Signal Path Analyzer™ FAQ

We have prepared this short FAQ page to provide more information about our new line of Signal Path Analyzers™. If you still have questions, please contact us and ask us directly.

What is a Signal Path Analzyer™?

A Signal Path Analyzer™, or SPA, is an instrument designed to measure the most important factors affecting the pathway of an electrical signal through a high-speed interconnect, cable assembly, or PCB trace.

SPAs offer capabilities from both the time domain (TDR, TDT, NEXT, FEXT) and the frequency domain (Insertion Loss, Return Loss), allowing them to be used to fully characterize a system.

What are the technical capabilities of a HYPERLABS Signal Path Analyzer™?

HYPERLABS Signal Path Analyzers™ come in two speeds, and multiple channel configurations.

The HL2200 Series features a fast 35 ps rise time and 5 GHz of frequency domain bandwidth. All instruments in this series can perform TDR and S11 measurements, while instruments with 4+ channels can also do TDT and S21. 

HL5200 Series instruments are electrostatic-robust, making them ideal for harsh test environments. They have a 200 ps rise time and 1.5 GHz of frequency domain bandwidth. All of our cureinstruments do TDR/S11, and 4+ channel models offer TDT/S21. NEXT/FEXT are available in 8+ channel devices.

What applications are suitable for an SPA?

Signal Path Analyzers™ are ideal for applications that require Insertion Loss (S21) and/or Return Loss (S11) measurements in addition to traditional time-domain measurements such s TDR/TDT or characteristic impedance.

Many cable specifications, for example, require an assessment of transition regions and impedance (time domain), as well as Insertion Loss (S21) to ensure adequate performance.

High-speed interconnects also benefit from a mixed-domain analysis. TDR and TDT can detect faults and/or discontinuities in the transition regions, while Insertion Loss tells you how much signal is received at the end of the path.

In short, SPAs are intended to eliminate the need for separate TDR and VNA measurement tools in certain validation processes. 

Can an SPA replace my benchtop VNA?

In many applications, a Signal Path Analyzer™ eliminates the need for a separate VNA instrument.

Most common signal verification applications, including cable testing, don't make use of the full spectrum of a high-priced VNA. In these cases, all relevant tests can be done on an SPA.

For now, HYPERLABS Signal Path Analyzers™ frequency domain capabilities are limited to Insertion Loss (S21) and Return Loss (S11). Future versions of our software will add new measurement capabilities. 

Comparison of S11 (return loss) measurements taken by XTDR™ and an HL2204 (green trace), vs. those taken on a much more expensive VNA instrument (pink trace)

Insertion loss (S21) of a GORE 20-foot CXN1362A coaxial cable measured with by XTDR™ and an HL2204 (green trace) compared to a high-end VNA (pink trace)

TDR impedance measurements taken by XTDR™ for Windows®