Vol. DIY Electronics Projects
Chapter 4 AC Circuit Projects

AC Lab - Waveform Analysis

Project Overview


waveform analysis illustration

Figure 1. 


Parts and Materials

  • IBM-compatible personal computer with sound card, running Windows 3.1 or better
  • Winscope software, downloaded free from internet
  • Electronic keyboard (musical)
  • Mono (not stereo) headphone-type plug for keyboard
  • Mono (not stereo) headphone-type plug for computer sound card microphone input, with wires for connecting to voltage sources
  • 10 kΩ potentiometer

Parts and equipment for this experiment are identical to those required for the PC oscilloscope experiment.


Learning Objectives

  • To understand the difference between time-domain and frequency-domain plots
  • To develop a qualitative sense of Fourier analysis


waveform analysis schematic diagram



The Winscope program comes with another feature other than the typical time-domain oscilloscope display: frequency-domain display, which plots amplitude (vertical) over frequency (horizontal). An oscilloscope’s time-domain display plots amplitude (vertical) over time (horizontal), which is fine for displaying waveshape. However, when it is desirable to see the harmonic constituency of a complex wave, a frequency-domain plot is the best tool.

If using Winscope, click on the rainbow icon to switch to frequency-domain mode. Generate a sine-wave signal using the musical keyboard (panflute or flute voice), and you should see a single spike on the display, corresponding to the amplitude of the single-frequency signal. Moving the mouse cursor beneath the peak should result in the frequency being displayed numerically at the bottom of the screen.

If two notes are activated on the musical keyboard, the plot should show two distinct peaks, each one corresponding to a particular note (frequency). Basic chords (three notes) produce three spikes on the frequency-domain plot, and so on. Contrast this with a normal oscilloscope (time-domain) plot by clicking once again on the rainbow icon.

A musical chord displayed in time-domain format is a very complex waveform but is quite simple to resolve into constituent notes (frequencies) on a frequency-domain display.

Experiment with different instrument voices (instrument types) on the musical keyboard, correlating the time-domain plot with the frequency-domain plot. Waveforms that are symmetrical above and below their centerlines contain only odd-numbered harmonics (odd-integer multiples of the base, or fundamental frequency), while nonsymmetrical waveforms contain even-numbered harmonics as well. Use the cursor to locate the specific frequency of each peak on the plot, and a calculator to determine whether each peak is even- or odd-numbered.


Related Content

Learn more about the fundamentals behind this project in the resources below.