Connecting a Rohde Schwarz AMIQ to a SMIQ04

Connecting a Rohde Schwarz AMIQ to a SMIQ04

The first article explains how to setup an R&S AMIQ and talk to it, and to get signals out of the I and Q outputs. In this article the AMIQ is connected to a SMIQ04. In this setup the AMIQ provides the IQ modulation, and the SMIQ is providing modulated signal on its RF output.


To be able to use the SMIQ and AMIQ together, a vector modulator (IQMOD variant 4 or higher (var. 8) must be installed in the SMIQ.

Connecting the R&S AMIQ to R&S SMIQ

There are a couple of options on how to connect and control the R&S AMIQ. It’s possible to control the AMIQ from the SMIQ. Or control the AMIQ by a PC.In this setup I’m connecting the R&S SMIQ and R&S AMIQ together by the use of an IEEE-488 cable, so GPIB can be used to control the instruments.

One think to keep in mind is that when using the SMIQ to control the AMIQ, the SMIQ is acting as a controller. And there can only be one controller active on the bus at the same time.

The output “I” and”Q” of the R&S AMIQ must be connected to the “I” and “Q” inputs on tthe R&S SMIQ.

Generating signals

When using the SMIQ as a controller, the signals of the AMIQ can be used as follows:

In the menu Utilities/Install the option AMIQ control must be enabled. After enabling the SMIQ must be rebooted.

After reboot an extra menu option: IMQ CTRL is visible. In this menu the following options must be selected and set:

    • Start by setting carrier frequncy
    • Set the level of the output signal (for example 0 dBm)
    • Select the option: SELECT WAVEFORM
    • Next select: Drive and choose C:
    • Pick a waveform, or change to directory to select a waveform
    • Press return and select menu Mode.
    • In the Mode menu select AUTO
    • Press Return key, and select menu option Level
    • In the Level menu set the I and Q outputs to 0.5V/50 Ohm
    • Press return key, and go to Vector mod, and set state to “On”

The modulated signal should now be present on the RF output.

To demonstrate a modulated signal which is generated by the AMIQ I use a directional coupler.



I connected the directional couple’s input port the the RF output port of the SMIQ. The output port of the directional coupler is connected to a Tektronix 2225 scope. The CPL port is connected to a HP8591A.

Note that I connected the NOT I port, so I could create a interesting signal, which is a challenge to trigger on the Tek 2225.


Getting an Rohde Schwarz AMIQ up and running


The Rohden Schwarz AMIQ is an IQ modulation generator. According to the documentation of Rohden Schwarz this device has:



    • 100 MHz sample rate
    • 16 M Samples memory depth
    • IF generation up to 25 MHz
    • Multiple carrier simulation

And the best part is.. these devices can be picked up for little money.  Even if one is not into IQ modulation and such, the device is able to put out some very nice looking sine waves. There is a catch however. (There is always a catch): The AMIQ can only be controlled remotely.

What to look for when buying an AMIQ

When buying an AMIQ, look at the options the unit has. The user manual which can be found online, list all the available hard-, and software options.

Secondly, the AMIQ has a built in hard disk. If this drive is damaged, you could be out of luck. I searched online, but could not find any firmware images. If you bought an AMIQ, then make a image of the internal hard disk.  The AMIQ boots OpenDos.

There is an easy way to determine if the AMIQ is in a working condition. And that is to listen to the beeps at startup. The device will give one beep when turned on, and a few moments later, a second beep is produced. It’s the AMIQ’s way of letting you know it’s past it’s error checking thing. This second beep,should be followed by a steady green LED on the front panel.

If none of the above is happening, the AMIQ is having a fault, or the AMIQ didn’t start in a sane state. There seems to be a service manual for the AMIQ, where you can troubleshoot. Unfortunately I could not find the service manual online.

So when buying an AMIQ, let the seller boot up the AMIQ, and let the seller describe to you the boot process.

Once you got physical access to the AMIQ, you could run the the command:


This should return a 0 when no errors are found, or a 1 if a error is found. The user manual describes in detail how to hardware test the AMIQ. Also note that the above command doesn’t test the RAM memory.

