A mid-power portable/handheld SSB transceiver for 14MHz

Chapter 1: General design and oscillator circuits (This posting)

Chapter 2: Receiver (coming soon)

Chapter 3: Transmitter (coming soon)

Chapter 4: Cabinet, frequency counter, antenna etc. (coming soon)

Chapter 5: Final remakrs (coming soon)

This radio also is some sort of “rebuilt”.  in 2015 I developed a handheld transceiver with about 5 watts of output power capable for use in the 20-meter-band (Link). The idea was great for hiking, traveling and cycling tours. But the output power was slightly inferior particularly when using a shortened rod antenna. Also was the battery pack too small to provide sufficient energy for longer operation. These shortcomings had to be overcome because spring and summer season are approaching and I intend doing much outdoor activities in upcoming warmer weather conditions.

The design thus had to meet the following requirements:

  • Output power set in the range of 10 to 20 watts pep.
  • Powered by rechargeable batteries of sufficient capacity
  • Size must be as compact as possible under the given technical data mentioned before
  • The rig has to provide a rugged design for outdoor and field use.
  • An antenna holder should be integrated into the cabinet to enable the operator to use a rod antenna in the field.

These expectations lead to the following design guidelines:

  1. Four stage transmitter with driver and final stage in push-pull mode.
  2. A set of 11 nickel-metal-hydride solderable AA cells with the possibility to charge while mounted in the radio (no need to open cabinet for recharging process).
  3. Size of about a vintage CB hand held transceiver of the 70s.
  4. Construction made of aluminum sheet metal and aluminum bars (equal leg structural angle).

For energy saving purposes I decided not to use any microcontroller or digital equipment. The radio is based completely on analog technology except from a ready made frequency counter purchased in the late 80s in the last century. The  counter has been added because the main oscillator (VFO) is varactor tuned and this does not allow to use a simple frequency readout that would be possible when using (for example) a vernier reduction drive.

Mid-power SSB transceiver for 14MHz - DK7IH 2021
Mid-power SSB transceiver for 14MHz – DK7IH 2021
Mid-power SSB transceiver for 14MHz - DK7IH 2021
Mid-power SSB transceiver for 14MHz – DK7IH 2021

The Oscillators

This time we will start with the oscillator sections. As standrd with radios that use one interfrequency we use 2 oscillator: A VFO for main tuning and an LO for providing interfrequency range signals to produce SSB signal for transmit mode and to demodulate received signals.

The VFO

I am running out of vernier drives. 😉 Two most practical main solutions that remain for setting the frequency in a VFO are either a permeabiilty tuning (by inserting some ferro- or diamagnetic metal into the coil and thus changing inductance) or by making use of a varactor. Because the first method involves a lot of mechanical challenges to ensure stable operation and therefore has been considered not being achiveale the decicion was to use a varactor tuned VFO.

The VFO is Colpitts type:

Varactor tuned VFO 5 to 5.35 MHz - DK7IH 2021
Varactor tuned VFO 5 to 5.35 MHz – DK7IH 2021

Design hints:

  1. Main coil is made of 50 turns of 0.2mm enameled wire on a T-37-2 toroidal core. I used the Colpitts design this time because without a tapped coil (as required for the Hartley design) experimenting is easier when to determine the exact number of turns.
  2. The varactor is a MV104 type (purchased via ebay). This one is used as tuning device in AM radios or so and works fine because it provides high capacity swing with low DC voltage span.
  3. The “fine art” of building this oscillator is to spread the 10 turns of the helipot so exactly that the full band from 5.00 to 5.35 MHz is coveren and wasting any space (except from 1 or 2 kHz for each edge) is avoided. The possibilities you have are modifying the two resistors (2.2k and 150 ohms), changing the number of turns in the coil ans, at last, changing the capacitors (27pF) and setting the trimmer value properly at last.
  4. Fixed capacitors in the first stage of the VFO should be polystyrene (best choice) or NP0. Polystyrene caps, according to my findings, inherit contrary temperature coefficient compared to the material of the coil (iron powder), therefore excellent frequency stability of this oscillator is achieved. In practical the oscillator needs 1 or 2 minutes to warm up and subsequently drifts with some 10 kHz per hour.

To my consideration it is not necessary to install the VFO into a separate cabinet or shielding because it is, as mentioned before, absolutely stable concerning frequency. But, as you guys all know, it is not the best idea to place it right next to the final RF amplifier stage ;-).

The Local Oscillator

This oscillator also is a Colpitts one. Two crystals (9001.5 kHz and 8998.5kHz) are switched by a two position switch in the front panel. The oscillator is followed by 1 amplifier stage putting out about 1 Vpp.

Local oscillator - DK7IH 2021
Local oscillator – DK7IH 2021

(To be continued…)

Thanks for watching! Peter (DK7IH)

 

Revising the “Lean Design Transceiver”

 

Front panel view of "Lean Design Transceiver" Ver. 2 by DK7IH
Front panel view of “Lean Design Transceiver” Ver. 2 by DK7IH

The “Lean Design Transceiver” has been a project to build a simplified but effective 100% analog SSB QRP transceiver with minimum effort. The radio worked fine but there is never anything that can not be improved.

