Selecting the Optimum Test Tones and Test Equipment for Successful HighSpeed ADC Sinewave Testing
Abstract: An earlier application note, \"Coherent Sampling vs. Window Sampling,\" covered the basics of coherent sampling. It showed differences between tests performed with coherent sampling and windowed sampling conditions. The following technical discussion is a followup note, which deals with the proper selection of test tones and instruments to successfully test and evaluate a highspeed ADC's AC performance.
 Application note 3190, "Coherent Sampling Calculator (CSC)"
 Coherent Sampling Calculator (XLS, 81K)
In sinewavetesting a highspeed analogtodigital converter (ADC), it is not only imperative to sample the applied waveform continuously to avoid unwanted artifacts in the FFT spectrum, but to precisely select the sampling frequency (f_{SAMPLE}), the input test tone (f_{IN}), and the size of the data record (N_{RECORD}). For any given clock frequency there exist certain input test tones, which can hide ADC errors, while other frequencies reveal ADC errors. These frequencies can vary by only a fraction of a percent and yield vastly different results. The optimum input test tone is one for, which there are N_{RECORD} distinct phases sampled, which are uniformly distributed between 0 and 2π radians. Taking this knowledge into account, coherent sampling can be described as the sampling of a periodic signal, where an integer number of its cycles fit into a predefined sampling window. Mathematically, this is expressed by
f_{IN} = (N_{WINDOW}/N_{RECORD}) × f_{SAMPLE},
where f_{IN} is a continuous sinusoidal input signal, f_{SAMPLE} is the ADC's clock/sample frequency, N_{WINDOW} represents an integer number of cycles within the sampling window, and N_{RECORD} is the number of data points targeted for the sampling window or FFT.
Additionally it is important to choose N_{RECORD} large enough to produce at least one representative sample of every frequency bin² of the converter. Given that the input tone is chosen as previously discussed, an ideal converter's transfer curve (excluding random noise) requires the minimum value for N_{RECORD} to be π2^{N}, where N is the resolution of the data converter under test.
There are two common ways to calculate the desired input tone. Following are examples of these two methods based on coherent sampling. Assuming that an ADC, such as the MAX1190, is driven with a 120MHz clock, and a near optimum input frequency of 17MHz is to be analyzed with an 8192point FFT record, the following two steps provide guidance in selecting the appropriate input test tone.
 Start with f_{IN }= 17MHz and f_{SAMPLE} = 120MHz to determine the window size N_{WINDOW} (remember that according to the previous discussion, N_{WINDOW} has to be an integer odd or mutually prime number) for an 8192point data record N_{RECORD}.
N_{WINDOW} = int (f_{IN}/f_{SAMPLE}) × N_{RECORD}
N_{WINDOW} = int (17MHz/120MHz) × 8192 = 1160
 Based on the above result for N_{WINDOW}, the next closest mutually prime (odd) number is 1163 (1161). Use either of these numbers to compute the final, nearoptimum input test tone as follows
f_{IN} = f_{SAMPLE} × (N_{WINDOW}/N_{RECORD})
f_{IN}(MUTUALLY_PRIME) = 120MHz × (1163/8192) = 17.0361328MHz
f_{IN}(ODD) = 120MHz × (1161/8192) = 17.0068359MHz
 Determine the resolution of the sampling frequency that fits into an 8192point record by
Δf = f_{SAMPLE}/N_{RECORD}
Δf = 120MHz/8192 = 14.6484375kHz
 Some of commonly available signal generators in the market may not offer enough resolution to offer this many digits to accurately capture both input and sampling frequency. To bypass this requirement and still meet the coherent sampling condition, it is recommended to select Δf based on the next highest integer number.
Δf = int (f_{SAMPLE}/N_{RECORD}) = 15kHz
 Based on the new Δf, the exact sampling frequency computes to
f_{SAMPLE} = Δf × N_{RECORD}
f_{SAMPLE} = 15kHz × 8192 = 122.880MHz
 Δf also helps to determine the size of N_{WINDOW}. Again, use the next highest integer odd (or mutually prime) number, determined by the desired input test tone and Δf.
N_{WINDOW} = int (f_{IN}/Δf)
N_{WINDOW} = 17MHz/15kHz = 1133
 Based on these findings, the near optimum input test tone f_{IN} calculates as follows
f_{IN} = f_{SAMPLE} × (N_{WINDOW}/N_{RECORD})
f_{IN} = 122.88MHz (1133/8192) = 16.995MHz
Equipment and SetUp Recommendations for a Successful HighSpeed ADC Test
Table 1 lists some recommended hardware instruments and software products, which have proven to be quite valuable for data capture and analysis of highspeed ADC dynamic performance parameters.Table 1. Equipment and software tool recommendations for highspeed ADC testing.
