Update Dec 23, 2015 Delete Special Testing The Function of Vector Network
Analyzer is available only to the MSA Build Level 3, VNA.
The VNA Function is separated into two Modes, VNA-Transmission and
VNA-Reflection. It should be noted that there is no difference in
the MSA Hardware between these two Modes. The MSA
measures the Magnitude and Phase as raw transmission data, and the
software will process the data as either Transmitted or Reflected.
This page will describe
the Function of
VNA in theTransmission Mode. A separate page will describe the
Descriptions for all Functions of the
be accessed from the Main Page. VNA
Operating Guide for the MSA, 12/12/09. Bench-top guide to VNA
of Plane Extension for the MSA, 10/21/09. Use of Plane
By Sam Wetterlin, PDF's
Function: The MSA as a VNA, Transmission or Reflection Mode Basic
Performing Calibration in Transmission Mode
A Spectrum Analyzer will measure the absolute
Magnitude of a signal (RF power, in dBm). A
Vector Network Analyzer
will measure not only a signal's Magnitude, but also its Phase.
The Phase is somewhat meaningless
unless the signal can be referenced
another signal at the same frequency. Therefore, all VNA's have
a Tracking Generator used as a Reference Signal. A commercial
VNA uses its Tracking Generator output as the Reference Signal.
The MSA/VNA uses a "product" frequency (10.7 MHz) for its Reference Signal.
The purpose of any VNA is to obtain the electrical
characteristics of a "Device". A signal will change in Magnitude
and Phase when passing through any device. By measuring these
changes, and making some mathmatical comparisons of these changes, the
characteristics of a Device can be calculated.
A device can be a passive or active
piece of coaxial cable, a Reflection Bridge, or even an antenna, to
name a few. In many cases
a Device can be a combination of multiple items, such as a
Bridge (with connector adapters), a test bed, and a Device Under Test inserted in that
test bed. This requires multiple measurments, to factor out
characteristics of all known supporting "items" to determine the parameters of the final unknown Device, the Device Under Test (DUT). in Transmission Mode
The MSA/VNA can have several different Functions. No mater what Function the
VNA is being used for, the VNA is simply measuring and
quantities. The output signal of a DUT, consisting of Magnitude
and Phase, is
to the Magnitude
and Phase of the Device's input signal. This is called a
Transitional Comparison. All VNA's are "Transitional Comparitors",
although we now use the term Transmission
Measurement, since any Device has the ability to
signal. (For old people
me, the term "Transmission" has replaced terms such as "Forward",
"Transition", and "Transfer" measurements). The resulting
comparisons are expressed as a ratio of output to input, also known as
the S-Parameter, S21. in Reflection Mode
When the MSA is
in the VNA Reflection Mode, it is still taking a Transmission Measurement. However, some type of
external "Reflection Bridge" is used in combination with the DUT.
The Bridge transmits a "reflected" signal created by the DUT. The
will measure this "reflection" as the Bridge's "transmission",
thereby maintaining a Transmission Measurement.
Since the information is not a true DUT transmission, the MSA software
will convert the S21 parameter into a S12 parameter. The MSA as a VNA,
Reflection Mode is described on its own, separate Web page.
The Graph Window Display
Enter the VNA Transmission
the Spectrum Analyzer Mode, using the menu item Mode / VNA
Transmission. Sweeping will automatically begin
with default values left over from
the SA Mode. The following is a screen
Graph Window while sweeping the Tracking Generator from 0 to 1000 MHz. The TG
output is connected to the input of the MSA through a 4 inch test coax and
two 10 dB attenuators. Two signal
parameters are displayed in the Graph
The indicator, "Cal = None" means that no reference calibration is used
in this sweep.
Therefore, the traced information is "absolute", meaning the
Magnitude is measured as power input to the MSA, -32 dBm (even though
its right scale is in dB). The Phase is a comparison of the input
signal and Reference frequency, in degrees (left scale). Notice
that there are several phase "sawtooths"
displayed, one for each rotation of 360 degrees. This is because
experiences a time delay traveling from the TG output to the MSA input
as internal cabling). That time delay translates into phase delay,
higher the frequency, the more degrees are represented by a given
time. While the sawtooth pattern makes it
something abrupt is happening periodically, this graph actually
steady increase in phase delay, and every time it reaches -180 degrees
graph wraps around to +180 degrees. The
rotations in the above graph will differ for each individual VNA, due
in the internal and external lengths of cable. This is a
good self test, indicating that everything in the MSA is functioning
Sweep Parameters Window
Most of the Controls that were described in the Spectrum Analyzer Mode
are repeated in this window. These are the differences for VNA
of Signal Generator or Tracking
Generator is deleted. The Tracking Generator is automatically
selected during VNA operation.
