Affordable real-time spectrum analysis is indeed real

In our Tech Brief 7 Reasons You’re Paying Too Much for Your Spectrum Analyzer we write about how a company may be spending too much money on test and measurement equipment for features they may be able to find in RF test devices that cost much less.


Real-time no longer means really expensive

For many real-world signals—from complex modulated communications signals, to interference events, to pulsed tactical signals— the signal energy can be sporadic, non-recurring, or even random. With traditional spectrum analysis, these signals could be nearly impossible to “catch” in an analysis window and to trigger on. Present and future communication modulations are increasing the challenge further with techniques such as frequency hopping, spread spectrum, pulsed, and cognitive radio low-probability-of-intercept techniques.

The persistence and waterfall display in real-time analysis show the occupancy of the 2.4 GHz ISM band. Shown are the transmissions of a Bluetooth headset and a cell phone searching for a wireless network.

Real-time spectrum analysis (RTSA) is a digital signal processing method that leverages overlapping FFTs and high-speed memory to have a 100% probability of intercept (POI) in even extremely dense environments. Real-time bandwidth, which is the maximum frequency span offering gap-free overlapping FFT processing, is an important parameter of an RTSA that can enable a more detailed analysis of a spectrum.

Real-time no longer means really expensive. Signal Hound offers RTSA capabilities up to 160 MHz with a 100 percent probability of intercepting signals as fast as 12-microseconds. However, in many cases you don’t even need 160 MHz of analysis bandwidth. For example, what if you are testing a device that has a 25 kHz maximum bandwidth signal, such as a key fob? You may just need to push the key and make sure that the center frequency, bandwidth, and modulation are right. The following table highlights the real-time analysis capabilities of the Signal Hound spectrum analyzers.

AnalyzerReal-time Bandwidth100% Prob of Intercept (POI)
Signal Hound SA44B 4.4 GHz250 kHz592 μs @ 10 kHz RBW
4.7 ms @ 1 kHz RBW
Signal Hound BB60C 6 GHz27 MHz19.2 μs @ 300 kHz RBW
38.4 μs @ 100 kHz RBW
Signal Hound SM200A 20 GHz160 MHz12 μs @ 300 kHz RBW
49 μs @ 100 kHz RBW

Want to see all 7 reasons?

Listen, we understand that it’s hard to believe that a lower-cost spectrum analyzer can provide high-quality RF analysis data – it sounds almost too good to be true. There are a few things that make sense, though, when you understand the reasons why our devices cost less. This tech brief helps clarify these reasons.

Download the Tech Brief now (4 MB PDF)

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