Oscilloscope Types

There are many different types of oscilloscope. Not only is there a distinction between analog and digital, but also storage, mixed signal and mixed domain types as well.

Scope types includes:
Analogue scope     Analogue storage scope     Digital phosphor scope     Digital scope     USB / PC scope     Mixed Signal Oscilloscope MSO     Sampling scope    

Oscilloscope Tutorial Includes:
Oscilloscope basics     Oscilloscope types summary     Specifications     How to use an oscilloscope     Scope triggering     Oscilloscope probes     Oscilloscope probe specifications    

There are many different types of oscilloscope that are available to use.

Different applications have different requirements and need to use different types of oscilloscope.

Also developments in scope technology have given rise to a number of new types of scope, and some older types are less widely used.

Main oscilloscope types

Some of the main types of oscilloscope are listed below:

  • Analogue oscilloscope:   This was the first type of oscilloscope to become popular. Based around the cathode ray tube, it was the mainstay of testing using oscilloscopes for very many years. Analogue techniques were used throughout.
    Read more about . . . . Analogue Oscilloscope.

  • Analogue storage scope:   It was often necessary to capture a waveform and then store it to investigate it further. This was particularly necessary for trying to capture transient waveforms that may take some while to repeat. To achieve this a special form of storage cathode ray tube was needed. This type of scope was expensive and the tubes were easy to burn out.
    Read more about . . . . Analogue Storage Oscilloscope.

  • Digital oscilloscope:   With the advent of digital technology, many advantages could be gained by converting the incoming signals into a digital format to be processed and then displayed. There are various sub-types of digital oscilloscopes:
    • Digital Storage Oscilloscope, DSO:   This was a term used after the initial introlduction of digital oscilloscopes, indicating it had the memory to store waveforms and display them for a period of time.
    • Digital Phosphor Oscilloscope, DPO:   This type of oscilloscope is a digital oscilloscope that uses a parallel processing architecture.     . . . . Read more about the Digital Phosphor Oscilloscope.
    • Digital Oscilloscope:   This is the term that is generally used today. Today's scopes have a huge number of capabilities from the processing of the basic wavform to advanced triggering, and many scopes also have mixed signal capability as well as some scopes that provide the capability to display the spectrum of a waveform as well.
    Read more about . . . . Digital Oscilloscope.

  • Digital Sampling Oscilloscope:   Sampling oscilloscopes are used to capture very high frequency signals. This type of oscilloscope is used when analyzing very high-frequency signals. Signals that are repetitive signals and whose frequencies are higher than the oscilloscope's sampling rate. For measuring repetitive signals, this type can have bandwidth and high-speed timing up to ten times greater than any real-time oscilloscope. Typically this type of scope starts with bandwidth levels of tens of gigahertz. Applications include analyzing high-speed serial buses, optical devices, and clock signals.
  • Mixed signal oscilloscope, MSO:   This type of oscilloscope is effectively the marrying up of am oscilloscope and a logic analyser. Typically the MSO has two or more fully capable scope channels that can display analogue waveforms. It then has a number of other logic analysis channels that detect and display the logic levels.
    Read more about . . . . Mixed signal oscilloscope, MSO.

  • Mixed domain oscilloscope:   This form of oscilloscope is a combination of an oscilloscope and a spectrum analyzer. Often when developing or repairing wireless systems it is necessary to have a scope and spectrum analyzer that are linked so that the effect of the digital or pre-wireless areas on the output RF signal can be seen. This type of oscilloscope or analyzer is particularly helpful in enabling fault-finding of this type of system. The mixed domain oscilloscope is characterised by the separate RF input for spectrum analysis.
  • USB oscilloscope:   Using the power of a PC, this type of scope is able to provide the performance of many oscilloscopes but without the need for all the processing normally required. It connects to a PC using a USB link and uses the PC for its processing, display etc. This means that a high performance scope can be made using a minimum of hardware, reducing the size and cost.
    Read more about . . . . USB / PC based oscilloscope.

These are the major different types of oscilloscope. Some of more widely used than others, and of course, the analogue oscilloscope types are now used far less - mainly just legacy scopes that are available.

A type of oscilloscope as used in an electronics laboratory
A high performance digital oscilloscope type

As can be seen, there are many different types of oscilloscope, each with their own caharcteristics. This means that different oscilloscope types will be applicable for different applications. Choosing the correct type of oscilloscope will enable it to perform to its best and the user to gain the most from it.

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