Steve July 29, 2020

One of the best things about the Internet — especially the video part — is that you can get exposed to lots of things you might otherwise not be able to see. Take oscilloscopes, for example. If you were lucky, you might have one or two really nice instruments at work and you certainly weren’t going to be allowed to tear them open if they were working well. [The Signal Path], as a case in point, tears down a $30,000 MSO6 8 GHz oscilloscope.

Actually, the base price is not quite $30,000 but by the time you outfit one, you’ll probably break the $30K barrier. Compared to the scopes we usually get to use, these are very different. Sure, the screens are larger and denser, but looking at the circuit boards they look more like some sort of high-end computer than an oscilloscope. Of course, in a way, that’s exactly what it is.

The real trick to building an expensive 8 GHz is the signal integrity. But the most visible part of the design is thermal management. The entire box is full of heat sinks and other thermal management gear.

The board inside actually can accommodate six inputs, even though the scope was only set up for four inputs. No software hack here, though. The boards are lacking the connectors and the special ICs that manage the front end.

The video is nearly an hour long, and goes into a lot of detail. Looking at the analog front end design is surprisingly enlightening, especially since there are two unpopulated sections so you can deduce the wiring easily without removing any parts.

We used to think we were in clover buying surplus Tektronix or HP scopes from the 1970s back in the 1990s. We wonder how long it will be before these become staples at hamfests and on eBay?

If you want to contrast that to a more common scope, look at the insides of this OWON.You can also shop for something more affordable if you are in the market. Just don’t expect it to look or perform like this scope!

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