The third thing you may be aware of, are the different models:

    • AMIQ02
    • AMIQ03
    • AMIQ04

I never encounter the AMIQ01, however the AMIQ03 and 04 are the newer models, with more memory, sample rates etc. The main difference between the AMIQ03 and 04 is greater memory: The 04 has up to 16 000 000 IQ values, compared to the 03: 4 000 000 I/Q values)

Only the models 03 and 04 can have the option “AMIQ-B3” fitted. So if you see an AMIQ listed with the option “AMIQ-B3” you know it has to be a 03 or 04 model.

Controlling the AMIQ

To let the AMIQ do something useful, like spitting out signals, the AMIQ needs remote control. And for this remote controlling there are several options:

    • Through serial connection
    • Through IEEE-488 (GP-IB or also called HP-IB)
    • Use an Rohde Schwarz SMIQ
    • Use software like WinIQSim (version 1.x)

Luckily I got all the options…

Talking to the AMIQ

The easiest way of getting the AMIQ up and running is to connect a null modem cable to the RS232 port. If someone has changed the default serial parameters (9600,8n1) an formatted floppy disk (MSDOS) is needed with the file: AUTOEXEC.IEC with the following line:


Insert the floppy disk into the AMIQ, turn the AMIQ off, and on again. Once the AMIQ is fully booted, the serial console should be accessible.

When you have the luxury of having IEEE-488 or you could reset the the default address 6 with similar procedure, the line in the AUTOEXEC.IEC must be:


Once a working connection is established to the AMIQ, the following command should give you the directories on the hard drive C:


To load an waveform, and put out the signals on the I and Q outputs, give the following commands:

:MMEM:CD 'C:\'

The commands on the first line resets the device. Next the directory is changed to the C: drive. On the third line a waveform called: “GSM_TSC1.WV” is loaded into RAM memory. By setting the trigger to continuous on the next line, the waveform is send to the outputs, which are enabled on the last two lines.

This produces the following signal:

In the next article I’m going to hook up the AMIQ to the Rohde and Schwarz SMIQ04 and generate some signals.

Using a VFD IV-3A tube to build a simple counter – Part three


In part two an ULN2023 is used so we can connect the IV-3A segments to 20V, while driving the segment with 5V. In this part the IV-3A is connected to the ULN2803A, and a 74LS48 which is BCD to 7-Segment Decoder.  By using the 74LS48 we can use 4 bits to drive the 7 segments.

Connecting the IV-3A

To connect the IV-3A to the IV-3A follow the following table:

IV-3A connections

IV-3A ULN2308
5 8
6 7
10 6
1 5
2 4
3 3
4 2

The last connections to make are the grid and heater. The schematic looks like:

IV-3A connections
IV-3A connections

Connect the 74LS48

The datasheet for the 74LS48 can be found here. Before connecting up the 74LS48, we need to invert the signals. Since the ULN2308 is a NPN Darlington array, we  need to invert the signals, so that a segment is activate when the input signal is going HIGH, instead of LOW.

An easy solution is to use a HEX invert. Since a HEX invert, as the name implies has 6 inverters, so we need two of them. So 2x a 74LS04 is going to be used.

The schematic looks like:

Display Driver schematic
Display Driver schematic

When connecting the all the BCD (248) inputs( pins: 76,2,1) to GND, the IV-3A should show a “zero”.   Like wise, if we connect these pins to 5V, a 8 is shown. The table below show the BCD coding for the pins:

BCD (248) conversion table

A3 A2 A1 A0 Digit
0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 1 1
0 0 1 0 2
0 0 1 1 3
0 1 0 0 4
0 1 0 1 5
0 1 1 0 6
0 1 1 1 7
1 0 0 0 8
1 0 0 1 9

In the next article the HP8175A is going to be used as a binary 4 bits counter.

Using a VFD IV-3A tube to build a simple counter – Part two


In the first part I mentioned that I used 2 DC-to-DC converters. In this article we’re going to see how these modules are connected, and a ULN2803A is used to connect the segments to 20V, while driving the segments from a 5V rail.

Connecting the DC-to-DC converters

The connection of the DC-to-DC converters is very simple:This simple schematic shows how the modules are connected to the 5V rail.

One the modules are connected, the voltages needs to be set. This is done by turning a potentiometer. The XL6009E1 is set to +/- 20V while the HX-mini-360 is set to 1V.

