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A Comparison of DDS and Analog FM Broadcast

Transmitters
George Davies
BW Broadcast
October 3, 2012
Abstract
A study investigating the noise performance of Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) and analog FM broadcast transmitters, comparing performance
when unmodulated, modulated with single frequencies and modulated
with audio. The tests are carried out on three transmitters, two implementing DDS: a PTEK FM150ES and a Zhongchuan Digital ZHC618F100W, and one analog: a BW Broadcast TX150. Although the commonly
held belief is that DDS provides considerably greater performance compared to analog transmitters, this paper demonstrates that this is not the
case for the devices tested.
The tests show that for the two DDS devices chosen, the RF spectral
output of the transmitters does not conform to the ETSI EN 302 018-2
harmonised standard for FM broadcast transmitters, making them unsuitable for use in many countries. In some cases they may also become
dangerous to use as they cause interference in bands reserved for aircraft
automatic landing and communications systems. Throughout all of the
tests, the analog BW Broadcast TX150 conforms fully to the standard.
The results are plotted as frequency spectra given with 1MHz bandwidth to see spurious signals close to the carrier, and at 50MHz to see
signals further from the carrier.

Contents
1 Introduction
1.1 FM150ES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2 ZHC618F-100W . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.3 TX150 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2 Results
2.1 Carrier . . . .
2.2 1kHz Tone . .
2.3 10kHz Tone .
2.4 Audio Signal

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3 Conclusion

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4 Appendix
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4.1 Test Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
4.2 Test Standard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
4.3 All Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Introduction

In recent years, there has been a shift within the industry towards direct digital synthesis (or DDS) as the method of excitation within FM transmitters,
as opposed to fully analog systems. As a result of advances in consumer and
professional audio electronics the word digital is often associated with better performance. In this white paper we compare excitation methods, and investigate if
high end DDS systems offer similar or superior performance to analog systems.
We will compare the noise performance of three similarly priced models of FM
transmitter, the PTEK FM150ES, the Zhongchuan Digital ZHC618F-100W and
the BW Broadcast TX150. As the results show, only one of these fits the ETSI
EN 302 018-2 harmonised standard for FM broadcast transmitters.

1.1

FM150ES

The PTEK FM150ES is a medium power FM transmitter with a stated maximum output power of 165W. It utilises the Analog Devices AD9910 as its DDS
chip. It comes with BNC composite MPX and XLR analog L+R audio inputs.

1.2

ZHC618F-100W

The Zhongchuan Digital ZHC618F is a medium power FM transmitter with a


stated maximum stated output power of 100W. As with the FM150ES, it also
utilises the AD9910 DDS chip. As opposed to the PTEK it has only XLR analog
L+R audio inputs.

1.3

TX150

The BW Broadcast TX150 is a medium power analog FM transmitter with


a maximum output power of 150W. The TX150 is equipped with both XLR
analog L+R and AES/EBU audio inputs and BNC composite MPX in and out.

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2.1

Results
Carrier

Figure 1: ZHC618F Analog Left and Right Inputs Carrier Only

Figure 2: PTEK FM150ES (Wideband) MPX Input Carrier only

Figure 3: BW Broadcast TX150 (Wideband) MPX Input Carrier only


Discussion
As figures one through three show, even without modulation, clear differences
can be seen between the three transmitters. Starting with the ZHC618F (Figure
1), we can see in both the 1MHz and 50MHz traces the spectrum sits below the
mask, but in the outer 200kHz regions, the signals are only slightly below the
mask, and some spurious signals breach it. The two most notable are at 384
kHz.
The FM150ES (Figure 2) however already shows spurious signals breaching the
mask. Although within the 1MHz region the spectrum passes, in the 50MHz
range, clear spurious signals are rising to around 20dB above allowed limits,
with at least ten distinct spikes visible on the trace. Already the FM150ES
does not satisfy the harmonised standard limits.
Inspection of the trace from the TX150 (Figure 3) shows a more familiar situation. The carrier is a clean spire, and by the outer 200kHz region the noise
floor has dropped to -100dBc.

2.2

1kHz Tone

Figure 4: ZHC618F Analog Left and Right Inputs 1kHz Tone

Figure 5: PTEK FM150ES (Wideband) MPX Input 1kHz Tone

Figure 6: BW Broadcast TX150 (Wideband) MPX Input 1kHz Tone


Discussion
As expected, a similar pattern emerges when observing the RF output signal
modulated with a 1kHz tone.
Figure 4 shows the ZHC618F. Although the 50Mhz trace is mostly clean, the
1MHz shows the outer bands of the trace breaching the mask slightly. This
would cause the device to breach the harmonized standard.
Figure 5 shows the FM150ES when modulated with a 1kHz tone. As expected
from extrapolating the carrier only trace, we see major breaches of the mask.
In the 1MHz range, the addition of the 1kHz modulation causes the shoulders
of the carrier to breach the mask, but upon inspection of the 50MHz trace, we
see the spurious signals from before have been expanded and are now causing
interference of 20dB with a bandwidth in the range of MHz. This interference
is within the Aeronautical Radio-navigation (automated landing systems for
aircraft) and Aviation Communication bands.
Figure 6 shows the frequency response from the BW Broadcast TX150. As
expected from inspection of the carrier only trace, we see a clean top hat with
75kHz deviation with the noise again reducing to -100dBc in the outer 200kHz
region.