Final Filter Path:" drop-down box
must have the correct Path selected for VNA operation. All VNA
calibrations are performed in a single Path. Usually, this is
Path 1. "PDM Inversion
(deg) box. This box displays the current calibration for
the PDM. It can be changed in this box for special testing. "Plane Extension"
box. This adds or subtracts (-) time into the
calculations. Also referred to as "Reference Plane
Extension". It is the same as physically adding cable length
within the Reference Source circuit. This is a very good way to
factor out time delay effects of transitional components surrounding
the DUT, such as barrel connectors, test jig, etc. Just for
reference, the Verification unit requires a plane extension of "3.2" ns
to factor out its internal delays. A new value (in nano seconds)
may be entered and the "Recalc" button clicked. The Graph will
immediately retrace with the extension value. "Video
Filter BW" and "Wait (ms)" boxes. As with
mode, we can set the video filter to wide, middle or narrow. The
setting, the longer the settling time when changing from point to
the more Wait time we need to specify. When phase is involved, precise
measurements are likely to require extra wait time, and settings of
are typical. 100-150 ms of Wait time may be required for the most
measurements. When the PDM measures raw phase within a certain
zone”, the MSA inverts its phase reference, remeasures,
and adjusts for the phase shift caused by the inversion. This inversion
a large, abrupt shift in the raw phase measurement, which requires an
extra-long settling time. The stronger the video filter (larger
more Wait time is required. The MSA automatically imposes the extra
it is important that you set the Video Filter in the sweep parameters
match the actual hardware setting, so the software knows the state of
filter. (The software setting does not actually set the video filter at
present time; it just informs the software of the setting.)
Y Axis Windows, Axis Y1 (left) and Axis
Y2 (right) The
data to be
graphed on each axis can be selected from the Y-axis parameters dialog,
opens when the users double-clicks in the area of the corresponding
grid-line labels. This dialog is in the same format as for Spectrum
mode, but contains a different selection of graphs, as shown in the
--S21 Magnitude (db).
These is conventional, processed Magnitude using a
reference calibration. --S21 Phase Angle.
These is conventional, processed Phase using a
reference calibration. --Raw
Power (dBm) and Raw Phase Angle.
These are the "absolute" measurements without adjustment for a
be desired to display these in unusual situations. --Insertion
Loss. This is
simply the negative of the S21 dB value.
For a bandpass filter, instead of graphing
this will graph a “valley” with maximum transmission
(lowest loss) at
Group Delay. This is
the negative of the change in phase
over the change in frequency. It is sometimes a useful value. Due to
calculated from rates of change, it is very susceptible to noise, which
the graph to be very erratic. This graph will ultimately be replaced by
under the Analysis menu which will produce a smoother graph. --None.
This causes nothing
to be graphed on that axis, the axis
to be blank, and no value for that axis to be displayed in the Marker
opposed to using Trace Style to turn the trace off, which
leaves the axis labels in place and allows the axis values to be
the Marker area.) The
option for Trace Style is not available for either axis in Transmission
Transmission Mode A
typical Transmission mode measurement is made by setting the
proper sweep settings, performing a Band calibration (or relying on a
inserting a DUT, and hitting Restart. Of coursc, this is an
over-simplification, so some explanations are in order.
The MSA/VNA (or any other VNA) will process
Magnitude and Phase
information using DUT measurments that are "absolute", or "raw".
A "raw" Magnitude measurement is straightforward, input power is
measured in dBm. A "raw" Phase measurement is the relative phase
relationship of two same frequency inputs to a "Phase Detector".
The first Graph shown on this page is repeated here. There is no
DUT. The VNA is measuring "itself".
If a DUT were inserted into the external signal
path, it would be obvious that the MSA/VNA would affect the DUT
measurement. Therefore, the internal effects of the MSA must be
"factored out" to produce a relevant S21 measurement. The
factoring process begins with a "Calibration".
in Transmission Mode
You may have seen terms used by me or by others, relating to the
Calibraiton of a VNA: "Line Calibration", "Reference Calibration",
Reference Line Calibration", "DUT Calibration", "Test Bed Calibration",
or "Cal". They all mean the same thing. It is simply the
process to remove all factors, external to the DUT, that contribute to
a DUT measurement. I will try to use the term "Calibration", and
this should not be confused with the Initial Calibration of the
MSA. The Initial Calibration of the MSA was a
one-time process and "Calibrations" will be peformed quite often,
usually before each critical measurement of a DUT.
