Author Topic: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k  (Read 57152 times)

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Offline Wuerstchenhund

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #100 on: March 05, 2015, 08:34:27 pm »
D'oh!  I knew that for earlier in the thread. I think I can pick one up for less than $1000 US. Any issues to look out for? 

What features will be missing from the spectrum analyzer versus say an 8593E?  I know that the latter will be more sensitive and more accurate, but will the handheld be missing essential analysis tools?

Depends on what you need. The E7495's SA frequency coverage starts at 500kHz but below 375MHz the noise floor is higher than above that due to the input amplifiers (can also be seen on the screen shots I posted a while back which show signals below 375MHz; still had no time to do some more thorough tests with mine). Functionality-wise it's the same as any SA. You get 5 markers (although only one can be read out at any given time), manual and automatic scaling, manual and automatic RBW settings. There are other goodies like a Spectrogram or measurements for Occupied Bandwidth (OBW) which can be useful.

The frequency accuracy of the E7495 is also pretty good, especially when GPS stabilized. And if you wanted a TG for checking cables and filters then the E7495 can do that as well. And having all that in a relative compact format that doesn't take much desk space and is ruggedized is a bonus. As is a display that can even be read in full daylight.

One of the drawbacks is the limited remote control capability. There's no SCPI or stuff like that, there's only a JAVA GUI (actually the same GUI as on the device itself) which requires an antique and insecure JRE (1.4) to work.

Generally I'd say if a Rigol DSA830 would do the job for you then the E7495 should be fine. Just be aware that the E7495A only goes to 2.5GHz while the E7495B goes to 2.7GHz.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 08:40:23 pm by Wuerstchenhund »
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #101 on: March 07, 2015, 08:48:15 pm »
D'oh!  I knew that for earlier in the thread. I think I can pick one up for less than $1000 US. Any issues to look out for? 

What features will be missing from the spectrum analyzer versus say an 8593E?  I know that the latter will be more sensitive and more accurate, but will the handheld be missing essential analysis tools?

I'd expect the E7495 to be really, REALLY slow when trying to display large frequency spans.

I'd also want to know if it allows the user to control the video bandwidth and if it has a 1Hz noise marker feature. I'd also be very concerned about the -50dBc crossing spurs spec. This is in toytown territory and underlines the fact that the E7495A is merely a site survey tool aimed at technicians and not a dedicated spectrum analyser aimed at serious lab use.

However, just as I would normally run a mile from low performance test sets like the E7495A I would also run a mile from an HP8593E. There are much better choices out there for just a little more money.
 

Offline LabSpokane

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #102 on: March 08, 2015, 02:33:00 am »
What would you recommend?

I'm nervous about the Linux portable set just because of my experience with an Anritsu portable which had the slowness on wide sweeps but was totally useless when it came to saving data to disk or a USB stick.

The specs on the 7495 aren't too bad. The noise floor is pretty darned good for a portable. 

I'm also looking at a 9340A which has a higher noise floor but I believe is a swept analyzer with a traditional tracking generator.
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #103 on: March 08, 2015, 05:02:16 pm »
I can only really choose the correct analyser for 'me' because I don't know what you will be using it for or what you expect from it. So it would be risky for me to choose  :)

However, Agilent produced an analyser guide a while ago

"Select the Right Agilent Signal Analyzer for Your Needs"

You can find this at MRTestequipment.com with a google search and it covers the PSA, ESA-E, HP859x and HP856xE models plus many more. There's also a newer version of this document here:

http://cp.literature.agilent.com/litweb/pdf/5968-3413E.pdf

But this is for the latest models

At work we use the PSA and the HP856xE models in the design labs. But the HP856xE models are quite dated now and only really 'shine' in terms of the phase noise and spurious performance. But I still like these analysers a lot.

The ESA E range is a mid range analyser that is very good all round compromise but they aren't cheap to buy for home/hobby use.

