[time-nuts] sine to square wave converter

Charles Steinmetz csteinmetz at yandex.com
Thu Jul 10 20:21:27 EDT 2014

Bruce wrote:

>Currently Linear Technology's sine to square wave devices with selectable
>filtering (LTC6957 series) are better in that they are a closer 
>approximation to
>the ideal zero crossing detector.
>Failing that the next best is perhaps an AC coupled  (both at input 
>and between
>emitters) differential pair of 2N3906's or similar.

My initial results with the LTC6957 did not produce lower phase noise 
at 10MHz than an optimized Wenzel two-PNP circuit (it may be possible 
to do better than my initial experiments with the 6957).

Here is the circuit I use:


Using a 20v supply reduces the input feedthrough due to Q1's B-E 
capacitance, which tends to give the output square wave a sloping top.

Using MPSH81s rather than 2N3906s helps with feedthrough, also, as 
well as reducing the rise and fall times (both about 2-4 nS with this 
circuit, depending on how hard it is driven, if it is built with 
proper attention to layout and stray capacitance).

Some will insist that the LM329 is overkill, but the base bias can be 
a significant source (even the dominant source) of phase 
noise/jitter.  The stability and low noise of the 329 improve 
performance materially -- even a TL431 or 1N829 is measurably 
inferior.  An LM399 is somewhat better than the 329, but I have not 
found it necessary in practice.  (Note that the pullup resistor is 
not shown -- 1.5k to 10k metal film from the 329 to +20v, not critical.)

Some additional improvement can be achieved by using the PNP devices 
in an HFA3096 or HFA3128 array, but I have generally not seen the 
need for this in practic.  As drawn, this circuit has lower residual 
PN than any 10MHz oscillator I have measured.

Works best with input levels from 1 to 10Vpp (350mV to 3.5Vrms sine 
wave).  There is a small duty cycle asymmetry (high longer than low), 
which depends on drive level.  Using faster devices (such as HFA3096 
or HFA3128) reduces the asymmetry.  If this is a problem, a resistor 
can be added from the base of Q1 to ground to trim out the asymmetry 
if the input level is well controlled.  Otherwise, the mean output 
voltage can be detected, compared to a reference, and used to adjust 
either base voltage with a servo loop.

Best regards,


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