How Does A Spectrum Analyzer Work And Why Is It A Valuable Tool In The Telecommunications Industry?

by Indy Spectrum - Date: 2008-05-23 - Word Count: 300 Share This!

A spectrum analyzer is a type of electronic test equipment which measures an electrical, optical or audio waveform. A spectrum analyzer displays the frequency response curve as it occurs in real time. It can also measure the power spectrum when used with an antenna which has been properly calibrated.

There are two types of spectrum analyzers, analog and digital. The analog variety breaks down into two further sub-types. One type works by the means of a variable band-pass filter whose mid-frequency is swept through the range of frequencies to measure in the spectrum. The other type uses a superheterodyne receiver where an oscillator is swept through the range of frequencies to be measured. A digital spectrum analyzer works by computing the discrete Fourier transform (DFT). The DFT is a mathematical formula which transforms a waveform into the components of its frequency spectrum. Due to the superiority of digital technology, a digital analyzer will always outperform an analog analyzer in frequency resolution for a given acquisition time.

Some spectrum analyzers use a method of measurement which combines both the analog and digital methods. In this type of analyzer the incoming signal is down-converted to a lower frequency using superheterodyne techniques and then analyzed using fast fourier transformation (FFT) techniques.

Spectrum analysis equipment is widely used in the telecommunications industry to ascertain occupied network bandwidth and to track sources of RF interference. This type of test equipment is also used extensively in the audio industry. One such use is in room conditioning for high end stereo and home theater installs. A spectrum analyzer can pinpoint frequencies to cut or boost to compensate for room conditions thus leading to a more accurate representation of the source audio material. For many reasons they're an indispensable tool in ensuring the accuracy of network communications and audio systems.

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