How Does a Spectrum Analyzer Work?


Quick Answer

A spectrum analyzer is a laboratory device that displays signal amplitude (strength) as it varies by signal frequency. The horizontal axis displays frequency and the vertical axis shows amplitude. A spectrum analyzer can be used to establish whether or not a wireless transmitter is functioning in accordance with the federally defined standards for emissions purity.

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Full Answer

Output signals at frequencies other than the anticipated communications frequency appear in the form of vertical lines (pips) on the display. Moreover, a spectrum analyzer can be used to determine the bandwidth of a digital or analog signal by direct observation.

The function of the spectrum analyzer is to provide a plot or trace of signal amplitude against frequency. Understanding the display is central to using a spectrum analyzer. Typically, the screen has 10 major horizontal and vertical divisions. The linear calibrations on the horizontal axis constitute frequency, with the highest frequency on the right hand side of the display. The calibrations on the vertical axis are the amplitude.

A spectrum analyzer interface is an instrument that can be connected to a wireless receiver or a personal computer to enable visual detection and analysis of electromagnetic signals over a predefined band of frequencies (panoramic reception). Panoramic reception is used in determining the frequencies of sources of interference to wireless networking infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi and wireless routers.

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