RME's latest Clock technology - Theory and Operation
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Usually a clock section consists of an analog PLL for external synchronization and several
quartz oscillators for internal synchronisation. SteadyClock requires only one quartz, using
a frequency not equalling digital audio, therefore effectively avoiding disturbances. Latest
circuit designs like hi-speed digital synthesizer operating at unsurpassed 200 MHz, a fully
digital PLL design, and efficient analog filtering allow RME to realize a completely newly
developed clock technology, right within the FPGA, at lowest costs. The clock's performance
exceeds even professional expectations. Despite its remarkable features, SteadyClock reacts
quite fast compared to other techniques. It locks in fractions of a second to the input
signal, follows even extreme varipitch changes with phase accuracy, and locks directly
within a range of 28 kHz up to 200 kHz.
Compared to other technologies, one of SteadyClock's main advantages is its single stage
design. Usually the PLL consists of a first stage reacting as broad clock locking circuit,
then a second stage acts as narrow locking circuit. Only the narrow circuit provides jitter
suppression, so that locking takes some time, and in varipitch applications, where the
second stage does not get active at all, nearly no jitter suppression is provided.
SteadyClock locks directly and provides high jitter suppression throughout!
SteadyClock has originally been developed to gain
a stable and clean clock from the heavily jittery MADI data signal. The
embedded MADI clock suffers from about 80 ns jitter, caused by the time
resolution of 125 MHz within the format. Common jitter values for other
devices are 5 ns, while a very good clock will have less than 2 ns.
The picture to the right shows the MADI input signal with 80 ns of jitter (top
graph, yellow). Thanks to SteadyClock this signal turns into a clock with less
than 2 ns jitter (lower graph, blue).
|Using other input sources like AES, SPDIF, word clock or ADAT, one most probably never experiences
such high jitter values. But SteadyClock is not only ready for them, it would handle them just on the
The screnshot to the right shows an extremely jittery word clock signal of about
50 ns jitter (top graph, yellow). Again SteadyClock provides an extreme clean-up.
The filtered clock shows less than 2 ns jitter (lower graph, blue).
The following example shows SteadyClock's behaviour in real-world operation. The ADAT input
of the HDSP 9632 uses an advanced Bitclock PLL. But this PLL does not provide any jitter
suppression within the audio range. Therefore the quality of the clock extracted from the
ADAT signal depends on the specific ADAT source.
But on the HDSP 9632 (also ADI-648 and HDSP MADI), SteadyClock will process the ADAT
clock signal after its extraction.
The picture to the right shows the word clock output of the HDSP 9632, which
is directly fed from the internal master clock - and with this from SteadyClock.
In this case the card is set to AutoSync, and receives an ADAT signal with very
low jitter (below 1 ns). The remaining jitter behind BitClock PLL and SteadyClock
is hard to detect at all, with a value of around 700 ps (0.7 ns).
|This picture shows the same situation with an ADAT signal of about 40 ns of jitter. The input jitter
is nearly completely removed, the output of the HDSP 9632 again shows around 700 ps (0.7 ns).
The signal processed by SteadyClock is used internally to clock on-board AD-
and DA-converters, and to clock the digital outputs. Additionally it is available
directly at the word clock outputs.
Measurement using Audio Precision System Two
We tested SteadyClock using an Audio Precision System Two audio test system. The AP was
connected to an ADI-4 DD, as the AP can measure jitter only on AES inputs and outputs.
SteadyClock is used in the ADI-648, ADI2, HDSP MADI, HDSP 9632 and Fireface 800. The
measurement results are valid for all the mentioned units as well.
The AP generated an AES signal which had been modulated with 10 ns, 20 ns, 50 ns and 100 ns
jitter. The jitter frequency was not fixed, but changed in 401 steps between 20 Hz and 100
kHz. This way, a diagram was generated which shows the remaining jitter related to the
jitter frequency, or in other words the amount of jitter reduction relative to the jitter
Doing a loopback selftest, we found that the AP only measures exactly within the range 50 Hz
to 50 kHz, so we limited the test results to this range.
The diagram shows that even outside the expected filter range, SteadyClock heavily reduces jitter. An
input jitter of 100 ns modulated by 50 Hz is brought down to 14 ns, at 100 Hz it is only 7.5
ns. Already at 500 Hz the remaining jitter is always below 2 ns, and looking at more
real-world values like a 10 ns input jitter, the output jitter stays below 1 ns nearly all
the time! Also the advertised value of 30 dB reduction at 2.4 kHz turns out to be an even
better 'more than 40 dB'!
This measurement shows that SteadyClock can not only compete with other known jitter
reduction techniques, but in fact is able to outperform them easily in several regards, like
efficiency, speed, ease of use and costs.
The SteadyClock technology of RME's latest products guarantees an excellent performance in
all clock modes. Its highly efficient jitter suppression enables ADI-648, HDSP 9632, HDSP
MADI, ADI-2, ADI-4 DD and Fireface 800 to refresh and clean up any clock signal, and to
provide the clock signal as reference clock at the word clock output. At the same time,
analog conversion is performed on a guarateed level of highest quality, completely
independent from the kind and quality of the used reference clock. The cleaned and
jitter-freed clock signal can be used as reference clock in any application. And the quality
of the external (input) clock doesn't matter anymore.
© Matthias Carstens, 2003/2004.
All entries in this Tech Infopaper have been thoroughly checked, however
no guarantee for correctness can be given. RME cannot be held responsible
for any misleading or incorrect information provided throughout this manual.
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