SSB Transceiver, 7MHz, 50 Watts, with Dual-DDS-System

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m

In this paper we will discuss a single sideband amateur radio transmitter/receiver for the 40 meter band that has been designed to ensure  good performance characteristics with reasonable number of parts (no “overkill” in component use), particularly concerning the receiver. Circuit simplicity and over-average performance were to be combined.

The background: Some years ago I had built the ancestor of this transceiver and afterwards posted an incomplete series of articles (starting here). The transmitter was considered to be quite OK (I could even work a station from South Korea when operating as GJ/DK7IH some years ago) but the receiver was weak.

The shortcomings originated from the rf preamplifier I used together with the 1st mixer, an NE602. The latter had severe problems to cope with the high signal levels on the 40 meter band from out-of-band broadcast stations transmitting on the 41m band (f>7200kHz) or from very strong amateur stations transmitting in-band. This is caused by the technical specs of this Gilbert cell mixer. NE602 has been designed for mobile phone applications and not for shortwave radios. Its IMD 3 is only -15dBm whereas it is able to detect weak signals (-119dBm with an S/N ratio of 12 dB) according to datasheet. Due to this NE602 was excluded from being used at least in the receiver.

Another point was that the rig was too small and too densely packed to be called “service friendly”. Thus I dismantled the radio some times afterwards and had in mind rebuilding it with another receiver and a little bit more space inside.

The Basics

The project has had to meet certain requirements that I would like to point out first:

Frequency generation: Dual-DDS-System: AD9835 as local oscillator and AD9834 as VFO. ATMega644A as MCU (Download source code here)

Receiver: Single conversion superhet, 9 MHz interfrequency with commercial filter (supplied by http://box73.de) shared by transmitter and receiver and relay switched, “NE 602-free zone” ;-), 4 dual gate MOSFETs in rf preamp, rx mixer, if amplifier and product detector, audio stages with BC547 as preamp and LM386 as main audio amplifier.

Edit: I found that there was strong signal of self-reception around 7.100kHz which was not a spurious signal from one of the DDS. It has been a mixing product of one or two oscillators together with a signal from the microcontroller. So I changed the interfrequency to 10.7MHz which cured the problem. I tried to calculate the issue but was not succcesful because I do not know all the frequencies in the microcontroller. I think it is most probable that it is a harmonic of the PWM signal I use for controlling the LED front lights.

Transmitter: 4 stages, 3 of them in push-pull mode, Siemens made mixer IC S042P (really old fashioned, but still available) as DSB generator and TX mixer, rf amplifiers (2N2219A) after filter and tx mixer.

Design: Really “cool” with blue backlight. Sandwich built, not the size of a “micro transceiver”, but handy for travelling.

The Block Diagram

The diagram can be derived from the old project, it is nearly the same:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - Block diagram
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – Block diagram

The basic outline of the radio is standard and should not be further discussed.

Dual DDS (VFO and Local Oscillator (LO))

This time I wanted to use 2 digital oscillators. The reason was just to have fun. 😉 Here is the schematic:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - Dual DDS (VFO and LO)
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – Dual DDS (VFO and LO) – (Full sized image)

Microcontroller (MCU)

The source code has got about 2200 lines. With the GNU C compiler this leads to a HEX-file of about 43kB. Because of this the controller had to have a little bit of more memory. A “644” is a good choice here. It is clocked internally to 8 MHz clock rate. Radio and user data (user operated keys, S-Meter, TX PWR meter, temperature sensors attached to final transistors) is lead to the analog-digital-converter (ADC) of the MCU. Rotary encoder (optical) is fed into digital inputs. Integration of an RTC is projected but not done yet.

DDS1 (VFO)

Here an AD9834 is used. It is overclocked with 110MHz clock rate. For my receiver with a DDS chip purchased from Mouser this works without any abnormality. With a a chip from the “free market” (ebay) I found that there were strange clicks in the signal. So, I do not really recommend overclocking under any circumstance and/or not to such a high degree.

This DDS is is not terminated with a low pass filter. Due to the high clock rate there is no clock oscillator feedthrough which is supported by the  design of the following amplifier having an audio frequency transistor in the last stage (BC547 and later BCY59) that limits high frequency components due to its early gain decay in the frequency spectrum. The two stage amplifier has been designed for excellent linearity to prevent impurities in output spectrum.

mini43-qro-7mhz-dk7ih_12

The first peak showing the 16MHz signal and the next peak is the first harmonic about 30dB below. Other peaks are from local sources (PC, Printer).

