Primer for Oscilloscope Probes – Active, Passive, and Current Probes | #tips #primer

In addition to being a good primer for oscilloscope probe terminology, Bald Engineer’s o’scope probes primer is filled with tips as well:

Unless you have a BNC or SMA connector your board, you will need a probe to get signals into an oscilloscope. Understanding what kind of oscilloscope probes are out there, which ones should you have for your scope and which ones to use for different measurements can be daunting. In this post, I look at some common scope probe types and offer some suggested measurements for each.

This post is not a comprehensive guide of oscilloscope probes. I am covering the types I have used. I do think this information should be enough to least form questions to ask your vendor before purchasing. Asking questions is important. If you have never bought specialized oscilloscope probes, you might not realize they can cost more than the scope itself. Maybe not an individual probe, but get one for each channel, and the cost rises. So picking the correct probe type is essential.

Voltage vs. Current vs. Temperature vs. ???

Oscilloscopes measure voltage. With an appropriate adapter or probe, you can measure other physical quantities. A typical example is a current probe. Guess what it does! You could also look at temperature or optical signals with an appropriate adapter.

For the most part, I will discuss voltage probes. I will touch on current probes but wanted you to be thinking about what else you could measure with an oscilloscope.

Probe Tip: You can use a differential probe as a single-ended probe. Just put one side of the probe to ground. However, their dynamic range tends to be limited. This limitation means you may not be able to measure 3.3 or 5 volt signals.

Read more here.


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