Difference Between Oscillator and Crystal

Knowledgebase

Last Updated on January 27, 2023 by mdmtool

Oscillators and crystals are electronic components that help regulate timing signals in electronic circuits. They both work to create a precise frequency, or tone, of an electrical signal at regular intervals. However, there are some key differences between the two devices.

Oscillators rely on an external source of power, usually a battery. They are less expensive than crystals and have low power consumption. Oscillators work by taking an input signal and using it to create an output waveform at a specific frequency determined by the components used in the oscillator circuit.

Crystals are more precise than oscillators, as they rely on the properties of a quartz crystal to determine their frequency. Crystals require more power than oscillators and are typically more expensive. Crystals use an alternating current to cause the quartz crystal to vibrate at a specific frequency, creating an output signal that is then used in the circuit.

Oscillator Vs Crystal

What’S An Oscillator?

  • Oscillators are electronic components that help regulate timing signals in electronic circuits
  • They rely on an external source of power, usually a battery
  • Oscillators work by taking an input signal and using it to create an output waveform at a specific frequency determined by the components used in the oscillator circuit.

What’S A Crystal?

  • Crystals are more precise than oscillators
  • They rely on the properties of a quartz crystal to determine their frequency.
  • Crystals require more power than oscillators and are typically more expensive.
  • Crystals use an alternating current to cause the quartz crystal to vibrate at a specific frequency, creating an output signal that is then used in the circuit.

Types:

Oscillators:

  1. RC Oscillator
  2. LC Oscillator
  3. Crystal Oscillator
  4. Wien Bridge Oscillator
  5. Pierce Oscillator

Crystals:

  1. Quartz Crystals
  2. Ceramic Resonators
  3. SAW Devices (Surface Acoustic Wave)
  4. MEMS Oscillators
  5. Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillators (TCXO)

Properties:

Oscillators:

  • Low power consumption
  • Less expensive than crystals

Crystals:

  • More precise than oscillators
  • More power requirement
  • More expensive than oscillators

Application:

Oscillators:

  1. Used for timing in microcontrollers
  2. Used for communication systems
  3. Used for generating audio signals

Crystals:

  1. Used for synchronization and frequency reference in radio transmitters and receivers.
  2. Used to ensure accuracy of timekeeping devices.
  3. Used to maintain the stability of a signal frequency in oscillators.
  4. Used in medical equipment and scientific instruments.

Working And Usage Differences

How It Works?

oscillator:

  1. An oscillator takes an input signal and uses it to create an output waveform at a specific frequency determined by the components used in the oscillator circuit.
  2. The oscillator then creates a precise frequency or tone of electrical signal at regular intervals.
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Crystal:

  1. A crystal works by using an alternating current to cause a quartz crystal to vibrate at a specific frequency.
  2. This creates an output signal that is then used in the circuit and provides more precise timing than an oscillator can.
  3. The crystal’s frequency is determined by the properties of the quartz crystal, rather than components within a circuit like an oscillator.

When To Use?

Oscillators: When cost is a major factor, or when precision timing is not necessary

Crystals: When accuracy and stability are paramount.

Advantages:

Oscillators:

  • Lower cost compared to crystals
  • Low power consumption

Crystals:

  • High precision timing
  • Wide range of frequencies available

Disadvantages:

Oscillators:

  • Less precise than crystals
  • Output frequency can drift over time due to temperature changes

Crystals:

  • More expensive than oscillators
  • High power consumption.

