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.
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.
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:
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 like an AD9850 as VFO, and an Si5351 as 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.
Multiband QRP transceiver projects are a challenging undertaking 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:
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:
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. 😉
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. 😉
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)
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:
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:
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.
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.
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! 😉
The receiver had to match a lot of requirements that should be described first:
Particularly on the lower bands and with effective long wire antennas the receiver front end will see high signal levels that it has to cope with. IMD always is a serious topic in this case.
Sensitivity particularly on the higher bands, where noise level is ow and signals are weak, is also an issue.
Dynamic range and extensive AGC gain compensation should be as high as possible.
This lead to a circuit that has proven its stability in lots of my radios:
Band filtering for each band with a double and loosely coupled LC circuits
Dual-Gate MOSFET (part of the AGC chain) as the first amplifier
Diode ring mixer (with Schottky diodes)
Post mixer amplifier with Dual-Gate MOSFET (part of the AGC chain)
SSB Filter (now 10.7 MHz) also used for transmitter (relay switched)
Main IF amplifier with MC1350 (part of the AGC chain)
Audio preamp with bipolar transistor
Audio final amp: (once again! 😉 ) LM386
Before describing the receiver itself we will have look at the band pass filter unit, that is shared between receiver and transmitter:
To minimize stray energy traveling from the input to the output of the filter, two SMD relays have been used on each side of the filter per band. And to reduce feedback fromt the transmitter (when the BPF is used to filter the TX signal after the TX mixer) the filter has been placed far away from the TX amplifier section.With an overwhelming result: The transmitter is nearly unconditionally stable now (compared to the TX section used in the “Give me 5”-Transceiver that had severe shortcoming in this aspect.
Control leads for the relays follow a designated coding scheme:
The receiver’s circuit
VFO signal is coupled into the DBM via a 10nF capacitor. The same is valid for the amplified RF signal from the output of the first amplifier stage using a Dual-Gate MOSFET (40676, BF900 or equ.).
Another Dual-Gate MOSFET is used as the post-mixer amplifier. All Dual-Gate MOSFETs so far are part of the AGC-Chain. This maximizes the possible gain swing to about 40 to 50 db. and enhances the receiver’s capability to handle even the strongest signal levels without distorting the output signal and the end of the audio chain.
Next is the SSB-Filter. Due to this is an “experimental” transceiver, the filter has not been soldered to the circuit board. Instead it is fixed with an aluminum clamp into two parts of header strips. Thus I can compare numerous SSB-Filters (9-, 10.695-, 10.7-MHz commercial ones, various home made ladder filters etc.). Here the different performance is very interesting to be explored.
The filter is accompanied by a special rf relay (manufacturer “Teledyne” with excellent performance concerning separation for the two channels) so that it can be used as the SSB filter for the transmitter section.
After the filter section the IF amplifier follows. This one uses an MC1350 video amp (old but good and still available, even in SMD!) and this IC also is controlled by AGC. The input is unbalanced (PIN6 to GND) the output is balanced and terminated with a tuned circuit.
Demodulator is an SA602 mixer IC.
After that the signal is handed over to the audio chain. But before the signal is processed in the next stage the frequency range is limited by a low-pass filter to reduce hiss. This filter also has two switched capacitors (controlled by MCU via NPN-driver stages) to adapt the sound to the preferred settings of the user. The software contains a respective function.
The audio amplifier consists of two sections: A preamp with a bipolar transistor and the inevitable and well-know LM386.
The full circuit on a 6×8 cm veroboard:
Starting from left top corner there is a 1:4 input transformer (not in the schematic), the preamp, the DBM, post mixer amp, SSB filter, relay, MC1350 as IF amp, demodulator and 2 stages of audio amp.
Performance is excellent. The circuit has no problem with high signal levels (in-band and out-of-band) especially on 40 meters. No IMD problems are noticeable even when used with high gain antennas like a 2×25 meter doublet with a tuner. On the higher bands noise figure is pretty OK what I think is based on the usage of Dual-Gate MOSFETs in 2 of the 3 amplifier stages. The MC1350 deteriorates this to a certain degree but is still very much acceptable for a shortwave radio.
