2022.09.14 - Crystal vs Oscillator: Unraveling These Components
In the realm of electronics, crystal, and oscillator are two terms that frequently feature in technical discussions. While they might appear similar, a deeper dive reveals significant distinctions. This article aims to demystify these differences, focusing on crystal, MEMS, and silicon oscillators and contrasting their advantages.
To understand the crystal vs. oscillator difference, it's essential to grasp what each term represents. When subjected to voltage, a crystal acts as a mechanical resonator, generating an electrical signal with a precise frequency. Contrarily, an oscillator is an electronic circuit capable of producing an output signal without an input signal.
The fundamental distinction lies in their operational mechanisms. A resonator uses a crystal, and an oscillator utilizes a resonator, often a crystal, to maintain oscillation. This integration of a crystal within an oscillator circuit gives rise to the term 'crystal oscillator.'
Precision crystal devices are crucial in computers, cellular phones, and other electronic gadgets. As such, many manufacturers offer these components with precision specifications to meet user demands.
Humans today consider the crystal oscillator one of the most reliable timekeeping devices. Depending on the workload and requirements, they can use them for low-frequency operations like clock signals.
Crystal oscillators bring several advantages, accounting for their widespread adoption across various applications. Their primary selling point is their capacity to deliver a stable clock signal. Their high-frequency stability and minimal phase noise make them renowned for producing high-quality signals.
The appeal of crystal oscillators extends beyond their performance. The quartz crystals used in these oscillators are small and cheap. This makes them a good choice for saving money and space. Furthermore, the simplicity of connecting crystal oscillators renders their incorporation into circuits straightforward and hassle-free.
Both contenders have unique strengths when comparing a MEMS oscillator vs. a crystal oscillator. MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) oscillators leverage minuscule mechanical devices as resonators. Their standout attribute is their superior temperature performance, which outstrips other crystal oscillators by 10 to 40.
On the flip side, crystal oscillators edge out MEMS oscillators in phase noise/jitter and current consumption. So, deciding between a MEMS oscillator and a crystal oscillator depends on the application's specific needs.
MEMS oscillators are small, efficient, durable, and stable in different conditions, with low power usage and small size. They also possess an attractive price point. However, MEMS oscillators typically have inferior phase noise performance compared to their crystal counterparts.
Crystal oscillators boast superior phase noise/jitter performances while being relatively affordable. They also hold up better to extreme temperatures, with 10-40 times better temperature performance than MEMS oscillators.
Silicon oscillators represent a fresh breed of oscillators that use silicon as a resonator. When pitted against crystals, they offer several advantages. For instance, silicon oscillators exhibit reduced sensitivity to environmental variables such as temperature and humidity.
However, crystal oscillators might lack the stability and low noise levels for which they are renowned. Many people widely recognize crystal oscillators for their exceptional stability and minimal noise. The choice between silicon and crystal oscillators depends on the application's specific requirements.
Crystal oscillators offer a variety of advantages that make them the preferred choice for many applications. They have superior temperature stability, excellent phase noise, and superb short-term accuracy. Engineers often use crystal oscillators in applications like radio transmitters, clock circuits, timing equipment, and cell phone base stations.
Harmony Electronics is an industry leader in producing oscillators and has decades of experience in the field. The company provides industry-standard oscillators so customers can choose which best meets their needs.
Deciding between a crystal, an oscillator, or different types of oscillators depends on the project's specific needs. Engineers can make better decisions for electronic designs by knowing the differences and benefits of each option.