Function Generator Vs. Oscilloscope

Many of the experiments performed in advanced laboratories make use of an oscilloscope and a function generator. That said, understanding what they are and how they function is crucial, as is presented in the difference between the two.

This article mostly provides an overview of the two and how they differ in terms of operation, purpose, methodology, and so on.

What is A Function Generator?

Function generators are devices that produce a given voltage over a specific time period, such as a “sine wave” or “triangle wave” signal.

So, in essence, it is a signal generator that can generate waveforms of typical shapes.

The waveform can be changed, for example, by adjusting the duration of the pulse or the ramps of the different edges of a triangle or sawtooth waveform.

Besides generating waveform, this instrument also has the capability to add a DC offset to a signal which makes it extremely useful for a number of testing applications.

A function generator is typically employed in service departments, electronic departments, automotive applications, educational, medical, and industrial settings.

The operation of a function generator is as simple as turning it on and customizing the output signal to the desired waveform shape. After that, adjust the function generator until you receive an adequate signal and connect the function generator’s ground and signal to the device’s input and ground terminals.

As a result, the response of circuits to a commonplace input signal will be tested, producing varied voltage patterns at varying frequencies and amplitudes.

What is An Oscilloscope?

Oscilloscopes are signal analyzers, the results are displayed to the user in the form of a voltage over time graph.

Users can then study this to understand the frequency, amplitude, and overall shape of the signal, which may vary depending on the physics being investigated in the experiment.

Oscilloscopes are used in the science, engineering, medicine, automotive, and telecommunications industries. We also take advantage of oscilloscopes for general purposes such as electronic equipment maintenance and laboratory work as well as for specific purposes such as displaying the waveform of a heartbeat or analyzing an automotive ignition system.

The operation of an oscilloscope is likewise quite simple; they work by using an electron beam that goes across the screen in a back and forth motion, brightening the phosphors to generate a graph. When a line appears on an oscilloscope’s screen, it is created by an electron beam moving up and down.

The Difference Between Function Generator and Oscilloscope

A function generator functions as a “signal source” that generates an alternating current signal with a sine, triangle, or square waveform with adjustable frequency. It is used to test various pieces of equipment, such as amplifiers, to determine how much the signal is distorted by the circuit, to analyze the frequency response and to find the gain of the amplifier.

On the other hand, an oscilloscope displays the waveform of any given input, allowing a graph of voltage over time to be generated, which allows the amplitude, frequency, and general shape of the signal to be calculated.

The difference between the two instruments sounds clear as day since an oscilloscope is specifically used to analyze signals and circuit behavior over time, while a function generator is separate equipment that aids in analyzing circuit behavior by providing a signal source.

In addition, an oscilloscope can have an inbuilt function generator functionality while the same can’t be said for a function generator.


As a result, the two devices discussed above have the following major differences as mentioned in the article and basically have different functions. Interestingly, as technology has advanced, we can now find a function generator in an oscilloscope making it a 2 in 1 device.

However, a standalone function generator is capable of generating higher frequency signals that an oscilloscope integrated function generator can’t. For low level tinkering and designing an oscilloscope with an in-built function generator is a great choice, especially for students.