I think most people would be happiest with the ESA-E models or the Rigol 1500MHz or 3GHz offerings because they offer modern connectivity and a decent display and user interface.

But they are all going to cost more than I have ever spent on a spectrum analyser for home use so I do wonder why so many people on here are buying expensive stuff like this. I do RF design for a living but I still don't buy £££ test gear for home use. I don't think any item of test gear I've bought for use at home cost more than about £1000.

I'd like a decent VNA to replace my old HP8714B so I'm likely to smash the £1000 barrier in style at some point but I'm hoping to buy an ex works VNA (eg a faulty one that is BER) to keep the price sensible.


« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 05:16:12 pm by G0HZU »
 

Online joeqsmith

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #104 on: March 08, 2015, 06:22:03 pm »
Watched this video last night.  Excellent post.   

EEVblog #575 - DIY 1970s Spectrum Analyser   

How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #105 on: March 08, 2015, 08:59:55 pm »
What is particularly impressive is the fact he's done it all with discrete parts that anyone can salvage at lowish cost (and he did it way back in the 1970s !).

Back in the 1980s there were various designs floating around for homebrew analysers that worked alongside a scope. I can remember that these used ICs for things like the log stage and the mixers.

Building a spectrum analyser is a great way to learn about RF design (or at least it was in my day). There's a bit of everything in there including system design and frequency planning, oscillator design, filter design, amplifier and detector design and mixers too...  :)


 

Offline Wuerstchenhund

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #106 on: March 09, 2015, 08:39:42 pm »
I'd expect the E7495 to be really, REALLY slow when trying to display large frequency spans.

The following are taken from a really quick test, handstopped (time is period between screen refreshes):

Span 500kHz to 2.7GHz:
RBW 1MHz: 1s
RBW 100kHz: 5s
RBW 10kHz: 6,5s
RBW 1.4kHz: 33s

Span 1GHz to 2.7GHz:
RBW 1MHz: 0,5s
RBW 500kHz: 0,8s
RBW 100kHz: 2,2s

Quote
I'd also want to know if it allows the user to control the video bandwidth

No, it doesn't. Because it's a VSA, not a swept SA. And on a VSA the role of the VBW is taken over by FFT averaging, and that can be controlled manually on the E7495.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 08:43:32 pm by Wuerstchenhund »
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #107 on: March 09, 2015, 10:44:22 pm »
The slow sweep time would hamper testing of, say, an amplifier that was showing intermittent instability out of band. A conventional analyser can sweep a 2.5GHz span in a few milliseconds. I think my HP8566B does it in 0.02 seconds meaning that instability and rapid changes/peaking in the noise that herald the onset of an unwanted amplifier oscillation can be spotted really easily as the display looks really fluid.

A lot of reasonably modern analysers that get classed as swept types can also behave as VSA with suitable SW running on a PC. i.e. they offer the best of both worlds with a VSA BW of 10MHz or more. These have user controls for video bandwidth as and when required and can also provide VSA functionality as and when required with the use of suitable software (from Agilent).

Does the E7495A offer a (1Hz RBW) noise marker function? This is something I would consider essential on a modern analyser for correct analysis of noise signals. AFAIK the Rigol analysers offer this as a standard feature although I don't know how accurate their system is or if it offers the same noise marker performance/features of the classic lab analysers from the big names.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 10:49:51 pm by G0HZU »
 

Offline Wuerstchenhund

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #108 on: March 10, 2015, 08:22:19 pm »
The slow sweep time would hamper testing of, say, an amplifier that was showing intermittent instability out of band. A conventional analyser can sweep a 2.5GHz span in a few milliseconds. I think my HP8566B does it in 0.02 seconds meaning that instability and rapid changes/peaking in the noise that herald the onset of an unwanted amplifier oscillation can be spotted really easily as the display looks really fluid.

