Thursday, March 16, 2017

Windfreak's SynthNV RF Generator - review by Kenneth Wyatt

Kenneth Wyatt - November 25, 2013: Every once in a while, I discover a product that is so incredible I wonder why it hasn’t been publicized more widely. This is the case with Windfreak Technologies $599 miniature RF generator, the model “SynthNV” (Figure 1). In case you’re wondering, their company is named after the owner’s sailboat!

Figure 1 - The Windfreak Technologies SynthNV RF generator weighs just a few ounces and easily fits in your hand.

For months, I’ve been seeking a small RF generator that could replace the 40-pound monster I keep under my workbench. What really caught my eye initially was that the generator could AM modulate the RF output - perfect for radiated immunity pre-compliance testing! In addition, it will pulse modulate the output - perfect for testing to the MIL-STD-461 and DO-160 standards. The RF output level is sufficient to drive a near field probe with enough field strength to investigate susceptibilities within a product’s internal circuitry. But wait, there’s more! Here’s rundown of the features of this palm-sized jewel. Some of these additional features will be reviewed in Part 2 of this series. • RF sweep generator (34.4 MHz to 4.4 GHz at up to +19 dBm output) • Network analyzer (34.4 MHz to 4.4 GHz) • VSWR analyzer (using external power coupler) • RF power meter (real time) The generator is USB powered and can run on most Windows operating systems, including Windows 8. It also includes an external power adapter input, so it can be programmed into a given state and then disconnected from the PC and run standalone as a local oscillator or RF generator. There is a port that can source or receive an external 10 MHz clock, as well as an RF input port for measuring power. This port is also used for the network analyzer function.

Figure 2 - The basic user interface for the generator is based on National Instruments Labview.

The well designed user interface (Figure 2) is based on National Instruments Labview and the provided software includes the runtime engine for those who don’t own the full Labview software. It installed and ran just fine on my Macbook Pro with Parallels 9 and Windows 8. There are several tabs along the left half of the panel. These select the major functions of the instrument controller. When in manual mode, the large knob tunes the frequency in preset steps of 1kHz, 10kHz, 100kHz, 1MHz, 10MHz and 100MHz. The user may also enter frequencies directly by typing in the data blocks or by using a keyboard control in place of the large knob. The nominal +19 dBm RF output power is controlled by the rightmost panel. There are two buttons controlling the preset output. The High Power button will switch between the default high power or when pressed decreases the overall power output by about 55 dB (Low Power). A second button turns the RF on/off. The slide control further adjusts the output power by up to 31.5 dB. Note that the power scale is “dB’ and not the actual output power in “dBm”. This can be confusing at first, because the natural inclination is to assume the scale corresponds to the actual power output. This requires some mental calculations (or confirmation measurement) to set the precise output level. I suspect one slick way to confirm the desired power level is to run the output (through attenuators) to the “RFin” port to make that measurement. One improvement might be to redesign the slider to conform to the actual output power level - changing the scale according to the three preset power levels.

In stock at Saelig Co. Inc here!

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