Let's take a look at the new Siglent SDG1032X Arbitrary function generator. We're looking at yet another example of the closing gap between hobbyist and pro gear - the growing feature set and capabilities of entry-level equipment continues to improve. Take a look at the video for this article to see a full dive into the user-experience.

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G'day, it's time for another equipment review, today we're looking at the Siglent SDG1032X, which is a 2 channel 30 megahertz Arbitrary Function Generator. Let's take a quick look.

Just a quick tour around the outside before we power up, we have a nice large display i think this one's 4.3 inches, which is a nice upgrade over the single line displays that you would get on older models just basic user, user interface with the two channels on the front, we have a USB so you can save and load arbitrary waveforms, a tilting bail to raise it up off the bench, and on the back we have frequency counter, auxilary IO as well as a 10-megahertz IO so if you have a 10-megahertz lab standard then you can hook it up to this no worries. WE also have the the communication so USB and LAN, so you can either plug this directly into the computer for the arbitrary waveform functions or over a LAN network.

Okay, I've just powered up our function generator and this is our default screen that we're greeted with we have a sine wave on channel 1, 1 kilohertz and 4 volt peak-to-peak, so we can really easily change the frequency of course just by jogging the wheel the frequency is the current parameter selected, and you'll you'll notice that actually every action we do we get that beep which kind of irritates me, so I'm I'm going to turn that off. So we can go into the utility menu go to system and turn the beeper off. Now just a quick tip, you also if you want that to remain the case you should also use the power on and set that to last because if you were to power cycle the device when you come back that beep is going to be on again so now it's just going to retain the last value or the last settings that we can set it up with.

So back to the demo, the jog wheel can feel a little bit clumsy and you can you can get good control like you can move around and also exactly the unit you want which is good for moving around a small area that my preferred method is to just enter numerically the parameter and then use the unit button so if you want 123.4 kilohertz I can enter one two three point four, you see once we just started typing numbers we now get these units down the bottom so I can just like kilohertz there and now we have one hundred and twenty-three point four kilohertz.

The amplitude, now I think the maximum amplitude that this can supply is going to be 10...20 volts peak-to-peak, yeah I think it is 20V, lets see if we hit the ceiling yeah we get 20 volts peak-to-peak, and if I try to raise that, okay so we have an upper limit of 20 volts peak-to-peak, but I think it can sustain that over quite a large operating frequency, at least on Sine so if we if we go over to frequency and I can just roll this frequency up we're now at one Megahertz, Nine megaHertz we still have 20 volts peak-to-peak once I go over ten megahertz, the amplitude automatically gets cut down to 10 volts peak-to-peak, but I think that is sustained all the way up to 30 megahertz so you can see we have a 30 megahertz sine wave at 10 volts peak-to-peak and if we change that to a square wave the wave form button then we now have a square wave and 30 volts peak-to-peak as well just to see what kind of distortion we get on the screen I might also include some screen grabs just so we can see what's happening with these edges on an oscilloscope.

Let's take a look now at the voltage offset because I think the range offered by the 1032 is quite large as well I'll first bring us back down to something a little more reasonable on the frequency, let's go to 100 kilohertz, and the amplitude I'll bring down to 2 volts peak-to-peak. 2 volts peak-to-peak. Now let's have a look at what the offset that we can achieve at this setting is, so we can bring this down to about 9, 9 volts DC offset for this waveform and of course this performance envelope is going to change as amplitude is changed as well so for instance that 9 volt DC may only be possible at 2 volts let's see how far we can take the amplitude now okay so we can't have the maximum amplitude or that offset so which other parameter you set first is going to be the one that restricts the other if I if I set my if I set my amplitude to, sorry If I set my Offset to say four volts DC the amplitude can now be pushed all the way up to 12 volts peak-to-peak so we actually gained quite a lot just by changing the offset that small amount and of course those two parameters are going to change those frequency changes as well.

As far as first impressions go, I quite like the unit I like how to the keys feel even though they are rubberized soft touch keys but you have a nice positive click to them that feels it feels very positive very engaging the contrast on the display is great I like that you can really see at a glance which channel you're working on rather than then try to cram everything into the one screen so at a glance I can see that I'm working with a square wave and then you can just take a closer look for the parameters let's take a closer look at some of the other functions.

