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LTspice: AC Analysis Using The Step Command

Gabino Alonso - Strategic Marketing Engineer Jul 4th 2016

In LTspice, AC analysis involves computing the AC complex node voltages as a function of frequency using an independent voltage or current source as the driving signal. The small signal analysis results are plotted in the waveform viewer as magnitude and phase over frequency.

AC analysis in LTspice has a number of settings: the x-axis scaling (linear, octave or decade), number of simulation points and frequency range. For example, if you want to see how your circuit performs from 100Hz to 1MHz with 1,000 points per decade you would edit your simulation command to the following:


.ac dec 1K 100 1Meg


Repeated AC Analysis with Parameter Sweeps

AC analysis usually involves using fixed parameters to calculate the small signal AC response of a circuit, but you may want to refine your design by viewing the response under varying parameters. This can be accomplished by stepping the parameter of interest using a .step command. For example, you could sweep a capacitance logarithmically through the range of 10pF to .5nF with 30 points per octave using the .step directive (press S to insert a spice directive in the schematic editor):


.step oct param C 10p .5n 30


The schematic for this case and its resulting waveform are shown below.


Repeated AC Analysis with Stepped CapacitanceSchematic of Repeated AC Analysis with Stepped Capacitance


Note that using a .step command with AC analysis can drastically increase simulation time, so carefully choose the values, ranges, increments, and frequency range for each parameter sweep.


Plot of Repeated AC Analysis with Stepped CapacitanceWaveform Plot of Repeated AC Analysis with Stepped Capacitance


Single Frequency Analysis with a Swept Parameter

LTspice offers an elegant solution for holding frequency constant and performing small signal analysis over a varying parameter. It is as simple as using the ‘list’ AC Analysis option in the simulation command, and specifying the frequency at which you want to perform the analysis, in this case, 1MHz:


.step oct param C 10p .5n 30
.ac list 1Meg


 Using the Edit Simulation Command dialog box you can easily change the simulation from a decade to list type of sweep and only specify a single frequency.


Edit Simulation Command Window375

AC Analysis Commands Can Be Edited Using The Edit Simulation Command Dialog


Single Frequency Analysis with Swept Capacitance

Schematic of Single Frequency Analysis with Swept Capacitance


The beauty of single frequency analysis with a .step command is that the resulting plot shows magnitude and phase as a function of parameter sweep, not frequency. Below is the result of a simulation using a single frequency analysis where the x-axis is the capacitance sweep as defined in the .step function.


Waveform Plot of Single AC Analysis with Stepped CapacitanceWaveform Plot of Single AC Analysis with Stepped Capacitance (The x-axis is capacitance as defined by the .step command.)





LTspice® software is a powerful, fast and free simulation tool, schematic capture and waveform viewer with enhancements and models for improving the simulation of switching regulators. Click here to download LTspice

To launch a ready to run LTspice demonstration circuit for this part:

  • Step 1: If you have not installed LTspice on this computer, download and install LTspice
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  • Step 3: If LTspice does not automatically open after clicking the link above, you can instead run the simulation by right clicking on the link and selecting "Save Target As." After saving the file to your computer, start LTspice and open the demonstration circuit by selecting 'Open' from the 'File' menu

To explore other ready to run LTspice demonstration circuits, please visit our Demo Circuits Collection.