Technology Showcase: Test Equipment

The AV toolbox grows to include a variety of useful gadgets. 9/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: Test Equipment

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The AV toolbox grows to include a variety of useful gadgets.

Fluke Networks OptiFiber optical time-domain reflectometer

Fluke Networks OptiFiber optical time-domain reflectometer

With the increasing sophistication of AV gear and the progressive convergence between IT, AV, and broadcasting, many of the tools used for testing and maintaining these systems are also crossing what used to be industry boundaries. No longer can AV integrators feel confident with just having an AC-outlet current checker lying around. The AV toolbox is growing along with the industry to include digital multimeters, video and audio generators, RF-spectrum analyzers, satellite-signal instruments, and computer-cable maintenance tools. We've taken a sample of these increasingly useful gadgets and have included various types of them in our survey of test instruments.

The new Agilent Technologies 34411A 6 1/2-digit, enhanced-performance digital multi-meter has all the features of its predecessor, the 34410A — including 10,000 readings per second at 5 1/2 digits and the ability to stream those readings to a computer at that speed. Both units provide fast triggering with a trigger latency of less than 1µs and a query response less than 500µs. The 34411A takes the speed on up to 50,000 readings per second at 4 1/2 digits. In addition to all the normal readings available on such devices, these two models also have temperature and capacitance capabilities. DC- and AC-current measurements can be made down to 100µA, and realtime math and statistical functions are included. A data-logger feature allows timed measurements to be taken automatically on a schedule. LAN and USB ports provide a selection of computer interfaces.

For satellite-downlink installations, Applied Instruments markets the Super Buddy satellite signal-level meter with a positive satellite ID feature and automatic scan to help identify “unknown birds” using either align-to-lock or automatic scan modes. The instrument's geo-sensitive field guide displays all the satellites visible from its location, along with all of their transponders. The unit's hallmark is ease of use with single-function front-panel buttons that provide the operator with the ability to scan through satellites using the left and right buttons and then select individual transponders with the up and down arrows. Elevation and azimuth information for a selected satellite comes up as soon as the local ZIP code is entered. Measurements include signal level with present-and-peak bar graph, signal quality, carrier-to-noise ratio, bit-error rate, voltage supplied by IRD, LNB current draw, and LNB frequency-deviation estimate. The frequency range is 950MHz to 2150MHz, and the signal-level range is -70dBm to -10dBm. The unit runs on a rechargeable NiMh 7.2V 3Ah battery, and it includes AC and vehicle power adapters.

The B+K Precision model 2652 handheld spectrum analyzer adds a tracking generator to the model 2650. It works in the 50kHz-to-3.3GHz range for installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of wireless systems such as computer network transmission; frequency response of RF cables, filters, and attenuators; interference detection; antenna alignment; and EMI compliance with optional accessories. The unit includes a one-button autotune feature that scans the full frequency range; detects and centers the maximum signal; and provides optimum values for RBW, VBW, sweep time, and reference level. Also available are normal-peak search mode and in-zone-peak search mode. Power and noise levels are displayed along with the results of max/hold, average, and overwrite calculations. The instrument is powered with an NiMh battery for a run time of approximately 110 minutes per charge with the backlight turned off.

The PT0760M from DK-Technologies offers four separate autosensing HD/SD inputs for simultaneous display of four waveforms including G, R, B, Y, Cb, Cr, and luminance signals. The internal test generator sends color bars, black, SDI checkfield, and monitor alignment signals in 1080p, 1080i, 720p, and SD formats. The unit has 11 user presets, user-definable gamut-error settings, and 10 user-assignable soft keys. A jogwheel allows the display to be zoomed horizontally and vertically. The PT0760M also handles audio with the DK's MSD range of audio meters for stereo and surround-sound metering, along with HS/SD audio de-embedding, peak-program level measurement of up to 32 audio channels, and seven directly selectable scales using the MSD audio option.

Technology Showcase: Test Equipment

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The AV toolbox grows to include a variety of useful gadgets.

