Whether you’re a hobbyist, professional, or a student, if you’re working with radio frequencies, it would be really helpful to get your hands on a spectrum analyzer.
These are instruments designed to measure, visualize, and analyze RF signals.
They can be used for lab applications, education, and experiments like amateur radio.
And while they are incredibly useful for a lot of applications, finding the right one for you can be tough.
With all the different options out there, one can get easily overwhelmed.
That’s where we come in.
In this article, we’ll be taking a quick look at some of the best spectrum analyzers on the market today, and we’ve also included a buying guide so that you know which features to look for when shopping.
Read on to learn more.
Top 5 Best Spectrum Analyzers (Updated List)
What To Look For When Buying Spectrum Analyzers
Simply put, frequency range refers to the range of frequencies that the instrument can analyze and detect.
Ideally, you would be want to be able to see the fifth harmonic within a signal to indicate adequate frequency range.
A wider range will allow you to test more frequencies and signals, which makes for a more functional spectrum analyzer overall.
It is best practice to understand what frequencies you’ll be dealing with and choose a model that can handle that and more.
This can also play a big role when it comes to the accuracy of readings.
The resolution bandwidth refers to the instrument’s ability to detect and isolate certain frequencies that are close together.
So the greater the resolution bandwidth, the more precise the readings on the analyzer will be.
In that light, those looking for highly accurate readings make sure to get an analyzer with a relatively wide resolution bandwidth.
A pre-amplifier gives the device the ability to boost or amplify weak signals before they enter the spectrum analyzer.
This is a very useful feature if you’re dealing with weak signals as boosting the signal will increase the sensitivity of the analyzer, which will allow you to record and analyze a wider variety of signal strengths.
This feature may not exactly be a requirement but it would be a huge bonus for most applications, especially when the signal range you deal with is very wide and you’ll be working with both weak and strong signals.
OSCIUM WiPry 2500x Spectrum Analyzer 2.4 & 5 GHz (Best Overall)
- 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Spectrum Analyzer views all interference including ZigBee, Bluetooth, Baby...
- Android, iOS, Mac, PC Supported
- Scan and Troubleshoot Wi-Fi
Back in the day, spectrum analyzers were usually reserved for laboratory applications.
But now, you can use simple models like this one from OSCIUM for a lot of tasks, but one of its best applications is helping you improve your Wi-Fi speed.
This is a great pick for beginners as it isn’t as expensive as full-on analyzers, but is slightly more sophisticated than the other portable options available on the market.
To use this handy device, you simply have to connect it to your phone or tablet, whether it runs on iOS or Android, it doesn’t matter as this device also has cross-platform compatibility.
And if you aren’t too familiar with how these instruments work, you can simply learn all you need to know on the app that’s available on the App Store and PlayStore.
This device allows you to see RF frequencies across the 2.5 GHz bandwidth and the 5.0 GHz bandwidth which includes baby monitors, garage door openers, and even microwaves, just to name a few.
Through this, you can find out sources of noise that can get in the way of your Wi-Fi signal, make the necessary corrections, and enjoy faster and more reliable Wi-Fi, whether that be at home or work!
It allows you to view a lot of different parameters all on your phone and could come in handy for a lot of different applications.
On top of that, it comes with just about all the accessories one would need such as a carrying case, USB connectors, and even lightning connector cables!
- Can read a lot of different parameters
- Can help people speed up their Wi-Fi
- Easy to use when paired with the app
- Compatible with both Android and Apple devices
- Gives reports that are easy to understand and highlight everything you need to know
- Significantly more expensive than other handheld models out there
SEESII Spectrum Analyzer (#2 Best Choice)
- 【Frequency Range 】Tiny Spectrum Analyzer with two inputs, high quality MF/HF/VHF input for...
- 【Built-in Calibration Signal Generator】When not used as Spectrum Analyzer it can be used as...
- 【Tiny Spectrum analyzers & ESD Function】Switchable resolution bandpass filters for both ranges...
Up next, we have another pocket-sized, portable analyzer, but this time, it comes at a much cheaper price.