The sine wave also looks quite OK:

mini43-qro-7mhz-dk7ih_13

DDS2 (LO)

This one contains an AD9835 synthesizer clocked to 50 MHz. An LPF here is mandatory. A simple but linear amplifier brings the signal up to 3Vpp which is OK for driving the dual gate MOSFET in the receiver. For the transmitter mixers this amount of voltage is too high, small capacitors reduce the voltage to an acceptable value.

LCD

From another project that I once had built and that is not more in use, a dive computer, I had a 4 lines/20 characters text display that is fairly large. This was to be designated as the LCD for this transceiver.

The Receiver

Building a receiver for the 7MHz amateur band is challenging. On one hand the circuit should be very sensitive for weak signal reception, particularly during day when the band conditions are low due to solar radiation and density of the D-layer. This means the receiver should have a higher gain whereas noise figure does not play a predominant role due to band characteristics with high atmospheric noise on 7MHz.

Next request is high dynamic range to eliminate the spurious signals that occur when front end stages are loaded with high input signal levels.

And last but not least AGC control range should be as wide as possible to cope with weak and very strong signals without the request to intervene by adapting manual gain control. For this a preamp also benefits.

Active mixers like the NE602 show low performance under these conditions. Some high-current mixers like the SL6440 exist, but there are alternatives. On one hand the classical diode ring mixer might come into perspective, otherwise Dual-Gate MOSFETs are well known as having a fairly good ability to cope with high signal levels and so don’t tend to  deteriorating the receiver’s performance severely. Besides they offer some gain and low noise figure (which has not been the main objective in this case) and the circuit is very compact and therefore it was the best choice for a receiver that had been intended to be constructed onto a board of 6 x 8 centimeters.

After these thoughts the following circuit turned out to be the right onset for a receiver inside the projected rig.

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - The Receiver
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m- The Receiver (full sized image)

Circuit explanation (Receiver)

Front end

On the left we start with a 2 pole LC band pass filter for 7 MHz. The coils are wound on TOKO style coil formers (5.5mm size), winding data and parallel capacitors are given in the drawing. The coupling capacitor (2.7pF) between the two LC circuits is very small for such a low frequency. This makes the filter response curve sharper but leads to a slight weakening of the signal coming through the filter. But as the whole receiver has plenty of gain and a very good noise figure, this is the reason why  some weakening of the input signal is acceptable.

Preamplifier

Next is the preamplifier for the received band. It is connected to the AGC chain. You can expect some 25 to 30dB  gain swing by driving up gate 2 of the dual gate MOSFET from 0 V to 6V. A 1:1 voltage divider decrease the 0..12V AGC voltage to 0..6 V where th3N205 MOSFET is close to amplify with maximum gain. Exceeding 6 to 7 volts does not result in significant more gain swing, so I usually drive the MOSFET from 0 to 6.5 volts UG2 (with 13 Volts of supplied voltage.

3n205-ug2-gain-figure
UG2->Gain-Function 3N205 (Source: Datasheet)

The coupling when going from the preamplifier to the receiver mixer is in broadband style. The 3N205 has a very high gain and tends to self-oscillate. A second LC circuit makes the device more prone to going self-resonant and hence produce unwanted signals.

RX mixer

This mixer is very simple and needs only a few components. Both signals are fed into the gates of the dual gate MOSFET. Rf goes to gate 1 whereas gate 2 (the AGC input) is fed with the oscillator signal). Gate voltage depends on the voltage drop at the source resistor and therefore is stabilized. The oscillator signal should be in the range of 2 to 3 volts rf (pp) for a dual gate MOSFET. Lower values will deteriorate the performance of the mixer, e. g. its dynamic range. This signal switches the semiconductor and a superposition of the two signals occurs thus leading to the production of sum and difference of the original frequencies. These signals are fed into…

The SSB filter

which is a commercial one (Supplier box.73.de). The reason why I don’t ladder filters anymore is that I found it extremely difficult (not to say impossible) to get a symmetric filter response curve thus making the lower and upper sideband of the receiver sounding different even when the carrier frequency has been adjusted very thoroughly.