So, this transceiver, originally built in 2018, also has been scheduled for a revision. The problems were minor,  mainly on the mechanical side of the design. I have then used a veroboard to connect the front and the rear panel. Later I found this to be inferior under the aspect of ruggedness particularly for a VFO-controlled radio because of problems concerning mechanical stability. Now there is a 2mm aluminum plate carrying the circuit boards which makes the rig much more withstanding to mechanical forces.

Mainly the transmitter section also had to undergo certain changes. The previous version contained a 3-stage amplifier with 4 watts PEP output, I decided to switch to a 4-stage design with about 10 Watts PEP out. To save space for this the new concept the radio has been designed using SMD parts where ever possible.

Last, the basic design using the two NE612 mixers either for receive or transmit mode has been perpetuated. But the switching from RX to TX mode now has been transferred from formerly using two relays for reversing the signal path to one relay changing signals (VFO and LO) at the mixers and simultaneously keeping signal path direction.

The VFO also has been simplified, now it is one oscillator-stage and one buffer amplifier.

Reused have been front and rear panel, cabinet, Vernierdrive and other non-crucial components.

The circuit (Click for full size!):

Circuit explanation

Mixer 1, the SSB-Filter, the IF amplifier and mixer 2 make up the core of the radio. Mixer 1 is either receiver mixer or the double sideband generator (DSB), mixer 2 serves as product detector or transmit mixer. Mixer 1 also has been equipped with a circuit for optimizing carrier suppression. With optimized settings of the LO frequency and the 10k pot carrier in best position carrier suppression will be in the range of 45 to 50 dB.

The newly introduced signal relay supplies the VFO and the LO signals to the appropriate mixer depending on wether the radio is currently in receive or transmit operation. In comparison to the previous design this step saved the use of 1 relay.

The IF amplifier has been integrated into the AGC supply voltage chain. When in receive mode the AGC is variable depending on the input signal from the product detector (as well as the rx preamp stage). Rx gain swing in the range of 50 to 60 dB which can cope even with very strong signals. On transmit there it is always on full AGC voltage supplied to the IF amplifier to ensure maximum transmitter output.

On mixer 1 both signals (audio frequency and receive’s radio frequency) are fed into one mixer input (PIN 1 o f the NE612). Signal paths are separated by a low capacity (100pF) that prevents audio frequency flowing into the rf chain and a 1k resistor prevents low Z radio frequency from going into the microphone circuit.

The electret microphone output is high enough, so that (together with the IF amplifier) enough gain is achieved to fully drive the transmitter.

The VFO

Please note that to avoid excess frequency drift some countermeasures have to be taken in the VFO control stage. As indicted in the schematic a combination of polystyrene and NP0 capacitors has been used. The polystyrene capacitors show a reverse temperature behavior in comparison to the coil so that temperature influences are compensated to a certain degree. After 10 minutes of “warm up” the VFO should be settled and only drift some 50 Hz per hour which is suffice for SSB operation.

Receiver

The input stage has been more or less the same like in the predecessor of the radio. A simple prefilter circuit with a low Z end (leading to the 50Ohm-antenna) and a high Z end leading to gate 1 of the dual-gate MOSFET transistor.

After that stage a double circuit filter has been applied providing more selectivity for strong out-of-band-signals. Problems related to unwanted in-band signals causing IMD3-problems have never been encountered even when signals levels where high on the 14MHz-band.

Transmitter

To optimize IMD3-performance and output a 4-stage-design has been used. All transistors are bipolar semiconductors stripped from old CB-radios. The spectrum analyzer screen shows the output with 10 watts PEP applied by a two-tone-signal:

Transmitter spectrum of "Lean Design Transceiver" Ver. 2 by DK7IH
Transmitter spectrum of “Lean Design Transceiver” Ver. 2 by DK7IH

Mechanics

Two veroboards (the 1st 6 by 8 cm and the 2nd 3 by 7 centimeters) carry the whole radio. They are seperated by a sheet metal made of aluminum to avoid stray energy from the power amplifier section into the preamplifier stages.

The larger one of the boards (right part of the picture) holds the mixers, SSB-filter, if amplifier, AGC, the receiver section plus the first 3 stages of the transmitter. The smaller board contains the final radio frequency amplifier and the T/R-relay:

Interior view of "Lean Design Transceiver" Ver. 2 by DK7IH
Interior view of “Lean Design Transceiver” Ver. 2 by DK7IH

On the air

It is really surprising what can be done with about 8 to 10 watts PEP in an SSB-signal from such a simple radio. Contacts with all over Europe are performed with high reliability when condx are up (as they currently are). A Moscow-based SDR returned the picture of a two-tone-signal transmitted:

The frequency is slighty drifting upwards due to the fact that warm-up has not been finished yet when the experiment was done.