Yes, the 8566B can be pretty fast, especially with option 002, considering that it has over 20GHz bandwidth it better has to be. However, and it's been a while since I last used one, but if I remember right sweeping a 2.6GHz span with the shortest sweep interval (IIRC 20ms) will result in uncalibrated results.

Also, don't forget that a VSA doesn't sweep, i.e. during each acquisition it measures the full selected span, not just a moving window like a swept SA. And while a swept SA requires a short sweep time to capture intermittent signals, this isn't equally true for a VSA.

Quote
A lot of reasonably modern analysers that get classed as swept types can also behave as VSA with suitable SW running on a PC. i.e. they offer the best of both worlds with a VSA BW of 10MHz or more. These have user controls for video bandwidth as and when required and can also provide VSA functionality as and when required with the use of suitable software (from Agilent).

As I said, the E7495 doesn't have video bandwidth controls because these only exist on swept spectrum SAs but not on VSAs. VSAs do the same with FFT Averaging, and that setting can be changed on the E7495.

And yes, of course you can do FFT on a separate PC connected to an old SA like the 8566B, and if you can live with having a huge box of 50kg and with a volume of somewhat half a m^3, sucking roughly 650W (and even in Standby it's still around 40W!) while producing a lot of noise, plus a PC, and if you can live with a 30+yr old instrument that is fragile and needs regular adjustment to stay within specs, and where most parts have been obsolete 10 years ago already, then I'd say go for it. These old SAs are great.

However, for those that don't have the space, and want something that is compact, fast and reliable for a limited bandwidth, then devices like the E7495 are much more attractive than the outlook of an old antique on live support. Which is the reason why the market for SAs not only consists of large high end analyzers with 20+GHzs bandwidth, and why there are quite a few portable units. It's not a one size fits all.

Generally dismissing portable units like the E7495 because they don't perform as well as a huge high end lab SA is a bit silly, really. Not every task requires the bandwidth or the absolute performance of a calibrated and fully working 8566B, like not everyone needs a 5+GHz scope. Often enough the lower performance of such portable units is more than good enough. The E7495 doesn't perform badly, it has quite a bit of phase noise, but on the other side frequency stability is really good (even better than for the 8566B!), as are the values for DANL, and sensitivity isn't that bad, either. It's certainly more than just a toy.

The other thing is that the E7495 is not just a SA. It's also a RF generator, a Power Meter, a simple 2-port Network Analyzer (amplitude only though, not phase), and a cable fault localisator. To get the same functionality with an old swept SA like the 85xx Series you have to stack more expensive boxes (Tracking Generator, VNA bridge, Power Meter) on top of the already large SA, which takes up more space, more money, more energy, and introduces more points of failure into already fragile equipment. And still it's  utterly worthless once you need to take the setup with you out in the field. No problem with the E7495.

Furthermore, the E7495 is a rugged unit, it's designed and build for use in adverse weather condiitions and with the expectation that it will see at least a certain amount of physical abuse, after which it still has to work 100%. This and considering that these devices are relatively young (I think they started selling the A variant in 2007 and the B in 2009) their reliability and remaining life expectancy is worlds higher than even for the best 85xxA/B Series SA you can find today, and very likely even exceeds many of the current new benchtop devices. It also does that without requiring regular re-adjustment, aside from the internal time base (which just needs GPS lock and is adjusted by the press of a button).

Quote
Does the E7495A offer a (1Hz RBW) noise marker function? This is something I would consider essential on a modern analyser for correct analysis of noise signals.

No, it doesn't (but that is something that could be easily done on a PC). But it offers other functionality instead, like a Spectrogram (which shows the frequency band in the time domain with Histogram), measurement of Occupied Bandwidth (OBW) (with user-settable limit), Adjacent Channel Power or Interference Analysis. Especially OBW and Interference Analysis can be pretty useful.

Quote
AFAIK the Rigol analysers offer this as a standard feature although I don't know how accurate their system is or if it offers the same noise marker performance/features of the classic lab analysers from the big names.

