Software & Product Documentation
RF Spectrum Analyzer and Frequency Coordination Software
Clear Waves is a diagnostic tool specifically designed for the wireless professional audio and video industries. It is the industry’s first, PC-based tool to offer RF spectrum analysis, intermodulation analysis and automatic charting of open white space (open RF frequency) for use with wireless microphones, in-ear monitors, remote control, security, access control, etc — all built into a single product. Clear Waves’ unique combination of features — RF spectrum analysis plus intermodulation analysis — make it an extremely versatile and powerful tool, one that extends beyond the bounds of traditional RF analyzers.
Clear Waves can use either the RF Explorer or RF Viewer spectrum analyzer for data acquisition. It turns data collected from these analyzers into graphical charts, displays in real time and performs intermodulation analysis — enabling users to more readily visualize the RF environment, coordinate channel assignments for wireless transmitters, monitor RF signals, troubleshoot RF issues, and detect sources of RF interference.
Clear Waves’ features include the following:
|RF Explorer||All Models Supported|
|RF Viewer Wireless USB Dongle||Supported|
|Simulation (Demo) Mode||Yes|
|Export Traces in CSV Format||Yes|
|Generate PDF Reports||Yes|
|Monitored Frequencies Mode||Yes (Maximum 60 monitored frequencies)|
|Diagnostic Charts||Spectrum Trace, Waterfall, Density, Delta, Intermods|
RF Spectrum Trace
Waterfall History / Heatmap
White Spaces and Intermod-Compatible Frequencies
Continuously scans and samples the signal strength (dBm) of RF transmissions within the specified frequency range. By default 3 traces are displayed — Current (green), Maxima (red) and Active (gray). The Current trace displays the signal strength data from the most recent scan, the Maxima trace displays the maximum signal strength for each frequency since the scan session began (similar to a ‘Peak and Hold’ function), and the Active trace displays real-time data as the RF Explorer device is actively scanning.
A 3-dimensional representation of the RF energy data (i.e. signal transmissions), where the X-axis is the frequency scale, the Y-axis is a time scale, and the “Z-axis” is the color scale. Each horizontal line in the Waterfall chart displays the signal strength (as a color) as a function of frequency as measured over the time period of one scan. That is, with each scan (or sweep) a new row is added at the bottom of the Waterfall chart. Stronger signals will appear red and weaker signals will appear blue.
A three-dimensional representation of RF signal transmissions that displays accumulated RF energy as a function of frequency. The power of the signal strength in dBm is shown across the frequency span. A signal strength that appears with a relatively low occurrence is ‘blueish’ in color, whereas increasingly brighter colors are used for signal strengths that occur more frequently. Signal strengths that occur most often are ‘reddish’ in color. Another way of stating this would be to say the Density Map uses color to mark the rate of occurrence (i.e. how often) a particular signal strength occurs.
Over time, the Density Chart will approximate the steady-state RF energy signature of the current environment, giving the user a better, more general idea of the environment. This is because the Density Map deemphasizes outliers such as intermittent or random signals while at the same time emphasizing signal transmissions that occur more frequently.
Used to view small (or large) changes in the RF spectrum over time. When scanning begins, the first trace is saved as a snapshot. For all subsequent scans, the snapshot trace is subtracted from the current trace and the difference, i.e. ‘delta’, is displayed. Plotting the data in this way makes it easy to detect RF changes in transmitted signals that occurred since the initial snapshot and is most useful in environments where RF transmissions change over time.
Clear Waves can be used for locating open frequency space in crowded RF environments PLUS frequency coordination — that is, assigning channels that are both free of RF interference and intermodulation distortion. The ability to generate and display a set of intermodulation-compatible frequencies that is uniquely suited to the RF energy and transmitted signals in your environment is one of the software’s more powerful features. Clear Waves can compute a list of frequencies (i.e. a frequency set) that are both free of RF interference and intermodulation distortion. In the Control Panel a user specifies a signal strength to be used as the ‘White Space Threshold’ — frequencies that fall below this threshold are considered open and available and will be included in the intermodulation analysis (i.e. are considered candidates for inclusion in the final frequency set).
