[time-nuts] Dual Mixer
jmiles at pop.net
Wed May 12 00:23:01 UTC 2010
My thinking is that anything that provides a close visual match with ADEV
traces from professional-grade instrumentation is OK for the most part,
assuming enough different sources and slopes are observed to make that
"close visual match" judgment meaningful. At the very least, homebrew DMTD
and PLL instrumentation is good for the sort of relative comparisons that
are most often called for, without paying extraordinary attention to
filtering. ("Which of these oscillators is better? Is there room for
optimization of these disciplining parameters? Did that last tweak make
things better or worse?")
It's interesting to contemplate the transfer-function math needed to product
an 'exact' ADEV response, but we must remember that we are, after all,
measuring noise, and ADEV is by no means the last word in characterization
of all noise types/slopes. No matter how much effort goes into the
measurement, we're dealing with input data that is unrepeatable to one
extent or another, and most professional tools still yield estimates with
substantial error bars.
For those who need maximum assurance, Symmetricom and others will cheerfully
sell you a box that is NIST-traceable, implements known-correct transfer
functions, was hand-soldered by unmarried women over the age of 50, and
costs more than your car.
For the rest of us, though, any instrument that is accurate enough to be
limited by the inherent repeatability of the measurement being done is
probably OK, and not worth getting into public (or private) pissing matches
I'm spending this week comparing a few different ADEV-measurement
approaches, including Warren's. Each of them has different advantages and
constraints. Tentative results so far suggest that the PLL error-voltage
measurement technique can indeed give good results down to at least the
1E-13/tau neighborhood, where "good" means "more or less indistinguishable
from what you get from a TSC 51xxA."
As Warren suggests, it does appear to be important to oversample; e.g., by
sampling at 480 Hz you can obtain very good ADEV conformance at t=0.01
seconds or longer. Getting AC line noise out of the picture can be a
challenge at these timescales, obviously.
I'll contact you (Bert) offline to get one of your boards up here. I think
I can help you out with at least one option for software support, and in any
event it'd be great to run some of the same tests on your project.
-- john, KE5FX
> -----Original Message-----
> From: time-nuts-bounces at febo.com [mailto:time-nuts-bounces at febo.com]On
> Behalf Of EWKehren at aol.com
> Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 4:31 PM
> To: time-nuts at febo.com
> Subject: Re: [time-nuts] Dual Mixer
> Allow me to apologize to start this again. Bert
> In a message dated 5/11/2010 7:25:39 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
> warrensjmail-one at yahoo.com writes:
> (My apologies to all, this is a game Bruce and I play every time I bring
> my simple tester.)
> Bruce wrote:
> >"So you now actually integrate/average the frequency over the sampling
> >interval (Tau) after rejecting the need to do this for months?"
> Yes, I integrate/average just the same as I have always done it from day
> Did you finally understand how the integration works using most any ADC?
> Hint: it's done with oversampling the tau zero time.
> (and a LP filter set to a value above the tau zero but below the
> The VERY SAME thing I have been trying to tell you from day one,
> that you have chosen to ignore.
> The very original Block diagram that I posted shows it, if you need more
> So you now actually integrate/average the frequency over the sampling
> interval (Tau) after rejecting the need to do this for months?
> WarrenS wrote:
> > Bruce
> > Before we go around again and discuses what my simple tester can and
> > can not do and why,
> > It would be helpful if you would take the time to better understand
> > how it works and why it works the way I have done it.
> > You really should try one yourself if you can't see why it works.
> > You are going to be surprised and embarrassed at how good it works.
> > Why you're at it, try the "swing test" with anything you have. Let me
> > know how that goes.
> > I'm not saying that may tester will match someone's Latest ever
> > changing NEW idea of what the "correct AVAR" should be,
> > After all it just Logs correct, integrated, Freq difference data of
> > ANY noise type
> > and does it without adding any dead time or aliasing all by using
> > pretty much using ANY ADC capability of over sampling at the tau Zero
> > rate.
> > If one then uses the data log with something like the classic Stable
> > 32 S/W or Ulrich's Plotter,
> > it gives is the exact same results as other methods costing much much
> > more, over the whole tau range.
> > This is limited only be its reference oscillator (Same way that all
> > others are limited of course, Doesn't get much better than that).
> > If that is not good enough for you, them you need to discuss the
> > results with Symmetricon and others that give the same answer as mine,
> > not me.
> > If for some reason you want to set one up wrong so that it matches the
> > results of some other special instrument, I'd be glad to tell you how
> > to have it add back in the dead time or aliasing artifact problems or
> > whatever else you would like it to do wrong, that it presently does
> > correctly.
> > ws
> > ******************
> > Bruce wrote
> > As long as one is aware that your method (as implemented by
> you) doesn't
> > actually measure Allan variance, it may be useful for comparing the
> > relative stability some sources for small Tau (unfortunately the range
> > of Tau for which the method may produce useful results depends on the
> > phase noise characteristics of the sources being compared).
> > To measure AVAR the technique has to have the same response to
> all phase
> > noise spectral components as does AVAR.
> > Since you do not integrate/average the frequency measures the phase
> > noise response of the method is not identical to that used in
> > calculating AVAR.
> > This technique probably works best when white phase noise dominates the
> > phase noise spectral region of interest (usually for small Tau).