But don’t let the price tag, fool you, this is still a highly functional analyzer that can be used for a wide variety of applications.
It has a bright-colored display that can show over 290 scan points covering a wide frequency range.
This model has two inputs, one of them is a high-quality MF/HF/VHF input ideal for 0.1MHz-350MHz, while the other one is a lesser quality UHF input for frequencies between 240MHz and 960MHz, which offers a lot of functionality, especially for a portable device.
The battery is built-in and rechargeable, which can give you up to 2 hours of power on a full charge, and when the analyzer is not used, it has a signal generator function, which on its own has a very wide range of applications.
On top of that, you can connect this to a PC via USB to turn it into a PC-controlled analyzer.
And since it installs the driver once you plug the device in, you don’t have to worry about complex and arduous installations.
So if you’ve been on the hunt for a quality analyzer that you can bring around with you and one that you can buy on a tight budget, this might just be the right pick for you.
- Easy to use
- Has a built-in calibration signal generator
- Can be connected to a PC via USB
- Ideal for a wide range of applications
- Portable and easy to bring around
- The build quality could be better
Siglent Technologies SSA3021X-TG Spectrum Analyzer (Top Choice #3)
- All-Digital IF Technology
- Frequency Range from 9 kHz up to 2.1 GHz
- -161 dBm/Hz Displayed Average Noise Level (Typ.)
Carrying on, we’re going to be taking a look at some more sophisticated models that are more fit for laboratory applications, starting with this robust model from Siglent Technologies.
This is one of the most respected brands in the field, so you can rest assured that you’ll be investing in a quality product.
It has a very wide frequency range of 9kHz up to 1Ghz, which can allow you to detect a lot of signals and frequencies with pinpoint accuracy.
On top of that, it has a 1Hz minimum resolution bandwidth, which is integral in retrieving accurate and precise results.
This is a fully digital model, so it comes with a very wide range of modern features, all fit for the modern lab.
The average displayed noise level is around -161dbm/Hz, and it also has a standard pre-amplifier, which allows you to measure and analyze smaller and weaker signals.
Built-in to the device is an advanced measurement kit that allows you to analyze a wider range of parameters such as ACPR and channel power measurements, which provides even more functionality for lab applications.
All in all, this is a very reliable device that comes from one of the best brands on the market, and while it may be an investment considering its price range, it would be very much worth it, especially for those who find themselves working with radio frequencies a lot.
- Can be used for a wide variety of applications
- Robust and durable build
- Wide frequency range
- 1 Hz resolution bandwidth allows users to get very accurate readings
- Comes with advanced measurement kits for more complex parameters
- Relatively expensive
Rigol DSA815-TG Spectrum Analyzer
- Spectrum Analyzer, 9kHz to 1.5GHz with preamplifier and tracking generator
- 2012-2014 top selling unit
- 9 kHz to 1.5 GHz Frequency Range
This next pick is another benchtop model, so expect a steep price tag.
That being said, this Rigol model is slightly cheaper than the Siglent one featured above, so it could be a great pick for those that need a highly functional analyzer or lab applications but are on a tight budget.
It also features a wide frequency range of 9kHz to 1.5 GHz, which allows you to measure a very wide range of radio frequencies, making it ideal for a lot of lab applications.
This is one of the top-selling analyzers between 2012 to 2014 and is still considered one of the better models available on the market today.
A lot of customers point to this model as being one of the best for the more serious hobbyists, as it has good sensitivity, great accuracy, and is very reliable.
On top of that, it has a large and very easy-to-read display, making it one of the top picks in the market today.
So if you’re a hobbyist looking to upgrade their gear, this analyzer from Rigol would be a great place to start.
- Wide frequency range
- Fairly accurate readings
- More affordable than a lot of other benchtop models
- Has a 1.5 GHz tracking generator
- One of the best choices for hobbyists
- The device’s sensitivity could be better
Seeed Studio RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzer
- [Impressive frequency range] – Scan and diagnose any frequency starting in low frequency 50KHz up...
- [Robust design and instant power up] – A fully armored metallic enclosure provides robust...
- [Advanced features] – Included advanced high-resolution Spectrum Analyzer mode, WiFi Analyzer...