The White Space Threshold setting is used to specify the threshold signal strength (in dBm) below which is considered ‘White Space’. When you adjust this control you’ll also see the horizontal, white line in the Spectrum Trace view move up and down accordingly. Along those frequency spans where the white line is solid and not interrupted by a peak, then this would be considered a White Space region. It is up to the user to determine what is an appropriate threshold for this control — it depends on the environment you are working in and what level of background RF energy you feel can be safely tolerated. As with most things, there are trade-offs. The lower (more strict) the threshold, the less white space and fewer intermod-compatible channel assignments available. The higher (more lenient) the threshold, the more white space and more intermod-compatible channel assignments will be available.
The measurements for White Space regions are used for locating open frequency space in crowded RF environments and are applied to the intermodulation analysis. The computed results show the best channel assignments for setting-up multiple transmitters — as shown in the Intermods & Whitespace view. These channel assignments are free of RF interference and intermodulation distortion. This is most helpful when frequency coordination and RF interference are factors that need to be taken into account when selecting which frequencies or channels to use.
This mode displays the RF signal strength that is detected at specific frequencies defined by the user. The user is alerted when the RF energy detected at one of those frequencies exceeds a threshold (here called the Alert Threshold). Up to 60 frequencies (within the frequency range supported by your analyzer) can be specified and monitored at one time. If the signal strength of an interfering transmitter were to rise above the Alert Threshold (specified by the user) then the corresponding bar for that frequency turns red (otherwise it appears green).
The purpose of this feature is to alert you in the event the ambient RF energy, measured at specific frequencies, were to rise above a threshold value — thereby posing a risk to using a specific frequency as one of the channels you assign to an audio transmitter. For example, in the setting of a live performance where it is important to monitor the channels that have been assigned to wireless audio devices, this feature can be used to ensure those channels are not being impacted by other sources of RF transmissions. Alternatively, if there are wireless devices that transmit at specific frequencies and you wish to monitor their transmissions, then this mode can be used to verify they are currently operating.
The frequencies being monitored are displayed across the horizontal axes according to their ID numbers (as opposed to their frequency in Hertz, as in the Spectrum Analysis views). For example, the green bar above the number 2 in the above screen capture represents the RF energy transmitted at whatever frequency the user defined the 2nd monitored frequency as, and this frequency may be either higher or lower than the frequency assigned to the ID number 3, depending entirely upon the user’s definition. When the RF signal strength as measured at a particular frequency exceeds the Alert Threshold then its corresponding bar appears red, otherwise it appears green.
To specify frequencies you wish to monitor select Tools > Monitored Frequencies… from the main menu. The Monitored Frequencies dialog box will then appear.
The check boxes in the leftmost column allow you to select which frequencies you’d like to monitor — if a check appears in the check box then that frequency will be monitored — otherwise, if unchecked, then it will be ignored. The second column (from the left) displays the frequency ID displayed in the chart, as mentioned above. The third column displays the user-defined frequency in MHz which corresponds to the ID number preceding it. Finally, the last column displays a description for this frequency or channel. Typically, the description will correspond to the device assigned to this channel.
The Alert Threshold can be adjusted using the slider control to the right of the Monitored Frequencies chart. If the signal strength at a monitored frequency exceeds the threshold, the bar above the corresponding ID number will turn red (otherwise it appears green).
As a side note, the Monitored Frequencies dialog box can not be accessed while the analyzer is actively scanning. That is, if the analyzer is scanning and you wish to make changes to the monitored frequencies then it is necessary to first press the Stop button.
