Tsunami is making signal generation accessible to everyone


The Tsunami is a powerful and flexible signal generator, analyzer and experimenter’s kit built on the Arduino platform.


With more Makers looking to design and build their own hardware, they are often faced with a difficult choice: either spend hundreds, or even thousands for that matter, on expensive test equipment and development boards or waste time trying to make do with what they can put together on a budget. Fortunately, one London-based startup has come up with solution. The Tsunami is a signal generator and frequency counter based on the highly-popular Arduino platform.

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The brainchild of Arachnid Labs, Tsunami combines a versatile signal generator and frequency counter with an ATmega32U4 MCU, thereby making it possible to create sophisticated tools with a few lines of code, or simply load and run a wide variety of pre-written sketches for common tasks. The board’s capabilities also extend well beyond what you’d expect of a typical benchtop tool. Application ideas listed include music synthesis, packet radio modems, and reading and writing classic computer tapes, among countless other educational possibilities.

With Makers in mind, its creators have put quite a bit of effort into empowering the Tsunami to be easy as possible to use, thanks to the extensive Arduino library that covers all of Tsunami’s functions. Generating a sine wave, for instance, is as simple as telling the Tsunami what frequency you want.

“With its wide appeal and easy learning curve, the Arduino IDE was an obvious choice,” explains Arachnid Labs developer Nick Johnson. “And the ATmega MCU provided a familiar environment with the widest possible compatibility with existing code.”

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The Tsunami’s most straightforward functions are frequency generation and counting. The Tsunami uses a high accuracy 2.5PPM crystal, which makes it an excellent tool to generate incredibly precise frequencies, in addition to measuring them with phenomenal accuracy. For comparison, a typical “high quality” crystal is between eight and 25 times less accurate, the team reveals.

“With its highly accurate crystal, you can use the Tsunami to generate signals — sine, triangle, and square waves — all the way from DC up to around two megahertz. A versatile analog fron-tend allows you to adjust amplitude from 0V to 6V peak to peak, and DC offset by up to 2V either side of ground,” Johnson adds.

Likewise, the Tsunami can be used to measure signals. The tool is equipped with a high speed comparator tasked with capturing the frequency, a peak detector for quantifying signal amplitude, and a phase detector to detect phase, of course. Each of these facilities work up to nearly eight megahertz.

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By connecting the output of the Tsunami to an analog filter or an audio amplifier, and employ the Tsunami’s input to capture what comes out, it’s even possible to measure how it responds at different frequencies. The phase detector senses the phase delay, which means a user can construct bode plots.

“That’s not all you can do with the Tsunami, though. The DDS has built-in support for phase and frequency modulation, and the Tsunami adds on support for amplitude modulation too. With just a few lines of code you can take digital data and modulate it onto an audio or RF signal at any frequency the Tsunami supports, and using the Tsunami’s input features, you can demodulate data.”

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For those unfamiliar with DDS, this refers to the process of generating waveforms directly from digital data, and is commonly implemented in applications such as radio communications, test equipment, proximity and motion detection, and audio synthesizers. Unfortunately, many DDS chips come in difficult to solder packages and have complex interfaces. That was until now. Arachnid Labs has provided Makers with an on-board DDS chip and comprehensive libraries and sample applications for use familiar Arduino environment.

Recently, Arduino revealed that the board became the latest member of its growing Arduino At Heart program. At the moment, Tsunami can be found on CrowdSupply, where the team nearly doubled its original $14,785 pledge goal. The first wave of units will ship in August 2015.