Currently I am revising older projects that are in my radio shelf, some of them not finished yet, postponed to a later date, some without a cabinet, some with severe problems with performance and so on. All the stuff that needs a “second chance” ;-). This project is one of this collection. The transmitter did not work correctly (severe parasetic oscillations occurred when the section was driven to power levels >1 watt).
By careful testing and examining I found the reason: The grounding of the rf power amplifier stage was defective due to a connection that had not been soldered properly. After having cured that I found the output was 5 to 6 watts PEP output (very clean). Then, having the project on “GO!”, I finished the design. Thus I got a nice little “vintage style” SSB QRP trsanceiver as a travel or hiking companion:
Frequent readers on my blog know that one thing I really enjoy is building radios based on a minimalist concept. The fewer components you need for a working transceiver, the better it is. At least in my point of view. Here is another one of these “very lean design” transceivers.
The radio originally was designed as a study for my “Old School Transceiver“. After having not built a “real” analog VFO for a number of years I wanted to find out if I still can set up a construction that is really stable concerning frequency. And because it is not very challenging to just watch the result on a frequency counter, a full transceiver had to be built along with the VFO. The VFO was OK, (see later text!) the power transmitter, as mentioned before, was not. Until I had revised it.
The design is another remake of the „Kajman Transceiver“ by SQ7JHM. A design I absolutely love because of its simplicity. The radio basically has been designed for 80 meters (even when lot of websites quote it as a 20m rig) so it shows some weaknesses when adapted to 14MHz without any changes. Thus some improvements had to be made.
Improving performance of the SQ7JHM basic design
Some changes that were top of the agenda to meet my requirements:
The receiver needed a preamplifier for bands where atmospheric noise is not that strong. A dual-gate MOSFET equipped radio frequency preamplifier improves noise figure significantly and can be put into the AGC chain to give more dynamic range and a more pleasant listening experience.
An AGC (automatic gain control) is a good idea if you want to use the receiver in a more comfortable way without the need to lower the volume when strong stations appear. In addition the S-meter reading can be derived from the output of the AGC DC amplifier stage.
A little bit more rf output power can be achieved by using a push-pull amplifier. Linearity also improves to a certain degree when using this design because AB mode combined with separated amplification of the half waves plus suppression of even-order harmonics.
To enhance receiver gain a single stage interfrequency amplifier has been added that is only in use when on receive. It is also connected to the AGC chain.
And, last, a microphone amplifier allows you to talk in a moderate way into the microphone which is good for me because I often have my QSOs when the rest of the family is asleep and not keen on listening to my strange “This is DK7IH/QRP, do you copy?” messages.
The schematic of my enhanced design:
Fascination originates from the fact that you only need a handful of components (OK your hand should not have the size of that of a new born baby!) to set up a working short wave SSB transceiver.
Some thoughts on frequency stability
Careful design is the key for stable operation. This means component selection as well as setting it up on the veroboard.
The basic problem for every conventional free running VFO is temperature and its influence on the size of components. Due to the theory of thermodynamics all materials change their mechanical dimensions with temperature. This is caused by the kinetic energy of the molecules forming the crystals of a solid body. Thermal energy leads to enhanced oscillation of the molecules and therefore the need of larger spaces of each in individual molecule in a crystal. Because we have capacitors in a tuned circuit this will affect the values of all caps (wanted and unwanted ones) to a certain degree.
Something that helps the builder is called “temperature coefficient”. This means that electronic components increase OR decrease their respective value when they get warmer. The first is called “positive temperature coefficient”, the opposite is called “negative temperature coefficient”. So, you might guess, the fine art of radio building involves the knowledge of the characteristic behavior of components when heated.
I quote my findings about temperature behavior listed in the article referred to on the beginning of this text:
Ceramic capacitors: —
Polystyrene capacitor: –
NP0 (C0G) capacitor: no measurable effect
Air coil on polystyrene coil former: +++
Coil wound on T50-6 yellow toroid: +
The more “+” or “-” signs, the more steep the function of T->dC or T->dL is. So you can see: The best choice are polystyrene capacitors combined with coil on a yellow toroid. This combination is likely to outbalance temperature effects. If extra capacity is needed, NP0 caps are recommended.
