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How to Choose the Right Timing Device for Your Application

Finding the ideal timing solution for your application can be a challenging task. There are several types of timing devices, including Crystal Oscillators, MEMS-based Oscillators, and others, each with their unique characteristics and applications.

Additionally, there is a wide range of criteria to consider when selecting a timing device including power consumption, oscillator start-up, jitter and phase noise, frequency vs temperature characteristics, vibration sensitivity, reliability, and more. Every consideration plays a crucial role in determining the performance and efficiency of your timing device.

Selection Criteria for Timing Devices

When choosing a timing device for your application, it’s important to understand the wide range of considerations that can influence your decision:

  • Frequency Stability: This ensures an oscillator maintains a consistent output frequency over time, despite temperature variations and aging. It’s essential for applications requiring long-term precision.

  • Temperature Range: Oscillators must perform over the device’s entire operating temperature range. For products used in varying environments, a wide temperature range ensures reliability.

  • Phase Noise and Jitter: Low phase noise and jitter are vital for high-speed digital communication, as they affect the signal integrity and can lead to errors in data transmission.

  • Size and Packaging: The physical dimensions of the oscillator might be critical for portable and space-constrained applications. Smaller oscillators are beneficial for miniaturized electronic devices. Some oscillator manufacturers also integrate LDO power circuitry to further reduce overall product size.

  • Power Consumption: Low-power oscillators extend battery life, which is particularly beneficial for portable, wearable and remote sensing applications.

  • Start-up Time: An important consideration for synchronization with other devices or networks, as well as important in reducing power consumption.

  • Aging – Frequency Shift Over Time: For the most reliable long-term performance to ensure a system stays within its operating tolerances the aging of oscillators should be considered, choosing a device with the right aging tolerances at the onset can reduce costs by not having to over spec a device.

  • Long-term Reliability: Oscillators with high reliability reduce maintenance costs and extend the product lifecycle, which is vital for mission-critical systems.

  • Supply Voltage: The required supply voltage should match the system’s power supply levels. Compatibility here minimizes the need for additional voltage regulation.

  • Shock and Vibration Resistance: Important for MIL, aerospace, industrial and automotive applications where oscillators may be subjected to harsh conditions.

  • Cost: The price can be a determining factor, especially for mass-produced consumer electronics where margins are tight.

  • Availability and Lead Time: Ensuring the component is not only available but also deliverable within the project’s timeline is essential for maintaining production schedules.

  • Supply Chain: Considerations of Country of Manufacture and reliance on few manufacturers of the basic parts of oscillators.

Exploring Crystal Oscillators (XO)

Crystal oscillators are a common type of timing device that use the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal to create an electrical signal with a precise frequency. There are several types of crystal oscillators:

Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator (OCXO)

OCXOs are among the highest-performing type of quartz crystal oscillators. They offer excellent frequency stability and low phase noise, making them ideal for applications requiring high precision and reliability.

Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator (TCXO)

TCXOs are designed to compensate for temperature fluctuations, which can affect the frequency stability of the oscillator. They offer a good balance between performance and cost, making them a popular choice for many applications.

Voltage Controlled Crystal Oscillator (VCXO)

VCXOs allow the frequency of the oscillator to be adjusted by applying a voltage, providing a level of flexibility that can be useful in certain applications.

The Emergence of MEMS-based Oscillators

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) based oscillators are a newer type of timing device that use microfabrication technology. They offer several advantages over traditional crystal oscillators, including smaller size, lower power consumption, and better resistance to shock and vibration. These features make them a promising alternative in the evolving landscape of timing devices.

SiTime’s Epoch Platform™ OCXOs offer unparalleled performance that combines the

traditional benefits of OCXOs with the flexibility of MEMS programmability. Epoch Platform deliver’s unmatched accuracy in real-world scenarios. These resilient OCXOs defy thermal shock, airflow, and vibration, streamlining design with their compact size, low power consumption and innate durability, eliminating the necessity for additional protective measures common with quartz OCXOs.

