Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Frequency Counter

Frequency counters provide simple, reliable measurements for your circuits, devices, and systems. “Simple” and “reliable” have a strong appeal for engineers and technicians who are constantly dealing with complex challenges. The key to maximizing your investment in a counter is not the counter itself, but what the instrument will measure and how you respond to the data.

Four tips for using frequency counters effectively

Choose the best counter for your needs

Once you identify the measurement data you need from a counter, you can select the right equipment. Counters can perform a variety of tasks at different frequencies. Take a look at universal counters, RF frequency counters, microwave, time interval analyzers and modulation domain analyzers before you make your decision.

Understand the difference between accuracy and resolution

Accuracy and resolution are related, but they are different concepts. Resolution refers to the smallest change the counter is able to detect in narrowly spaced frequencies. In many cases, more resolution is better. But, the digits returned on the counter need to be accurate. It’s possible that your counter could reveal highly accurate readings of an incorrect frequency. Understanding both factors is a must.

Know whether direct or reciprocal counting is best for your needs

Direct counters record the count cycles of the signal. The resulting number is sent to the readout to be displayed. Reciprocal counters measure the signal’s period and then reciprocate to record the frequency. Understanding these two methods will help you select the right counter and use it correctly.

Know the timebase

The timebase nails down the reference to which the signal is measured against. This signal is often affected by ambient temperature. Take the time to learn about the three main categories of timebase technologies — Room Temperature Crystal Oscillator, which does not use any temperature compensation or control; Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator, which use externally added components to obtain a more stable frequency; and Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator, which uses an oven to hold the temperature at a specific point in the thermal response curve.

If you’re new to frequency counter technologies, always refer to the experts in the field before you make a decision. Your options are plentiful and so is the potential for gaining a valuable instrument for your operation. MATsolutions is here to help you find the right frequency counter for your needs. Questions? Visit our website, or contact us to learn more.