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Spectrum analyzer

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A spectrum analyzer from 2005

A modern spectrum analyzer display

A spectrum analyzer measures the magnitude of an input signal versus frequency within
the full frequency range of the instrument. The primary use is to measure the power of the
spectrum of known and unknown signals. The input signal that a spectrum analyzer
measures is electrical; however, spectral compositions of other signals, such
as acousticpressure waves and optical light waves, can be considered through the use of an
appropriate transducer. Optical spectrum analyzers also exist, which use direct optical
techniques such as a monochromator to make measurements.
By analyzing the spectra of electrical signals,
dominant frequency, power, distortion, harmonics, bandwidth, and
other spectral components of a signal can be observed that are not easily detectable in time
domain waveforms. These parameters are useful in the characterization of electronic
devices, such as wireless transmitters.
The display of a spectrum analyzer has frequency on the horizontal axis and the amplitude
displayed on the vertical axis. To the casual observer, a spectrum analyzer looks like
an oscilloscope and, in fact, some lab instruments can function either as an oscilloscope or a
spectrum analyzer.

Contents

 1History
 2Types
 3Form factor
o 3.1Benchtop
o 3.2Portable
o 3.3Handheld
o 3.4Networked
 4Theory of operation
o 4.1Swept-tuned
o 4.2FFT-based
o 4.3Hybrid superheterodyne-FFT
o 4.4Realtime FFT
 4.4.1Online realtime and offline realtime
 4.4.2FFT overlapping
 4.4.3Minimum signal detection time
 4.4.3.1Persistence
 4.4.3.2Hidden signals
 5Typical functionality
o 5.1Center frequency and span
o 5.2Resolution bandwidth
o 5.3Video bandwidth
o 5.4Detector
o 5.5Displayed average noise level
 6Radio-frequency uses
 7Audio-frequency uses
 8Optical spectrum analyzer
 9Vibration spectrum analyzer
 10See also
 11References
o 11.1Footnotes
 12External links

History[edit]
This section needs expansion. You
can help by adding to it. (December
2012)

A spectrum analyzer circa 1970

The first spectrum analyzers, in the 1960s, were swept-tuned instruments.[1]


Following the discovery of the fast Fourier transform (FFT) in 1965, the first FFT-based
analyzers were introduced in 1967.[2]
Today, there are three basic types of analyzer: the swept-tuned spectrum analyzer, the
vector signal analyzer, and the real-time spectrum analyzer.[1]
Types[edit]

The main PCB from a 20 GHzspectrum analyser. Showing the stripline PCB filters, and modular block
construction.

Spectrum analyzer types are distinguished by the methods used to obtain the spectrum of a
signal. There are swept-tuned and Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) based spectrum analyzers:

 A swept-tuned analyzer uses a superheterodyne receiver to down-convert a portion of


the input signal spectrum to the center frequency of a narrow band-pass filter, whose
instantaneous output power is recorded or displayed as a function of time. By sweeping
the receiver's center-frequency (using a voltage-controlled oscillator) through a range of
frequencies, the output is also a function of frequency. But while the sweep centers on
any particular frequency, it may be missing short-duration events at other frequencies.
 An FFT analyzer computes a time-sequence of periodograms. FFT refers to a particular
mathematical algorithm used in the process. This is commonly used in conjunction with
a receiver and analog-to-digital converter. As above, the receiver reduces the center-
frequency of a portion of the input signal spectrum, but the portion is not swept. The
purpose of the receiver is to reduce the sampling rate that the analyzer must contend
with. With a sufficiently low sample-rate, FFT analyzers can process all the samples
(100% duty-cycle), and are therefore able to avoid missing short-duration events.