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The spectrum of the temporal traces obtained from a phase-sensitive optical time-domain reflectometer is theoretically and experimentally analysed, demonstrating its dependence on the incident optical pulse shape. Numerical simulations and theoretical results are validated experimentally, showing a good matching for rectangular optical pulses. The influence of the photodetector bandwidth on the temporal trace quality is also investigated by simulation and experiment. Results show that the photodetector bandwidth needs to be ~ 40 % wider than the pulse spectrum to acquire time-domain traces of the Rayleigh backscattered light with direct detection.