So we can quickly change the waveform that when working with pressing this waveform button and we have the the general sine, square, ramp and pulse and noise and then across we have DC and Arb so I mean we we all know what would be you know sine square ramp and pulse look like let's take a dive through the art men users for the arbitrary waveforms so we can look at, well at the moment it is defaulted to a what looks like a staircase up pattern so I wonder if that's stair up and stand down or stair up and then a jump down if we go into the type then we can look at the stored waveform also we can bring up a stored wave form from the flash drive or we can look at the built-ins and this is where we have, oh okay, so we're in the common menu and what we're looking at is a stair up so we have quite a few options across there and then we have our categories down the bottom we have some math functions, quite a few of them actually, some engine functions window not too familiar with window some trigonometric, this course you know tan, cot, that would just be presumably the wave shape so let's just enter tan so if I just press the jog wheel I we have we have like a full tan cycle and then a, a discontinuity as it jumps down from the next cycle let's have a look at, that's interesting we have a square 1, square 2 so we have an entry that's quite interesting we have an entry for what looks like the duty cycle, every percentage duty cycle of a square wave. In fact I think it starts to skip them by 2 so that would be I, I guess, Why have they done that? I guess if you wanted to give absolute priority to the duty cycle of the square wave and then have all the other parameters constrained by that duty cycle, so that you can have the most freedom of what you select perhaps. We have some medical, so your ECG eg some modulation okay so we have another PWM here as well which which I guess would would that be any different to just a different duty cycle, oh okay they are actually are doing a PWM signal not just a square wave with a different duty cycle they are actually modulating something that of course is AM lets have a look at that; yeah that looks looks pretty AM to me, and what's on the last page. So we have some filtering the Butterworth and Chebyshev and after that is just a demo so we have some demo waveforms as well so I mean I guess but that's that's pretty standard for an arbitrary function generator to have these these functions I'm not I'm not too sure on the finer points of what you might look for in what a arbitrary function generator comes with because really the power comes from being able to prescribe your own waveforms and that's what we'll look at next.

Actually I think I got a bit ahead of myself there but I still have to investigate the mod button and that's just to modulate on whichever whichever type of carrier you're looking at so this would be the modulation menu we can do a sweep so you can do a frequency sweep from a start frequency to a stop in certain steps so that's pretty neat if you need to say test a filter you can sweep a range of frequencies through that filter to measure its output response and of course we have the these are all pretty common function in function generators these days. Let's now take a look at the software side of things the software that we can use to prescribe arbitrary waveforms to generate so off-camera I've just downloaded and installed the and NIVISA software which I guess is a driver set from National Instruments and the the Siglent software just from the CD that's supplied with the generator. So I can open up EasyWave and this is our interface so let's just begin with creating an arbitrary waveform from scratch. Let's hit new file I'll call it test wave see if that works and we're working on a 1000 x-series, how many samples do I want to include, I guess that changes the file size and how much of the internal storage you use, so I'm going to pick something like a power two like I guess ten, twenty, ten twenty four, might do and frequency 2 ahead yes sure why not. And there is our blank canvas ready to draw on so we can do we can do a couple of things here we can freehand draw so you can see that I can freehand draw a function so at the moment of kind it looks like a sine wave not really but you'll notice because we're talking about a function the definition for a function is I can't have a vertical line crossing my function more than once so if I go back if I go here and then try to roll back I actually start to edit what's behind so of course you can't have say two, two points on in the same vertical line that's another function. So I mean that's that's as good a function as any let's just clean it up a bit let's go all the way down there they can up with that looks pretty good, I'm going to upload that to the function generator. So I can hit Send wave over USB because I have a function via the USB connector and this is where we get our our operation for which channel we want to send it to so it's already detected my function generator, I'll store it and local, thats the only option I guess if you had a USB Drive plugged in you might get that show up and let's let's do some crazy let's send it to channel to, just a just to really put it through its paces.

Okay over on the bench that's come, that come straight up you can see my my freaky looking way from there just on the on the live display that's quite neat I really like that at a glance you can really see exactly the way form you should be sending and of course we can change the frequency parameter on that just as we did before I wonder what kind of limits are imposed now that we have this arbitrary function I wonder what kind of limits it calculates for the frequency, the amplitude, and, the offset. I bet that over on the computer, I bet that the maximum amplitude that we draw here has some kind of swing in what the constraints are for that waveform.

