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New M4i card Boxcar Averaging feature for increased signal clarity and resolution

New M4i card Boxcar Averaging feature for  increased signal clarity and resolution
31/05/2017

A new and very useful Boxcar Averaging function has been released by Spectrum GmbH, to increase the signal capture performance of their range of M4i & M4x.44xx series digitiser cards, based around the PCIe and PXIe interface. Also the LXI/Ethernet based equivalent, the digitizerNETBOX.

This function smooths out high frequency noise allowing the signal of interest to be seen with greater clarity. It uses a mathematical signal processing function to effectively recalculate the vertical value of each acquired data point by averaging it with adjacent sample points. It is most useful in situations where signals have been oversampled and can be used to increase vertical resolution, lower noise and improve dynamic characteristics such as signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and spurious free dynamic range (SFDR).

To allow maximum flexibility, the Boxcar function allows users to select the number of adjacent points to be averaged from 2 to 256. The averaged data is subsequently stored with higher resolution by an amount that is proportional to the number of points selected. For example, selecting two adjacent points will increase the resolution of a 16 Bit digitiser to that equivalent to 17 Bits, four adjacent points equates to 18 Bits and selecting the maximum 256 points produces a theoretical 24 Bits!

Even in low noise level situations there is some advantage to be gained. For example, even where the signals looks quite pure, tests have shown that a digitiser’s performance, as measured by its effective number of bits (ENOB), can be improved by at least 2 Bits when using the Boxcar function. SFDR and SNR measurements are also better by more than 12 dB.

As the waveforms are effectively filtered, some high-frequency signal content may be lost. However at frequencies well below the sampling rate of the digitiser, the technique offers a number of major advantages. For example, unlike traditional averaging methods, Boxcar averaging works for single shot acquisitions without the need to stack multiple recordings.

The Boxcar Averaging mode is fully programmable and will be shipped as a standard with Spectrum’s drivers. These support all of the most common programming languages. For those users not wanting to write their own programs, Boxcar Averaging is included in Spectrum’s SBench 6-Pro, an easy-to-use, display, logging and post processing package.

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