When performing calculations for intermodulation analysis, there are several settings that affect the size and stringency of the resulting frequency set. These include the following:
- Intermod Stringency / Compatibility Level
- Step Size
- Ignore Certain Intermod Products
Clear Waves calculates the 3 types of intermodulation products that happen to be closest to our fundamental frequencies. These are:
|Number of Transmitters||Fundamental Frequencies|
|Two-Transmitter products||3rd Order Components (2Tx 3rds)|
|Three-Transmitter products||3rd Order Components (3Tx 3rds)|
|Two-Transmitter products||5th Order Components (5Tx 5ths)|
When creating an intermodulation-compatible frequency set, any combination of these 3 tests can be applied in order to obtain the desired level of reliability. In fact, these three tests can be combined in different ways in order to generate frequency sets with 7 different levels of stringency:
|Stringency||2Tx 3rds||3Tx 3rds||2Tx 5ths|
What this means is that a frequency set created under ‘Strictest’ conditions is guaranteed to be free of intermodulation interference caused by 2Tx 3rd, 3Tx 3rd and 2Tx 5th intermodulation products. Similarly, a frequency set created under ‘Strict’ conditions is guaranteed to be free of intermodulation interference caused by 2Tx 3rd and 3Tx 3rd intermodulation products. And so on…
Ideally one would always want to use a frequency set created under ‘Strictest’ conditions because the frequencies within the set could be assigned to different transmitters and the level of reliability would be very high (since interference caused by intermodulation distortion would be eliminated for all intents and purposes). However, for practical purposes, it may not be possible to always create frequency sets of ‘Strictest’ stringency when you have many transmitters you need to assign channels to. Assuming that transmitter channels fall on 25 KHz boundaries, then for a particular frequency range (e.g. 470 MHz – 500 MHz) there are a limited number of intermodulation-free frequencies that can be computed. Furthermore, as the stringency is increased then the number of intermodulation-free frequencies that are available goes down. That is, the size of the frequency set is determined by (a) the frequency range, and (b) the intermod stringency or compatibility level.
For example — let’s take the frequency range of 470 MHz – 500 MHz and assume that transmitter channels fall on 25 KHz boundaries. The following results are approximations:
|Stringency||Frequency Set Size|
As you can see, the number of transmitter channels you require will dictate the level of intermod stringency that can be applied in order to generate a frequency set of sufficient size to accommodate your needs. In this example, if we required 26 channel assignments then we would create a frequency set of “Lenient” stringency.
As a side note, when it comes to configuring audio equipment, at the very least your frequency set should be free of interference from 2Tx 3rd-order intermod products — i.e. be of “Lenient” stringency or higher — since these are the most destructive.
Near Hit Settings:
Related to ‘Stringency’ is the concept of ‘Near Hits’. This means that in order to qualify as a compatible frequency and be a member of a frequency set a candidate frequency must not match an intermod product nor be within a specified distance of an intermod product. A ‘Near Hit’ setting specifies the minimum distance a candidate frequency must be from an intermod product in order to qualify as a compatible frequency. If a candidate frequency is too close to an intermod product then it is disqualified. For example, by default, intermod-compatible frequencies must be at least 99 KHz from 2Tx 3rd-order products, 49 KHz from 3Tx 3rd-order products, and 89 KHz from 2Tx 5th-order products. As the ‘Near Hit’ distance is increased then the frequency set becomes more stringent, but that comes at a cost — fewer candidate frequencies will qualify as members of the frequency set and, hence, the frequency set will be smaller. We suggest you leave the ‘Near Hit’ settings at their default values.
Most audio transmitters are designed to operate on channel frequencies that fall on 25 KHz boundaries — i.e. they are “tunable” in 25 KHz steps. Given a frequency range (e.g. 470 MHz to 500 MHz) and a step-size of 25 KHz, then only frequencies within that range and which also are multiples of 25 KHz are potential candidates to be included in the frequency set that Clear Waves generates (provided they also meet the stringency requirements described above). We suggest you leave the Step Size setting at its default value of 25 KHz.