Quite frankly, from what I've seen from others' and my own Rigol kit, I wouldn't assume that it performs anywhere near the same feature in a big brand SA.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 08:36:07 pm by Wuerstchenhund »
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #109 on: March 11, 2015, 12:01:54 am »
Quote
but on the other side frequency stability is really good (even better than for the 8566B!),

Here we go again...
Frequency accuracy is not the same as frequency stability. A decent lab grade analyser will need to have very good short term stability to preserve its phase noise and also the stability of the trace on narrow spans.

The short term stability of the HP8566B OCXO will be something like +/- 0.001ppm per day and +/- 0.00002ppm over a minute. The stability over seconds and minutes is far more important than the absolute accuracy because it dictates the display trace stability of a lab grade analyser up at many GHz. Your 1ppm E7495A reference won't even come close to this in terms of short term stability even with help from GPS to improve it to +/- 0.03ppm long term.

However, I've just measured the long term OCXO ageing on my HP8566B and also my old HP8568B.

Also note:  I don't think the HP8568B instrument has been calibrated for about 10 years. It may be even longer since the OCXO was calibrated as this requires the instrument to be partially dismantled and it is a costly procedure to do it to the formal HP spec.

My HP8566B hasn't had an OCXO recal in several years. I only calibrated the 8566B OCXO back then because I did a minor repair on it just after I bought it that meant I had to take the covers off the RF unit.

Today the HP8566B OCXO measures 9.999 999 95MHz against an offair standard. Pretty impressive! <0.01ppm ageing in several years. It may be that I've measured it at a fortunate time as it will presumably not age in a linear fashion but the result is still very good. Usually the various OCXOs in my sig gens and reference boxes age less than 0.02ppm in many months but these aren't quite in the same class as the OCXO in the 8566.

Today, after maybe a decade since the last calibration the HP8568B OCXO measures 10.000 000 96MHz. But a 1Hz ageing error over a decade isn't bad. I'm not going to bother readjusting either of them as it means taking the covers off the RF unit to get at the adjuster. I'm more concerned about the stability rather than the absolute accuracy.

But my HP8566B OCXO has aged less in several years than your E7495A can manage for short term accuracy even with GPS to help it. The short term stability of the HP8566B OCXO over seconds and minutes will be orders of magnitude better than the one in your E7495A.

I'm assuming that the HP8566B OCXO ageing rate gets markedly less as the OCXO gets older. The ageing spec for the OCXO will be for its early years.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 01:17:58 am by G0HZU »
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #110 on: March 11, 2015, 12:17:46 am »
Quote
as are the values for DANL, and sensitivity isn't that bad, either. It's certainly more than just a toy.
It's easy and cheap to throw away dynamic range and get a low DANL. Your analyser will have a preamp fitted.

The difficult bit is getting low DANL and decent SFDR and low input VSWR across the whole range. None of the above matters much for a basic site survey tool so your analyser threw away dynamic range etc in order for it to be able to be sensitive enough to look for small interfering signals arriving at the base station. To stop it overloading from out of band signals Agilent recommend fitting an external high performance and  narrow bandpass filter centred at the required base station frequency.

It's a site survey tool...  ;)
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 12:20:45 am by G0HZU »
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #111 on: March 11, 2015, 01:11:16 am »
Quote
Generally dismissing portable units like the E7495 because they don't perform as well as a huge high end lab SA is a bit silly, really.

I'm not dismissing the E7495. For some people it could prove very useful. I'm just challenging what you claim about it each time you paint too much lipstick on it  ;)

eg see below:

Quote
And quite frankly, if I compare the specs of the HP 8568A and the E7495B then the latter actually looks pretty good compared to the old kit:

Quote
And that old SAs like the 8568 have more RF pipework in them is more due to the 30+yrs difference in technology than any performance differences.