The filter is used for the SSB transmitter as well. To ensure maximum signal separation between the two branches (tx and rx) and between filter input and output I again us a high quality rf relay made by Teledyne. When choosing a relay intercontact capacitance  is crucial. It should (if possible) be < 1 pF.

Don’t forget a clamp diode to VDD over the relay coil to eliminate high voltage voltage peaks generated by self inductance when the coil is switched off. Voltages up to 100 Volts can occur. This might damage the transmit-receive section of this transceiver that is equipped with semiconductors only and does not use a relay.

IF amplifier

This circuit is the same like that of the rf preamp. It also is part of the AGC chain, thus delivering another 25 to 30 dBs of gain swing so that overall gain swing is around 50 to 60dB. In practical research over a long period of observation I found that with an antenna delivering high signal voltage (Delta loop) it was not possible to overdrive the receiver  to a level where signal distortion was audible.

A tuned circuit is also placed here to increase gain. Tuned amplifiers usually have higher gain than broadband ones. It is highly recommended to ground the metal cans of the coil to prevent any self-oscillation. But as I found out, this amplifier is not very prone to go to self-oscillation state.

Product detector

Here again a dual gate MOSFET is used. The circuit is nearly the same like the RX mixer except from the output section. We can see a low pass filter here, consisting of 2 Cs (0.1uF) and a resistor (1k). You can use a radio frequency choke instead, 1mH is recommended.

Audio amplifier

This section consists of two parts, a preamp (with bipolar BC547) and a final amplifier (LM386 IC). It is well-known that this IC tends to oscillate. One measure to prevent this is to keep leads short, switch a low-pass filter (capacitor 100uF and R=33Ω) into the VDD line and to reduce the gain capacitor between pins 1 and 8 to a degree where self-oscillations terminate.

A switching transistor cuts off the audio line by short circuiting it when on transmit. This eliminates any noise when switching. The rx/tx switch now is 100% “click free”. A very pleasant way of operation. 😉

AGC

This is another re-use of a circuit I have frequently used before. It is desired to reduce its output voltage down to 0 volts when a more or less strong af signals appear at the input. The agc voltage is derived from the audio signal of the receiver. Some say that this is not the best choice because you need more time (an af cycle last much longer as an rf cycle) for the waveform to generate the regulating DC voltage.

Nonetheless I have never observed popping or unpleasant noise from incoming very strong signals. The agc response rate is so fast that you won’t notice that it just has regulated even when a strong signal comes in. Only with very, very strong signals a slight “plopp” sound is observable but it is not unpleasant.

A second capacitor can be switched in parallel to the 33uF one. This can either be done by a transistor switch (like shown in the schematic) that in this case is controlled by an output PIN of the MCU. An alternative that I found later is to use the MCU pin directly to switch the cap. When not using the additional cap you must switch the pin as an input so that there is no positive voltage from the pin to the circuit. When you intend to ground the transistor (agc in “slow” position) then the pin mus be set as output by defining the DDR-register respectively AND the pin must be set to 0. So you can get rid of the switching transistor.

Another possibility would be to derive the agc from the interfrequency signal. The problem that occurs in this case is that you have to decouple the local oscillator (bfo) very carefully from the place where agc circuit is placed. Otherwise you are at risk to detect the bfo signal by the agc which leads to reduced response range in the agc. In addition this receiver uses a higher rf voltage level for the mixers (2 to 3 Vpp each). By this the amount of stray energy is higher inside the circuit and thus this rf energy might be detected very early by the agc.

In the emitter line there is a resistor (68Ω) which produces a voltage drop when the transistor is driven. This is fed into the ADC of the microcontroller driving the S-meter display part.

The Transmitter

First the circuit:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - The Transmitter
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – The Transmitter (full sized image)

Microphone amplifier

This amplifier is a simple common-emitter circuit with the directly grounded emitter of the BC547 transistor. This circuit is linear only for low input voltages but suitable for the connected dynamic microphone since this does not produce more than some millivolts of audio energy. Bias comes from the 390kΩ resistor. At the input you find a 2.2nF capacitor from base to GND which helps to prevent coupling in rf energy from the transmitter to the audio stage and thus leading to an impure signal.