Connecting the ULN28023

The ULN28023 is a Darlington array. Here you can find the datasheet.

The datasheet mention the following description:

The ULN2803Adeviceis a 50 V, 500 mA Darlington transistor array.The device consists of eight NPN Darlington pairs that feature high-voltage output swith common-cathode clamp-diodes for switching inductive loads.The collector-current rating of each Darlingtonpair is 500 mA. The Darlington pairs maybe connected in parallel for higher current capability. Applications include relay drivers,hammer drivers,lamp drivers,display drivers(LED and gas discharge),line drivers,and logic buffers.The ULN2803A device has a 2.7-kΩ series base resistor for each Darlington pair for operation directly with TTL or 5-V CMOS devices

So this IC is perfect to drive the VFD tube. Connecting the ULN2803 is simple:

In The next article the VFD tube is connected, and a 74LS48 is used to drive the the tube.

Using a VFD IV-3A tube to build a simple counter


Some time ago I figured out the pins of of IV-3A VFD tube. In the upcoming articles series I’m going to build a simple counter, and planning to use some of my LAB equipment to test and build this counter. Just for fun.

Roughly I’m thinking of planning the following articles :

      • Implement the PSU for the different voltages (1V,5V,20V)
      • Design and implement the display driver
      • Use the HP 8175A to simulate a 4 bit binary counter
      • Using a Hp8110A as a serial data generator to simulate a 4 bit counter
      • Finally build the counter

Implement the PSU for the different voltages (1V,5V,20V)

One of the first challenges when working with a VFD tube is getting all the different voltage rails required. The IV-3A tube needs the a couple of voltages: 1V,5V,20V

The get the 5V rail is not a real problem, 1V and 20V can be more difficult.

To start with the 1V rail, one might think of a simple voltage divider, but this is not as simple as it sounds. When trying to drive the heaters, this will add a load to the voltage diver. Which lowers the voltage, resulting in a voltage which is to low. This could be addressed by adding a opamp, as a buffer. However the circuit is going to get more and more complex.

So in this design I’m going to use small DC-to-DC converters. Or step-up converts to be more precise. And I use two modules:

      • One module to step up the voltage to 20v
      • One module to down convert the voltage to 1V

The modules ‘m going to use are:

      • XL6009E1
      • HX-mini-360

These modules are cheap, and easy to use.

The downside to this is that the heater could be driven “to hard”, on the other hand, these tubes can take somewhat of a “punishment”. I’ll keep the rest of  the voltages low by driving the tube with 20V instead of the max 30V.

Both of the DC-to-DC converter modules are driven from a 5V supply. This makes it easy to implement the modules.

In the next article the display driver is going to be implemented.



Having fun with a R&S SMT03 and HP8591A Spectrum Analyzer

Playing around with the R&S SMT03 and an HP8591A Spectrum Analyzer

Now that I fixed the R&S SMT03 I find finally time to play around with the SMT03. The idea is to learn more about modulation, and how to display this on a Spectrum Analyzer. In a previous article I used the Siglent SSA 3021X Spectrum Analyzer in this article I’m going to use a HP 8591A Spectrum Analyzer.

Preparing the R&S SMT03

First off I need to setup the R&S SMT03

I’m going to use a carrier signal of 100Khz, and AM dept of 27%. And since the SMT03 have a second LF Generator I use that one to generate a sinus wave of 1.000 Khz. To protect the input of the HP SA I set the amplitude to 0 dBm.

Setting up the HP8591A Spectrum Analyzer

After setting up the R&S SMT03 it’s time to configure the HP8591A

After setting the center frequency the SPAN is set to 20 Mhz. To see the AM modulation, a smaller SPAN is needed. After the SPAN is set to 1.5Mhz the AM modulation becomes visible:

This shows the AM modulation. I really like the HP 8591A SA, it has a easy to use interface. And having a R&S SMT03 and the HP8591A in my lab is really awesome.

Use a spectrum analyzer to find interfering signals

Understanding the difference between Oscilloscope and Spectrum Analyzer

Before diving into the use of a Spectrum Analyzer (SA), a short explanation between an Oscilloscope and a SA might be handy. If you used a SA before, this article might not be to any interest to you, since this article covers a basic understanding.

