Why Are Oscilloscopes So Expensive?

Why Are Oscilloscopes So Expensive?

If you’re in the market for an oscilloscope, you may be wondering why they are so expensive. After all, a device that simply measures voltage and time shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars, right? Wrong. Oscilloscopes can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the features and performance you need. So, what makes oscilloscopes so expensive?

Why Are Oscilloscopes So Expensive?

A few factors contribute to the high cost of oscilloscopes:

  • First, they are complex devices with many electronic components. These components must be precisely manufactured and assembled to provide accurate measurements;
  • Second, oscilloscopes require specialized software in order to function properly. This software is often developed by third-party companies and must be licensed by the oscilloscope manufacturer;
  • Finally, many oscilloscope manufacturers cater to specific markets or industries, which can drive up the price even further;

The answer to this question is a little bit complicated, but we will do our best to explain it. In this blog post, we will discuss the factors that contribute to the high cost of oscilloscopes and what you can do to get the best deal possible.

What Do You Need to Know About an Oscilloscope?

An oscilloscope is a very powerful tool, however, they come with a hefty price tag. Oscilloscopes can be used to measure voltage, current, and frequency. They are often used in the automotive industry to diagnose electrical problems in vehicles. Oscilloscopes can also be used to test electronic circuits and components. In addition, you might be interested in our logic analyzer vs. oscilloscope comparison.

Multimeters are used to measure the constant current flowing through a circuit. However, when dealing with elaborate circuits, you’ll need oscilloscopes. Voltage signals merely transmit information in terms of voltage. In most situations, audio on a speaker is the most common type of information conveyed by voltage signals [1].

Why Are Oscilloscopes Important?

They are often used in the automotive industry to diagnose electrical problems in vehicles. Oscilloscopes can also be used to test electronic circuits and components.

Why Are Oscilloscopes Important?

Oscilloscopes are important because they allow us to see what is happening in an electrical circuit. Without an oscilloscope, it would be very difficult to troubleshoot circuit issues. Oscilloscopes give us a visual representation of the electrical signal, which makes it much easier to identify problem areas in a circuit.

Why Are Oscilloscopes So Expensive?

You might be wondering why this equipment is so pricey. A high-end oscilloscope can cost more than $30,000. This is expensive for little gadgets. Over the years, there have been several improvements to oscilloscopes, allowing them to do more. It’s worth noting that oscilloscopes are highly accurate instruments. This implies a significant investment in time and effort in quality control.

The cost of an oscilloscope is a highly discussed top, but it is reasonable. First and foremost, you must consider the advantages of scale. Despite the huge technological input in the development of oscilloscopes, only a small number are made each year.

The market for oscilloscopes is quite limited, with just a few units being produced. This is in stark contrast to consumer goods that are made in the hundreds of thousands. Second, adding these little features over time requires effort, time, and people. There’s a lot of technical input required to add these extra capabilities.

Oscilloscopes have evolved over the years, with longer memories and more complex triggers being added. Even though these numerous functions are designed for a small client base, the cost rises significantly. That is why most oscilloscopes are pricey. The instruments must be subjected to rigorous testing in order to provide accurate results. Such significant testing and modifications with only a few builds increase the overall expense.

Factors That Can Affect the Price of an Oscilloscopes:

1) Bandwidth

The bandwidth of an oscilloscope is one major factor that affects its price. Oscilloscopes with a higher bandwidth will be more expensive than those with a lower bandwidth.

Bandwidth is the maximum frequency at which a device can measure accurately. It’s crucial, especially with analog oscilloscopes. Higher bandwidth generally implies greater costs. The bandwidths of lower-cost oscilloscopes range from 50 to 100MHz. However, the most expensive oscilloscope has bandwidths ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of megahertz.

Bandwidth

2) Sample rate

Another factor that affects the price of an oscilloscope is the sample rate. The sample rate is how often the oscilloscope takes a measurement, and it’s measured in samples per second. A higher sample rate will result in a more expensive oscilloscope. 

A scope’s sample rate indicates how long the scope can recognize one waveform before it repeats itself. The majority of typical oscilloscopes have a sampling rate of 5 seconds. Models with greater sample rates are more desirable.

The reason for this is that a higher sample rate means that the oscilloscope can take more measurements in a given time period. This results in a more accurate representation of the signal being measured. Higher-cost oscilloscopes have sample rates that range from millions to tens of billions of samples per second.

3) Right input channels

The number of input channels is another factor that affects the price of an oscilloscope. The more input channels an oscilloscope has, the more expensive it will be.

Analog oscilloscopes have two input channels, while digital oscilloscopes have four. More channels allow you to measure multiple signals at the same time. This can be helpful if you’re trying to debug a circuit with multiple components. Higher-cost oscilloscopes can have up to 16 input channels.

Oscilloscopes with more than two or four input channels are generally more expensive because they offer more flexibility and functionality. However, there are some lower-cost options available that still provide a good amount of features and benefits.

4) Probes

Differential probes are used to measure signals that differ in voltage between two points. They’re especially useful for measuring high-frequency signals or signals with a lot of noise.

Probes

The cost of oscilloscopes is also determined by the number of probes included. You’ll need an oscilloscope with a probe and scope that work together in a compatible way. Passive probes with sufficient bandwidth will be more expensive.