From the existing principles of building a free running radio frequency oscillator I prefer the Hartley circuit. It uses a tapped coil (tap about 1/5 from the “lower” end) and saves capacitors compared to the Colpitts design. The tap achieves in-phase feedback. The lower you put the tap to the end the lower the amount of fed back energy will be. This leads to more frequency stability because the circuit does not heat up by excessive internal radio frequency. But be sure that oscillation is always strong enough and does not stop. The Hartley circuit is more simple and caps always inherit the risk of thermal problems when poorly selected.
The tuning is done with a Vernier drive and a homemade variable capacitor. For this a foil variable cap of an old AM radio has been dismantled an reassembled with air as dielectric. Lots of experiments were necessary to get the “frequency swing” correct and the basic capacitance to the right area.
Other measures that support frequency stability are :
Low DC power into the oscillator stage (avoids heating the device up by DC current),
Stabilizing voltage for the VFO stage by 2 consecutive steps,
Using a FET instead of bipolar transistor (no PN boundary layers in a FET),
Very loose coupling between oscillator and buffer stage reduce fed back of impedance changes by the output,
Low impedance output with emitter follower,
Avoid metal sheets (spec. Aluminum) close to the tuning elements! Aluminum sheet metal changes its size largely with even low temperature differences.
This oscillator is stable. It needs 5 to 10 minutes to settle which is in the normal range of what can be expected. I then can have it tuned to one frequency and there is a maximum change in frequency < 50Hz for hours. And, to compare with synthesizer technology: NO birdies at all. Really not. I love it! 😉
The mixers and filter section
NE602 and its derivatives have been used in legions of amateur transceivers. Basically designed for cell phones and small cordless phones radio amateurs quickly have found out that this mixer IC can be the universal mixer in lots of possible amateur radio designs. The main weakness is its low IMD3. But for a 14MHz rig the risk of appearance of strong out-of-band signals is not that likely. Besides, the selectivity of the receiver’s input section supports this. Strong in-band signals did not appear so far due to low band conditions. We’ll have to see how the receiver performs here.
On the other hand NE602 gives a good sensitivity which makes it ideal for radios on the higher bands where signal levels are not so high.
The NE602 has a balanced input AND a balanced output. This allows the designer to get two different signal sources to the input then subsequently mixed with the oscillator signal. As well the two outputs can be used to send the mixed signal to different paths.
This is what is the basic idea behind the design described here.
The mixer that is used together with the microphone to produce the DSB signal by mixing the audio signal with the local oscillator (LO) also serves as the product detector on receive by mixing the interfrequency with the LO. Correct signal path is set with the two relays depending on the fact you are either on transmit or receive mode.
The same principle is for the other mixer. It is transmit mixer or receive mixer, depending on the position of the relays.
The relays connect the SSB filter either to the input or the output of a distinct mixer. A graphical presentation should make it clear:
RX amp and interfrequency amplifier
These 2 stages are more or less the same. They provide 2 to 12 dB of gain depending on the AGC voltage applied to gate 2 of the dual gate MOSFET. In this version of the radio a potentiometer of 20kΩ is used to have the possibility to lower the DC voltage manually, by doing this an MGC (manual gain control) is achieved in a simple way.
A bipolar transistor and the inevitable LM386 amplify the filtered audio signal from the product detector to a volume that can be discerned even in a louder environment. The audio low pass filter prior to the AF preamp should be selected due to the users individual preferences concerning tone pitch of the audio signal.
RF power amplifier
This is more or less my standard power amplifier for small QRP rigs. I put stress on linear amplification, so I use emitter degeneration and negative feedback in collector circuit to get best IMD3 results. Even if the circuit could deliver one or two more watts I let the output power level at about 5 watts pep.
Here ist the result of a dual tone modulation:
Voltage division is 10 volts per cm, so this is 45Vpp which equals to about 5 watts max. peak output. Quite OK for QRP. And here is the spectrum of a 2-tone-modulated signal:
The whole transceiver is built on a 12×8 cm Veroboard (4.7″ x 3.1″). There is only one layer. The cabinet is 4 cm high (1.55″), 14 cm long (5.5″) and 9 cm wide (3.5″).