2.3

10kHz Tone

Figure 7: ZHC618F Analog Left and Right Inputs 10kHz Tone

Figure 8: PTEK FM150ES (Wideband) MPX Input 10kHz Tone

Figure 9: BW Broadcast TX150 (Wideband) MPX Input 10kHz Tone


Discussion
By increasing the modulation to 10kHz, we can see the two DDS units breach
the frequency mask to a greater extent.
At 10kHz modulation, the ZHC618F performs very poorly, with some spikes
rising to a full 30dB above the specified mask, as shown in Figure 7. Once
again, this breaches the mask and therefore fails the harmonized standard test.
The PTEK FM150ES breaches the standard even further when modulated with
a 10kHz tone. Figure 8 shows the poor noise rejection, with spikes rising as high
as -52dBc. The noise breaches the mask considerably with the wideband noise
dropping below the allowed -95dBc only at approximately 3MHz either side of
the carrier.
Once again, the TX150 passes the mask with 10kHz modulation. On inspection
of Figure 9 we see the spectrum fits neatly inside the mask with no spurious
signals rising above the limits specified by the standard.

2.4

Audio Signal

Figure 10: ZHC618F Analog Left and Right Inputs Audio. Top: Single sweep,
Bottom: Max Hold

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Figure 11: PTEK FM150ES (Wideband) MPX Input Audio. Top: Single sweep,
Bottom: Max Hold

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Figure 12: BW Broadcast TX150 (Wideband) MPX Input Audio. Top: Single
sweep, Bottom: Max Hold

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Discussion
By modulating the three transmitters with an audio signal, we arrive at a good
approximation for real world use. As figures 10 and 11 show, in this test, we
once again see that the ZHC618F and the FM150ES failed to meet the harmonized standard.
Finally, we can see the BW TX150 fits easily within the mask and even when
taking a max hold of over 2 minutes, no signals breach the mask even slightly,
showing complete EM compatibility under the ETSI EN 302 018-2 V1.2.1 harmonised standard for FM broadcast transmitters.

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Conclusion

As this white-paper has shown, throughout the testing procedure the Zhongchuan
Digital ZHC618F and the PTEK FM150ES do not meet the ETSI EN 302 0182 harmonised standard. During the testing process it was shown that they
produce unacceptable amounts of interference, both close in and out of band,
which would cause high levels of interference to transmissions within the FM
radio broadcast band and others. The fact that the TX150 does not suffer from
these issues and other digitally induced spectra products allows it to fit neatly
within the harmonized standard limits. Clearly we can see although the commonly held belief is that DDS provides considerably better noise and distortion
performance, in this case at least, the analog transmitter outperforms the DDS
units, and will produce less interference to other users of the radio spectrum.

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4
4.1

Appendix
Test Method

To test the three devices, a Prism Sound DScope Series III analog and digital
audio analyser was used to produce 1 kHz and 10 kHz pure sinusoidal tones
which were fed into the device under test (DUT). The RF output of the device
was fed through a suitably rated RF attenuator before then being measured on
a high specification Rhode and Schwartz FSEA 30 Digital Spectrum analyser.
The blank carrier was also recorded for comparison. The input signals were fed
into both the analog and composite inputs for the TX150 and the FM150ES,
and into the analog left and right inputs only for the ZHC618F.
For the final tests, audio was fed into a BW Broadcast DSPXtra-FM audio
processor. As before, the processor output was fed into the FM150ES and the
TX150 via composite in and into the ZHC618F via analog L+R in. 75 s preemphasis was applied using the DSPXtra-FM. For the max hold images, the
images were taken over a time period of two minutes.
For each of the tests that were performed, the transmitter was adjusted to
achieve 75kHz peak deviation.
For testing, all the devices were attenuated so that the peak output power of
the unmodulated carrier was 0dBm to allow for easy comparison between the
figures included in this report.

4.2

Test Standard

The ETSI EN 302 018-2 harmonised standard defines a spectrum mask for
which all out of band emissions must be below for radio transmitters in the FM
broadcast band. The mask is defined as:
Frequency relative to the
centre of the channel (kHz)
-500
-300
-200
-100
100
200
300
500

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Relative Level (dBc)


-85
-85
-80
0
0
-80
-85
-85

Figure 13: ETSI EN 302 018-2 harmonised standard mask


This mask is superimposed on each of the plots taken during testing for easy
identification of any signals breaching it.

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4.3

All Figures

Here we have included all of the tests performed on the three transmitters. To
save space, only thumbnails are provided, but full size versions will be gladly
supplied upon request by contacting us by email at info@bwbroadcast.com.

Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

Figure 14: BW Broadcast TX150 87.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

Figure 15: BW Broadcast TX150 97.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

Figure 16: BW Broadcast TX150 107.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

Figure 17: PTEK FM150ES 87.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

Figure 18: PTEK FM150ES 97.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

Figure 19: PTEK FM150ES 107.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

N/A

N/A

N/A

Figure 20: ZHC618F-100W 87.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

10kHz Modulation

1kHz Modulation

Carrier

MPX Input

N/A

N/A

N/A

Figure 21: ZHC618F-100W 97.9MHz

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Analogue Left and


Right Inputs

Carrier

N/A

10kHz Modulation

N/A

1kHz Modulation

MPX Input

N/A

Figure 22: ZHC618F-100W 107.9MHz

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