[time-nuts] Need for a document comparing time interval counters

Bob Camp kb8tq at n1k.org
Sun Nov 20 09:23:28 EST 2016


Once you get into used gear that is many decades old, the actual performance of *your* counter 
is likely to be different than the performance of mine. If you are willing to go through all of the 
detailed alignment steps (and possibly replace parts) yours will work better than mine. How much
better will be a “that depends” sort of thing. Best guess is quite a bit better. 

Even in sparkling new condition with everything working, you still have a very basic “are you 
after frequency or after time?” question. The newer counters (I would toss the CNT-90 into the 
batch) have various tricks in them to improve frequency estimation. The older stuff simply did 
not have the horsepower to do some of this. Time wise some of the older counters did pretty well. 

So, is a 53132 worth more than a 5335? Sure it is. Is a 53230 worth more than a 53132? Yes. 
Are they worth the delta that people charge? That depends a lot on how much cash you have
lying around. If you have a $200K lab already and your yearly spend on gear is $50K that is very
different than a yearly spend of < $1,000. If you can afford the newer stuff, it comes with nice things
like replacement parts / factory repair. On the older gear, purchase of a “parts donor” unit may
be the only way to do a repair. 

On the new stuff (as you have already noted) the auction sites may not be your best source. The
price Keysight charges for a demo unit *may* be your best deal. A local (= in country) equipment 
rental guy might also be a better source. Neither one are likely to give you a great deal today. In
both cases it’s a “let them know” sort of thing. You might or might not get a call back in the next 
couple of months. 

Lots of issues and not much clarity in terms of do this or do that — sorry !


> On Nov 19, 2016, at 8:55 PM, Dr. David Kirkby <drkirkby at gmail.com> wrote:
> If anyone has the time & inclination, a document comparing different time interval counters would be useful to budding time nuts. There are quite a few different models at prices that are affordable to many.
> I have had a HP 5370B and a Stanford Research  SR620, but have neither now. I regretted selling the HP, but then after buying the SR620, I swapped that and a 4.2 GHz HP signal generator for an HP 4291B 1.8 GHz impedance and material analyzer. 
> I was looking for something cheap,  but see a used Keysight 53230A on eBay for considerably more than a new one from Keysight. It had a "make offer" so I could not resist pointing out a new one is much less, and making a redicously low offer of $1000. I doubt it will be accepted,  but one never knows.  I once got a current Ketsight product for 2% of the current price,  so anything is possible.  
> But a  comparison of TI counters,  and a discussion of the important specifications would be njce. 
> .Dave. 
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