All in all I have revised another radio optimizing its construction and performance. I think I’m a little bit  “Monsieur jamais content” 😉

Vy 73 de Peter (DK7IH)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-engineering my 1st “Shirt-pocket” transceiver

When the project of building a very small transceiver was accomplished 4 years ago, I still lacked lots of skills in setting up electronic circuits using SMD technology. The radio’s craftmanship  had been more or less defective to a certain degree (there were still lots of things to learn when using SMDs on Veroboards), the inside looked comparatively  “messy” and the performance was not sited in the premium league. Particularly the receiver was prone to IMD problems when signals on the band were strong. But because I liked the outer appearance of the radio a total revision of the inside had to be performed.

The major changes that were used to improve the radio are:

  • Usage of a Si5351 clock oscillator as VFO and LO instead of an Xtal controlled LO and AD9835 as VFO,
  • Only one SSB filter (commercially made) instead of 2 ladder filters,
  • Dual-Gate MOSFET as 1st mixer (instead of SA612),
  • 2SC2078 as push-pull pair in the final TX stage,
  • All SMD components are now mounted to the underside of the board,
  • TBA820M instead of bipolar equipped push-pull audio amplifier,
  • Cabinet size has been enlarged slightly (about plus 0.5 cm in length),
  • Proper cabling instead of “spaghetti” arrangement,
  • Copper band has been used to improve radio frequency grounding.

Things that were not changed are frequency layout (14 MHz), the ATMega328P microcontroller (MCU) and cabinet size etc.

DK7IH 1st
DK7IH 1st “Shirt pocket transceiver” Rev. 1 – Front panel

Even if the changes to the previous version are minor, I had to revise the schematic nearly completely (High resolution schematic):

The radio consists of 3 sections:

  • Control unit (MCU, Si5351 oscillator, 1306 OLED and related stuff
  • Receiver
  • Transmitter

Receiver improvements

In the receiver I changed the NE612 into a dual gate MOSFET mixer stage because I found out that the IMD3 was causing problems in the evenings when high signal levels were present. The dual gate MOSFET mixer turned out to be more stable in respect to  high signal levels. With the Si5351 being able to produce about 3 Vpp. of rf energy the mixer could be fed with an appropriate signal level.

The MC1350 had been removed because the simplicity of the AGC that section that could also be simplified because only one type of AGC voltage had to be produced. Remember: The dual gate MOSFET and the MC1350 have reverse AGC characteristics, thus an AGC that controls both types of amplifiers has to produce two types of AGC voltage. One rising and one falling when signal levels increase in the receiver.

Transmitter improvements

The microphone amplifier was not necessary because an electret microphone outputs enough audio frequency voltage to drive the NE612 mixer directly. An intermediate amplifier with bipolar transistor amplifies between the SSB filter and the TX mixer pushes the signal to an appropriate level, thus enough energy always is present in the first transmitter stages.

The remaining transmitter has been not changed, only the final amplifier transistors have been replaced with a pair of 2SC2078 (2SC1957 in previous version). Transmit power is now 6 watts (when DC is 13.2 volts from my QRP battery package).

Output spectrum is as follows (Pout = 5W PEP)

micro26_output_spectrum_5w_pep

T/R switch

Based on a discussion with WA2MZE here on my blog I tried to minimize physical expansions of a P-channel MOSFET based T/R switch. The basic design can be found here, only two P-channel switching MOSFETs are used.

The circuit is so simple, it fits on a piece of Veroboard just 1 square centimeter in size and put into a piece of heat shrink tubing. After connected to the 12V system it was stored behind the front panel:

DK7IH 1st "Shirt pocket transceiver" Rev. 1 - T/R switch
DK7IH 1st “Shirt pocket transceiver” Rev. 1 – T/R switch

The inside has also been straightened (please, don’t say its is still messy! 😉 ):

DK7IH 1st "Shirt pocket transceiver" Rev. 1 - Inside view top side
DK7IH 1st “Shirt pocket transceiver” Rev. 1 – Inside view top side

Under the Si5351 breakout the audio amp is hidden. I think available space has been used to the maximum and component density of the board is OK. 😉

Here a view to the underside where all the small SMD components have been placed:

DK7IH 1st "Shirt pocket transceiver" Rev. 1 - Inside view rear side
DK7IH 1st “Shirt pocket transceiver” Rev. 1 – Inside view rear side

Front panel labeling

Times are getting harder because I’m running short in these adhesive letters that are not available today anymore. An alternative had to be found. Initial tests with the so called “toner transfer method” had been frustrating, but I have found the idea to use labels for laser printers that are cheap and allow individual front panel design.

Here the steps in brief to get a first class front panel labeling:

Step 1: Buy self-adhesive transparency film for laser printers.