Type Of Equipment

Equipment Count and Notes

Synthesized Signal Generator: HP/Agilent 8662/3A (10kHz to 1.28/2.56GHz, 139dBm to +13dBm) or HP/Agilent 8644A (252kHz to 1.030GHz, 140dBm to +20dBm) 
2 generators for singlechannel ADC input and clock 3 generators for IMD test (singlechannel ADC) or 3 generators for dualchannel ADC inputs and clock 4 generators for IMD test (dualchannel ADC) 
Logic Analyzer System: HP/Agilent 16500C mainframe (or similar) (1Gsps State Analyzer Card HP16517A optional and for ADCs with sampling speeds >100MHz only) 
1 Logic analyzer (in default configuration, allows to evaluate up to 4 channels for ADCs with up to 16bit resolution) 
BandPass Filters: TTE's Q56/KC7 series for frequencies <100MHz/>100MHz (Other suitable filter suppliers are Allen Avionics or K&L Microwave) 
1 Filter for singlechannel ADC 2 Filters for simultaneous evaluation of a dualchannel ADC 
Power Combiner: MiniCircuits 15542 ZSC21W (or similar) 
1 Combiner (used for twotone IMD evaluation only) 
RF FrequencyBalun/Transformer: MA/COM H9SMA (or similar) 
2 Baluns for singlechannel ADC and clock 3 Baluns for dualchannel ADC and clock 
GPIBCompatible Interface Card: National Instruments GPIB/IEEE®488 Interface Card + driver and installation software (PC/PCMCIAcard or GPIBtoUSB port adapter) 
1 Interface card Note: This card is recommended for fast data transfer between logic analyzer and computer; requires Cbased software platform (e.g. LabWindows/CVI) to control the interface. Data can also be extracted from the logic analyzer with a floppy disk. 
Data Analysis Software: MATLAB from The Math Works Inc. or Measurement Studio with LabWindows/CVI from National Instruments 
1 License for each software package Note: LabWindows/CVI provides a Cbased platform to control the interface between logic analyzer and PC 
Probably the most critical elements in such a test setup (Figure 1) are the synthesized signal generators, used to generate the waveforms for the clock and input frequencies. Suitable signal generators must feature low phase noise; because measured dynamic parameters such as SNR will degrade dramatically with an increase in phase noise "Defining and Testing Dynamic Parameters in HighSpeed ADCs, Part 1." Furthermore, these signal synthesizers have to provide adequate output power, must have phase locking capabilities, and a frequency resolution of 0.1Hz or better to ensure accurate coherence.
Figure 1.
Although generators such as the HP8662A series from HewlettPackard/Agilent are rather expensive and have a limited output amplitude range of 139dBm to +13dBm (0.025µV_{RMS} to 1V_{RMS} into a 50Ω load), they satisfy all other test requirements and are most suitable for the dynamic tests of highspeed converters.
To further reduce the harmonic distortion components of the synthesizer's output frequency it is recommended to filter the desired test tone by applying a highquality bandpass between generator and ADC input drive.
Clock and signal inputs of fast ADCs usually are equipped with true differential input architectures, which require the signal generator's singleended output to be converted to a differential signal. This can be achieved by using an external balun or an offtheshelf transformer with center tap and DC isolation. Usually, the latter is a surfacemount component and should be incorporated on the characterization board, used to test the ADC. Most of Maxim's highspeed data converter evaluation kits feature such transformers and emphasize on impedance matched I/O lines to keep unwanted signal skew and phase mismatch at a minimum.
To capture digital data on the parallel output ports of a highspeed ADC a fast Logic Analyzer will be needed. An excellent choice is the HewlettPackard/Agilent HP16500 Logic Analyzer mainframe. For converter sampling/clock speeds greater than 100MHz, this system accepts highspeed data capture cards such as the HP16517A. The system's mainframe features a GPIB/HPIB bus, capable of interfacing with a PCbased GPIB to transmit data from the Logic Analyzer to a PC quickly. One may of course use the floppy drive built into the instrument to store data, however depending on the size of the data record (number of points in the FFT) this may take significantly longer than just utilizing the analyzer's GPIB interface. Once data has been sent to the PC, a signal processing software such as MATLAB may be used to analyze the data records from the logic analyzer. The following MATLAB sample code maybe used to calculate the basic AC specifications of any a highspeed ADC.
%Source Code Sample MAX144X Family  
%The following program code plots the FFT spectrum of a desired test tone. Test tone based on coherent sampling criteria, and  
%computes SNR, SINAD, THD and SFDR.  
%Copyright Au/Hofner, Maxim Integrated, 160 Rio Robles, Sunnyvale, CA94086  
%This program is believed to be accurate and reliable. This program may get altered without prior notification.;  
disp('HP16500C LA 100/110 State Card');  
filename=input('Enter file name or press RETURN to accept data from LA via GPIB/HPIB): ');  
if isempty(filename)  
filename = 'listing';  
end  
fid=fopen(filename,'r');  
numpt=input('Number of Points in FFT? ');  
fclk=input('Sampling Frequency (MHz)? ');  
numbit=input('ADC Resolution? ');  
%Discard first 13 lines of the LA listing (LA header), as they don't contain valid data.  