Quote
but on the other side frequency stability is really good (even better than for the 8566B!)
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 01:33:51 am by G0HZU »
 

Online joeqsmith

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #112 on: March 15, 2015, 04:39:00 pm »
It's easy and cheap to throw away dynamic range and get a low DANL. Your analyser will have a preamp fitted.

The difficult bit is getting low DANL and decent SFDR and low input VSWR across the whole range. None of the above matters much for a basic site survey tool so your analyser threw away dynamic range etc in order for it to be able to be sensitive enough to look for small interfering signals arriving at the base station. To stop it overloading from out of band signals Agilent recommend fitting an external high performance and  narrow bandpass filter centred at the required base station frequency.

It's a site survey tool...  ;)

True.  That little LNA I made for looking at phase noise is doing just that.  I will do the same when using the scopes to look at low signals.  There's no magic.   

Quote
Generally dismissing portable units like the E7495 because they don't perform as well as a huge high end lab SA is a bit silly, really.
I'm not dismissing the E7495. For some people it could prove very useful. I'm just challenging what you claim about it each time you paint too much lipstick on it  ;)

 :-DD   

Good idea.  It does seem to improve the Waveblunder


How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
 

Offline Sailor

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #113 on: March 17, 2015, 07:59:04 am »
 ::)I'm considering retiring, which I hope will give me some time to do the things I want to do, instead if the things I have to do :clap: One of those 'wants' is to learn a bit about the world above a few hundred MHz (I've managed to avoid RF all my working life), so among other things I will be looking for a SA. Not so much for specific projects, but more for learning about devices, techniques, etc.

Notwithstanding GOHZU's love of his 8568B ;D, I feel that something slightly more recent might be the go. I have looked at many of the different models that have cropped up in the forum discussions, but my RF-uneducated eye could be easily misled. However, it appears that the 8560A/E could get me to a few GHz with fairly good noise performance (I hope, because it is something I will consider important), and for a reasonable ebay price.

I would appreciate comments on this instrument, especially of the 'yes, but...' variety.

Current ebay prices range from $2k - $4k, with one hopeful asking $10k for an 'A' model ::).
 

Offline Mr Simpleton

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #114 on: March 17, 2015, 08:54:10 am »
The 8560E is newer, smaller and lighter, performance is not that much better than the venerable 8568B! Close in phase noise is even better on the 8568... plus the UI is vastly better, I have yet find an instrument that is more intuitive than the 8566/8. If I had the space it would be sitting in my lab, but I had to settle for a 8560E.
 

Offline Sailor

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #115 on: March 18, 2015, 05:32:13 am »
Thanks for replying. I've seen a number of posts extolling the virtues of the 8568, and I can certainly relate to the bad vs good implementation of a UI. It sometimes seems like we are going to be plagued with that problem forever. My concern with the 8568 is its age and weight - it would cost a bundle to ship to Oz, then if something breaks it costs another arm-and-a-leg to ship a 'for-parts' unit out here to fix the first one. Hence my casting around for a newer instrument.

..... but I had to settle for a 8560E.

Can I read anything into your choice also of an 8560? Next in line after the 8568? Or did you want some of the features of the E model? Or was it simply because it was available there and then at the right price?

Regards,

Sailor
 

Offline TSL

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #116 on: March 18, 2015, 05:55:27 am »
As an Oz owner of a venerable 8566B, the 8568's 22Ghz version, I can say I'm glad I bought it!

Yes the freight was stupendous at $700+ to get it here from the US but even with that cost, the total cost of it is still far less than any more modern comparable unit.

These are/were a very popular unit and spare parts abound. That being said they're built like a brick shit house and just keep going. All the manuals, tip notes document etc are available online and if you have some sneaky problem, there is a wealth of information in the hp_agilent_equipment group on Yahoo.