Comparison Chart Between Oscillator And Crystal

Properties Oscillator Crystal
Basics: An oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating signal. It is often used to generate signals for digital and analog devices. A crystal is a piece of quartz or other piezoelectric material which vibrates at its own precise frequency when electricity passes through it.
Feedback Mechanism: An oscillator typically uses a feedback mechanism, such as an amplifier and an LC circuit, to generate its output. A crystal does not use a feedback mechanism; instead, it relies on the piezoelectric properties of the material to produce its output.
Accuracy: An oscillator can be accurate to within a few parts per million (ppm). A crystal is more accurate; it can be precise to within a few parts per billion (ppb).
Storage and Stability: Oscillators are generally less stable over long periods of time. Crystals are very stable and can remain accurate for many years.
Cost: Oscillators are generally less expensive to purchase than crystals. Crystals tend to be more expensive.
Shape of the Output Waveform: An oscillator produces a sinusoidal or other complex waveform. A crystal produces a square wave output.
Frequency of the Output Signal: Oscillators can generate signals in a range of frequencies, from very low to extremely high. Crystals are limited to a single frequency determined by the quartz crystal’s physical characteristics.
Effect of Environment on Accuracy: External environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and vibration can affect the accuracy of an oscillator. The accuracy of a crystal is not affected by environmental factors.
type of the Frequency Control Used: Oscillators typically use a voltage-controlled frequency control. Crystals do not require any type of frequency control.
Nature of the Frequency of Output Waveform: An oscillator can generate a signal with any frequency. The frequency of the output waveform from a crystal is fixed and determined by the physical characteristics of the quartz crystal.
size: Oscillators vary in size from small, discrete components to large integrated circuits. Crystals are generally smaller than oscillators. They are typically available as tiny packages with leads for connecting them to a circuit board or other device.
stability: Oscillators are generally less stable over long periods of time. Crystals are much more stable and can remain accurate for many years.
Power Consumption: Oscillators consume a relatively high amount of power. Crystals typically require very little power.
design complexity: Oscillators require more complex designs than crystals. Crystals are relatively simple to design and use.
temperature  range: Oscillators typically have a limited temperature range. Crystals can operate over a wide range of temperatures.
components required: Oscillators require several components, such as an amplifier, capacitor and resistor. A crystal requires only one component—the quartz crystal itself.
Circuit connection: An oscillator typically requires a connection to a circuit in order to function. A crystal does not need to be connected directly to a circuit; it functions on its own.
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What Is the Purpose of the Crystal Oscillator in Arduino?

The crystal oscillator in Arduino is responsible for providing a clock signal to the microcontroller so it can execute instructions. The crystal also provides timekeeping and frequency control functions, allowing the user to accurately measure time or generate an accurate frequency. Without an oscillator, the Arduino would not be able to function.

FAQs

Is Oscillator A Crystal?

No, an oscillator is not a crystal. An oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic signal with a specific frequency. A crystal is a quartz material which vibrates at a certain frequency and can be used as the basis of an oscillator.

What Is The Difference Between Crystal Oscillator And Resonator?

A crystal oscillator is an electronic circuit that uses a quartz crystal to generate a stable frequency signal used as a reference for timing and frequency control in circuits. A resonator is an electronic component that stores energy and then releases it over time in the form of sound waves.

Does Temperature Affect Oscillators?

Yes, environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and vibration can affect the accuracy of an oscillator. Crystals are not affected by temperature.

Why Is This Oscillator Called Crystal Oscillator?

The oscillator is called crystal oscillator because it uses a quartz crystal to generate a stable frequency signal used as a reference for timing and frequency control in circuits. The quartz crystal vibrates at a predefined rate when an electrical current passes through it, generating the periodic signal.

Is Power Consumption Higher With Oscillators?

Yes, oscillators consume more power than crystals as they require several components to generate the signal. Crystals require very little power and are therefore a more efficient choice for applications that need precise timing.

Why Oscillator Is Used?

Oscillators are used to generate stable periodic signals with a specific frequency.

What Is An Example Of Oscillator?

An example of an oscillator is a quartz crystal oscillator, which uses the vibrational frequency of a quartz crystal to generate a periodic signal. Other examples include PLL (Phase Locked Loop) and LC (Inductor-Capacitor) oscillators.

What Is The Difference Between An Oscillator And A Timer?

An oscillator is an electronic circuit that generates a periodic signal with a specific frequency. A timer is an electronic device used to measure time intervals.

What Is The Principle Of Oscillator?

The principle of an oscillator is based on the ability of a circuit to generate a self-sustaining signal. This signal can be generated by various means, such as positive feedback or negative feedback. The frequency of the oscillation depends on the particular components used in the circuit and their values.

Why Does A Crystal Oscillatorhave Two Resonate Frequencies?

A crystal oscillator has two resonant frequencies because it is made up of two quartz crystals. Each crystal vibrates at its own frequency and when combined, these vibrations create a periodic signal with two frequencies: the fundamental frequency and the harmonic frequency.

Why Use Capacitors With Crystal Oscillator?

Capacitors are used with crystal oscillators to help filter out unwanted noise, as well as to control the frequency of the oscillation. The capacitors work in conjunction with the quartz crystal and other components in the circuit to produce a stable, accurately timed signal.

Conclusion:

Overall, oscillators and crystals are two different types of circuits used to generate signals. Oscillators are less accurate and stable but tend to be cheaper, while crystals are more accurate and stable but costlier. It is important to choose the right type for a given application depending on its accuracy and stability requirements, as well as its budget.

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