We propose an objective formulation of the impulse analysis problem from a signal analysis viewpoint. The winding response is quintessentially that of a deterministic network to a finite energy signal, with breakdown and partial discharge being inherently nonlinear events. A significant improvement to the acquisition of waveforms is demonstrated by a virtual instrument approach. It retains the advantages of the time- and frequency-domain methods. The drawbacks of the transfer function method are highlighted and a new piecewise linear approach is proposed for analysis. Experiments on a discrete lumped parameter model of the winding are used to validate the PXI based instrument. © 2007 IEEE.