Ignore Certain Intermod Products
Intermodulation products are calculated from either two transmitter frequencies (e.g. 2Tx 3rds, 2Tx 5ths) or three transmitter frequencies (3Tx 3rds). If you prefer that Clear Waves ignore 3Tx 3rd products generated by 3 frequencies where at least one of them is more than 40 MHz distant from the others, then enable this setting by checking the CheckBox. By checking the CheckBox you are telling Clear Waves to ignore certain intermodulation products, thereby decreasing the stringency of the frequency set.
Likewise, if you prefer that Clear Waves ignore any product where at least one of the transmitter frequencies is more than 100 MHz distant from the other(s), then enable this setting by checking the CheckBox. Again, by checking the CheckBox you are telling Clear Waves to ignore certain intermodulation products, thereby decreasing the stringency of the frequency set.
By default Clear Waves does not ignore any intermod products when generating a compatible frequency set. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to slightly increase the size of a frequency set, then you might consider checking one or both of these CheckBoxes. Interference from intermodulation distortion may be less of a problem when transmitters are operating in bands that are many MHz apart from one another.
This parameter controls the minimal distance between adjacent frequencies in the resultant frequency set that is computed. From a practical standpoint the distance between adjacent channel assignments should be sufficient to ensure transmitters do not interfere with one another. The recommended, default value of 299 KHz is on the conservative side. It is important to note this value has a direct bearing on the final size of the frequency set. The larger the signal bandwidth, the less chance adjacent transmitters will interfere with one another — but the smaller will be the frequency set. The smaller the signal bandwidth, the greater the chance adjacent transmitters will interfere with one another — but the larger will be the frequency set. So, if you need more channels then experiment with decreasing the size of the signal bandwidth. On the other hand, if you do not require lots of channels then you can use the default value or even increase that if you wish.
When the computation has completed the intermod-compatible frequencies (that compose the frequency set) and white spaces are listed in the tables below the chart. These frequencies are guaranteed to be intermod-compatible based on the stringency applied during the intermodulation analysis. If channel bands are being used, then these are also indicated in the table.
Clear Waves’ lockout feature allows you to manually lockout frequency ranges of your choosing. Frequencies within the locked-out regions are removed from consideration as potential candidates for a frequency set. This feature is accessed from the main menu by selecting Intermodulation > Lockout Frequency Ranges.
Clear Waves’ intermodulation analysis allows you to manually lockout DTV channels of your choosing. This feature is accessed from the main menu by selecting Intermodulation > Lockout DTV Channels. For channels you select their corresponding frequency range is locked-out of the intermodulation analysis — that is, frequencies within locked-out regions are removed from consideration as potential candidates of a frequency set.
Reserved frequencies allows you to enter one or more frequencies into the coordination when a particular device is considered mandatory. For example, facilities or events often have a pool of existing equipment to which channels will need to be added. Also guest systems using preconfigured channels may have to be integrated and coordinated with resident systems.
This feature is used to explicitly exclude a frequency (or frequencies) from the frequency set and as a candidate frequency in future intermodulation calculations.
Clear Waves’ Channel Bands feature allows you to organize the frequencies within a frequency set into different groups based on their frequency ranges. This feature is accessed from the main menu by selecting Intermodulation > Channel Bands. Often it is the case where audio engineers are working with a variety of different wireless audio equipment that operate in different frequency ranges. However, because the equipment operates within close geographical proximity then one frequency set is applied when configuring the frequency coordination and assigning channels to transmitters. In addition to setting the Start/End frequency for each band, you can also assign a short name or label. If you wish, channel bands may overlap one another — in which case certain frequencies may belong to more than one channel band. It is important to note that frequencies not included within a channel band will be locked-out of the intermodulation analysis. Again — just to be clear — all channel bands (and frequencies) belong to the same frequency set — hence, frequencies in different channel bands are still intermod-compatible.
This feature is accessed from the main menu under ‘File / Export Last Trace’ and allows you to save a spectrum trace to a file, in CSV format, for use by another program. Current supported formats are IAS and Shure’s Wireless Workbench 6.
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ClearWaves – RF Spectrum Analyzer And Frequency Coordination Software
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