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Old 9th March 2012, 05:30 AM   #31
gootee is offline gootee  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BFNY View Post
Yes, in general, spectrum analyzers have a front end with attenuation and gain. The way the measurement is done vs. scopes is totally different in "old style" SA's, while some of the newer high end units have hybrid modes, where real time scope type measurements can be done over a limited band of frequency, that the user can select. This is needed to analyze digital communication type wireless signals.

In general, if the scope has a disk drive, usb port, GP-IB, LAN, RS-232, etc. you can export the data. How it's done is a little different for all.
Most people use Matlab, Labview, or something like that for extensive post processing.
Just a few additional comments:

All of our "real" Agilent RF spectrum analyzers at work (e.g. 4407B models) can have noise floors down to well below -110 dBm power, from 10 MHz to 6 GHz. And those are just the "medium quality" $50,000 ones, with RBW (resolution bandwidth) that only goes down to 1 kHz. The noise floor depends mostly on the RBW, and the frequency span being analyzed. Even for those models, I believe, there are options available to get RBW of down to 1 Hz, which should take the noise floor down to better than -140 dBm.

Also, the ones we use all have GP-IB (HP-IB) ports and usually the most-convenient way to get the data from those analyzers to a PC is, for me, with a GP-IB/USB adapter with either the Agilent or National Instruments HP-IB/GP-IB drivers on the PC. That puts a special spectrum analyzer menu bar right in Microsoft Excel. One click puts all of the frequency points in a column and each trace's data into a column. All relevant analyzer settings are also placed into the spreadsheet at the same time, along with a color plot of all of the data, exactly like the analyzer's screen. Another button click on the spectrum analyzer menu bar in Excel adds a color-correct screen capture into the spreadsheet (showing everything on the analyzer's screen, not just the traces). With just those adapters and some included driver software, we can also write Visual Basic macros in Excel that can completely control the analyzer, perform similar data captures, control other instruments, etc. Yes, Labview or Matlab would be more powerful, but the simple adapter and driver software are probably the most convenient, and can be used just as easily in the field, with a laptop.

In an Agilent "RF/Microwave Measurement Fundamentals" course that I was able to take, one part of what we learned was how to make better Spec-An measurements by understanding how the analyzers work internally (We also covered Oscilloscopes and RF Power Meters, similarly, and some other interesting and useful stuff.). We spent a couple of days doing deep dives on each block in the block diagram of a traditional analog spectrum analyzer. Later the Agilent instructor mentioned that it turns out that everything we had learned was also applicable to analyzers that are all-digital internally, since the math all turns out to result in the same effects, whether it's implemented in analog or digital.
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Old 9th March 2012, 07:00 PM   #32
BFNY is offline BFNY  United States
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Spent 25 years at HP/Agilent, so this rings a bell

The best way to understand how spectrum analyzers work is to think about how FM radios work - see superheterodyne receiver
Superheterodyne receiver - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In a very general simplistic view, with spectrum analyzers, the local oscillator is swept, and the IF bandwidth determines the resolution bandwidth. There is a log amp detector after the IF, this drives the Y or amplitude axis, and the sweep drives the X or frequency axis. This gives the log amplitude versus frequency display. In general, the user sets a center frequency, and sweep bandwith when looking at modulated carriers.

On communication analyzers, or vector signal analyzers, you use the same approach. But instead of sweeping the local oscillator, it usually stays fixed, on some center frequency. The IF can be fairly wide, say 50MHz, and the output from the IF is digitized by a 12-16 bit or greater ADC. So this way you can capture filtered time domain signals at say 2.4GHz in a 25MHz band using a ballpark 200MS/s digitizer. Post processing is then done using specialized software to de-modulate and analyze the waveform. See Agilent 89600 for more on that.

As mentioned, the superheterodyne frequency translation mixing process can also be implemented in software. In most cases, this is done after the ADC chip, in a really fast FPGA, say like a Xylinx Virtex series.

I thought about how one might modify an old analog FM radio to play around with this. You could disable the AGC, and feed the 10.7 MHz IF output to a scope, or digitizer, to play around. The downside is you are limited to 88-108MHz, unless you figure out how to tune it over a wider range (use an external LO and bypass the tuned front end). But still may be fun as a learning exercise.
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Old 9th March 2012, 07:25 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BFNY View Post
I thought about how one might modify an old analog FM radio to play around with this. You could disable the AGC, and feed the 10.7 MHz IF output to a scope, or digitizer, to play around. The downside is you are limited to 88-108MHz, unless you figure out how to tune it over a wider range (use an external LO and bypass the tuned front end). But still may be fun as a learning exercise.
Radio Electronics September 1989.
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