The DSB generator + amplifier

The amplified microphone signal is used to produce a double-sideband signal. The ic I use here is an antique but still available part by German manufacturer Siemens, the S042P. It includes a so-called “Gilbert-cell” mixer and an oscillator but the latter is not used here (Datasheet Application note (in German)).

The S042P mixer needs some more components compared to the well-known NE602 integrated circuit but fewer ones than the MC1496. It is designed for 12V usage, thus no voltage regulation is required.The ic can be applied in balanced mode or non-symmetrical. To save components I use the unbalanced circuit alternative. A slight loss in output power is acceptable in this case, there are amplifiers post each mixer in this transmitter.

Ic gain is about 16.5 dB, DC current is about 3 mA.

A crucial point is the signal level of the local oscillator. S042P needs only some hundred  millivolts of oscillator voltage. To prevent overdriving I experimented with different values of the coupling capacitor. 5.6pF seemed best because the LO produces some volts peak-to-peak.

Following there is an amplifier that is a standard circuit and has been tuned for maximum linearity in order to reduce distortion to a minimum (which is also true for the following stages). You can see the well understood 2 master ways of achieving max. linearity in an amplifier stage:

  • Negative feedback between collector and base (i)
  • Emmitter degeneration (II)

Explanation:

i) The first measure goes along with the 2.7kΩ resistor between collector and base of the transistor. This resistor provides positive dc bias voltage to the base and leads 90° out-of-phase ac voltage to the transistor’s input. This reduces gain and therefore distortion. But due to the fact that the whole transmitter strip has plenty of gain, this loss in gain is not a serious problem.

ii) The 10Ω resistor in the emmitter line is not bypassed by a capacitor. This stabilizes the circuit. When the current through transistor increases the emmitter voltage will rise (according to Ohm’s law) and the voltage between collector and emmitter drops. This reduces voltage difference between base and emmitter and hence also reduces gain.

The coupling to the next stage is done by a capacitor of 0.1uF. This causes some impedance mismatch. But that is as well not a big problem because the gain reduction here helps to prevent the whole transmitter from unwanted oscillations by diminishing overall gain.

TX mixer

Here the second S042P is used. The 9 MHz SSB signal is coupled to pin 13 of the ic, a DC connection is established to pin 11. These two pins represent the base connectors for the two current control transistors and should be bridged by a DC resistor in this circuit.

The 150Ω resistor from pin 10 and pin 12 to GND defines the gain of the mixer. Here you can use down to 150Ω but should have a resistor towards VDD to limit current and avoid excessive heating of the device. In this case another 150Ω is used.

VFO signal is coupled symmetrically to pins 7 and 8 via a small trifilar toroid. See schematic for details and please note that center tap is not used here. This is in contrast to the output transformer where the tap is used to feed supply voltage into the mixer.

Another 7 MHz band pass filter terminates the mixer, data for coils and capacitors is in the schematic.

Power amplifier

This amplifier has got 4 stages and except from the first one all are in push-pull mode. The power distribution for these 4 stages is as follows:

Stage Power
Preamp 5mW
Predriver 200mW
Driver 2.5 W
Final amp 50W

Preamplifier

The first of the 4 power stages is the same as the post dsb generator amplifier so there is not more to add concerning this stage. Rf energy is taken out via a transformer with a primary and a tapped secondary winding. This is to provide the balanced structure necessary for the following push-pull stage.

Prediver

This is the first push-pull stage. Its bias is derived from a voltage divider connected to the tap of the input transformer.

Please note: In contrary to the schematic I have installed 2 devices of the 2SC1973 type because the signal turned out to be much purer with these ones on the spectrum analyzer.

A tapped output transformer feeds the amplified rf energy to next board. Output impedance is 50Ω. The coupling to next stage then is done via a shielded cable of (nearly) the same impedance.

Driver stage

This one has an input transformer also center tapped. The tap goes to a bias network consisting of a current limiting resistor (1kΩ), two diodes forming the lower part of a voltage divider and some capacitors as part of a low pass filter to avoid coupling in of radio frequency (rf) energy. The two diodes must be thermally connected to the cases of the transistors. In case these heat up, the diode increases its conductivity thus reducing its resistance. The bias voltage drops and heating is stopped. So, thermal runaway is prevented.