B+K Precision model 2652 handheld spectrum analyzer

B+K Precision model 2652 handheld spectrum analyzer

Billed as a bench digital multimeter in a handheld case, the Dranetz-BMI Dran Tech Ultra can perform true RMS voltage and current measurements up to 100kHz at crest factors up to 10 on distorted waveforms using a sampling interval from 0.01 seconds to 60 seconds. While taking measurements, the unit can store the minimum and maximum readings in memory at the selected sampling rates. The instrument also has overload protection in all modes, an averaging filter for noisy measurements, a choice of AC or battery power, and a 120kB data memory with backup battery. It comes with a hard case, operating instructions on CD, and a DKD calibration certificate. The 2.56"×1.18" LCD display shows seven-segment, .47in. characters with a one-second refresh rate. Two 1.5V AA batteries with a service life of about 16 hours supply power, and the display includes a battery-capacity reading.

For waveform measurements, the S-1390 analog delayed-sweep, dual-trace oscilloscope from Elenco Electronics provides 1 meter/div sensitivity, sweep to 2 nanoseconds/div, single sweep, and a Z-axis input. The S-1390 specs include a rise time of 3.5 nanoseconds with an overshoot of less than 5 percent, a 1-2-5 sequence, a 10-step attenuator, and vernier control. The rectangular CRT display with internal graticule shows an area of 8×10 divisions with each at one centimeter. The delayed sweep speed of the 1390 is 20 nanoseconds/div in 1-2-5 sequence in 23 steps with an accuracy of ±3 percent. The unit has a power consumption of about 55W, and it weighs 18.7lbs. Two probes are included along with a schematic diagram, parts list, and AC power cord.

The FiberMeter Optical Power Meter from Extech Instruments features a very large backlit LCD display for a handheld unit. Used for fiber certification on single-mode and multimode fiber networks, the product comes in three models — each of which shows a dynamic range or 75dB with ±0.15dB accuracy. The high-power model (FO610) has a range of 25dBm to -50dBm for direct measurement of laser output power in CATV and telco applications. Up to 1,000 measurements, along with physical fiber characteristics, can be stored in internal memory. The user interface presents a smooth surface with membrane keypad. For more detailed keyboard entry, the RS-232 link can be used with a computer running Windows-compatible Optical Wavelength Laboratories OWL Reporter software for downloads and certification report printing. The Loss Wizard calculates the maximum allowable optical loss according to EIA/TIA standards, and it shows pass/fail certification.

Extron Electronics' VTG-400D programmable video and audio test generator can output video simultaneously as RGB, component video, S-Video, and composite video in addition to its SDI/HD-SDI output. It offers 96 video output rates, 34 video test patterns, and seven audio test signals — delivering accuracy at microphone level. Up to 180 additional output rates can be programmed using the RS-232 port and Extron control software. A very handy feature is the Scope-Trigger output, which allows analysis of a selected area within the video image using an oscilloscope. Specific test patterns can be programmed to alternate and repeat in sequence on selectable time intervals. Other features include automemory recall and screen-saver mode.

Technology Showcase: Test Equipment

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The AV toolbox grows to include a variety of useful gadgets.

Galaxy Audio CM-160 CheckMate SPL meter

Galaxy Audio CM-160 CheckMate SPL meter

Among its range of test-equipment models, Fluke Networks offers the OptiFiber optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR) for testing fiber-optic line installations. The unit features automated trace and event analysis, trace overlay, and simple link diagramming. It delivers the results on the unit's display, on a computer, or on a printed report. For more detailed communication, the OptiFiber has keyboard, USB, and RS-232 ports. Or it can be used in the tabletop stand. The MultiMediaCard (MMC) capability allows test results to be taken away and exchanged while the OTDR stays on the job. The functional displays include ChannelMap, showing the diagram of the channel complete with patch points. The Event Table shows all cable events in a spreadsheet format, and the pass/fail display compares test results to industry standards. Fiber InspectorPro provides a high-resolution 250X/400X magnified image of the fiber face while the OTDR Port Quality Check notifies the user of any contamination in the instrument port.

