[time-nuts] Advantages & Disadvantages of the TPLL Method

WarrenS warrensjmail-one at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 13 03:45:57 UTC 2010

Thanks for the positive contrbution,  A good example of one of the TPLL's 
obvious disadvantages.
The simple cheap analog version of the TPLL is limited by it's need to have 
a dedicated Ref OSC.

One way I have got around that problem, which would not apply to all, is to 
put the DUT unit as the controlled OSC, and use a special Tbolt as the 
reference Oscillator.
The other way around the problem is the Digital version of the TPLL that 
uses DSS.

BTW that limitation is not nearly as big as one would think. This is because 
the long term accuracy is already limited by the reference osc, so one would 
not generally use this kind of system out past 1000 sec or so anyway.  So If 
doing long term multichannel Osc, One would likely be MUCH better off with a 
more basic  undersampled Phase system for long term testing and just go thru 
and cheek each Osc one at time for a short time with a low tau tester such 
as this type.

Keep the advantages and disadvantages coming in, so the Time Nuts can 
compare which methods work best for their application.
Now if we just had some place to log the responses.

Summery: If you have multi oscillators to test simultaneously that do not 
have EFC input, and that you want to do continuous sampling on, and do not 
have multiple TSC boxes,  the TPLL is not the right tool for the job.
Be better off with one simple lower resolution multiplexed time stamped TI 
phase system and a single TPLL.

Bruce posted:
>The poor cost scaling of the tight PLL system is another reason
> why it has fallen out of favour for those who have more than
> 2 frequency standards to compare simultaneously.

Thanks for that opinion, but I don't think we should list the above as a 
unique disadvantage.
Maybe need a new column heading for that one, Any name suggestions?
Does not sound all that valid or unique of a reason to me.
It seems the same can be said about a TSC or any new high cost system.
I would think a more important reason is that the simple TPLL is not a 
universal do all system.
Because the simple analog version is "Limited by it's reference Osc" in many 
This does give it some possible major disadvantages like not working so good 
with a CS or Rb standard.
If one has more time than money, there are ways around that.



Bruce Griffiths bruce.griffiths at xtra.co.nz
Sun Jun 13 01:25:13 UTC 2010

Another disadvantage of the Tight PLL system that only applies to
multichannel systems is that a dedicated reference oscillator is
required for each channel.
i.e. for an N channel system N reference oscillators are required.
If correlation techniques were to be employed then an N channel system
requires 2N reference oscillators.

N channel versions of Dual Mixer systems by contrast only need a single
offset oscillator and a single reference oscillator.
Similarly an N channel heterodyne system only requires a single offset

An N channel direct RF phase sampling system (like that employed by the
2 channel TSC5120A) only requires a single samplign clock source.

An N channel time interval counter that periodically (eg at a 1Hz rate)
measures phase differences between 2 RF signals only requires a single
reference source.
The above system can be regarded as an undersampled version of the
direct RF phase sampling system.

The poor cost scaling of the tight PLL system is another reason why it
has fallen out of favour for those who have more than 2 frequency
standards to compare simultaneously.