for i=1:13,  
fgetl(fid);  
end  
[v1,count]=fscanf(fid,'%f',[2,numpt]);  
fclose(fid);  
v1=v1';  
code=v1(:,2);  
%Warning: ADC output may be clipping  reduce input amplitude  
if (max(code)==2^{numbit}1)  (min(code)==0)  
disp('WARNING: ADC OUTPUT MAYBE CLIPPING  CHECK INPUT AMPLITUDE!');  
end  
figure;  
plot([1:numpt],code);  
title('TIME DOMAIN')  
xlabel('SAMPLES');  
ylabel('DIGITAL OUTPUT CODE');  
Dout=code(2^numbit1)/2;  %Recenter the digitized sinusoidal input  
Doutw=Dout;  
Dout_spect=fft(Doutw);  
Dout_dB=20×log10(abs(Dout_spect));  
figure;  
maxdB=max(Dout_dB(1:numpt/2));  
plot([0:numpt/21].×fclk/numpt,Dout_dB(1:numpt/2)maxdB);  
grid on;  
title('FFT PLOT');  
xlabel('ANALOG INPUT FREQUENCY (MHz)');  
ylabel('AMPLITUDE (dB)');  
a1=axis; axis([a1(1) a1(2) 100 a1(4)]);  
fin=find(Dout_dB(1:numpt/2)==maxdB);  %Find the signal bin (DC represents bin=1)  
span=max(round(numpt/200),5);  %Determine span of input frequency on each side  
spanh=2;  %Search span for harmonic distortion components on each side  
spectP=(abs(Dout_spect)).× (abs(Dout_spect));  %Determine power level  
Pdc=sum(spectP(1:span));  %Determine DC offset power level  
Ps=sum(spectP(finspan:fin+span));  %Determine signal power level  
Fh=[];  %Vector storing frequency and power components of signal and harmonics  
Ph=[];  %HD1=signal, HD2=2nd harmonic, HD3=3rd harmonic, etc.  
%Find the harmonic frequencies/power within the FFT plot  
for har_num=1:10  
tone=rem((har_num × (fin1)+1)/numpt,1);  %Note: tones > fSAMPLE are aliased back  
if tone>0.5  
tone=1tone;  
end  
Fh=[Fh tone];  
%For this method to work properly, make sure that the folded back high order harmonics do not overlap with DC and signal  
%components or lower order harmonics.  
har_peak=max(spectP(round(tone×numpt)spanh:round(tone×numpt)+spanh));  
har_bin=find(spectP(round(tone×numpt)spanh:round(tone×numpt)+spanh)==har_peak);  
har_bin=har_bin+round(tone×numpt)spanh1; Ph=[Ph sum(spectP(har_bin1:har_bin+1))];  
end  
Pd=sum(Ph(2:5));  %Total distortion power level  
Pn=sum(spectP(1:numpt/2))PdcPsPd;  %Extract noise power level  
format;  
A=(max(code)min(code))/2^{numbit}  %Analog input amplitude in mV  
AdB=20×log10(A)  %Analog input amplitude in dB  
SNR=10×log10(Ps/Pn)  %SNR in dB  
SNR=10×log10(Ps/Pn)  %SINAD in dB  
SINAD=10×log10(Ps/(Pn+Pd))  
disp('THD  HD2 through HD5');  
THD=10×log10(Pd/Ph(1))  %THD in dB  
SFDR=10×log10(Ph(1)/max(Ph(2:10)))  %SFDR in dB  
disp('SIGNAL AND HARMONIC POWER (dB)');  
HD=10×log10(Ph(1:10)/Ph(1))  
hold on;  
plot(Fh(2)×fclk,0,'mo',Fh(3)×fclk,0,'cx',Fh(4)×fclk,0,'r+',Fh(5)×fclk,0,'g×',Fh(6)×fclk,0,'bs',Fh(7)×fclk,0,'bd',Fh(8)×fclk,0,'kv',  
Fh(9)×fclk,0,'y^');  
legend('SIGNAL','HD2','HD3','HD4','HD5','HD6','HD7','HD8','HD9');  
hold off; 
Conclusion
This application note provides one approach to establishing dynamic performance parameters of a highspeed ADC quickly and precisely. Digital data can also be analyzed using a high dynamic performance, highresolution DAC in combination with an output filter and spectrum analyzer. However, that approach requires careful selection and design of the reconstruction signal path to avoid falsifying the ADCs true dynamic performance. Some applications may even prefer a test system with builtin digital distortion analyzer. Even a Logic Analyzer can deliver a quick, but rather inaccurate analysis of the digital output signals. Just remember: Choosing the appropriate configuration for your test setup entirely depends on the type of application, available hardware and software resources, design time, and the quality of dynamic performance results needed for your application.References
 Application note 1040, "Coherent Sampling vs. Window Sampling"
 Application not 728, "Defining and Testing Dynamic Parameters in HighSpeed ADCs, Part 1"
 Application note 729, "Dynamic Testing of HighSpeed ADCs, Part 2"
 If N_{RECORD} is a poweroftwo value, then an odd number for N_{WINDOW} will meet the coherent sampling requirement.
 The size of an ideal frequency bin is defined by bin = f_{SAMPLE}/N_{RECORD}.