Tektronix arbitrary waveform generators deliver 50GSamples/s

-March 20, 2013

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Chris Skach, applications engineer, and Justin Panzere, business development director of the Signal Sources group at Tektronix, Inc. They brought along the brand new AWG70000 series arbitrary waveform generator (AWG) for me to see.  

When designing this instrument, the team at Tektronix focused on three major questions, how fast can the signals be played? (Answer: 50 GSamples/s) How clean are the signals? (Answer: 80dBc spurious free dynamic range; SFDR) How long are the signals? (Answer: 16 GSamples of waveform memory). “No other AWG can match the complete all around performance of the new AWG70000A series,” noted Panzere.

When I asked him about the next best sample rate in the industry, he pointed to Tektronix’s own AWG with 24GSamples/s as the next best, and then 12 GSamples/s from a competitor. In addition, two AWGs can be synchronized to generate, for example, 30Gbaud signals per optical carrier with a data rate of 233 Gb/s, according to Tektronix customer S. Chandrasekhar at Bell Labs. (See Bell Labs’ paper here.) The multi-unit synchronization feature is especially useful to increase channel count for testing phased array radar systems, high-speed I/Q signal generation for optical transmission, and HDMI 2.0 testing. “It’s the speed of digital that’s the problem,” says Skach. “To test these, you need to simulate real-world conditions to see where they will fail. Now you can add the jitter profile and modulation scheme with an analog output.”
For the AWG70000 series, the SFDR is best in class, and the next closest AWG in terms of waveform memory offers 2GSamples/s. The waveform memory spec of 16GSamples is especially interesting for those working in optical, electronic warfare, and high-speed serial applications. Alternatively, designers can use sequencing of different waveforms to make one long waveform, but this amount of memory will allow them to capture and playback a whole stream of data from a spectrum analyzer or oscilloscope. “There will be repeats on sequencing,” says Skach, “which you will especially notice if you have to add noise.”

So, if you’re like me, you may be asking, how did they do this? Part of the answer lies in the digital analog converter (DAC) that was developed internally by the Tektronix components group. This ASIC was designed using IBM’s 8HP SiGe process, and it is critical for achieving the sampling rate, SFDR, and memory.

The AWG70000 series is also equipped with the RFXpress and SerialXpress waveform generation software. These are Windows-based programs that can run on a PC or on the instrument itself.

A tool like this aims to offer designers real-world conditions without having to go into the field. For instance, the AWG can be used to simulate a lossy line with connectors and cables going to an antenna. The designers can capture the s-parameters from a lossy line and add it to the signal.

Here’s a roundup of some key features:
  • File formats: Matlab, RFXpress, SerialXpress, Legacy AWGs, scopes, real-time spectrum analyzers, text file.
  • Inputs: triggers, events, reference clock
  • Security: locking USB, removable SSD, declassification feature, display blanking
  • Instrument control: front panel, USB, Ethernet, GPIB
  • Waveform creation: RFXpress, SerialXpress, function generator, third-party software
  • Outputs: analog channels, marker signals, reference clock, sync output

Price & Availability:
There are two models in the series, the single channel AWG70001A and the two-channel AWG70002A. The AWG70000A Series is available now for orders now with production delivery starting in Q2 2013. Pricing starts at $120,000 U.S. MSRP.

More Information:
Product web page

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