The Three Main Types of Spectrum Analyzers You Need to Know About

June 27, 2016

When it comes right down to it, you can’t deny the importance of a spectrum analyzer. These wonder machines are built with 3 goals in mind: 1) to provide valuable insight into a different dimension-the frequency domain, 2) to capture your signal no matter how fast and complex it is, and 3) to make an accurate set of measurements that provide insight to your device.


Swept Frequency – This type of spectrum analyzer is essentially a frequency-sensitive volt meter, capturing the RMS value of a sine wave through a selected range of frequencies. The analyzer sweeps through frequency bands similar to turning the frequency dial of a radio. While it is unable to detect phase information, this type of analyzer is well-suited to high-frequency applications where other methods have historically been too slow to capture the signal.


Fast Fourier Transform – The FFT analyzer uses digital methods to gather waveform data in relation the time domain. The sample is processed using FFT methods to map the signal into the frequency domain. There are several advantages to this type of analyzer over the swept frequency models, including waveform storage, phase detection, and transient detection. FFT analyzers are more expensive than swept frequency analyzers, and they are useless at frequencies above the Nyquist frequency of the Analog to Digital converter due to signal aliasing


Vector Signal and Real-Time – The vector signal analyzer is something of a hybrid between the FFT and swept frequency. It uses attributes of both methods to create a more robust analyzer capable of the frequency range of the swept and the detection capabilities of the FFT.  It does have the limitation of only looking at one frequency band at a time, allowing possible transients to escape undetected. This gap in coverage motivated the development of the real-time analyzer. The entire spectrum is digitally sampled in the time domain, and often much of the signal is only displayed if a transient occurs.


 Electro Rent carries the right kind of spectrum analyzer for your application: various types, models and brands. Our measurement experts will help you decide the best fit instrument and the best method to get that instrument in your hands, utilizing rent options, finance alternatives and options such as selling equipment from our internal X-inventory pool.

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