With 25 times less volume and three times lower power consumption, Epoch Platform MEMS OCXOs not only provide ultra-stable clock to datacenter and network infrastructure equipment applications but also to aerospace and defense, industrial controls , holdover and more. Leveraging SiTime's advanced silicon manufacturing process ensures top-notch quality and shorter lead times, ensuring a robust and reliable supply chain.

Also, from SiTime, Endura™ COTS Ruggedized timing solutions include a resilient portfolio tailored for the most demanding conditions, ensuring unparalleled stability and reliability amidst extreme temperatures and intense vibrations. SiTime supports aerospace and defense applications with this Endura ruggedized commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products with shock and vibration performance tested in accordance to MIL-PRF-55310.

For more information on the Epoch platform, Endura timing solutions, and other MEMS-based oscillators now available at Braemac, contact:

Harnessing cutting-edge fourth-generation DSPLL® technology, Skyworks’ Ultra Series™ high-performance VCXOs deliver unmatched precision with ultra-low jitter and minimal phase noise, achieving clock accuracy across the entire frequency spectrum up to 3 GHz. With a remarkable typical phase jitter of 100 fs, these VCXOs offer industry-leading performance and are configurable in single, dual, quad, and I2C setups.

Pre-programmed at the factory to frequencies ranging from 0.2 to 3000 MHz with a resolution of less than 1 ppb, they ensure precision in both integer and fractional frequencies throughout operation. Among these, the Si565 Single Ultra-Low Jitter Crystal Oscillator (VCXO) stands out, boasting a typical phase jitter of just 0.100 ps and supporting frequencies from 0.2 to 3000 MHz.

With VCXO options available, the ProXO series of clock oscillators from Renesas encompasses the XT, XP, and XF families that cater to the precise demands of data centers, optical and wireline communication networks, and industrial-grade equipment necessitating exceptionally low noise, stable, and precise clock sources.

With a typical phase jitter of 120 fs across a bandwidth of 12 kHz to 20 MHz, these devices offer unparalleled performance. Available in frequencies ranging from 15 MHz to 2100 MHz and packaged in sizes as compact as 2.0 mm x 2.5 mm, they provide versatility for various applications.

To learn more about Skyworks’ Ultra Series, the ProXO series from Renesas, and all of the VCXO solutions available at Braemac, contact:

Ultra-Low Jitter Crystal Oscillator

Ultra-Low Jitter Crystal Oscillators are designed to generate a stable frequency with extremely low phase noise (jitter). They are particularly useful in applications where signal integrity is critical, such as high-speed data communications, radar systems, and telecommunications infrastructure.

Part of their Ultra Series™ of high-performance oscillators, the Si454 from Skyworks is an ultra-low jitter oscillator that also leverages fourth-generation DSPLL® technology to ensure unparalleled clock precision with ultra-low jitter and minimal phase noise across a wide range of output frequencies. Its typical phase jitter of just 0.08 ps and supporting frequencies from 0.2 to 1500 MHz.

To learn more about the Si545 from Skyworks Ultra Series and other ultra-low jitter XOs available at Braemac, contact:

Evacuated Miniature Crystal Oscillator (EMXO)

EMXOs are a type of crystal oscillator that operates in a vacuum or near-vacuum environment. This allows for improved frequency stability and reduced aging effects, making them suitable for high-precision applications.

Microchip's EX-219 stands as a Radiation-Tolerant, Space-Qualified EMXO with a compact

form factor, energy-efficient operation, rapid warm-up, and precise temperature stability. Designed to excel across Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Deep Space missions, the EX-219 ensures unparalleled performance and reliability. It provides screening options, including Class S or B in accordance with MIL-PRF-55310 standards, further enhancing its suitability for space applications.

To learn more about the EX-219 from Microchip or all of the EMXO solutions available at Braemac, contact:


Choosing the right timing device for your application is a critical decision that can have a significant impact on the performance and efficiency of your system. By carefully considering the various criteria and understanding the differences between the different types of oscillators, you can make an informed choice that best meets your needs.


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