For those who a curious to what a SA is, hang around, since this article is about to demonstrate the difference between a  Oscilloscope ans a SA.

When starting with electronics, sooner or later you might find yourself wanting an Oscilloscope to look at (fast) changing electronic signals. In other words: An scope is a multi functional tool in a electronics lab, and every good electronics labs should have one. With a scope it’s possible to look at electronic signal, being it digital signal or analogue signal which changes over time. But a scope can also be used to measure voltages, and all other characteristics of a signal. For example, the fall and rise time of edges, period of a signal, the max and min voltages, and perform math functions on signals.

Using a Oscilloscope to look at a signal

Most often a scope is used to look at a signal, and see how it looks like. For example a sinus signal:

Looking at the signal we can tell that the signal is 50mV (Peek to Peek), and that the frequency of the signal is 100Khz. Looking at the signal closer, it’s not a sharp clean sinus signal. So what’s wrong ?

If we zoom into the signal to have a closer look, the signal looks like:

This is doesn’t look like a clean signal. At this point several things may be the cause:

      1. Is there something which interferes with the signal?
      2. Is the measurement done properly (aka signal integrity)

This is the point, where it’s very difficult, to use a scope to investigate this further. Just let’s assume that this is no measurement fault. Short ground leads are used, and the probes are calibrated.

That leaves us with a interfering signal of some kind.

      • How to determine what kind of signal this is?
      • What is the frequency of this interfering signal ?

At this point some want’s to use a feature which is called “FFT” which some  scope might have.  FFT stands for: Fast Fourier Transform spectrum analyser  When using this feature the scope is behaving like a SA.

Having a FFT feature on a scope might be handy, in my case the FFT feature on my Rigol Ds1054Z is not very helpful:

It shows that there seems to be an extra signal, but it’s not possible to get any detail on this signal. To get more detail, a real Spectrum Analyzer is needed.

What is a Spectrum Analyzer (SA)

A Spectrum Analyzer might at first glance be some kind of a scope. It has a display to show signals, and has a lot of buttons, like a scope.

However the main difference between a scope and SA is that:

      • A scope shows signals in the time domain
      • A SA shows signals in the frequency domain

This means that a SA show on the horizontal the frequency, and on the vertical the power of the signal, which is shown in  a Logarithmic scale. This can be for example in dB or dBm. The reason for displaying the power (on a scope you would say the amplitude) of the signal in a Logarithmic scale  is that low power signal can be displayed next to high power signals.

And since a SA displays signals in the frequency domain, it’s possible to see how “pure” or “clean” a signal is, since we can actually look at the “spectrum” of the signal. Hence why it’s called a “Spectrum Analyzer”.

Using a Spectrum Analyzer to look at a signal

Let us look at the same signal which we looked at on the scope, but now feed into a Spectrum Analyzer:

Here is the same signal, but it looks quite different from the signal which is shown on the scope. However it’s frequency is 100Khz, and the power of the signal is -46.00 dBbm. Which is about 3.169 mVpp (There is some loss in the cables, and adapters used).

Looking at the signal it’s seems “not clean”, But it’s hard to see. So like on a scope, it’s possible to zoom into the signal, and get more detail. To this we need to set a smaller SPAN. The SPAN on a SA is the bandwidth were we are looking at it. It’s like the zoom-lens on a camera, by zooming in, more details are visible. Currently the SPAN width is 20.000Khz.

If we change the SPAN width to let’s say 1.000Khz, we see the following:

And suddenly a second signal appeared. To get more details about this signal, the SA provides a easy way, and that’s by placing a marker. In this case a delta marker is used. A delta marker can show the difference (delta) between signals.

And then we see that the interfering signal is a 100Hz away from our original signal of Khz signal.  So the interfering signal is 100.1 Khz.


And this shows the difference between a scope and a SA. An SA is a very handy tool when looking at the spectrum of a signal. It’s how every a more complex, and sometimes more confusing tool to use. On the other hand, a scope is also a complex tool to use. But in general, a scope is much more used for looking at signal then a SA. A SA is mostly used when dealing with RF, radio’s transmitters and alike.