Step 2: Scan your front panel using a flat bed scanner:

front-panel-0

Step 3: Cut the image and work out your front panel. Then enhance the borders of the items you want to label later:

front-panel-2

Step 4: Eliminate the background by using the “cut” tool:

front-panel-3

Step 5: Put the labels into the right places and later cut out the borders of the items you have just labelled:

front-panel-4

front-panel-5

Step 6: Now you are nearly ready to print but one step must be done: Measure the size of your front panel and bring the picture exactly to this size. If you are lucky (like I was) the picture is in the right dimensions. If you are not, you can copy the picture to a text processing software and adjust the size of picture exactly. Make 4 or 5 five copies on the same sheet and print it out with your laser printer.

Step 7: Clean your front board with grain alcohol and fix one copy of the laser print taking the precise  position of the label.

Step 8: Cut the holes and other culverts with a sharp cutter knife or scalpel.

Step 9: Be happy because of having made a top quality front panel!

Mechanical construction

Like its predecessor the radio has been mounted into a U-shaped frame of aluminum. Height is 3 centimeters, thickness of the sheet metal is 1 mm. The front panel has been attached with angle plates also made from alu and fixed with M2 screws. This makes a rugged mounting frame for the veroboard and the additional mechanical structures like sockets for antenna, DC supply and headphone.

To finish the cabinet, a base and a top cover from 0.5 mm aluminum sheets have been bent exactly. Precision is now improved because I started a new method: Before bending the sheet metal I cut a wooden block using a precise buzz saw. In this case case exactly 74 millimeters wide (7 centimeters from the inside, plus 2×1 millimeters for the thickness of the mounting frame and another 2 millimeters of space you need because of the minimum bending radius that is required for the metal sheet. Using this method the cover exactly fits onto the mounting frame.

So, that’s the story of another revision of my radios. Thanks for watching!

73 de  Peter (DK7IH)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology – TRANSMITTER spectrum analysis

Abstract

The 10 watts peak envelope power linear transmitter for single sideband operation will be examined.

Test conditions are: 10 watt pep on every band, rf line terminated with 50 ohm dummy load, input audio two-tone signal identically applied for each measurement.

Measurements have been taken with RIGOL DSA815 spectrum analyzer, RIGOL DS1054 digital oscilloscope and Goldstar DS7040 analog oscilloscope.

Measurements (Graphical presentation)

For the 5 radio frequency bands the spectral analysis show the following results:

DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 - Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 80m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 – Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 80m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 - Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 40m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 – Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 40m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 - Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 20m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 – Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 20m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 - Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 17m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 – Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated) 17m
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 - Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated)
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 – Spectral analysis of output signal (audio two-tone modulated)

Results

IMD3 on the 80, 40, 20 and 17 meter bands are quite acceptable, for 15 meters there is still some room for improvement. ;-))

Voltage examination

Even it is not spectrum analysis a voltage graph should also be discussed. The signal is shown for 14.200 MHz modulated with a dual-tone signal. Horizontal division is 10 volts per grid line:

DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 - Dual tone modulation on 14 2 MHz - Vertical division is 10 volts
DK7IH 5 band QRP SSB transceiver 2020 – Dual tone modulation on 14 2 MHz – Vertical division is 10 volts

vy 73 de Peter

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology – Practical TRANSMITTER setup

Abstract

This article will describe some design ideas that might be helpful in case the objective is building a medium power (i. e. 10 to 20 watts pep) radio frequency amplifier using a very compact design

The whole final amplifier for the broadband linear transmitter had to be packed into an area whose size is  5 by 11 centimeters.with approximately 2.5 centimeters in depth.

Because of limited space the power amplifier module had to be stacked using pin headers and connecting them with appropriate means. This effort resulted in two layers of circuitry:

  • The transformers for in- and output, the bias circuit and the radio frequency choke for the DC power line
  • The two power transistors (2SC1969)

Also a heat sink had to be planned.

Practical design of a compact medium power QRP RF linear amplifier

A large heat sink of aluminum covers the area of the underside of the transceiver:

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Final heat sink
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Final heat sink

When removed, access to the power amplifier section is possible:

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Power amplifier section of QRP SSB multiband transceiver
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Power amplifier section of QRP SSB multiband transceiver

When removing the thick aluminum block containing the screw’s holes we see a support construction that holds the connecting block and the final transistors in place. Here also the temperature sensor (KTY81-110) can be spotted, attached and the rear side. This aluminum structure is the only thermal connection between the small sheet metal holding the transistors and the heat sink. But it turned out that temperature of the pa transistors rarely rises above 50°C even when long test periods are performed for adjusting the amplifier. So, this idea has proved to be a mechanical, thermal and electronically good arrangement.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Power transistors (2SC1969)
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Power transistors (2SC1969)

Between the pair of 2SC1969s the biassing diodes are visible which control the current for the current regulating transistor sited under the input transformer. Thermal contact is ensured by  positioning the transistors extremely close to the diodes.