The Galaxy Audio CM-160 CheckMate SPL meter is used by musicians and sound contractors to develop a sound-level profile for any venue by recording the readings on an internal hard drive. These readings can later be transferred to a computer using the provided software. The unit has a backlit LCD display, RS-232 interface port, graph indicator, max/min function, level-range display, AC/DC signal output, time display, and auto power off. It is also auto-ranging between 30dB and 130dB. The CM-160 offers a frequency range of 31.5kHz to 8kHz. The internal 9V battery provides up to 50 hours of operation. The digital display updates every half-second, and the analog display refresh rate is 50 microseconds. An alarm will display when the readings are either less than or more than the selected range. The unit also includes a calibration button and fast and slow time-weighting selector buttons.

The Harris Videotek HD-Star is a portable, battery-powered handheld HD-SDI and SD-SDI video and embedded audio generator and monitor. The device generates video test signals and provides color and waveform monitoring, serial data analysis, vectorscope functions, and audio analysis and monitoring. The many functions of the HD-Star are controlled with the 320×240 color LCD touchscreen and a small stylus. The unit operates on a Lithium-ion battery pack or on two AA alkaline batteries.

The Spectran HF4040 spectrum analyzer from Kaltman Creations can be used in testing, installing, and troubleshooting wireless microphones, in-ear monitoring systems, and remote computer networks with the accompanying SMA full-range rod-antenna and precision log periodic directional antenna. With a range of 10MHz to 4GHz and a level range of -90dBm to 0dBm, the unit has a typical accuracy of ±3dB. The unit also includes a USB 2.0 computer interface (with PC monitoring software), a 3.5mm audio output jack with volume control, an internal audio demodulator, and a built-in loudspeaker. Hold and intraday logging maintain vital measurement information, and preconfigured hotkeys allow for shortcuts to functions. The 3"×2.4" 1530-pixel display and the laser-labeled key caps provide ease of use. A full battery charge can power the unit from 4 hours to 7 hours, and there is a tripod mount and external probe and antenna connections. The jog dial allows the user to quickly navigate the functions with the same hand used to hold the instrument.

The WaveTester is a highly accurate, microprocessor-controlled, high-resolution optical power meter from Optical Wavelength Laboratories (OWL). The unit measures more than the 65dB dynamic range. It works at the 850nm, 1300nm, 1310nm, 1550nm fiber-transmission windows. It can also measure loss in the 1410nm band for fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) passive optical networks. Reference values for each wavelength are stored, and the WaveTester can put up to 200 measured points into memory. The data can then be downloaded to a computer with the OWL Reporter software to produce formatted certification reports. It features an auto-shutdown, and it can operate for more than 250 hours on a 9V battery. The battery-charging port can be replaced with a precision-coupled visual fault locator using a red laser to check for faults at distances from a few feet up to about 4921ft. The simple, four-key panel is topped by a backlit LCD display that allows users to check single-mode and multimode fiber lines with a 1mm photodetector. The 2.5mm universal adapter will accept SC, FC, and ST fiber connectors.

Technology Showcase: Test Equipment

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The AV toolbox grows to include a variety of useful gadgets.

Paladin Tools markets a very handy piece of gear in the PC Cable-Check Pro. The unit has a handle formed on the case. It also includes just about every type of connector commonly used by AV, IT, and broadcast techs. It maps the pin-out, and using LED lights, it checks for shorts and crossed or broken leads in more than 20 types of patch cables — including LAN, telephone, serial, coax, USB, D-sub 9, 15-pin and 25-pin, mini-USB, S-Video, and 4-pin and 6-pin FireWire. It also includes PS/2 keyboard cables and parallel printer connectors. The PC Cable-Check Pro also has manual and autocheck modes along with auto-off after 30 seconds of inactivity to preserve the life of the internal 9V battery. The unit's design allows it to be wedged into tight spaces and carried without snagging protrusions.

