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Frequently Asked Questions - Technical

Can I use a Valon synthesizer instead of a high-end signal generator from one of the big guys?

In most cases, yes you can.  That is why we make them.  In years of working in the industry, I’ve seen time after time, high-end synthesizers and signal generators sitting on a bench or in a rack, just supplying one CW tone at some moderate power level.  Our synthesizer modules are a perfect replacement or substitute for many test and measurement applications.

In many applications you may want to embed a simple signal source into your test cabinet or piece of equipment. A Valon synthesizer occupies very little space and needs only a source of low voltage dc. Valon synthesizers don’t have a “front-panel”.  You won’t get knobs and push-buttons or a fancy display.  You need to provide a host computer with a USB connection to control the synthesizer functions.  

What are the biggest performance differences between a Valon Synthesizer and high-end signal generator? First of all is cost, but you are already aware of that - here are some others:

  1. Harmonically related output signals will be higher compared to a high-end generator.  In many applications having harmonics does not pose as serious problem.  For example, many Valon synthesizers are used to supply a high speed precision clock sources for FPGA based DSP cards where. The DSP cards square-up the input clock signal anyway.  If harmonics are a problem then, inexpensive coaxial filters can be added by the user.

  1. Signal amplitude range.  A high-end signal source usually comes equipped with a built-in variable attenuator that will provide a continuous range of signal amplitudes from +13dBm down to -132dBm in <1dB steps.  The 5007/5008 synthesizers only provide four approximately 3dB steps.  The 5009 has a built-in step attenuator that can provide 31.5dB of attenuation range.

  1. Non-Harmonically related spurious signals.  Our synthesizers use a single-loop PLL fractional-N topology. Typical of these types of synthesizers is “boundary-spurs”.  Boundary spurs are spurious signals that show up very close to desired output signal at integer multiples of the phase detector reference.  Here’s an example: You set your 5009 to 5760MHz, everything is fine, good clean signal out.  Then you set the 5009 to 5760.005MHz and notice that there are two little spurs, maybe -40dB down, on each side of the desired signal. 5760MHz is 144th integer multiple of the phase detector operating frequency and is considered a boundary.  Boundaries occur at integer multiples of the phase detector frequency (typically 40MHz).  Operating the synthesizer next to these boundaries will create boundary spurs.

Why don’t Valon synthesizers run on USB power?

We don’t want you to and neither should you.  USB power is can vary widely depending on the computer providing it. The voltage is not high enough either.  Output internal buffer amplifiers require 5V to provide a consistent and low noise RF output signal.  Because we only use high-quality, low-noise voltage regulators, our synthesizers require a higher voltage than USB can provide.  

Furthermore, not having to rely on USB power lets you disconnect the computer from the synthesizer once you have set the way you want.  Once programmed, the synthesizer can power up to the saved settings and not have to be reprogrammed from the computer.  

Can I use a just any power supply?  How about a 6V wall-wart?

Yes and yes.  All of our products are well regulated with low-noise internal voltage regulators.  You should be able to use any power supply that can provide at least 5.5Vdc.  We specify 6V knowing that there will be some tolerance and voltage drop.

Some of you might have noticed that we now call for 6Vdc input to our synthesizers.  If you're using 5Vdc input an you're happy with your performance than you can keep on using 5V.  We now recommend 6Vdc because a lot 5V sources (wall-warts, USB battery pack, USB hubs, etc) are not always 5V.  The synthesizer needs no less than 5.0V right at the connector input. So if you're 5V source is a mile away, and is really only 4.75V (still in spec. for a lot of power supplies) then you might see some sag in the output power and maybe some power supply noise too.

Can I use a switching power supply?

Yes of course.  All of our products have plenty of filtering and regulation and unless your switcher is unusually dirty it should be just fine.  Just be sure the supply never dips below 5.5Vdc.

What happens if I apply reversed polarity power?

All of our products are reverse voltage protected.  We take special care in the design of our products to ensure that no damage will occur if you (not saying it’s you) hook it up backwards.

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