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Frequency Control Devices

Oscillators are ubiquitous in electronic circuits. Crystal oscillators (xtals) use mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal to create electrical signals of very precise frequency. Voltage controlled oscillators (VCO's) are electronic oscillators whose frequency is controlled by a voltage input.

VCO's have many applications. They may be used for function generation (sine waves, square waves, etc), in PLL's, and in frequency synthesizers. Crystal oscillators may be voltage-controlled; this is used to adjust output frequencies to a reference, or to achieve spread-spectrum clock generation (avoiding RF interference). The oscillator frequency of a VCO may also be internally temperature-compensated.

Quartz crystal oscillators exhibit low phase noise. As the crystal vibrates in mostly one axis, only one phase is dominant, giving rise to stability and precision (important for telecom and scientific applications). Crystal oscillators also have much higher Q factors than their LC oscillator counterparts. In design, frequency divider/multiplier and PLL circuits may be used to derive a wide range of frequencies from one reference (often 3.58 MHz or 14.318 MHz).


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