[time-nuts] Homebrew frequency counter, need help

Tom Van Baak tvb at LeapSecond.com
Fri Dec 12 14:01:28 EST 2014

Hi Li,

What you're doing is the same "trick" the Pendulum CNT-91 uses, as well as modern Agilent frequency counters, and even my own picPET.

The good news is that for frequency measurement all those many samples and the sqrt(N) advantage allow you to measure the frequency far more accurately than with traditional methods. That's why a hp 53132A can rightly advertise "12 digits/second".

The bad news is that what you gain in frequency resolution you lose in temporal resolution. This is why in spite of having 1 ps/s frequency specs, the counter has 150 ps single-shot time resolution. What most time interval counters then do is average in order to gain precision. This works fine unless what you're trying to measure is not time, or even frequency, but frequency stability (modulation domain). In that case averaging may remove the very thing you are trying to measure.

As for ADEV, all you need is the raw phase data, even at 9000 points per second (USB is fast enough), and let TimeLab take care of the rest. It will properly scale, decimate, and filter the data to produce correct ADEV plots, from your minimum tau0 of 0.000111 s out any tau you want. You will quickly see the noise floor of the counter this way.

Some papers to read:

Continuous time stamping

Continuous Measurements with Zero Dead-Time in CNT-91

Modern frequency counting principles

New frequency counting principle improves resolution

Time & Frequency Measurements for Oscillator Manufacturers using CNT-91


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Li Ang" <lllaaa at gmail.com>
To: "Discussion of precise time and frequency measurement" <time-nuts at febo.com>
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2014 7:40 AM
Subject: Re: [time-nuts] Homebrew frequency counter, need help

Hi Bob,
    The job done by linear regression is to reduce the uncertainty. This
counter is designed to use continous timestamp method. My current design
can measure 9000 times/second. If I only use the 1st and last one to
calculate, it's the traditional recipocal + interploator method. This is
what you can see on the chart named "without linear regression". The
uncertainty of slope(the frequency ratio of ref and signal ) is contributed
by these 2 measurements. With linear regression of all 9000 data within one
second, the uncertainty will reduced to smaller one. (I really can't
remember the ratio. Something like sqrt(9000)).

while(1) {
        double t3;  //fraction part of refcnt, measured by tdc_gp22
        double ref_curr;
        uint32_t sig_curr;
        static double ref_start;
        static uint32_t sig_start;
        uint32_t refcnt, sigcnt;
        const uint32_t gate_time = 1000; // 1000ms gate time

        if (i == 0) {
                timestamp(&refcnt, &sigcnt, &t3);
                ref_start = refcnt - t3;
                sig_start = sigcnt;

        timestamp(&refcnt, &sigcnt, &t3);

        regression_enter_data(&rv, refcnt - t3 - ref_start, sigcnt - sig_start);
        if (msecond < gate_time) {
        } else  {
                t = regression_slope(&rv) ; // with linear regression
                printf("\r\nFreq=%.*f", 14, t);
                ref_curr = refcnt - t3;
                sig_curr = sigcnt;

                t = CalcFreq(ref_curr - ref_start, sig_curr -
sig_start); // without linear regression
                printf(" Interpolated=%.*f", 12, t);

                msecond = 0;
              i = 0;

2014-12-12 21:18 GMT+08:00 Bob Camp <kb8tq at n1k.org>:
> HI
> > On Dec 12, 2014, at 4:04 AM, Tom Van Baak <tvb at LeapSecond.com> wrote:
> >
> > This large posting is from Li Ang.
> > /tvb
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Li Ang
> > To: Discussion of precise time and frequency measurement
> > Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2014 7:37 AM
> > Subject: Re: [time-nuts] Homebrew frequency counter, need help
> >
> >
> > Hi Bob,
> >   I've sent the PCB to the factory and I am waiting for the new board.
> This time, it's a 4-layer borad and changed from CPLD to FPGA. This is the
> first time of FPGA & 4-layer project. Hope everthing be OK.
> Very nice looking. I hope it works !!!
> >   TPS79333 as the LDO for TDC. Better PSRR and noise spec than before
> (XC6206). Analog and digital parts have their dedicated LDO.
> >
> >
> >   While I'm waiting the the new board. I did a test with PRS10 & FE5650
> with current board. It's strange that the 20s adev of "without linear
> regression" is better than "with linear regression”
> Be careful pre-processing ADEV data. There are a variety of statistical
> “traps” you can fall into. An overly simple explanation is that ADEV looks
> at noise and that most pre-processing is a filter. Filters take out noise.
> Finding one that only takes out the “bad noise” and keeps the “good noise”
> can be quite difficult.
> What exactly are you doing in your linear regression computation?
> Bob
> >
> .<bottom_layer.GIF><power_plane.GIF><top_layer.GIF><adev.gif>

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