Left the vernier drive with the homemade capacitor attached. Left of the 9MHz filter you can see the LO, more far left the S-meter (from an old CB radio) hiding the audio amps. The 2 mixer ICs and the relays are sited around the SSB-filter. On the right side the power amp partly hidden by the DC switching board.
Well, that’s the story how a nearly failed project was saved from the scrapyard and came to life by carefully searching the faulty element in the circuit.
This article describes the “Cigarette Pack” SSB QRP transceiver” for 14MHz that I first had mentioned some months before. Recently, when taking it from the shelf, the transceiver dropped to the floor and was severely damaged. This lead to serious defects in the front panel area, the main frame, the cabinet and so on. The interior parts were, luckily, not affected by the crash. So, I had to revise the whole radio, make a new front panel and cabinet, ply the frame straightly (as far as possible) and so on. This is the full description of the rig now to complete the files here. The good news: The radio is fine again and fully operational! And the even better news: I still have not started smoking!
During reconstruction the transceiver has been extended for about 5 mm so that overall length now is 100mm (3.9 inch). This was done because I intended to build in a loudspeaker. The other dimensions remain unchanged: Width is 52mm (2 inch.), height is 30mm (1.2inch). OK it is slightly longer now than a standard pack of cancer sticks, but who cares? Total cabinet volume is 150cm³.
The transceiver is based on the “Micro 23” rig, that I have described here. Some simplifications of that already simplified radio have been made. Here is the full schematic of this even smaller transceiver:
Very simple rigs like this one always use parts of the circuit for receive and transmit purpose. Here these parts are the 2 mixers (NE602), the SSB-filter and the interfrequency amplifier.
Signal flow schematic
The NE602 has a balanced output. With mixer 1 only one of them is used. If higher gain is desired, a broadband (or even better a tuned LC circuit) transformer could be used to connect pin 4 and 5 (the mixer outputs) in push-pull mode. I did not do that to save the transformer.
The signal flow can be derived from the design:
Receive mode signal flow
From the antenna relay (not drawn) the rf energy runs through a 2 pole LC filter for 14 MHz. The coils are wound small TOKO coil formers, all respective data is given in the schematic. Coupling is loose via a 3.3pF cap.
NExt stage is an rf preamp for 14MHz with a broadband output. The acitve element here is a dual-gate MOSFET.
After having left this stage the 14MHz signal travels through another 470pF capacitor. This one has high resistance for audio frequency and low for rf frequencies due to the equation: XC =1/(2*PI*f*C). The signal is then fed, together with the audio signal from the microphone (when on transmit), into mixer 1 input on pin 1. The 1k resistor prevents the rf energy from flowing into the microphone circuit. The two signals are separated from each other by simply exploiting reactance and resistance in a rather clever way 😉.
When receiving the Si5351A clock chip is programmed in a way that the VFO signal (23 MHz) is present on output CLK0. It is fed into mixer 1 via a small cap to prevent overloading of the mixer. The Si5351A breakout board delivers about 3 Vpp. clock signal, so this must be reduced to about 200mVpp. A 5.6pF capacitor is OK here.
The resulting signal is sent to the SSB filter (a 9MXF24D) that is terminated with 1kOhm and 20pF in parallel. The wanted SSB signal is present at the output of the filter.
Next stage is the interfrequency amplifier, equipped with a dual-gate-MOSFET semiconductor. This one is connected to the AGC chain, on receive a variable voltage is applied to gate 2 (range 0 to 6 V), on transmit the AGC is fully powered to ensure maximum gain.
Next is mixer 2 which is the product detector when receiving. The signal (9MHz +/- sideband shift) is applied to pin 6. Due to the fact that this mixer also serves as transmit mixer, the two signals are taken from the two mixer outputs on pin 4 (serving as audio output) and pin 5 (serving as rf output for transmitting).
Two audio amplifiers (preamplifier and power stage) give a sufficient signal level for an 8 ohm loudspeaker or a headphone.
For the loudspeaker I tried out the tiny ones for smartphones with good success. Only the volume was a little bit low. Then I found another speaker in an old toy of my daughter that turned out to be very much OK for this transceiver. Its diameter is about 3 cm (1.2 inch) and just fits in the housing.