Now of course that's a pretty crude way to generate a waveform it's not it's not very precise so of course we can do straight line segments, I think this is is a horizontal line so we can put in an exactly horizontal line and actually that's quite neat as we if we don't release the mouse we can recover the waveform that we're erasing, we can put in an exactly vertical line that's how does that work, okay so we can kind of, we can very accurately, create these shapes just by hand but really the thing that the thing that you're probably more interested in is the coordinate draw so we can enter some literal sample the XY coordinates for time and voltage and set those manually, or we can describe it with a real function. So I'm going to I'm going to just make up some function let's let's superimpose some Sine waves, so I could say sine of what are we using here so we can use X and double clicking that building and set it so it can use sine X plus let's say sine 3x - 3 times X so there's a function what I'm doing it's superimposing some sine waves with another sine wave with 3 times the frequency, hit okay that's what that looks like and again we can send the wave but we can put in anything we can put in something of arbitrary complexity in here, so it's let's go, let's go to town with it sine (x) plus how about 0.5 times sine 2 times X plus 0.25 times sine 3 times X so you can get, I mean this isn't really that complicated, but you can get quite complicated. I will be interested to see what the limit for that is that looks like some kind of wave, let's send that way but that should render just like the first one did and I'll send that one to channel 1 okay so that's the that's the wave shape that I described with my equation that looks like an superimposed sine waves and if I go over to channel 2 then we can see my old wave there as well.

So what else can we do with this interface, we have these buttons down the side and they just look like templates yeah okay so we can we can generate some kind of template and these are, these are currently one-to-one with the button, so we could generate this pulse kind of boring words but have how about an exponential rise so we can generate that and I guess we can kind of use that as a starting point for inserting our own our additions to modifications to it sorry using these tools so they could bring in a horizontal line there can like we can cut them off a bit if we want to like so, that right over that was actually pretty easy to get it right on the end so yeah we can we can bring in some standard waveforms and hack them up pretty easily what else do we have we have the cursor trace and grids we can turn the grid on and off because the trace are that's showing us where on the waveform we're going to action so if we put in is really grab this vertical tool and help the cursor trace, that's just that's just updating sorry that's just updating our voltage parameters that's not not like an assistive drawing tool and kind of view slider I'm not sure what that's all about os they do we can come in expand can we zoom in on the view slider like that okay so we can use those sliders to cut pasting column sections of the way okay and how do I reset the zoom, go to view, do it the old-school way , yeah cool just been playing around a bit more I could I find this map menu so we can go to arithmetic map and data map and we can do so some constants or linear maps with the waveform that we have so this all looks like linear operation so I could say multiply by lets say two, as well so I can multiply by let's say two for all the wave and that's just going to change our vertical scale but our vertical scaling now jumped up vertically quite a bit do we have a, we do have a negative voltage swing so if I grant math again this will be pretty cool and we do an absolute operation then this will be the part to watch this line see it should jump up to the zero line we kind of get a preview over here so three two one click and there it goes it's jumped up to it doesn't quite look like Zero, of course because it was a it was negative a couple of volt so now it's going up to positive a couple of volts what else can we do properly setting okay so we can start changing the property and in scale we can change the base frequency

Alright enough of just watching me dive through the interface,I quite like this interface this this interface is significantly better than other arbitrary function generator that I've used before it's it's quite I mean it looks very basic but it has exactly what you need it's quite responsive, there doesn't seem to be any idiosyncrasies with how it behaves I like that you can just straight up enter in an equation that you want to represent so if you modeled some data you can very easily replicate it using that model as this function it also appears as if and I don't have a scope to test this with at the moment but it looks like we can read a wave that just pulls from this unit itself so it looks like we can import a waveform from a Sigilent oscilloscope so if you have a Sigilent scope whatever it apparently it looks like whatever it's captured you could read in and then replicate with the arbitrary function generator, so that could be that can be really useful for doing some design work where you need to to bring in some some specific signal that you've measured, I quite like that feature, if that is indeed what it is. The send wave and read wave set up before the reload just allows me to bring in either a storm or built in function from the generator so I just bring in any of those arbitrary functions that we were looking at before.

So that wraps things up for the arbitrary function generator review I'm really quite pleased with both the interface on the device and the software interface itself but it's it's not too often that you get a winner on both of those fronts I like that it's quite small it's quite light, I like the interface the buttons, everything is pretty easy to use and if you don't get it right away it doesn't take too long to figure it out I'd recommend this for basically anyone who needs a function generator, not all that many people genuinely need a function generator but if you're doing any audio design or RF design having one is absolutely indispensable and this is kind of illustrative of the closing gap between say, entry-level equipment and pro equipment. We have this we have this closing gap between the two where the entry-level equipment is picking up all the features and even getting into the frequency that the pro-level equipment is getting so for Maker spaces or pretty much pretty much any home gamer who needs to generate a function this is not at that place to start

As always, if you own one of these units yourself we'd love to hear your thoughts in the forums or in the comment section through this article I'll catch you next time [Music]