The Right Equipment Makes A Difference For Digital Oscilloscope Music

We all love our cheap digital oscilloscopes, and with good reason. But if there’s one place where analog scopes still shine, it’s anywhere you need X-Y mode. Digitally sampling the inputs and mapping them on the screen as discrete points just isn’t the same as steering an electron beam around a CRT, making X-Y mode work on digital scopes — at least the affordable ones — somewhat lacking.

Thankfully, nobody told [Mark Hughes] that his digital scope would make a lousy X-Y display, so he just plunged ahead and figured out how to make it work anyway. The results are actually pretty good, but it took some doing. His setup begins with OsciStudio, an application built to take 3D shapes and animations and turn them into oscilloscope music. The output from that is piped to a USB sound card; [Mark] used a PreSonus Studio 26c, an adapter with DC-coupled inputs, which he found to be critical to getting good images. Also important was a USB isolator and good-quality cables, which greatly reduced jitter and made the image much more stable.

Displaying the image was as easy as connecting the left and right outputs from the sound card to the two scope inputs — [Mark] used a Keysight EDUX1052G — and setting it to X-Y mode. It took a fair amount of fiddling to get as far as he did, but we think the results speak for themselves. As for the sounds made by these images, he says it’s a bit like a hung sound card when a computer blue-screens. So, yeah — not exactly musical, but still an interesting way to have some fun with your digital scope.

4 thoughts on “The Right Equipment Makes A Difference For Digital Oscilloscope Music

  1. I have used my oscope’s X-Y mode extensively to display and study vibration modes in certain rotating machinery. I wish my digital scope had a Z input. Even if only a “beam on”/”beam off” affair, it would make the scope even more useful for this and many other

    1. They advertise the EDU series as affordable but I think they’re still quite expensive. In my opinion a cheap oscilloscope would be the SDS1104X-E (this one I know of since I own one) is 4 channel 100 MHz, there’s also 2 channel versions and I believe Rigol has some even cheaper options.

    2. That’s a fair point. It’s not the cheapest “entry-level” scope on the market. But compared to many of the lunchbox-type scopes on the market, it’s still 3-figures. Most scopes that get purchased at my work are well into the mid 5-figures, and some 6-figures — which is where I based my statement. In retrospect, that statement makes lots of assumptions about the “compared to what?” field.

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