For the first time, Spectrum is offering a solution to engineers and scientists looking to capture and analyze fast electronic signals in the DC to 1 GHz frequency range. The company has greatly extended the performance of its PCIe based instruments by adding nine new models to its M4i series of digitizers. These cards boast real-time sampling rates up to 5 GS/s and high bandwidth making it possible for them to measure signals, edges and pulses down into the sub nanosecond realm.

Models are available with one, two or four channels, and come complete with large 4 GB on-board memories, advanced acquisition modes, and a host of software tools that allow easy integration into any system. The new cards are perfect for replacing conventional test instruments (such as digital oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers) whenever measurement speed, flexibility, size or channel density becomes an issue. They can be used inside a PC, when the technology needs to be embedded or outside the PC (with an expansion box) if bench-top access is required.

Spectrum's M4i series is based on the popular PCIe bus and the products are designed to allow the fastest possible data transfer. For example, using the cards PCI Express x8 Gen2 interface data can be transferred directly to a host PC at speeds of up to 3.4 GB/s. All Spectrum digitizers support transient recording and data streaming modes. Streaming allows the capture of extremely long signals that are passed directly into the PC, where they can be stored or analyzed, without the loss of vital information. The M4i series also includes on-board FPGA technology so that optional firmware packages can perform on-the-fly functions like signal averaging and peak detection. Pre-processing waveforms reduces data transfer times and greatly improves measurement speeds.

The new digitizers are equipped with fully calibrated front-end signal conditioning circuits that offer input ranges from ±200 mV up to ±2.5 V full scale. Further signal conditioning can also be provided through the use of a wide range of optional amplifiers. Signal conditioning allows signals to be scaled correctly so that they use the full 8-bit dynamic range of the digitizer, optimizing measurement accuracy and resolution. 

To allow the capture of complex and rare events, the cards also feature an array of flexible trigger modes. Triggering is possible on any channel or either of the two external trigger inputs. All the trigger sources can be logically combined to enable conditional triggering on specific input patterns. The trigger modes are further complimented by a variety of acquisition modes that allow memory segmentation as well as fast trigger time stamping. The rearm time between triggers can be as low as 80 samples (16 ns @ 5 GS/s) making it possible to capture and time stamp pulses and signal bursts even when the events are extremely close together.

For applications requiring more than four channels, it is possible to run up to eight M4i cards in one system. The cards can be connected together using Spectrum's Star-Hub option that distributes the clock and trigger signals between each card. By using Star-Hub it is possible to make systems that have from 8 to 32 fully synchronous channels.

Spectrum's technical director, Oliver Rovini, believes the new M4i series cards have a feature set that makes them perfect for a wide range of research and industrial applications. "With up to 5 GS/s sampling rates and wide bandwidth, Spectrum joins a select few companies who can digitize ultrafast signals and pulses such as those found in electronics, aerospace and defense, and science. Advanced triggering and acquisition modes make it possible to capture the most complex signals. For example, you can use the memory segmentation feature to store radar signals, fast triggering for lasers, or the streaming mode to store long and complex communication signals. You can also choose the product that best matches your requirements; like a single channel card for use in a spectrometer, or a multi-channel system for monitoring a large multi-sensor experiment."

To control and operate an M4i series digitizer, Spectrum offers its powerful SBench 6 program. SBench 6 supports all the key functions of the digitizer as well as providing display, storage and analysis. The program provides both oscilloscope and transient recording modes, including data streaming. A special feature of SBench 6 is the segmented view that is ideal for burst type signals. Segments can even be acquired with two different time bases (ABA mode) together with trigger time stamping information. SBench 6 can also measure parameters, perform FFT's and run a variety of math functions. Data can be exported into a number of formats such as ASCII, Wave and MATLAB, making it easy to use a variety of third party software tools.

Customers who want to program the M4i series cards by themselves can use the proven Spectrum drivers (available for Windows and Linux), which are included in the delivery. A set of standard programming examples is provided to illustrate the cards main signal capture functions. Extensive support includes Visual C++, Borland C++, Gnu C++, LabVIEW, Visual Basic, VB.NET, C#, J# and Delphi code.

The new M4i series cards will be introduced at Electronica Exhibition 2014 in Munich and are available shortly after the show. Prices start from 4,000€ (approximately $5,200). The digitizers come complete with software drivers and a two year manufacturer's warranty. Technical support, including software and firmware updates, is available free of charge.

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