Repairing a Tektronix PB200 Bert tester – part one

Repairing a Tektronix PB200 Bert tester

The Tektronix PB200 BERT

Before diving into repairing the Tektronix PB200 BERT tester, let me explain briefly what a BERT Tester is. BERT stands for ” bit error rate test ” In the most simple form, a BERT tester sends out a random bit patron, and an analyzer receives the bit pattern and compares this bit pattern to see if there is any bit error.

Obviously this is more complicated, how does the analyzer now what the original bit stream was ? The theory behind it this is quite complex, and beyond the scope of this article. For a more in depth explanation see [this] Wikipedia article.

A device like the Tektronix PB200 is used to test different data transmission devices, like optical interfaces, or a like.

The Tektronix PB200 has a data generator and an analyzer built into one device. The specs for this device:

     Clock Frequency: DC to 200 MHz.
      Amplitude: 0.5 to 5.0 V p-p.
      Termination select: 50 Ohm to -2 V, +3 V, AC or GND.
     Input range: ECL, TTL, PECL compatible.
     Threshold resolution: 10 mV step.
    Internal synthesized clock source: Frequency: 1 Hz to 200 MHz.
    Resolution: 1 Hz.
    Accuracy: 10 ppm.
    BURST clock:
    Programmable gap: 16 Kbits
    maximum, 8-Bit resolution.
Pattern Generator
    PRBS: 2 N- 1, N = 31, 23, 15, 11, 10, 9, 7.
    Programmable word: 256 Kbits maximum, 8-Bit resolution.
    Mark density: PRBS 2 10 1 (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 7/8).
    Mixed mode frame: 256 Kbits maximum, 8-Bit resolution.
    Error injection: Error: Single, Rate, External (TTL).
    Field select: Overhead, payload or both.
    Error rates: Error rate of 10-n, n = 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
    Outputs: Data and clock outputs:
    Format: NRZ.
    Configurations: Differential (True/Complement).
    Source impedance: 50 Ohm.
    Amplitude: 0.5 V to 2.0 V, 10 mV step.

A Tektronix PB200 which is dead

Before I can play around with this PB200, the device needs a  repair. I bought this device as a “none working, for parts”. And well.. it sure is in a “none working” condition, since the device doesn’t power on, at all.

That is one of the reasons I bought this device. When a device is not able to power on, this normally means the Power Supply (PSU) has a problem. The downside of this is of course that their is no easy way to test the rest of the functionality of the device.

Assessment of the problem

Once the devices arrived at my doorstep, I could inspect it further. And I noticed a sharp bent in the front panel once I removed the covers.  Not a good sign to start with. The second thing I ran into is that this device is a complete nightmare to take apart. The construction is just horrible. Screws on places which are heard to reach. I suspect this is just a branded by Tektronix. I got my hands on some Tektronix equipment, and repaired some, and the construction is always good engineered. In this case, it’s definitely not.

So it took a lot of effort to get the PSU out of the chassis. Once the PSU was out I noticed a burned up diode, and a burned spot on the PCB. A quick check of the fuse confirmed: This PSU had a very bad moment. This means that on the primary side of the PSU a lot of other components could be damaged. So the first thing I did was to hunt for a Service Manual, and well these cannot be found.

So I started to de-solder the diode, so I could get a marking of the component. The diode was next to some transistors, or MOSFETs so I decided to desolder them as well, since they are most likely also damaged , or are the cause of the damage.

While taking the diode out carefully, I could not prevent it from falling apart.


The diode literally exploded and split into halve. With a lot of trouble I managed to get some marking, but I wanted to make sure that I got it right. Primary side of a PSU always makes me nervous. So I started a [thread] on the EEVblog forum.

Another member also suggested to get a PSU replacement, which is almost the same. The only difference is the output voltage.

So I decided to buy this PSU, so I have a reference, and if I’m unable to repair the primary side of the PSU I could perhaps convert the secondary side so it gives the right voltages.

In part [two] I’m trying to fix the PSU

Repairing a Tektronix BP200 BERT tester – part two

An attempt to fix the primary side of the PSU

I started  to measure and test several components, and found some diodes which where shorted. Replaced them. However I could not measure any voltages after the full bridge rectifier. Some components are mounted on large heat-sinks. Removing them to get access to the components and be able to read the markings or to test them out of circuit, would be a pain.