For these two stages (predriver and driver) DC is fed through low pass filter (RFC and 2 caps 0.1uF) to prevent coupling of rf energy via the VDD line.

Final stage

This stage receives input from a balanced structure without a center fed transformer. Instead bias current is linked in via a network of radio frequency chokes and two resistors of 5.1Ω each.

Bias is provided by a current regulating transistor and should be set to about 100mA.

The MRF455 transistors are mounted directly to the aluminium structure of the sheet metal carrying the whole transceiver boards. When mounting them to the Veroboard I did not solder them directly. I used 1.6mm screws and washers to press the brass connectors to the copper strips of the amplifier board:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - Power amplifier underside
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – Power amplifier underside

With this I could have been able to remove the precious transistors without having to unsolder them when the device might have turned out to be a failure. But it was not, thank God!

The output transformer is the one I have used in my old 14MHz PA and the ancestor of this radio. It is from an old ATLAS 215 transceiver and I hope that this will be the final place for the transformer.

Two temperature sensors (KTY-81-210) have been installed to measure the temperature of each transistor. They are connected to the microcontroller via voltage dividers (see schematic, please!)

Low Pass Filter and Power Measurement Unit

For the low pass filter I use 2 toroids T50-2. These might appear small but from one source (that I have forgotten) I remember to have found that for 50 watts of power this core is still suffice. Metal powder cores can stand much more power compared with same sized ferrite toroids.

The power measurement unit consists of a network that starts with a resistor of 12kΩ to ensure a significant voltage drop in signal level, then two rectifier diodes (1N1418 or equivalent) follow, some low pass filtering eliminating the last rf energy and the resulting direct current voltage is fed to a variable resistor to set an adequate voltage level for the ADC in the microcontroller.

The rf output made out of a two-tone audio signal measured at the antenna connector:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - Two tone signal, power about 57 watts, close to overdrive
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – Two tone signal, power about 57 watts, close to overdrive

The spectroscopical analysis shows the signal on the f -> V figure:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - Output spectrom with max. Pout (>50W PEP)
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – Output spectrum with max. Pout (>50W PEP)

RX/TX-switching

A very simple circuit. Two PNP power transistors are used but they don’t have that much to do. They are only designed for switching the low-power parts of the radio. The high current to the drivers and final amplifiers is permanently present in the collector lines but the bias lines are tx/rx-switched and go to 0V during receive periods. This reduces requirements for the power rating of the switch board.

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - RX/TX switch board.
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – RX/TX switch board.

When pushing the PTT the base of the lower transistor is pulled to GND. So it becomes conductive and TX DC is applied. Via the diode the upper transistor loses its negative voltage and becomes non-conductive.

Construction

The Backlight

One interesting thing was the blue backlight to illuminate the front panel controls. It is made using SMD LEDs that are soldered to small pieces of Veroboard and fixed with 2-component glue to transparent light-scattering plastic bought from a local supplier for architects and designers. This material is used for making models of houses and stuff like that. As light distributor this material is excellent. The LEDs are powered by a linear transistor connected to the pulse width modulation (PWM) output of the microcontroller so that light intensity is adjustable.

Hint: When programming the PWM functions it might occur that PWM frequency is audible in the receiver. If something like that occurs another frequency can be selected without changing the performance as soon as it is high enough that human eyes aren’t able to recognize a flickering.

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m

The covers used for the labels and the LCD shield are made from 2mm acrylic and fixed with screws of 1.6 respective 2mm diameter.

The two push-buttons right in top position consist of two bars of acrylic (4.2mm diameter) and are having mechanical contact to small spring-loaded switches behind the front panel:

mini43-qro-7mhz-dk7ih_16

Directly under these acrylic bars there are two LEDs shining into these rods and because of total reflection inside the tubing the optic conductor is sending the light to the front side when the LEDs are powered on. That is how it looks at night:

mini43-qro-7mhz-dk7ih_19

 

General setup

This is a sandwich construction again. On the first side there is the DDS  board (left), the receiver (center) TX mixer and preamplifier (right) and the SSB generator (back). Also there is a 5 lead connector holding the 5 ISP lines (MOSI, MISO, CLK, RESET and GND). This makes firmware updates easy because you don’t have to open the case when you want to update software.

