This setting can be increased to measure high power RF signals and improve linearity, or decreased, to improve sensitivity to low level signals. Additionally, after the RF attenuator, an RF preamplifier can be used to increase the sensitivity of low power signals. This will also decrease the linearity of the SA input, resulting in higher intermodulation products, and reducing the amplitude of the maximum signal level that can be accurately measured. Generally, a compromise between sensitivity and linearity is best. The Spike software automatically selects attenuator and amplifier settings according to the selected reference level, selecting a compromise between linearity and sensitivity to optimize dynamic range for a signal dB below the reference level.
Additionally, after the downconverter mixer stages, the amplifiers controlled by the IF gain setting can be used to increase or decrease the signal strength of the frequencies within the bandwidth of interest. Once again, the Spike software will automatically control these settings. But, an experienced user may wish to manually override these settings for some types of measurements.
Spectrum analyzers offer a number of fundamental measurements, which can be valuable in interpreting and analyzing complex signals and systems under test. For example, the color and behavior of several traces can be configured by the user. Trace averaging is another process for smoothing the output by averaging together several sweeps on a point-by-point basis. Min and max trace features hold the minimum and maximum values on a point-by-point basis respectively.
Markers that indicate the frequency and power level at a specific point can be placed on the display. These markers are useful for detecting changes in a signal, or indicating signal measurements of interest, while collaborating or documenting results. Basic arithmetic operations can be performed on markers—usually through the marker delta function—simplifying relative measurements.
Markers can easily be added and changed, generally with mouse-clicks or drop-down menu functions. Triggers are one of the most versatile features of a SA, as they can be used to ensure that the EM energy captured is the signal of interest. There are many simple and advanced features of trigger, from a simple rising-edge or falling-edge trigger, to a complex limit line configuration.
External triggers can also be engaged through an external trigger input port, and power-level triggers are also accessible in most SAs. The trigger options are usually available in a drop-down menu, and can often be adjusted by clicking and dragging on the screen, or with manual input. The intention of this article is to give you a basic understanding of the essential elements of operating any spectrum analyzer device. Comments are closed for this post, but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact us.
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