To Calibrate, it
necessary to measure the strength and phase of the Reference Signal
transmitted without the DUT in place. Typically, this involves running
signal through an attenuator, then possibly a short coax cable, then
attenuator, and then to the MSA input. Or the two attenuators might be
connected without the cable. A 4 inch coax cable is used in the example
The calibration routine is invoked under
the menu Operating
Cal / Perform Cal. It
stores the "absolute" Magnitude and Phase of the signal reaching
input. The stored data, now called Calibration Data, will be used
during the subsequent DUT measurement. With the calibration
performed and the above scan repeated, the comparison of output and
input results in the value of zero. The effect
be to flatten both the magnitude and phase lines at zero.
following picture shows such a scan after a calibration.
Note the “Cal=Band”.
The Magnitude trace is at the very top of the graph. It is now
showing 0 dB, no longer -32 dBm. The Phase is no longer shown as
sawtooths, it is a straight line at 0 degrees. I suggest making
this repeat sweep after a calibration for verification. If the
results are anything other than zero, a problem exists. In most
cases, it is usually a faulty cable or connection. The VNA is now
ready to measure a DUT. The following
is a detailed procedure for "Calibration." Calibration is performed by
Operating Cal / Perform
menu. This opens the following window:
For typical DUT measurements,
DUT is usually attached between two attenuators, to present the MSA
with a predictable input and output
neither the TG
output nor the MSA input is a steady 50 ohms.To prepare for
we need to establish a signal connection without a DUT in place.The DUT is removed and replaced with the
shortest possible interconnection. This
connection is referred to as a Through or
connection. (More on that below.) When you
Perform Band Cal, the MSA will perform one complete sweep and save the
absolute magnitude and phase as Band calibration data.
“Band” refers to
calibration exactly matches the current frequency band. If the sweep
are changed during a subsequent measurement, the Band calibration
becomes outdated and will not be
used. During the
calibration sweep, the MSA will
use a Wait time of at least 110 ms for each step in calibration. If the
time in the Sweep Parameters window is set to a greater amount, that
value will be used.
Calibration The current Band
can be saved as a Base calibration. “Base” refers to the
rough baseline against which to adjust current measurements. It
performed over a broad frequency range, such as a log sweep from 0.1
1000 MHz. The stored Base Cal can be used as a reference for future
matter what range they cover. When used, its values are interpolated to
the selected sweep frequencies. It is not as accurate as a current Band
much more convenient when the user is frequently changing sweep
saved as a Base calibration, that Base data
actually saved to a file, so it is available in future sessions. A one-month old Base Calibration in the
showed that the MSA had shifted less than 4 degrees and had a ripple of
than .5 degrees.
or Band Calibration
Once the Base Calibration is saved, it will remain
usable for all future sessions. However, the
Base Line Cal is accurate only when the VNA has the same hardware test
setup as when the Base Line Cal was performed. Also, the MSA must be in
the same final filter Path. For
if you increase or decrease the amount of external attenuation, or
change the length of the test cables. If any changes are made the
old Base Cal will be useless. Only you will know that you made any
changes. If so you
clear the Base calibration by using the Clear Base Cal button.
change the final filter Path, you should either click
Cal, or simply perform a new Band calibration and save it as the new
calibration, the DUT is replaced by a
Through or Line connector. If the
attenuators on each side both end with male
connectors, and the DUT has female
connectors on both sides,
then the two attenuators cannot simply be plugged together; an adapter
required. The adapter will create some phase delay. The Transmission
calibration dialog shown above allows the user to indicate the time
the Through connection, so the resulting
can be removed from the calibration data. [More on
terminology: strictly speaking, a "Through"
is a direct connection without delay. An example would be a connector
on one side of the DUT would mate directly with the connector on the
other side of the DUT. When that is not possible, and delay is
referred to as a "Line" connection. However, we use the terms Through
and Line interchangeably. Performing a
in Transmission Mode After a calibration, the
DUT is inserted in the signal chain between two attenuators.
purpose of the attenuators is to assure that the DUT is presented with a constant impedance on both sides (normally 50
to do so affects the accuracy of measurements. The DUT's
transmitted signal is
then measured at various frequencies, and compared the stored
Calibration Data. The
comparison is a ratio of Magnitude (in dB) and a
difference of Phase (in degrees).
The comparison values are processed by the computer and
displayed on a Graph as two traces, Mag and Phase. VNA Transmission Mode measurements
are generally expressed in the form of the S-Parameter, S21. This
the DUT is a two-port device, an input port (1) and an output port (2).
“S21” as meaning “signal 2 compared to signal
1”, or that the signal
that is transmitted at
(the output) is the result of a signal arriving at port 1 (the input).
usually expressed in two parts: the magnitude in dB and the phase in
degrees. In most VNA's these can only be displayed as
comparisons. The MSA/VNA has the capability to use "No Reference"
and the displayed traces will represent the Device's transmitted
information, in dBm and degrees.