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - DDS, RX, TX mixer and SSB generator
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – DDS, RX, TX mixer and SSB generator

The other side holds the TX low pass filter plus power measurement unit (left), the power amplifier (center) and the predriver and driver (right). In the back you can see the rx/tx switch board:

DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m - TX LPF, PA, Drivers, RX/TX switch board.
DK7IH QRO SSB transceiver for 7MHz/40m – TX LPF, PA, Drivers, RX/TX switch board.

“On the air”

Again big fun this transceiver! During the ARRL DX contest last weekend I could work some statesiders. With Delta Loop and 50 watts, fairly OK. Working Europe all day is no problem with 50 watts.

During the first QSOs I had reports that the audio sounded clear but somehow “narrow”. I had used an electret mike that time and could not use a dynamic one because the preamplifier following the microphone did not have enough gain. Then, to solve this problem, I decided to do a full reconstruction of the SSB generator board. The one then had used had an AN612 mixer integrated circuit (from an old CB radio). This one was dismantled and replaced by the S042P board. The change took me 3 hours to develop and solder but it paid. I use a Motorola dynamic microphone now that has a very rich and clean sound. I monitored it on a web based SDR receiver, made a recording and found it to be OK.

OK, dear fellow hams, that’s the story so far, some supplements will sure be made, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading and vy 73 de

Peter (DK7IH)

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A compact project: The “Micro42” – Another “shirt pocket” SSB transceiver.

The Micro42 - A really pocket sized SSB QRP transceiver for 7MHz

Having deferred the work on the “micro multibander” for some time I finished another small QRP rig (this one for 7MHz) that is suitable for my summer excursions by bike or hiking the local mountains here in the State of Rhineland-Palatinate or the Black Forest that is not that far away on the other side of the Rhine valley.

Besides, this transceiver to be discussed here is some sort of a “remake” of a 20 meter rig I built 3 years before. And this time, the transceiver really fits into a shirt pocket without having to wear “XXXXL”- clothing. ;-):

The Micro42 - A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver
The Micro42 – A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver (this is my work shirt, so don’t mind the stains! 😉 )

General circuit description (instead of presenting a block diagram)

The rig uses two mixers NE602 plus one filter as central elements. The signal way is reversed when switching from receive to trasmit mode. This is done by 2 relays and is a well known technique for simple QRP rigs. You will find lots of equivalent ideas on the internet (Example 1, Example 2).

But not to ignore the shortcomings of these designs: They are somehow inferior to my requirements, particularly concercing receiver performance. I prefer to have higher signal gain and an AGC circuit. AGC for me is a must. But these designs can be expanded easily, so I added an AGC controlled interfrequency amplifier with dual gate MOSFET BF998 into the receiver’s signal path enhancing performance significantly.

Frequency layout

The frequency generation of the superhet transceiver scheme is simple: Again I use one interfrequency (i. e. 9MHz). The VFO is DDS based on AD9835 operating below the desired radio frequency, which means that it is set to the range of about 2 MHz. Due to this low frequency you could replace the DDS by a VFO if you don’t like the relatively complex work with the software programming and microcontroller stuff). A 2MHz VFO can also be made very stable, so this is an alternative not to be ignoered.

Due to the fact that the schematic is not very difficult to analyze you are kindly requested to refer to it for further talking:

Schematic - The Micro42 - A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver
Schematic – The Micro42 – A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver. Click for full size picture

Circuit description

In the center of the schematic you can see the main elements of the circuit: One SSB filter (9MHz), correctly terminated by 2 resistors of 1k each (to ensure proper filter response curve) and two relays with a double set of switches. These relays reverse the way the signal travels through the filter. The advantage of this: You can use the integrated oscillator of the NE612 controlled by a crystal and a tuning capacitor to set the carrier frequency correctly for the lower sideband because the mixer is used as SSB generator and as product detector in common.

A word on chosing the proper relays: An intense examination of the relays’ data sheet is essential. I built a prototype of this transceiver on a breadboard prior to soldering the components to a veroboard. I found that some SMD relays have signifikant coupling capacities between the unused relay contacts (in the range of some Picofarads). So stray coupling was a severe problem. Later I used some second-hand Teledyne RF relays that I had purchased via ebay two years ago (price originally 50€!) for 1€ each. These relays are absolutely superb!