The Protek B850 wide-range audio generator is used by sound installers and maintenance technicians to check and adjust sound-system components. Sine- and square-wave output signals can be used from 10Hz to 1MHz in five ranges. The square wave signal is variable from 10Hz to 100kHz in frequency with amplitude variable in steps at 0dB, 20dB, and 40dB attenuation with fine adjustment knob through an output impedance of 600V. The instrument has an external sync input with 10K Ω and a maximum input level of 10V RMS. The unit has a frequency accuracy from 10Hz to 1MHz of ±5 percent and from 100Hz to 100kHz of ±3 percent. The B850 has a very simple user interface with large dials and easy-to-read scales. It also comes with test leads, a manual, and a line cord.

The Audio Analyzer R&S UPV from Rohde & Schwarz can perform detailed analysis on analog and digital audio signals with dual-channel signal processing and generation. The instrument can generate single and dual-channel sine waves, intermodulation signals, burst signals, noise, and DC voltage. It can be used to measure levels, SINAD or THD+N, DC voltage, frequency, and phase, along with waveform functions and FFT analysis. The unit also has an integrated control PC that uses an embedded Windows XP operating system that includes a hard drive, a CD/DVD combo drive, a LAN interface, four USB ports, and connectors for a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and printer. One preset keystroke can be used to switch between five different screen settings, and the size and position of the panels on the display screen can be changed at any time.

The HP403CSH VideoPro SDI/HDSDI multimedia video generator from Sencore outputs video test patterns for calibration, testing, and maintenance of a variety of displays — including projectors. And for displays with integrated tuners, the device also provides an RF output on NTSC TV channels 2, 3, 4, and 6 and on ATSC channels 2-4, 7-10, and 30-32. DVI and HDMI signals can be used along with analog component, composite, and S-Video. Computer monitors with resolutions from 640×350 all the way up to 1920×1024 can also be tested, and up to 100 video formats can be stored on the unit. SMPTE 292M SDI and SMPTE 259M HDSDI video is available in multiple sync formats and resolutions. Audio outputs of 1kHz and 2kHz are available on the left and right channels, respectively, through a 3.5mm mini stereo phone jack. SMPTE bar, staircase, h-stair, overscan, color bars, crosshatch, multiburst, linearity, and a range of other display patterns are available. The unit runs on an AC power adapter or for up to 8 hours on internal AA NiMh batteries.

Tektronix, long a leader in the test-instrument realm, offers some very versatile, top-end tools in the DPO/DSA70000 series of digital phosphor oscilloscopes and digital serial analyzers. This includes the DSA 72004 with dedicated configuration for high-speed serial design and compliance testing. The unit has a 12.1in. XGA touchscreen display; DDR memory bus analysis; event search and mark; pinpoint triggering with more than 1,400 combinations; enhanced bandwidth to the probe tip, which is extended to support multiple bandwidth steps for advanced signal integrity; and the Windows XP OpenChoice software, which provides built-in networking and extended analysis. The DSA 72004 can do debugging and compliance testing of serial data streams; investigate transient phenomena; and perform signal integrity, jitter and timing analysis, and spectral analysis. With the DSA72004, the technician can measure how signal power is distributed with frequency using power-spectral-density plots up to 20GHz. It can also perform a world of other very precise measurements. An integrated report generator allows image plotting and documentation of all configuration parameters.

The Touchstone-3G palm-sized digital video and audio test-signal generator from Wohler Technologies is amazingly small for all that it does. The unit has a 3Gbps SDI video output in formats from 480i to 1080p/60 and 37 test signals including up to 16 channels of audio test tones that are all adjustable from 10Hz to 20kHz. Standard-definition signals include error detection and handling. Signals may be defined with up to 20 characters of user-defined text and a user-configured default setup can be stored in non-volatile flash memory. The Touchstone-3G runs on either three AA batteries or the included AC adapter.


Agilent Technologies

Applied Instruments

B&K Precision Corporation



Elenco Electronics

Extech Instruments

Extron Electronics

Fluke Networks

Galaxy Audio


Kaltman Creations

Optical Wavelength Laboratories

Paladin Tools

Protek Test and Measurement

Rohde & Schwarz


Tektronix Communications

Wohler Technologies

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