility of exceedances of defined limit values, for example. Thus, changes regarding interference suppression and shielding measures can be evaluated immediately, which is a great relief and time saver especially for interference emission and immunity tests.

Real-time spectrum analysis can accelerate and simplify a wide range of measurement tasks as well as various production and research processes. The real-time spectrum analysers of the SPECTRAN V6 X USB series are specially designed for near- and far-field measurements, for measuring and localising sources of interference radiation or for monitoring EMC problems.

EMC packages make it easier to get started

Three real-time EMC packages based on the SPECTRAN V6 RSA 500 X are available. The frequency range is from 10MHz to 6GHz (optionally further). The real-time bandwidth as well as the sweep speed can be increased up to 120MHz / >400 GHz/s and allow broadband EMC measurements in real-time. Thus, the analyser is capable of scanning 6GHz in less than 15ms. Since the SPECTRAN V6 RSA 500 has one input and output each with integrated signal generator, it combines two devices in one and thus covers a very wide field of application, for example in the area of interference emissions or immunity in the course of pre compliance.

The real-time base packages are designed to cover all common EMC or pre-compliance application fields. However, there are of course requirements where even more powerful hardware is needed. In these cases, the basic packages can be easily equipped with the higher real-time frequency analyser, the SPECTRAN V6 RSA 2000 X. In addition to a higher sweep speed of 730Ghz/s and a real-time bandwidth of 160MHz (optionally >1000GHz/s or 245MHz), the 2000 version is also equipped with a second input. For example, the signal generator can be used to feed a signal into a mimic and the two inputs can be used to simultaneously measure the result in front of and behind a shield. Both results can then be compared with each other in real time without changing the measurement setup or having to reconnect cables, for example. This simplifies measurement tasks and reduces the effort considerably.

By combining several SPECTRAN V6s, the real-time bandwidth can be increased as desired. Cascading just four V6s allows gapless real-time measurement from 20MHz - 1GHz, for example, which means an unbeatable time advantage for a wide range of EMC measurements.

Command Centre – High-end solution for demanding users

The SPECTRAN V6 Command Centre is one of the fastest real-time spectrum analysis solutions in the world today. The system offers a real-time bandwidth (RTBW) of up to 980MHz or more than 4THz/s sweep.

The mobile real-time spectrum analyser is equipped with two 24" 4K monitors and housed in a rugged aluminium case as an easily transportable solution. The two widescreen monitors provide a combined resolution of 3,840 x 4,320 pixels and are designed to display the complete frequency range or monitor multiple frequency bands simultaneously in real time.

High performance analysis software

In addition to hardware, software is at least as important today. With the modular real-time spectrum monitoring software ‘RTSA-Suite PRO’, Aaronia provides a powerful software package for signal recording and data analysis. The "Record & Replay" function, for example, allows gapless real-time 3D viewing at up to 25 million samples per second. The software offers, among other things, the simultaneous display of multiple spectra, histogram function, waterfall display in 2D or 3D, unlimited marker count or a complex limit value display.

Despite all its complexity, the RTSA-Suite PRO can be intuitively configured via drag & drop to connect a wide variety of hardware and individually adjust settings or views. Individual blocks are assembled and connected in such a way that a visual image of the measurement setup is created as a block diagram. Aaronia calls this ‘missions’. In this way, any measurement task can be realized quickly and easily. Frequently required measurement setups are simply saved as a finished mission and can thus be called up again at any time.

If you want to have it easier, you can also download predefined ‘missions’ from the Aaronia website, read them into the RTSA Suite PRO and start your measurements immediately. The download is free of charge. If it is a special application, for example one that contains a chargeable function, this must be purchased beforehand. Here, too, Aaronia AG offers its customers a special test service: "We don't want anyone to buy a software module and then find out that they can't use it for their purposes after all," says CEO Thorsten Chmielus. "That's why we offer our existing customers the opportunity to test the respective function free of charge for 30 days. Only after that does the license have to be purchased if it is to be used further."

A large number of blocks with a total value of €7,782.00 are already included free of charge in the basic version. These include various 2D and 3D views, IQ processing, triggers, AM/FM decoders, filereader, filewriter, remote http or scripts.

IQ recording

The ability to record IQ data in real time is exceptional. The Record & Replay function of the SPECTRAN V6, in conjunction with the RTSA Suite PRO, allows recording and replay of the full IQ bandwidth of up to 245MHz. In this way, all information needed to replay a signal can be stored. The data is stored locally on the connected computer and can be recalled at any time to examine a signal in detail. The recording duration is now only limited by the capacity of the storage media used. To run the software on Windows 10 or Linux systems, at least 2GB of RAM and a quad-core processor with 1.6GHz clock speed and AVX2 support are required. This means that RTSA Suite PRO can also run on smaller computers.

Also for devices from other manufacturers

RTSA Suite PRO can not only be used with Aaronia measuring devices but is also compatible with other brand-name devices and expands their range of use. For example, if you add RTSA-Suite PRO to your Tektronix spectrum analyser by purchasing a software license for €2,500.00, you will receive the Filewriter/Reader for saving and playing back data worth €4,550.00 free of charge.

High-tech factory

All hardware and software are developed in Germany. The quality standards are correspondingly high, which ensures a high reputation for the products both at home and abroad. At the same time, the company continuously strives to improve existing products and find approaches to develop new devices or accessories. This is an ideal field of activity for specialists from a wide range of professional fields, who are welcome at Aaronia AG.

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