The receiver

Before we go: In the circuit scheme above I missed out the antenna switch relay because I think every homebrewer knows what to do in this case. 😉 So the receiver’s signal path starts with a band filter for 7MHz consisting of to tuned LC circuits.  The coupling is relatively loose. As coils I use the well known coil formers in TOKO style with 5.5mm outside measure.

Coil data for the 7MHz band pass filter (BPF) is 39 turns primary and 9 turns secondary of 0.1 mm enameled wire. The respective capacitor is 33pF. This is a high L to C ratio which gives you excellent LC quality factor. This is mandatory especially when working on the 40 meter band, because of the strong broadcasters starting from 7.200 kHz intermodulation might be a problem when the receiver is connected to a high gain antenna and broadcasters’ signals might overload the first mixer (remember that NE612 has a relatively low IM3!). If you still should have problems coping with too strong out-of-band signals you can reduce the coupler from 4.7pF down to 2.7pF.

In practical terms I could not detect any unwanted signal products even when using an antenna with high rf output voltage. One reasons for this is, that there is no rf preamplifier for the receiver. This avoids overloading the first mixer generally.

The NE612 has two mixer inputs and two outputs. This makes it very suitable for this sort of radio. In receive mode pin 2 of the right NE612 is used as signal input. VFO signal is fed into pin 6. The resulting mixer products are taken out from pin 4. Next the 9MHz filter follows from right to left.

The 9MHz IF signal then is fed into an IF amplifier. This one is equipped with a dual gate MOSFET (BF998), gain is about 15dB when full AGC voltage is applied wich leads to about 6V by the 1:1 volatge divider in the applied to gate 2 of the MOSFET.

The left NE612 is the product detector. I use the internal oscillator with a 9MHz crsytal and a tuning capacitor here. This saves building an extra oscillator and simplifies the rig again.

One AF low pass filter made of 1k resistor, 100uF rf choke and a 0.1 uF capacitor eliminates high frequency remainders generated by the mixing process.

The audio stages are also made simple: One preamplifier (using bipolar transistor in grounded emmitter circuit) and a final stage with LM386 transform the signal to a level that is sufficient to be fed into a small 8 ohm loudspeaker or a set of standrd MP3-player headphones. Because the rig is very small and there was definetely no space for a loudspeaker I use headphones instead.

Keep an eye on the power supply switching of the two audio stages. The problem was to eliminate the switching click and pops to a minimum and to avoid acoustic feedback when unsing a loudspeaker. So the audio preamp is only connected to DC on receive. When switching to transmit the charged capacitors avoid instant cut off supplying some Milliseconds DC to the amp until significantly discharged. The main amplfier on the other hand is connected to permanent DC supply. So it won’t pop when switching from tx to rx an vice versa but can cause feedback. To avoid feedback a transistor is used to cut the speaker/earphone from the power amplifier.

AGC

AGC is audio derived. A two stage amplifier provides a DC voltage analog to the audio input sginal strength. First amplifier stage is a common emitter bipolar transistor supplying sufficient audio voltage. This voltage is rectified by a two diode circuit letting only the positive halfways pass. You can use silicon diodes (1N1418) oder Schottky diodes here. An electrolytic capacitor (100uF/6V) provides the time constant respectively DC decay once the signal has disappeared. Output of the DC stage is split. The collector is connected to 12V via a 4.7k resistors causing a voltage drop when the transitor’s conductivity increases. The emitter is fed to the ADC of the microcontroller (pin ADC1) causing a proportional voltage to the voltage of the applied audio signal so that on the OLED an S-meter can be displayed.

The transmitter

An electret microphone picks the operator’s voice. The signal output level of these microphones is high enough to drive the left NE612 (which serves as balanced modulator in this case) directly. Signal input for the mixer should be 200mV RMS according to data sheet. An electret produces about 0.5 to 1 V pp if spoken with a decent voice in the distance of some centimeters. So you have more than enough audio signal power for the modulator.

BTW: Carrier suppression of the modulator is excellent. I achieved 56dB without doing anything else!