Wrapping up our list, we have another handheld and portable model that is ideal for those who need accurate spectrum analysis on the go.
It has a range of 50kHz up to 6.1GHz, which is one of the widest ranges among handheld analyzers on today’s market.
On top of that, it has a very durable build, so you won’t have to worry about damaging this valuable piece of equipment with an accidental drop.
Built-in to this device is a couple of advanced features such as high-resolution analyzer mode, Wi-Fi analyzer mode, and even tracking SNA, which gives you a lot of flexibility with one simple device.
And if that weren’t enough, it even has free computer software that comes with it, so you can connect the device to your PC to access high-resolution graphics and other features such as real-time charts and historical charts.
While this device might be more expensive than other handheld models, it does provide great functionality, which is just one of the reasons it made it to our list.
- Handheld and portable
- Wide frequency range
- Comes with a computer software
- Connect it to your PC to access more features
- Comes with a carrying case
- Fairly expensive for a handheld model
What Is A Spectrum Analyzer Used For?
The simplest definition is it’s a device that can analyze radio frequencies.
Generally, it is used to measure the power of the spectrum of known and unknown signals.
These devices can measure frequency response, noise, and distortion characteristics of radio-frequency circuitry.
On top of that, they can also measure interference sources and occupied bandwidth of different telecommunications devices.
If you find yourself working with radio frequencies regularly, this would be a very valuable and useful instrument to have at your disposal.
Signal Vs. Spectrum Analyzer
While they are sometimes used interchangeably, a signal analyzer and a spectrum analyzer are fairly different instruments.
As we mentioned earlier, a spectrum analyzer is used to analyze RF signals in the frequency domain and has been used for many years.
On the other hand, a signal analyzer can be seen as an upgrade version.
A signal analyzer is a spectrum analyzer that is equipped with digital signal processing.
This simple addition makes the signal analyzer a much more versatile instrument that can perform functions such as Fast Fourier Transforms, also known as FFT’s.
For a lot of laboratory applications, signal analyzers have become the go-to choice because of the added functionality and flexibility as compared to the older analyzers.
That being said, for hobbyists, these options might be impractical, which is why old-school analyzers are still a viable option for a lot of people in this day and age.
Oscilloscope Vs Spectrum Analyzer
Both of these instruments are designed and made to measure view and analyze electronic signals.
That being said, a spectrum analyzer and an oscilloscope do these in different ways and display them differently.
The former is designed to measure and allow you to view signals in the frequency domain, which is basically how a signal changes as a response to different types of frequencies.
On the other hand, oscilloscopes measure signals in the time domain, which means how the signal changes in relation to time.
However, advancements in technology have led to overlapping in some of the functions of these instruments, as certain oscilloscopes now come equipped with FFT functions.
That being said, both of these tools are very important for a lot of applications and would be very useful to have both of them on hand to allow you to make a lot of different measurements and tests.
What Is Reference Level In A Spectrum Analyzer?
The reference level of a spectrum analyzer simply refers to the specific power level on the instrument in which all the inputs are compared to on the plotting screen.
So that means that lowering the reference level will simply scroll the screen down vertically, but the measured curves will stay the same.
Make sure to choose the right reference level when dealing with certain frequencies and signals to ensure that your readings will be visible on the screen.
And that ends our list of the best spectrum analyzers on the market today.
Everyone will have different needs when it comes to analyzers.
Some will need sophisticated benchtop models, while others will need handheld devices for simpler applications.
Regardless of which one you need, if you think you found the right one for you on this list, then it might be about time for you to head out and get your hands on one for yourself!
And before you know it, you’ll be analyzing a wide variety of data using your very own spectrum analyzer.
Last Updated on June 19, 2021 by Tom
- Top 5 Best Spectrum Analyzers (Updated List)
- What To Look For When Buying Spectrum Analyzers
- Product Reviews
- What Is A Spectrum Analyzer Used For?
- Signal Vs. Spectrum Analyzer
- Oscilloscope Vs Spectrum Analyzer
- What Is Reference Level In A Spectrum Analyzer?