Transmit signal flow
The microphone in this radio is an electret one. The advantage is that these microphones have an internal preamplifier equipped with a field-effect-transistor. The output voltage is fairly high, about 1Vpp. when normally speaking into it. Therefore an audio preamp is obsolete. The microphone signal is directly fed into pin 1 of the first mixer. On transmit the Si5351 signal generator is switched that the 9MHz (+/- sideband shift) signal is fed into pin 6. The SSB filter eliminates the unwanted sideband, the interfrequency amplifier lifts the SSB signal to an appropriate level. The TX mixer is fed with the 23MHz signal resulting in a 14 and 37 MHz signal. The TX band pass filter cleans the signal from the unwanted 37MHz component resulting from the mixer process.
RF power amplifier
The power amplifier is a 3 stage circuit. Stage 1 (preamplifier) brings the signal to about 10 mW. This is coupled into the driver stage via a cap of 0.1uF without any further impedance matching.
The subsequent driver stage shifts the signal level to about 200mW. Linear amplification is ensured her (as well as in the previous stage) by negative feedback in the collector circuit and emitter degeneration with a non-bypassed resistor to GND. An output transformer (winding rate 4:1, impedance rate thus 16:1) lowers the impedance of some 100 ohms to a few 10 ohms present on the input of the final amplifier stage.
The final amplifier brings up a signal level of 3 to 4 Watts PEP. This stage is in AB mode, the appropriate bias is achieved by the 1k resistor going to +12V TX and the current to GND via the silicon diode. This diode must be thermally connectod to the final transistor to stabilize the bias.When the transistor heats up, the silicon diode increases the current through it thus decreasing bias to the transistor.
The 68 ohm resistors serves 2 purposes: First it prevents the input signal from being shorted by the bypass caps in the bias circuit and it stabilizes the rf behavior of the stage by limiting the gain because certain amounts of the input power are led to GND. This prevents self-oscillation.
DC ad the collector is fed through a radio frequency choke to hinder rf from flowing into the DC line. Radio frequency is directly fed into the low-pass-filter. The output impedance of this stage is roughly 50 Ohms, so the filter can be a 50 ohm circuit with a cutoff frequency slightly above 14MHz.
The VFO section
The Si5351A clock chip used here has three frequency outputs that can be set individually. Only CLK0 and CLK1 are used in this radio. The Si5351A chip is programmed by software in the following manner:
Receive: CLK0 is the VFO, CLK1 is the BFO.
Transmit: CLK0 is the BFO, CLK1 is the VFO.
The microcontroller reads the tx/rx status and switches the frequencies respectively.
The radio is a full SMD design on a 0.1″ pitch double sided Veroboard:
The control panel on the left with tuning knob and volume set. The 64×32 pixel OLED between these controls. Following the microcontroller behind the fron panel (here covered). The controller is an ATmega168 on an Arduino Pro mini board.
The isolated board left of the SSB is the AGC section. The receiver and transmitter shared parts follow, the TX band pass filter is in the foreground. The power transmitter is on the right behind the shield. The shield is necessary to avoid unwanted oscillations when rf is coming back from the power transmitter to the band pass filter prior to the tx section.
On the right there is the SMA socket for connecting the antenna plus a 3 pin header for connecting a headphone. When there is no headphone in use a jumper connects the internal speaker to the speaker line. VDD is applied via a standard DC connector.
The underside of the board has only some SMD components and the wiring on it:
“On the air”
My longest distance achieved with this transceiver (after rebuilding it) has been R2DLS near Moscow who gave me a “59”-report. The antenna in use is, as always, a Deltaloop.
After having done lots of QSOs with the 7MHZ QRO transceiver I found that the receiver still had to be improved. The sensitivity was great, the sound also was but there were some difficulties when operating the radio during evening and night times because some (minor) interference was audible. This symptom had been caused, as usual, by strong broadcast stations transmitting from 7200+ kHz 41m-band. Occasionally “Radio China International” and “Radio Romania International” were discernable. But cure was on the way: The transceiver has a modular concept. Based on this I decided to do a full reconstruction of the receiver module.
The mixer, which is the most crucial part in a 7MHz receiver was changed to an IC mixer using an SL6440 double balanced mixer (formerly produced by Plessey).
