A large tank capable of long-term maintenance of a sharp temperature-salinity interface has been developed and applied to measurements of the dynamical response of oceanographic sensors. A two-layer salt-stratified system is heated from below and cooled from above to provide two convectively mixed layers with a thin double-diffusive interface separating them. A temperature jump exceeding 10°C can be maintained over 1–2 cm (a vertical temperature gradient of order 103°C/m) for several weeks. A variable speed-lowering system allows testing of the dynamic response of conductivity and temperature sensors in full-size oceanographic instruments. An acoustic echo sounder and shadowgraph system provide nondisruptive monitoring of the interface and layer microstructure. Tests of several sensor systems show how data from the facility is used to determine sensor response times using several fitting techniques and the speed dependence of thermometer time constants is illustrated. The linearity of the conductivity–temperature relationship across the interface is proposed as a figure of merit for design of lag-correction filters to accurately match temperature and conductivity sensors for the computation of salinity. The effects of finite interface thickness, slow sensor sampling rates and the thermal mass of the conductivity cell are treated. Sensor response characterization is especially important for autonomous instruments where data processing and compression must be performed in-situ, but is also helpful in the development of new sensors and in assuring accurate salinity records from traditional wire-lowered and towed systems.