WarrenS wrote:
> Great start
> Now if we just had a list that someone would add the advantages and
> disadvantages to, so that any non relevant stuff could be easily seen
> and removed or moved to a third list, It would all become much clearer.
> ws
> ****************
> Magnus Danielson wrote:
>> On 06/12/2010 11:29 PM, Bruce Griffiths wrote:
>>> WarrenS wrote:
>>>> subject: Advantages& Disadvantages of the TPLL Method.
>>>> Here is a new and unique Idea that may be useful for many.
>>>> Rather than focusing on what some members may or may not already know,
>>>> or how good or bad one specific working BB configuration is.
>>>> How about focusing on what the TPLL method can and can not do well.
>>>> If someone will make a place to post and compile a couple of list,
>>>> I can start it off with what I've learned so far:
>>>> DISADVANTAGES of the TPLL method:
>>>> -------------------------------------------------------
>>>> #1) The TPLL method is limited by it's reference OSC.
>>> This isn't necessarily correct, one could use a pair of tight PLL loops
>>> and use correlation techniques to reduce the contribution of the
>>> reference oscillator noise.
>> True. The same technique is being used for LPLL phase noise
>> measurements. The reference oscillator will still be a limit, but
>> wither you can go below the reference oscillator noise or not is what
>> makes the difference. Such a setup costs about twice of a
>> single-channel TPLL. Usually there is two ADC channels available.
> Yes the cost of the reference oscillator dominates the system cost, the
> additional $10 (omitting the cost of the phase detector) to implement
> the tight PLL is relatively insignificant.
>> The cross-correlation processing isn't too hard to achieve and is
>> efficiently performed using FFTs and a little support-processing. FFTW
>> is a good tool to toss the FFT processing to. The remaining wrapping
>> is in a few ten lines of codes or so. Going down the FFT path will
>> give the frequency plot for free, getting it back into the time-domain
>> cost extra.
> If one is calculating the FFT then it is possible to calculate ADEV
> directly from the FFT (of the frequency samples) with little additional
> effort, for the relevant formulae see:
> http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/37/63/05/PDF/alaa_p1_v4a.pdf
> Note such processing doesn't increase the cost of the system as one
> needs a PC to calculate frequency stability measures, unless one
> wants/needs to do it in real time.
> One disadvantage of a tight PLL system is that finite EFC range and EFC
> non linearity may preclude its application to noisier sources.
> Linearising the EFC transfer function will help but the reference
> oscillator EFC range will ultimately provide an upper limit to the
> measurable noise.
>>>> The ref osc (or the DUT) needs to have an Analog&/or Digital EFC
>>>> control input with a bandwidth that is wider than the desired Tau0
>>>> #2) It basically measures Freq and not Phase differences, and few
>>>> understand how and why it works so well or it's many advantages.
>>> This is not true, there is no inherent SNR advantage in measuring
>>> frequency changes as opposed to measuring phase differences.
>>> When the phase measurement system and the frequency measurement systems
>>> being compared have the same noise bandwidth then the measurement
>>> floors
>>> are comparable.
>>> For example, the TSC5120A is a narrow band system based on measuring
>>> phase differences with a comparable or lower noise floor than your
>>> implementation of the tight PLL.
>>> The common technique of using a time interval counter to measure the
>>> phase difference between 2 RF signals once ever second or so is a
>>> wideband technique with severe undersampling, consequently the system
>>> noise floor is much higher than for narrow bandwidth techniques. If the
>>> phase difference between the 2 signals were measured more frequently
>>> and
>>> digitally low pass filtered the noise will be much lower.
>> Using time-stamping counters at high rate would be possible if being
>> able to cope with the rate of samples. You want a frontend to do that
>> if you want to run continously.
>> As for digital filtering. When doing measurements in the 0,1 - 1000 s
>> range for the G.813 measurements, a 10 Hz low-pass filter is being
>> required.
>>> Since one has to calculate average frequency from the frequency samples
>>> by integration/averaging this is mathematically equivalent to
>>> reconstructing the phase change between the start and end of the
>>> averaging time (Tau0).
>> Depends on the details. Some counters (SR620 for instance) can have
>> biases for frequency data which their time-difference measures do not
>> have. A TPLL does not suffer from that particular problem, as it
>> cranks out its frequency estimation by a different method.
> Yes, but I thought that we were calculating the required averages from
> the frequency (EFC) samples by approximating the required integrals.
>>> One effect of undersampling is to convert (in the sampled data) a
>>> proportion of any flicker phase noise (and other non white phase noise
>>> components) to white phase noise.
>>> The effect of this is to change the ADEV vs Tau plots from their true
>>> shape.
>> Care to hand a reference or two for this statement?
> References for the whitening effect of undersampling:
> http://www.obs-besancon.fr/tf/publis/metrologia98a.pdf
> http://www.obs-besancon.fr/tf/publis/metrologia98b.pdf
> The change in shape of the ADEV vs Tau plot is a consequence of the
> whitening of the phase noise.
>> Regardless, care must be taken to ensure high enough bandwidth
>> compared to the tau for the measurements not to be affected.
>> Cheers,
>> Magnus
> Bruce

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