Probes are one of the most important accessories for an oscilloscope. They transmit the signal from the device under test to the oscilloscope. The quality of the probe will determine how accurately the oscilloscope can measure the signal.

There are three main types of probes: passive, active, and differential. 

Passive probes are typically less expensive than active or differential probes. However, they have lower bandwidth and are not as accurate. Active and differential probes are more expensive but offer higher bandwidths and greater accuracy.

5) Record length

The record length is the amount of time that the oscilloscope can record a signal. It’s measured in seconds and is another factor that affects the price of an oscilloscope.

A longer record length allows you to capture more detail about a signal. This is especially useful when you’re trying to debug a circuit with infrequent events.

Higher-cost oscilloscopes have record lengths that range from seconds to minutes [3].

Are Cheap Oscilloscopes Good for DIY Projects?

The quick answer is no. Cheap oscilloscopes are generally not good for DIY projects because they don’t have the features and performance that you need to troubleshoot electronic circuits. Sure, you can use a cheap oscilloscope to measure the frequency of a signal or the voltage of a power supply, but you’ll quickly run into limitations when trying to debug more complex problems. That’s why it’s worth spending the extra money on a quality oscilloscope.

Are Cheap Oscilloscopes Good for DIY Projects?

There are two main reasons why oscilloscopes are so expensive: the hardware and the software. The hardware inside an oscilloscope is very complex, with high-speed analog-to-digital converters, fast digital signal processors, and sophisticated input channels. This complexity comes at a cost, which is reflected in the price of oscilloscopes.

The other reason why oscilloscopes are so expensive is the software. Oscilloscope manufacturers invest a lot of money in developing the software that runs on their instruments. This software needs to be very reliable and easy to use, which requires a lot of engineering effort. The end result is that oscilloscopes tend to be quite expensive.

Is an Oscilloscope Worth Buying?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to use the oscilloscope for. If you just need to measure simple signals, then a cheap oscilloscope might be sufficient. However, if you plan on doing any serious troubleshooting or development work, then a quality oscilloscope is essential. Oscilloscopes are complex pieces of equipment, and the price reflects that complexity. But if you need an oscilloscope for professional work, then it’s worth the investment.

While there are some cheaper options available on the market, they don’t offer the same features and performance as their more expensive counterparts. This makes them less than ideal for DIY projects where you need to troubleshoot electronic circuits. It’s better to spend a little extra money on a quality oscilloscope that will meet your needs and help you get the job done right.

So, if you’re looking for an oscilloscope for your next project, be sure to consider the price tag. It might seem high at first, but it’s worth the investment if you need a quality piece of equipment. Oscilloscopes are complex devices, and the price reflects that complexity. But if you need an oscilloscope for professional work, then it’s worth the investment.

Check more guides to upgrade your skills in electronics:

FAQ

Why are oscilloscope probes so expensive?

Equipment for testing isn’t readily available. Another reason why the branded brand probes are so pricey is that molding all of the small plastic components is costly, which means if you don’t sell a lot of them, the tooling cost makes up a significant chunk of the purchase price [4].

Are oscilloscopes accurate?

Yes, oscilloscopes are accurate. However, the accuracy of an oscilloscope can be affected by many factors, such as the type of probes used, the input impedance of the oscilloscope, and the environment in which the measurements are taken.

Do they still make analog oscilloscopes?

Agilent, Lecroy, and Tektronix were just a few of the major American manufacturers that eliminated their analog scope lines in recent years. However, you may still locate many of them on the secondary market. On the internet, there are hundreds of used devices for sale [5].

Can an oscilloscope measure AC voltage?

Yes. An oscilloscope can measure AC voltage if it is connected to the proper input. The settings on the oscilloscope will need to be configured correctly in order for it to measure AC voltage accurately.

Why are oscilloscope measurements often in error?

Not checking the calibration of a Cathode Ray Oscilloscope is the most common blunder because all measurements taken will be incorrect. If not correct, use the CAL knob to adjust frequency and amplitude.

What can I use instead of an oscilloscope?

A digitizer is a computer component that converts an electrical signal into data and displays it on a screen, as the name implies. The answer to this question is therefore yes; a digitizer can be utilized in the same way as an oscilloscope [6].

Is an oscilloscope an ammeter?

An electrician’s clamp-on ammeter, which is a current probe, is usually used for present measurements. It works similarly to an electrician’s clamp-on ammeter, in which sturdy jaws are clamped around the conductor in which the current was flowing [7].

Useful Video: Electronics: Why are digital oscilloscopes still so expensive? (6 Solutions!!)

References:

  1. https://oscilloscopetools.com/why-are-oscilloscopes-so-expensive/
  2. https://oscilloscopetools.com/why-are-oscilloscopes-so-expensive/
  3. https://www.rampfesthudson.com/how-much-does-oscilloscope-cost/
  4. https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/why-oscilloscope-probes-are-expensive/25/
  5. https://www.electronicdesign.com/technologies/communications/article/21753618/does-anyone-still-use-an-analog-oscilloscope
  6. https://www.oscopes.info/basics/2320-digitizer-or-oscilloscope
  7. https://www.testandmeasurementtips.com/measuring-current-with-oscilloscope-voltage-probe/