Common Waveform Variations on an Oscilloscope

Oscilloscopes track signals as they shift over time and indicate the signals on display. The amplitude of the signal is indicated on the vertical axis and time is shown on the horizontal. The device plots a graph of the instantaneous signal voltage as a function of time. In order to analyze waveform traces meticulously, here are the four characteristics of the waveform that you should look for amplitude, time, waveform shape and distortion, and waveform distances, specifically from the outside sources.

Here are the common variations to look for:

Symmetrical shape

Continuous waveforms should always be symmetrical. If there is an instance wherein you have to print traces and cut them into two pieces, both sides should be identical. A small difference can cause a problem. If the two components of the waveform are not symmetrical, there may be a problem in detecting the signal.

Rise and fall, edges

Specifically, with square waves and pulses, the rising or falling sides of a waveform can immensely impact the timing in the digital circuits. It may be essential to lessen the time per division to see the edge with greater resolution. The use of cursors and gridlines will help you measure the rise and fall times of leading and trailing edges of a waveform.


Always double-check that the intensity of amplitude is within the circuit operating requirements. Test the constancy, from time to time. Meticulously track the waveform for a long period of time; also monitor changes in the amplitude. Use horizontal cursors to identify if there are any amplitude fluctuations.

 Noise or glitches

When waveforms are acquired through active devices such as transistors or switches, transients or other incongruities can have a result of timing errors, propagation delays, bad contacts, or another incident. Noise will overlay the acquired signal and it will be difficult to see the real data behind the noise. I can be generated externally from DC-DC converters, lighting systems, and high-energy electrical circuits.

Excessive ringing

Ringing can be visible most of the time in digital circuits and in radar and pulse-width-modulation applications. It occurs at the transformation from a rising or falling side to a flat dc point. Test for immoderate ringing, balance the time base to provide a clear illustration of the transition wave or pulse.

Momentary fluctuation

Momentary changes in the measured signal are usually the result of external causes such as sag in the main voltage, invigoration of a high – power device that is attached to the same electrical grid, or a loose connection. Use the ScopeMeter to watch the acquired waveform for a long period of time to depict the main cause of the problem.


Minor changes in a signal’s voltage over time can be difficult to detect. The change is slow that it is hard to distinguish. The changes and aging of temperature can impact passive electronic components which are resistors, crystal oscillators, and capacitors. The drift in a reference dc voltage supply or oscillator circuit is one of the main factors to diagnose.  Sometimes the only option is to track the calculated value (V dc, Hz, etc.) over an extended period of time.


In summary, it is necessary to practice good troubleshooting skills to save time and simplify the process of determining common waveform variation before the problem occurs. Try to discover more about troubleshooting methodology and make it a habit to always document key waveforms and measurements for future reference. Interested in getting an Oscilloscope? Get yours now at https://presidium.ph/?s=oscilloscopes

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