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What does a signal generator do?


When you need an easy-to-use test tool that allows you to generate waveforms, a function generator is your tool. A function generator, also called a signal generator, can be used in developing new electronic equipment designs, product testing, and production line troubleshooting.

An electronic device that generates repeating or single-shot electrical waveforms.

A signal generator or function generator is a piece of test equipment that generates electric signals in a controlled manner for experimental investigations and for testing electronic devices. They often create waveforms such as sine, square, triangle, sawtooth and impulse functions.

Electronics engineers use them during the design phase, e.g. when designing analog circuits, to test the performance of their designs at various frequencies, signal amplitudes etc. Signals generated by these instruments can be applied directly to electronic equipment under test or recorded on chart recorders or oscilloscopes for later analysis and measurement comparison purposes to ensure that the EUT performs within specification limits.

These waveforms can be either repetitive or single-shot.

The triggering mechanism for generating these waveshapes depends on what you need to do with them:

  • Clock triggering is often used when simulating real-world events, like clock pulses or periodic sampling signals. For example, you want to test how well your oscilloscope detects different frequencies of sine waves. In that case, it may be necessary to trigger it properly to capture all frequencies without missing any important ones.
  • External triggering allows you to adjust your signal using an external source instead of relying solely on the internal clock cycles inside your equipment. This gives users greater control over their experiments because they don’t need as much knowledge about their specific system’s work since they can adjust external parameters instead. 

Most generators are either digital or DDS generators or analog generators. 

Most signal generators are created digitally using direct digital synthesis, which creates a digital output, which can then be converted to analog or DDS generators or analog generators with built-in arithmetics for the generator functions. Some signal generators use oscillator circuits that produce both sine and square waves and triangle waves.

Digital signal generators require an ADC (analog-to-digital converter) to convert the analogue signal into digital signals. A DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) is then used to convert those signals back into analogue form. The accuracy of these devices depends on how accurately they can accurately sample, quantise and reproduce audio signals, which will depend on their sample rate and word length capabilities.

Analog signal generators with built-in arithmetics for the generator functions use oscillator circuits that produce both sine and square waves and triangle waves instead of DDS technology or other methods mentioned above.

The most critical application areas.

In addition to the above applications, there are other areas where signal generators are used.

  • They are used in audio electronics for testing loudspeakers and headphones. These instruments perform measurements with a special microphone that converts sound pressure into an electrical signal that can be analysed by a computer or test system.
  • In radio, electronics are used to test transceivers, amplifiers, antennas, receivers, and transmitters.
  • For television electronics, perform measurements on TV sets and monitors that allow you to adjust them accordingly if the picture quality is incorrect or if there is no picture due to interference from other devices such as mobile phones.


Signal generators are electronic devices that generate repeating or single-shot electrical waveforms. These waveforms can be either repetitive or single-shot. Signal generators may be used to design, test and repair electronic equipment. The most important application areas are audio, radio and television electronics, radar electronics and telecommunications.



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