When removed, we can see the transistors mounted to a very small part of veroboard and connected to the “main board” with a row of socket strips.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Power transistors (2SC1969) on separate veroboard
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Power transistors (2SC1969) on separate veroboard

Underneath we see the output transformer made up of 2 stacks having 3 toroids FT37-43 glued together with 2 component glue.:

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Full PA assembly
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Full PA assembly

Because of limited space the connection to the low pass filter board is done with hookup wire. With just a length of 2.5 centimeters this is not a real problem.

The five band switch relays are connected to 5 separate veroboards (which makes changes of e filter very fast) containing each one filter for one band. Every veroboard is held in place by 2 small bolts with M2 specification. Between the veroboards small brass tubing pieces can be observed which serve as “shielded” lines for the longer leads going to the end of a respective filter. Inside the tube there is another piece of 1.1 mm diameter PVC insulated hookup wire.

Color coding of the various bands is unique over the whole transceiver.

Very far on the left side the transmit-receive relay has been positioned. This one only is for switching the antenna socket between transmitter and receiver. DC switching is done with small p-channel MOSFETs sited behind the LCD display and will be discussed later.

So, that’s all for today, thanks for watching! 😉

73 de Peter (DK7IH)

 

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology – THE TRANSMITTER

Abstract

The transmitter for this transceiver is designed to deliver a peak envelope power (PEP) of 10 watts on all bands from 80 to 15 meters. Due to its purpose (SSB amplification) it is a linear amplifier.

The circuit is equipped with 5 stages where the first one is a gain control stage containing a dual gate MOSFET whose gate 2 is controlled by a gain voltage from a digital-to-analog-converter (DAC), an MCP4725, and preset by values manually stored in the microntroller (MCU). This allows the user to compensate the decreasing gain when higher frequencies are used. The remaining stages are equipped with bipolar transistors.

The audio input stage of this transmitter uses a commercially designed integrated circuit  (SSM2166 by Analog Devices) which is a microphone compressor for computer applications.

The DSB-generator succeeding the compressor is an integrated mixer of the AN612 type.

Afterwards the TX mixer section (NE612 active Gilbert Cell mixer) follows. After being processed by the band pass filter (BPF) the five stages of the transmitter push the filtered signal to the designed final power level:

  • Gain control stage (40673 dual gate MOSFET)
  • 1st amplifier (2N2222)
  • Predriver (2SC2314)
  • Driver stage (2x2SC2078)
  • Final power amplifier (2x 2SC1969)

Audio stage and double sideband generator (DSB) and TX Mixer

This unit is designed for usage with an electrete microphone. Supply voltage is generated in a chain of 2 series switched 3.3k resistors, a 4.7V zener diode and a blocking capacitor. Following is an integrated circuite (IC), the SSM2166, which is a microphone amplifier and compressor circuit.

An AN612 integrated mixer forms the DSB generator in this circuit. There is no potentiometer for carrier suppression, in general carrier suppression of >45dB can be achieved with this simple circuit.

The resulting DSB signal is fed into the SSB filter that is placed in the receiver section. Usage of shielded cable with high shielding capacity is mandatory here for interconnecting the filter to the transmitter circuit. Even if stray coupling in high level radio frequency energy is not a severe issue on the interfrequency branch of the transmitter.

TX mixer is an NE612 with balanced output. This measure which will result in some extra dB concerning output gain.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Microphone compressor, DSB generator and TX mixer
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Microphone compressor, DSB generator and TX mixer (Click for full size picture)

Power amplifier strip

A lot of introductory research had been done on a multi band QRP power transmitter with 10 watts of pep power when building the experimental 6 band transceiver. The general issue for a broadband power amplifier is the gain difference that occurs when band switching is applied. 3dB gain loss per octave is the rule of the thumb that is stated in lieterature and has proven to be correct under practical examinations..

An easy and reliable way to compensate this common gain loss, can be achieved using a programmable gain set stage at the entrance of the transmitter chain. This onset here is achieved by using a dual gate MOSFET transistor whose gate 2 is controlled directly via an I2C programmable digital-analog-converter (DAC). This DAC (MCP4725) is 12 bit wide, thus software in the MCU allows the user to set the gain in 4096 steps via the controls and store this value in the MUC’s EEPROM. After each band switch the respective value is recalled and subsequently sets the stage’s gain.

The amplifier strip presented here includes 2 push-pull stages as driver and final power amplifier. In contrast to the 6-band transmitter there is no “in-between” low-pass-filter.

All coil data is stated in the schematic. Pig nose cores are used in the final amp stages.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Final power amplifier stages
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Final power amplifier stages (Full size picture)

After the power amplifier the circuit terminates with the final low pass filter section. Simple 5 element filters are used.

When setting up the circuit on a PCB or veroboard keep in mind that the 15m filter section  should be placed in the closest position to the input/output connector  to save lead length! Or to say in other words: Reverse the filter order in the schematic!

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Final Low Pass Filter Section
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Final Low Pass Filter Section

Vy 73 de Peter (DK7IH) and thanks for watching!

