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Why analog?

Beyond any doubt the oscilloscope is the most important measuring instrument if voltage signals are to be characterized in the time domain. Hence the analog oscilloscope is frequently still the first choice, even in the socalled digital age. This article describes some qualities of these instruments.

Fig. 1: The oscilloscope HM303-6 is the lowest cost Hameg model.
Fig. 1: The oscilloscope HM303-6 is the lowest cost Hameg model.

(No) false measurements by pressing a button

DSO’s are superior for special applications like very low frequency phenomena (e.g. sub-Hz range) or single events, but they require an enormous knowhow of sig- nal processing theory. In most DSO’s the memory depth is by far insufficient (e.g. < 10 KB per channel). With 10 KB and a sweep speed of 100 ms/cm the sampling rate will be only 100 KHz or 10 us distance between points; if there are any frequency components < 50 KHz in the input signal the display will be faulty. Analog scopes are free from such aliasing problems; in the worst case the signal display will be somewhat rounded because fre- quency components beyond the – 3 dB bandwidth (e.g. 35 MHz) will be attenuated. High-end analog scopes with bandwidths of 150 to 200 MHz will display fast sig- nals more precisely and also offer measuring comfort like readout, cursors, auto-measure, counter functions,

Often a limited budget may have been the primary rea- son to select an analog scope because, within the next years, the prices of DSO’s of comparable bandwidth will not come close to their analog counterparts. This “ana- log investment“ done the user will be astonished by the simplicity and versatility of his instrument and the crisp display of his measurement results, and, while his col- league is still bewildered by the complicated menu of his DSO and fumbling with the manual, he already achieved first results and detected faults. Even the low cost Hameg oscilloscopes (HM303-6, bandwidth 35 MHz, price 550 E excl. VAT) excel by their sensitivity of 1 mV/cm, a vital buying decision feature for applications in industry, service, schools and hobby (Fig. 1) Fre- quently, customers who came to like those features decided later to buy higher bandwidth instruments from 150 to 200 MHz.

and a 2nd time base. A 2nd time base allows e.g. the expansion of signal details displayed at slow sweep speeds, e.g. 100 ms/cm, up to the fastest time base avai- lable, e.g. 5 ns/cm.

Oscilloscope noise – unknown with analog scopes

DSO’s need a/d converters for the conversion of the voltage to be measured to a digital respresentation. The analog values will be rounded to the next LSB, the resul- ting difference between the analog original and the dig- itized value is the quantizing error resp. noise. Conse- quently, analog scopes are free from this noise as they need no a/d converters, their intrinsic noise is minimal.

High resolution

With analog scopes the limits of resolution are given by the trace width and the vision of the user, because the trace can reach any position on the screen, there are no limitations to the resolution. In contrast to this, the res- olution of DSO’s is always limited. The Y resolution is determined by the a/d converter, with the usual 8 bits there are 256 positions available. Some headroom sub- tracted to allow for some overdrive e.g. 200 points dis- tributed over 8 cm vertical will yield just 25 positions per division. The analog scope does not suffer from such limitations.

Unexcelled signal acquisition and display rate.

Another vital criterion is the signal acquisition and dis- play rate. With analog scopes there is almost no loss of information as they can realize 500 K to 2.5 million sig- nal displays per second, a performance unattainable even by 50,000 E DSO’s. This figure illustrates the ad- vantages of a cathode ray tube. Such values are beyond the reach of any graphic card or LCD. Fig. 2 shows a sig- nal with a superimposed second signal as displayed by

a typical DSO with low signal acquisition rate, Fig. 3 shows the true signal on an analog scope.

Component tester helps to characterize components.

The integrated Component Tester of Hameg scopes allows to measure resistors, capacitors, coils, diodes, and the e-b- and c-b – diodes of discrete transistors even in the circuit – a feature highly appreciated for service and repair.

A buyer faces a difficult decision between an analog

scope and a DSO. Users may find it difficult to operate a DSO, some others may not miss functions like XY meas-

urements using Lissajous displays. The above men- tioned advantages of analog scopes speak for them- selves and should aid in the buying decision.

If the budget allows a CombiScope may be a good

choice. Hameg offers several models from 1,500 E and 100 MHz (HM1008-2), the top model is the HM2008 with 200 MHz bandwidth, 2 GSa/s sampling rate, 2 MB per channel for just under 2,000 E. All these models feature the choice of analog or DSO mode by just pressing a button; they combine hence both scope types without any compromise.

they combine hence both scope types without any compromise. Fig. 2: DSO display of a signal
they combine hence both scope types without any compromise. Fig. 2: DSO display of a signal

Fig. 2: DSO display of a signal superimposed by a second signal:

false apparent low frequency „jumping“ superposition.

false apparent low frequency „jumping“ superposition. Fig. 3: The same signal on an analog scope shows

Fig. 3: The same signal on an analog scope shows that the superimposed signal is a high frequency signal.

that the superimposed signal is a high frequency signal. Fig. 4: Analog display of a video

Fig. 4: Analog display of a video signal:

time measurements using cursors.