When I saw that Abracon had reasonably priced programmable oscillators available, I knew I had to get some. There is a variety of different oscillators with different specifications available. I picked the Abracon ASDMB series MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) oscillators  . To be able to program these oscillators, one needs the MEMSpeed Pro II programmer and an adapter socket .
First off, a warning. MEMS oscillators aren’t the best performers when it comes to phase noise performance. So wherever phase noise plays an important role, these oscillators are probably not your best choice. But for that, MEMS oscillators or MEMS actuators / sensors in general are significantly less sensitive to vibrations and mechanical shock.
I got my MEMSpeed Pro II kit and the ASDMB adapter kit directly from Abracon. Any adapter kit comes with 50 blank oscillators. The case that the MEMSpeed Pro II comes in offers space for two adapter cards and plenty of blank ICs. There are numerous different oscillators with different parameters available .
Here’s a close-up of the MEMSpeed Pro II kit:
As you can see, there’s space for two socket cards and plenty of blank oscillators in the case. The USB drive contains all the software necessary for the programmer. Please make sure you install the software before you connect the programmer for the first time. The reason is that the programmer uses a proprietary USB driver that should be installed before the device talks to the PC for the first time.
The adapter card connects to the side of the MEMSpeed Pro II. Once everything is connected, one can hook up the programmer to the PC and start the software. The software is really self-explanatory. After entering the target frequency and clicking the “Program” button, the MEMS oscillator is programmed.
The “Measure” section of the software makes it possible to verify that the burn went correctly. However, it seems that the precision of this feature is not the best. It’s enough to make sure that the frequency is about right, but please don’t trust the last digit.
For an experiment, I programmed one of my ASDMB oscillators to the frequency 145.565, which is the national frequency for radio direction finding in the amateur radio community. I used my brand new Teledyne LeCroy HDO4024′s spectrum analyzer capabilities to obtain some data on the device’s performance.
As indicated above, the phase noise performance of MEMS oscillators is not the best. The following shot shows this clearly on the instantaneous spectrum and the historical spectrogram:
Next up is the harmonic output. The Teledyne LeCroy automatically marks harmonics and displays the level. Unfortunately, I entered a slightly off fundamental frequency (145.5 instead of 145.565). But the representation is still valid.
The ASDMB oscillators can operate between 1 and 150 MHz. They can be operated between 1.8 and 3.3 V and work well over the entire range. There are different temperature options available ad there are 3 sub-types available, which are designed for an output load of 10 kΩ and either 15, 25 or 40 pF of capacitive load. At 3.3 volts, the rise time is better than 2 nS.
Altogether, this is a very nice product and from now, on a must have in my lab. From now on, I will have almost any frequency available whenever I need it. The only way Abracon could make me happier would be by coming out with an MEMS VCO that can be pulled by an external voltage.
Links and Sources:
 ASDMB Datasheet, Abracon: http://www.abracon.com
 ASDMB Blank Oscillators, Mouser: http://www.mouser.com/
 MEMSpeed Pro II, Mouser: http://www.mouser.com/
 MEMS Overview, Abracon: http://www.abracon.com/