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology – NEW BAND LAYOUT

Sorry for having deferred the description of the transmitter. The recent days I have been concerned with a new frequency layout for the transceiver. I found that the 17m-band could be an interesting topic because when tuning on internet based SDR pages the last days I saw many strong signals appearing. This might be due to the fact that sun is higher now in the northern hemisphere and conditions will even be better with solar cycle #25 now about being to commence.

Based on these considerations I changed the band plan for the 5-band radio: 10m band has been removed, instead 17m has been added.

The new band layout now is 80m-40m-20m-17m-15m.

Here are the respective values for coils installed into the band pass filters (BPF) and the layout for the final low pass filter (LPF).

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Coil data
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Coil data

Hint: Inductance for the BPF coils have been measured with (probably) excess error ratio. Thus calculations are resulting in a different resonant frequency for the LCs when using Thompson’s formula!

Currently some additional tests with the the transmitter are pending, but full description will follow the next days. So, stay tuned! 😉

73 de Peter (DK7IH)

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology – THE RECEIVER

Introductory article of this project

This is some sort like “Copy & Paste”, a useful mean if you want to create a doctorate, like the former German Minister of Defense Mr Guttenberg once did. 😉 I don’t want to achieve a doctorate but the receiver of this radio is more or less the same I have constructed for the Midi6-transcevier. So I just copied the schematics and put down the changes in this paper.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - THE RECEIVER
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – THE RECEIVER

To see a full sized picture of the RECEIVER, please click here!

Starting the tour on the left you can see the band switch unit, beginning with a BCD decoder that converts a 3-bit pattern created by the MCU into a 5 line decimal output. The ULN2003 then is a driver designed for motor controls but it is very useful as a relay driver as well. Integrated clamp diodes and open collector circuit make it practical as a driver circuit for this unit.

Next is the band pass filter section. I still use relays for switching the respective filter because I found that it is the best way to keep unwanted signals low from passing the filter, provided you use relays that can serve this purpose., Here signal relays TQ2-12V by Panasonic have been applied. Coils are small TOKO style coil formers with 5.1 mm (2×2.54mm i. e. 2×0.1″) pin spacing.

RF preamp is equipped with a dual gate MOSFET like the BF900 or so. The “AGC” this time is to be manually, just connect the AGC input (which now is an “MGC” to say it correctly!) of the stage to a 10kOhm variable resistor allowing a voltage swing between 0 and 12 V and this will lead to a preamp stage with gain control in the range of 25dB. This variable resistor is to mounted into the front panel, just to be concise.

The receiver’s mixer is an SL6440 which has great IMD3 performance (about 30dB) and has been used instead of diode ring mixer. Some dBs of gain are achieved as well but not the amount you can expect from an SA602.

In practical terms the ic really proves what the manufacturer promises. On 40m e. g. with a large doublet antenna no IMD products are audible even when strong broadcast station are next to the amateur radio band. A really worthy trial with this receiver!

Due to the fact that the following SSB filter is used for the transmitter also, another signal relay switches the filter between the receiver and the transmitter branch.

An MAV-11 monolithic amplifier follows the filter to lift the signal a little bit.

Next the MC1350 video amp is installed to do the major amplification with the interfrequency signal. It is gain controlled by the AGC circuit on the right side of the schematic. Gain is minimum if AGC input is around 7V or higher.

The product detector is a dual gate MOSFET which is only there because this one has a slight amount of gain and does not consume much space on the tiny boards.

The audio preamp stage is also very simple, just a bipolar transistor with negative feedback applied via a large resistor (390k) also biassing the unit to an appropriate value.

The audio main amp here is not an ic (like the inevitable LM386 e. g.) but it is a push-pull arrangement using 3 bipolar transistors. The stage that enhances the voltage is designed with a BC547, the stage that is bound for current amplification uses a pair of complementary transistors (BD137 -NPN- and BD 138 -PNP-). Audio power is about 1 Watt which is suffice for a small radio.

AGC uses an operational amplifier, any type like the LM358 will work great. The LM358 contains two identical amplifier stages. The first is used to bring the audio signal to a certain level, then rectifying this voltage and subsequently bringing it into a time constant consisting of a charged capacity (2.2uF) and a discharging resistor (3.3M), The circuit has very fast response, so there is no annoying “plopp” when a strong signal breaks in) and the decay is very soft.

The second stage just works as an instrumentation amplifier putting out up to 12V to control the input of the MC1350 at PIN5.

To end this article let’s have a look at the practical setup of the receiver:

mini5_qrp_ssb_trx_dk7ih_receiver_close_up_2

Click to enlarge!

Vy 73 de Peter (DK7IH)

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology: VFO, LO, MCU etc.