The main problem with these old machines is that the CRTs are wearing out - no problem - colour LCD replacements are available from here...

http://www.simmconnlabs.com/2001/2094.html

I hope to add one of those to my unit soon  :)

The only thing I would recommend is that whatever unit you buy, get it from one of the reputable dealers who CAL them before shipping, such as this guy I bought mine from...

http://stores.ebay.com.au/AAA-EQUIPMENT-RESOURCES-INC?_rdc=1

No relation - just a satisfied customer.

cheers

Tim
VK2XAX :: QF56if :: BMARC :: WIA :: AMSATVK
 

Offline Mr Simpleton

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #117 on: March 18, 2015, 10:54:49 am »
Just for the record... 8560E is no feather weight either... som 20 kg.

Old age is not going to improve... finding parts will not become easier.
Still if you are lucky and find a pristine 8568B go for it if you have the space.
Love the instrument...
 

Offline Sailor

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #118 on: March 18, 2015, 10:58:43 am »
Thanks for that, Tim. Funnily enough, I had an ebay 8566 page  from your guy open at the time I read your post. It may be nice, but it was more than $4k even without shipping etc :-\

I'd still like to hear some quantitative comparison against the 8560 ... or a suggestion of what might be the second cab off the rank after the '66/68.

Sailor
 

Offline chick0n

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #119 on: March 18, 2015, 02:26:25 pm »
I got me an Advantest R3361, from ebay for 900€.

Up to 2.6GHz with build in Tracking Generator. (You can Hack the Firmware up to 3.6ghz, with Tracking Generator.)

Full Parts List and Schematics are Available for free.

Menu is Very Nice and Easy to Operate.

But its Ridiculously Big and Heavy.
 

Offline Sailor

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #120 on: March 19, 2015, 10:15:18 am »
@TSL

Tim, I succumbed and bought an 8566B from your mate. I told him how happy you are, offered a figure, and he accepted and organized shipping to Oz for US$400 by FEDEX. He was real easy to deal with, and everything was organized in a few hours. It's a bit (lot!) more than I intended to spend, but it's calibrated, guaranteed, etc etc :)

Now all I have to do is add another 300mm onto the back of my workbench so that I still have some space in front of it to actually do some work!

 

Offline Andy2

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #121 on: March 19, 2015, 01:18:33 pm »
Oooh, you'll love your 8566b! The quality just oozes from every part.  I had an 8568 (the same instrument but 1.5 GHz limit) and I was deeply impressed with it's incredible RF performance.  I had to completely re-arrange my shack to accomodate its bulk, even buying an extra stand for it. It just about fitted.  Boy it's heavy, even split up! My Signal Hound SA44b is a wee bit smaller and lighter..... ;D.
Andy.
 

Offline Mr Simpleton

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #122 on: March 19, 2015, 04:59:06 pm »
The little signal doggie is doing great! I have spent the whole day doing real money making work and it is a lot easier to use than the Tek RSA6120B that just sits here. I really dislike it.... almost as much as the FSH3 which I NEVER uses, period!

And yes I just had to do a few checks with the 8568 too when I had my doggie shut down for the day, the 8568 boots way faster :D
 

Offline Andy2

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #123 on: March 19, 2015, 05:54:08 pm »
Indeed, Mr Simpleton! The DogBox is transformed from an 'also ran' to a real winner with the new SPIKE software.  Beats the Rigol into a steaming pulp for phase noise. Everything works and the whole thing is quicker and perkier. Does your SH boot slowly? Mine is up and running in the 6 seconds (actually about 7 seconds) it takes to make the connection, whatever that is.  That is surely quicker than the CRT warms up in the HP? ;)
Andy.
 

Offline Mr Simpleton

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Re: Used Spectrum Analyzers for under $1k
« Reply #124 on: March 19, 2015, 08:55:47 pm »
With boot time I was referring to a shut down PC, which takes 20-30 seconds to start :D Was to lazy unzip the laptop bag, plug all back together and do the quick test. So much simpler just flick a switch and have the 8568 running in matter of seconds! :-+
 


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