The mixer IC offers a very good IMD3 performance (30dBm maximum according to datasheet) plus some decibels (1 to say exactly!) of gain and thus is a good alternative to the dual-gate MOSFET I had used before.
As a special feature there is an input (pin 11) where a current can be applied that determines the overall mixer current. The higher this value is set, the better the IMD3 performance will be. Max. power dissipation for the IC is 1.2 watts but that will require a heatsink. I found that a resistor of 820Ω will lead to a current of 4mA (13V VDD) on pin 11 line and produces good performance without thermally stressing the IC. For optimized IMD3 performance the SL6440 ic should be run in balanced mode.
The receiver schematic in full:
From the left we start with a two pole band filter for 7 MHz. LC coupling again is very loose what reduces the receiver’s tendency to overload.
Next is the SL6440 mixer ic. Input and output are equipped with broadband transformers (data see schematic, please!). The purpose is to convert an unbalanced signal to a balanced one and vice versa. According to the respective entry in data sheet running the mixer in balanced mode enhances performance. Pin11 is used to control the DC operating conditions of the mixer, a resistor (820Ω) sets appropriate bias for mixer stage. The 3 diodes (1N4148) supply correct voltage to a pin that is called “VCC2” which should be slightly lower than VCC supplied to the output stage. 3 diodes in series produce the required voltage drop.
In experiments it has turned out the even when gain of the mixer ic is only about 1 dB the resulting output of the whole receiver is higher than that of its predecessor and taking into account that receiver generated noise is not a problem on the lower short wave bands, there is no rf preamplifier.
If you encounter birdies maybe the signal level of the VFO is too high. Then switching a smaller capacitor into the VFO signal feedline is the best idea.
Next stage is the filter switch that has been copied from the previous schematic.
This stage contains the well-known MC1350 by Motorola. To simplify this section a minimum design has been chosen, Output is unbalanced and broadband. Input also. The only filtering in the whole interfrequency section is done by the SSB filter prior to the interfrequency amplifier. A 100uF capacitor in VDD line helps to suppress audio frequency feedback and self-oscillation in the receiver strip.
As you might have realized the transceiver not longer is a “NE602 free zone”, because this mixer now serves as a product detector. A type of usage where the low IMD3 performance does not matter. The low pass filter by the end of the mixer must be chosen according to the user’s preferences concerning pitch and tone.
Audio amp section
Audio preamp is again an ic, the “antique” LM741. Negative feedback has been set to an amount that there is significant gain in this stage (R=330kΩ).
The audio final amp here has been equipped with the TBA820M integrated circuit, the smaller version of the 16 pin TBA820 integrated audio amplifier. The advantage of this ic compared to LM386 is lower distortion and the fact that this ic is not so prone to self-oscillate.
Automatic gain control nearly is the same like in the former version. The main difference is that MC1350 needs positive voltage to reduce amplifier gain. Thus the output has been punt into the emitter line. The problem when using an NPN transistor in such a circuit is that maximum voltage is limited to Vmax = VDD – VBE. As a consequence you can not get full 12V out when you supply 12V between C and E. Here this does not matter because AGC significantly reduces gain already when reaching 6 volts (Source: Datasheet):
Maximum gain reduction (>60dB) occurs between 6.7 and 7 volts.
Also a manual method to reduce gain has been applied. This is by chosing a voltage between 0 and 12V using a potentiometer. To prevent current flowing from the center of the potentiometer into the ADC input detecting the AGC voltage a silicon diode has been installed. To prevent a short circuit of the AGC voltage against GND when the potentiometer is at 0 position (delivering full gain in the MC1350 amp ic) the 5.6k resistor is used.
Changing time constant can be achieved by a second capacitor set in parallel (either by a switch or by microcontroller).
To protect the analog-digital-converter (ADC) in the microcontroller from excessive input voltage, this is limited to 5.1V by a zener diode.
The receiver is very sensitive. Reception is possible with the famous “wet finger” ;-). With a large antenna (full sized delta loop) no overload is detectable even during evening and night times. Noise is slightly higher compared to that with the MOSFET equipped receiver but very much acceptable for a 7MHz receiver.