As mentioned in the introductory article to this radio the digital components in this transceiver are pre-manufactured modules that have only been put together in a more or less sensible way. ;-). These modules are:

  • AD9850 as variable frequency oscillator (VFO), China made no-name board,
  • Si5351 as local oscillator (LO) produced by “Adafruit”,
  • Arduino Pro Mini w. ATMgea328p as Microcontroller Unit (uC, MCU), no-name
  • ST7735 colored LCD, no-name,
  • MCP4725 as digital-analog-converter to preset transmitter gain via MCU, “Sparkfun” clone from China, no-name

All units are able to run on 5V which made it easy to layout the schematic because only one 5V/1A voltage regulator had to bu used.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Digital unit with VFO, LO, MCU, DAC and LCD (low res.)
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Digital unit with VFO, LO, MCU, DAC and LCD (low res.)

To watch a high resolution version (4.2MB!) of the wiring scheme, please click here!

Hints:

a) The lines for ISP (MOSI, MISO, SCK, RESET and GND) have not been drawn but the location to the respective ports is mentioned in the table sited in the right top corner. Reset rquires 10kOhms to +5V and a 0.1uF cap to GND.

b) Certain clones of the MCP4725 DAC module will produce conflicts with the I²C/TWI-address of the Si5351 LO module. Original “Sparkfun” boards come with I²C/TWI-address  0x60, 0x61 or 0x62 (depending on literature/web resource you get this information from).

This address is set by the manufacturer AD inside the hardware on customer’s demand. On the other hand the Chinese made modules I am using have basic address 0xC0 which is the address of the Si5351 also. Thus this leads to conflicts on the I2C/TWI-Bus. One solution is to close a solder bridge to +VDD on the very tiny DAC-board which will set address to 0xC2.

c) For the 4(!) user switches (not 3 like in the photo above!) the pull-up resistor on PORT PC0 is set on. There are is a resistor (in the range between 560 Ohms and 2.2 kOhms) with each switch, that pulls voltage to GND when the respective key is pressed. This leads to a voltage drop at the analog input that will be detected by the ADC channel.

This voltage drop depends on the pull-up resistor and on some other factors so it must be determined for every controller setup individually. To solve this, in the respective functionthat returns the numeric value for the key pressed  there is a small commented code that you have to de-comment temporarily:

//Read keys via ADC0
int get_keys(void)
{
    int key_value[] = {39, 76, 103, 135};
    int t1;
 int adcval = get_adc(0);

    //TEST display of ADC value 
    /*
        lcd_putstring(0, 5, " ", 0, 0); 
        oled_putnumber(0, 5, adcval, -1, 0, 0); 
    */
    for(t1 = 0; t1 < 4; t1++)
    {
        if(adcval > key_value[t1] - 10 && adcval < key_value[t1] + 10)
        {
            return t1 + 1;
        }
    }
    return 0;
}

Restart the software, press every key, put the indicated key value into the code (line 4) and re-comment the orange lines when fnished. Next re-upload the software to the controller.

d) Source code in C is available on my Github repository. Please note that even if an Arduino Pro Mini MCU board is used, the code is not designed for the Arduino “world”. It does not use functions of the Arduino environment and may not function with the Arduino bootloader.

To compile the C source and generate the HEX-File you need the GNU C Compiler either for Windows or Linux.

73 de Peter (DK7IH) and thanks for watching!

 

“Gimme Five” reloaded – A compact 5 band QRP SSB transceiver in SMD technology

Follow-up articles published so far:

Abstract

A compact SSB transmitter/receiver will be presented. This unit covers 5 bands within the amateur radio spectrum (3.5, 7, 14, 21 and 28 MHz). Receiver is a single conversion unit with an interfrequency of 9 MHz. Transmitter uses 5 stages and has got a power level of 10 watts PEP output.

Frequency generation is done by integrated ready made modules, in this project a Si5351 as VFO and LO. Microcontroller is an Arduino Pro mini AtMega328 driving a colored TFT LCD with ST7735 chipset.

The whole device has been constructed in SMD but can also be setup by using “thru hole” techniques or mixed installations.

The unit is built into into a mounting frame of aluminum sheets of standardized width. Size of the whole radio is 17 x 12 x 5 centimeters. It is, to a certain degree, the “Little Brother” of the “Midi6“-Transceiver that had been designed mainly for experimental purposes.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020

Description

Multiband QRP transceiver projects are challenging for the radioamateur. The even more challenging matter is to build it as neat as possible.

The “Midi6” transceiver has been an interesting step which made me learn a lot of things. But it is a much too bulky for my needs (producing compact and lightweight portable gear for traveling, hiking etc. ) On the other hand I found that I don’t really need 160m installed in the radio (due to antenna problems here at my site) which defined the next multibander having a “classical” (i. e. 70s) layout with 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters.

An important point was to use ready made modules or breakout boards for the major digital and analog circuits:

Design considerations

First I thought about using the Si5351 as VFO and LO because it contains 3 oscillators on one chip. But I gave that idea away very fast because there were to many spurious signals and the thus the receiver had to many “birdies” which I don’t accept. Having had some of the Chinese made AD9850 boards still here on the shelf I gave that one  a try and was finally relatively happy with receiver performance.