Fighting with this power supply for a couple of evenings, I decided to take another route. In the meantime the alternative PSU was delivered. After comparing both the PSU’s together I noticed that only one voltage rails was different.

Modifying an PSU

Since fixing the primary side of the PSU would be very difficult to do, I started to look at the secondary side. Both the PSU’s are from the same series. So I figured the manufacturer probably used a couple of zener diodes, and resistors to control the output voltage. So I started to swap out diodes and resistors which where different and which I could relate to the voltage rail I wanted to adjust.

The moment of truth

I powered to PSU up, and measured all the good voltages (they where a little higher, but that’s okey since no load is attached.). I decided to go for it, and placed the PSU on top of the chassis, so I could test the PSU without going through the rather complex method of installing the PSU.

And after connecting the main power, and flipping the power switch, the PB200 came back to live.



A few quick tests showed me that the generator and analyzer are working without any problems. And I refitted the PSU back into the PB200.


Repairing Rohde & Schwarz SMT03 RF Signal Generator – part one

The R&S SMT03

The R&S SMT03 is a RF signal generator which can generate signals from 5Khz up to 3Ghz, while the signal level can be from -144dBm to +13dBm with 0.1dBm resolution.

A datasheet of the R&S SMT03 can be found [here]

Signal generators like the SMT03, and other (for example the HP ESG series like the E4421B) are mainly used to test communication devices and a like. Signal generators like this, are not arbitrary signal generators (however they may have an option to generate LF (Low Frequency) signals like square, sine, sawtooth wave-forms.

RF Signal generators generate sinus signal, and can generate different modulations (FM,PM,AM etc). These signal generators are a specialized piece of equipment.

An R&S SMT03 with problems

The SMT03 I’ve got in the LAB has some problems:

    • A few lines are visible on the LCD screen
    • When the unit is on for some tine, above 1.8Ghz the error: 110 Output Unleveled ALC failure is displayed .

The lines on the LCD screen are somewhat annoying, they don’t influence the working of the unit. The ALC Unleveled error does. When I try to measure the signal, the level is all over the place, and has a low level.  I noticed that in the short time this error is not present I can loose up to 4dBm when I generate signal above 1.8Ghz.

The challenges

When trying to fix an error like this, it’s important to understand the error. At the time this error presented itself, I didn’t had access to a Service Manual. And from the User manual I didn’t got any wiser. So after some thinking I concluded that ALC must stand for: Attenuation Level Control

This leads me to the conclusion that a possible cause could be a PLL circuit which is unable to establish a successful lock.  The bad news is: this may be due to a lot of other problems:

    • The input frequency may be of, or the signal is to low
    • Power problem (low / not working power rail
    • Mixer problem
    • And a lot of other related problems

Trying to diagnose the problem futher

So to diagnose such a problem, a block diagram and a schematic would be very helpful. But I got neither of them.

Another challenge is that the unit consists of modules, which plug into a back-plane. Operating the modules outside of the  unit seems only possible with a “service kit” which I don’t have access to, and cannot find any information about.

Despite the fact I don’t have the above items, I can observe the error, and take a look at how the physical signal path. So I opened the unit by removing the covers. Which is a simple and straightforward process: By unscrewing the bumpers on the back of the unit the top and bottom covers come off.

R&S SMT03 on the inside

Tracing from the output connector the signal path back I noticed that:

  • From the output connector, the signal is going through an attenuator, and then straight into a 3Ghz module (W154).
  • From the 3Ghz module the signal is entering an 1.5Ghz module (W104).
  • From this module the signal is going to a synth module, and a signal generator module.

And this tells me that the 3Ghz module has some kind of “pass-through”, so that signals up to 1.5Ghz are passed through the 3Ghz module (not sure at this point if some additional filtering is done). When signals are above 1.5Ghz the 3Ghz module generates the frequencies from 1.5 till 3Ghz.

This could mean that the ALC Unleveld error is somewhere in the 3Ghz module. Which means I could leave all the other modules alone.

For a moment I was thinking about a possible power rail problem, however this is most unlikely, since I aspect that for every frequency the ALC Unleveled error should be displayed, or that other errors would pop-up.

To summarize

    • Working on these units is not easy
    • A Service manual would be a great help

In [part 2] I’m going to try to repair this R&S SMT-03