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Technology Showcase: Test Equipment

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

The AV toolbox grows to include a variety of useful gadgets.

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Fluke Networks OptiFiber optical time-domain reflectometer

Fluke Networks OptiFiber optical time-domain reflectometer

With the increasing sophistication of AV gear and the progressive convergence between IT, AV, and broadcasting, many of the tools used for testing and maintaining these systems are also crossing what used to be industry boundaries. No longer can AV integrators feel confident with just having an AC-outlet current checker lying around. The AV toolbox is growing along with the industry to include digital multimeters, video and audio generators, RF-spectrum analyzers, satellite-signal instruments, and computer-cable maintenance tools. We've taken a sample of these increasingly useful gadgets and have included various types of them in our survey of test instruments.

The new Agilent Technologies 34411A 6 1/2-digit, enhanced-performance digital multi-meter has all the features of its predecessor, the 34410A — including 10,000 readings per second at 5 1/2 digits and the ability to stream those readings to a computer at that speed. Both units provide fast triggering with a trigger latency of less than 1µs and a query response less than 500µs. The 34411A takes the speed on up to 50,000 readings per second at 4 1/2 digits. In addition to all the normal readings available on such devices, these two models also have temperature and capacitance capabilities. DC- and AC-current measurements can be made down to 100µA, and realtime math and statistical functions are included. A data-logger feature allows timed measurements to be taken automatically on a schedule. LAN and USB ports provide a selection of computer interfaces.

For satellite-downlink installations, Applied Instruments markets the Super Buddy satellite signal-level meter with a positive satellite ID feature and automatic scan to help identify “unknown birds” using either align-to-lock or automatic scan modes. The instrument's geo-sensitive field guide displays all the satellites visible from its location, along with all of their transponders. The unit's hallmark is ease of use with single-function front-panel buttons that provide the operator with the ability to scan through satellites using the left and right buttons and then select individual transponders with the up and down arrows. Elevation and azimuth information for a selected satellite comes up as soon as the local ZIP code is entered. Measurements include signal level with present-and-peak bar graph, signal quality, carrier-to-noise ratio, bit-error rate, voltage supplied by IRD, LNB current draw, and LNB frequency-deviation estimate. The frequency range is 950MHz to 2150MHz, and the signal-level range is -70dBm to -10dBm. The unit runs on a rechargeable NiMh 7.2V 3Ah battery, and it includes AC and vehicle power adapters.

The B+K Precision model 2652 handheld spectrum analyzer adds a tracking generator to the model 2650. It works in the 50kHz-to-3.3GHz range for installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of wireless systems such as computer network transmission; frequency response of RF cables, filters, and attenuators; interference detection; antenna alignment; and EMI compliance with optional accessories. The unit includes a one-button autotune feature that scans the full frequency range; detects and centers the maximum signal; and provides optimum values for RBW, VBW, sweep time, and reference level. Also available are normal-peak search mode and in-zone-peak search mode. Power and noise levels are displayed along with the results of max/hold, average, and overwrite calculations. The instrument is powered with an NiMh battery for a run time of approximately 110 minutes per charge with the backlight turned off.

The PT0760M from DK-Technologies offers four separate autosensing HD/SD inputs for simultaneous display of four waveforms including G, R, B, Y, Cb, Cr, and luminance signals. The internal test generator sends color bars, black, SDI checkfield, and monitor alignment signals in 1080p, 1080i, 720p, and SD formats. The unit has 11 user presets, user-definable gamut-error settings, and 10 user-assignable soft keys. A jogwheel allows the display to be zoomed horizontally and vertically. The PT0760M also handles audio with the DK's MSD range of audio meters for stereo and surround-sound metering, along with HS/SD audio de-embedding, peak-program level measurement of up to 32 audio channels, and seven directly selectable scales using the MSD audio option.

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