The microntroller and its application also has been a challenge because for a multiband transceiver an Arduino Pro Mini might be a little bit weak because the number of ports is very limited. But it finally worked out when planning is carefully done and optimizing is brought to its limits. The port usage is as follows:

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Port usage on AVR Pro Mini Microcontroller
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Port usage on AVR Pro Mini Microcontroller

ISP leads are used for controlling the DDS and for uploading the software to the controller. This is done because the inputs of the DDS are high Z inputs that do not affect the ISP data transfer. On the other hand the programmer goes to high Z if there is no data to be sent to the controller. Thus testing the radio is possible when programming leads are connected.

LCD is an ST7735 TFT colored display because I found the OLEDs with 1306 and 1106 drivers to noisy on the higher bands where band noise is weak and therefore digital noise produced in the radio comes more into the foreground. And, above all, a colored display makes much more impression than an ordinary b/w one. 😉

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Front panel with backlight
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Front panel with backlight

Mechanical construction and transceiver units

For this radio I ordered aluminum strips holding a width of 5 centimeters via ebay. Thickness is 1.5 mm. From this material a very rugged frame has been constructed that gives the whole rig a very good mechanical stability.

Major units in this construction

The rig is very much unitized, each functional of a module section is soldered to a very small piece of veroboard that has been cut out from a larger piece of material. It is fixed to the aluminum basis by using inserted nuts with M2 screw thread. The main advantage is: If one unit fails it is easy to reconstruct it and put it to the place the predecessor has been mounted and  second grounding is excellent because the small single units don’t require long grounding leads because the boards are very small in size and the 4 corners all have ground potential. Particularly for the transmitter I can say that I had never any unwanted oscillations.

The transmitter is 100% stable on all the 5 bands, which was not the way with the first “Gimme 5”-Transceiver that had severe layout problems in the transmitter having the initial BPFs very close to the final rf power stage. But in the end you should be knowing more than in the beginning pf a project. So is true here. 😉

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Receiver section (clos-up)
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Receiver section (clos-up)

The picture shows a close-up of the receiver section that consists of 5 single units (from the left)

  • Dual-gate MOSFET preamplifier (in the picture veiled by shielded cables) and rx mixer (SL6440)
  • SSB Filter 9 MHz by box73.de
  • interfrequency amplifier (MC1350) and product detector (dual gate MOSFET)
  • audio preamp (BC547) and main amp (3 transistors, the 2 finals in push-pull circuit)
  • AGC with OP (LM358) and bipolar transistors as voltage regulators.

The same technique has been used for the transmitter:

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Transmitter section (close-up)
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Transmitter section (close-up)

Starting from the left you notice an SSM2166 microphone compressor ic by Analog Device which also is the main microphone amplifier. Next is an AN612 mixer as DSB generator, followed by an NE612 serving as transmit mixer.

The second board from the right is a 3 stage unit to bring the transmit signal to a power level of about 150mW (Dual gate MOSFET, 2N2222 and 2SC2314 as active semiconductors in this order). On the right a push-pull stage equipped with 2 2SC2078 and relatively high emitter degeneration (2 Ohms for each transistor) brings the power up to 500mW.

Transmitter gain can be controlled with an MCP4725 DAC that is set for each band individually and helps much to compensate gain increase on the lower bands. This DAC is also connected to the microcontroller’s I²C-bus and data for each band is saved in EEPROM and is being recalled if a certain band is switched.

Tha main amp is centered on the center side of the mainframe:

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Power Transmitter section (close-up)
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Power Transmitter section (close-up)

On the left side of the tx pa unit there are 2 power transistors (2SC1969 by eleflow) mounted to a small strip of 3mm thick aluminum that is connected to another much thicker block of Al. Here a large heatsink can be mounted when the device is under test or finally fixed into the cabinet when using the aluminum cabinet as heatsink. Connected to the aluminum block there is the temperature sensor (KTY 81-110) that allows permanent check of the transistors temperature and that will lead to a warning on the LCD when excess temperature is detected.

The output transformer can be found under the two PA transistors and therefore is not visible here. This “stacked” construction saves very much space. PA transistors are connecting to 2.54 mm socket strips which makes the pair of semiconductors removable and allows access to the power transformer underneath.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Power Transmitter section with heatsink for testing purposes
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Power Transmitter section with heatsink for testing purposes

On the right of the PA section there are the low pass filters for each band switched by a single relay.

Band filters are shared for transmitter and receiver and are switched to the respective branch by using relays. Left of the BPF unit there is a logical unit (HCF4028 BCD encoder and an ULN 2003 relay driver integrated circuit). This allows switching 5 relays by just using 3 binary coded controller output ports.

DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 - Band pass filters
DK7IH Multiband QRP Transceiver for 5 Bands 2020 – Band pass filters

Software is written in C  for AVR controllers  using the GNU C compiler under Linux. The code will be discussed in the respective article that is going to follow this introduction.

I strongly recommend to  stay tuned for the next articles covering this transceiver and giving details for each unit! 😉

73 de Peter (DK7IH)