Test Fixtures The insertion
of a DUT between the Tracking Generator output attenuator and
the MSA input attenuator may require more than a few simple coaxial
connections. The prescribed attenuators can be free-standing coaxial
attenuators, or they can be
built onto a PCB with some mechanism to attach the DUT between them,
since many DUT's are not
refer to the mechanism connecting these DUT's to the MSA as a test
fixture. A test fixture will allow the
VNA to measure the
characteristics of various types of DUTs,
resistors, inductors, capacitors, crystals, filters and amplifiers.
These are considered "Two Port" devices. It
measure characteristics of a device with only one connection, a "One
Port" device such as an antenna. A test fixture will allow the
DUT to be characterized as a serial element or as a shunt element.
Most two port devices are tested as serial elements,
inserted between the two attenuators. However, some two port
devices are better tested as shunt elements. One port is inserted
between the attenuators and the other port is shunted to ground. For example, a capacitor can be so
one terminal in common with the two attenuators and its other terminal
antenna has only a single port, and must be connected in a
configuration. There is
an important distinction between fixtures in which the DUT is connected
series between the attenuators, and those in which it is connected in
from the line connecting the attenuators to ground. The former are
Series Fixtures, and the latter are called Shunt Fixtures. The
distinction is important when analyzing resistors, inductors,
crystals and simple RLC filters.
applies only when using DUTs with one or
terminals. For devices like amplifiers, with an input, an output and a
the distinction between Series and Shunt makes no sense.
of Test Fixtures
DUT is normally attached between two attenuators, to present
it with a predictable impedance, since
neither the TG
output nor the MSA input is a steady 50 ohms. For devices like
an input, output and ground, the connection method is obvious. But for
two-terminal devices there are two possible connections possible.
DUT may be attached in a Series Fixture, as shown below:
The Series Test Fixture
the DUT may be attached in a Shunt Fixture, as shown below:
The Shunt Test Fixture
effect of the DUT on the transmitted signal is obviously different in
configurations. For example, a large resistor will significantly
signal in a Series Fixture, and have very little effect in the Shunt
For some analyses performed by the MSA, it is necessary to tell the
which fixture is being used. When there is a choice, the Series Fixture
generally does a better job with high impedance DUTs,
and the Shunt Fixture does a better job with low impedance DUTs.
attenuators in the fixtures are intended to present the DUT
with a fixed impedance on each side,
ohms. However, by using impedance-matching attenuator designs, the
can be 50 ohms on the outside and, say, 12.5 ohms on the inside. In
analyses performed by the MSA, it is necessary to tell the MSA software
impedance is being used. The impedances presented to the DUT by the
attenuators, which must be equal, are referred to as R0.
from the point of view of the DUT, the impedances of the two
attenuators are in
parallel, so it actually sees a net impedance of R0/2.
R0 is specified as the impedance presented by each attenuator
Compensation in Shunt Fixture
Picture of a Shunt Fixture
directly on the PCB
Fixture (with DUT attached)
Note that there
is a direct on-board connection
between the two attenuators, and the DUT connection attaches to that
DUT in this case is actually soldered to the back side of the male
attached to the fixture, and is located some distance from the
connection. At higher frequencies, the travel delay caused by this
distort measurements. Therefore, the MSA software provides
the operator to specify the one-way time delay of the
connection. This is typically about 0.125 ns per inch. For the above
it is 0.115 ns. The actual amount of delay can be compensated by
the use of Plane Extension.
phase values displayed in Transmission mode represent the
phase difference between the transmission with the DUT in place, and
transmission with the calibration Through
In some cases, there may be some extra length associated with attaching
DUT. For example, it may be necessary to attach an adapter to the DUT.
DUT may be mounted on a circuit board, and the entire board may have to
attached to the test fixture. In such cases, we can "tell" the software
phase delay that is caused by the extra length. This is referred to as
Extension, because it can be viewed as moving the plane of
calibration. It is also know as moving the Reference Plane.
implemented by entering a value for Plane Extension in the Sweep
window. That value is the number of ns of delay that we wish to
add or subtract from the Reference Plane. The
effect of changing the value can be seen immediately by clicking the Recalc button located under the Plane Extension
phase delay caused by a fixed time delay increases linearly with
increasing the plane extension value has the effect of raising the
display more at higher frequencies. This will cause a graph covering,
MHz to 10 MHz, to rotate counter-clockwise; if the graph
a downward tilt, increasing plane extension tends to remove that tilt.
precise use of plane extension, and the
methods of determining what values to enter, will be expanded
at a later date. Plane extension is not used with some Functions of the