> > For those who can follow the theory, the following paper shows how the
> > above method is affected by aliasing etc:
> > http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/37/63/05/PDF/alaa_p1_v4a.pdf
> > The paper also shows how the required integration (needed to actually
> > measure AVAR) can be approximated from the discrete sample sequence.
> > Alternatively one could avoid the numerical integration by
> replacing the
> > ADC with a zero deadtime (ie not a dual slope converter. A multislope
> > algorithm like that used in the 34401A (but not the 3458A) should work
> > as the signal is integrated continuously) integrating ADC. One
> > possibility is to use a VFC as NIST did when they used this technique
> > some decades ago.
> > Of course, the classical DMTD setup undersamples the phase noise
> > spectrum and thus may suffer from aliasing artifacts.
> > Such aliasing artifacts have no significant effect when the phase noise
> > spectrum is flat.
> > Bruce
> > *********************
> > WarrenS wrote:
> >> For the Really cheap time nuts,
> >> It sounds like Bert Kehren has done a great Job building a Dual Mixer
> >> tester.
> >> There are other simpler, less standard ways to get good data for Allan
> >> Variance and small frequency differences.
> >> My VERY simple $10.00 analog tight PLL Tester BB (Previously posted)
> >> pretty much accomplishes the same goals as his,
> >> and it can do 1e-13 in a second, and 1e-11 in 10ms (limited of course
> >> by the single reference Oscillator used)
> >> A simple test that most can do at home, and still challenges the best
> >> high end testers out there is Tom's the swinging Oscillator test.
> >> http://www.leapsecond.com/pages/10811-g/
> >> (The results from my PLL tester is attached)
> >> ws
> >> ******************
> >> ----- Original Message ----- From: <EWKehren at aol.com>
> >> To: <time-nuts at febo.com>
> >> Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 7:02 AM
> >> Subject: [time-nuts] Dual Mixer
> >>> The Dual Mixer project is nearing completion.
> >>> Let me refresh every ones memory as to my goals.
> >>> a) Total cost less than $ 200
> >>> b) 1 E-13 with a one second offset
> >>> c) use parts attainable by every one
> >>> d) easy to assemble only a few surface mount parts
> >>> e) a five channel counter that yields 1 E 15 resolution and
> >>> interfaces
> >>> directly to a PC via RS232 or USB
> >>> f) A counter that also gives you instant frequency difference at
> >>> sample rate, not only Allan Variance
> >>> g) Modular so one can use only the Dual Mixer
> >>> h) Modular so one can use multiple units to do simultaneous
> >>> comparison of
> >>> more than two oscillators.
> >>> i) Isolation between D/M and counter so that the counter can be
> >>> powered
> >>> by the PC USB port
> >>> I am happy to report that all goals have been accomplished, attached
> >>> is a
> >>> picture of the D/M, limitation of the file size does not allow me to
> >>> attach
> >>> an actual board picture, but if you contact me direct I will send
> >>> you one,
> >>> the final board is actually nicer since the first layout had to
> >>> accommodate
> >>> several variances.
> >>> The D/M part leans heavy on the original NIST unit with a few
> >>> substitutions
> >>> and recommendations from Bob Camp. Also beside Opto Couplers
> >>> SN65LVDS1's
> >>> have been included for those that want to use other
> counting methods.
> >>> Selection of filter capacitors allow the use at other offset
> >>> frequencies such as
> >>> 10 and 100 Hz. The D/M fits in a standard 74 X 111 X 20 mm Euro case
> >>> and
> >>> the counter can be stacked below or next to it using the Opto
> >>> Isolators as
> >>> the inter connect. The SYPD-1's fit right on the board but
> >>> connections are
> >>> included to use the HP 10514 A. As a matter of fact removing the HP
> >>> mixer
> >>> board from its housing fits it nicely on the board and every thing
> >>> is still
> >>> inside the housing.
> >>> The counter will handle 1 an 10 Hz offset with a 1 E 14 resolution
> >>> at 10
> >>> Hz. Thanks to Richard Mc Corkle we have great drawings and code,
> >>> available to
> >>> every one.
> >>> Code, drawings, list of material and PC board layouts and its file,
> >>> will
> >>> be available to every one once the project is completed.
> >>> I need help in the following areas
> >>> a) help me create a nice set of drawings that are computer generated
> >>> something I am not able to do
> >>> b) create the computer program that takes the output of the counter
> >>> board
> >>> and allows Allan Variance plots, frequency difference and dual
> >>> temperature
> >>> readings and plots using RS232 and USB.
> >>> c) an independent test by a third party.
> >>> As I said previously, I am not getting in the business of supplying
> >>> parts
> >>> but will work with people that will help achieve the three points
> >>> listed
> >>> above. Presently I have boards on order and will have two
> >>> uncommitted board
> >>> sets and probably also component kits.
> >>> Please contact me directly.
> >>> Again thank you Corby Dawson, Richard Mc Corkle and Bob Camp.
> >>> Bert Kehren Miami
> time-nuts mailing list -- time-nuts at febo.com
> To unsubscribe, go to
> and follow the instructions there.
> time-nuts mailing list -- time-nuts at febo.com
> To unsubscribe, go to
and follow the instructions there.
More information about the time-nuts