The resulting DSB signal then is fed into the SSB filter, the SSB signal subsequently is directly sent into the right NE612. A band pass filter for 7 MHz eliminates the unwanted mixer products. You should have 400 to 500 mV pp of rf signal here when the transmitter input is fully driven. I recommend a two-tone test generator to check out the linearity of this and the remaining amplifier stages!

Next parts of the transmitter are a band pass filter (same coils and capacitors like th rx bandpass filter), a preamplifier and a driver. The later should put out about 150 mW into a 50 ohm load. They are made more linear by emitter degeneration (4.7 and 2.2 ohm resistors for predriver and driver) and negative feedback. This helps to ensure that transmitter performance is fine when IMD3 products are concerned even if the main IMD3 problems usually occur in the final stage.

To transfer the rf power into the final stage proper impedance matching is mandatory. Input impedance of the final stage is fairly low (<10ohms), therefore a broadband (down)transformer is used. Data is: Core T37-43, primary 12 turns, secondary 4 turns of 0.4 mm enamled wire.

Last stage is a single ended linear amplifier in AB mode equipped with a 2SC1969 rf power transistor by eleflow.com.

BIAS circuit: The combination of the 1k resistor, a silicon diode (1N4002 or equ.) and a capacitor sets up the correct bias. Bias is fed into the cold end of the input transformer. Quiescant current should be around 40mA. A good thermal contact between the diode and the transistor is recommended. As the transistor gets warmer the diode will increase its conductivity so reducing bias current. This will prevent thermal runaway effectively!

To avoid bulky output transformers the PI-filter (7MHz LPF) is part of the tank circuit of the final amplifier transistor. For this power level this is an acceptable and practical solution because the output impedance of the stage is nearly equivalent to 50 Ohms. A certain mismatch is not a severe problem. DC to the final transistor is applied via an rf choke, for exact data please refer to the schematic!

T2 helps to suppress unwanted signals that I encountered when taking the transmitter from the dummy load test environment to a real antenna. I observed unwanted parasetic oscillation in the range of about 1MHz. T2 has a low reactance for this frequency range thus eliminating the oscillations in a reilable way by short circuiting them towards ground.

Powered with 12.5V DC the transmitter will put out slightly more than 5 watts PEP.

DDS VFO

AD9835 is a simple but well performing 10-bit DDS chip made by Analog Devices (AD). It is controlled via 3 SPI lines transmitting the frequency data. Maximum output frequency is around 16MHz when the chip is clocked with its maximum clock rate of 50 MHz. Oscillator output voltage is some hundred millivolts peak-to-peak, so you can connect the output directly to pin 6 of the NE612 mixer.

Control signals come from an Arduino Pro Mini board. The microcontroller in this module is, if you are an Arduino user, preinstalled with a bootloader program. I overwrote this small portion of code and use the ATMega168, which is the core of the Arduino, in “native” mode. My software is written in C and transferred via “AVR dude” software using the ISP lines MOSI, MISO, SCK and RESET. These lines are not in the schematic, please refor to ATmega168 data sheet. Alternatively you can use, like shown in the schematic, an ATmega168 controller. So you have to de neccessary wiring on your own.

You will find the source code here. I packed it into an Open Document Text File because of problems I encountered when I tried to store the code into this Blogtext. If you need a compiled HEX-file, please feel free to email me!

Display is a very small OLED with 64 by 32 pixels. The OLED is, to my point of view, a little bit noisy. To suppress any rf traveling on VDD line I use an 82 ohm resistor and a set of bypass capacitors of 100uF and 0.1uF capacity closely connected  to the OLED VDD pin to GND.

A low pass filter by the output of the DDS ensures spectral purity and avoids clock oscillator feed through. Remember that if you need another output frequency other than 2 MHz you should redesign the low pass filter.

Frequency control

Tuning is done by a rotary encoder connected to PD5 and PD6 of the microcontroller. I use the pull up resistors internal to the microcontroller, so you won’t see any other things than the mere encoder.

Tunings steps are selected by pushing the encoder knob or another suitable push button. This button is connected to ADC0 in the ATMega168 via a 3.9k resistor. The resulting ADC voltage might be problem because of a certain variation in the values of the pull up resistors that form the second resistor of the voltage divider.  There is an outcommented section in the code that will show you the exact ADC value that has to be typed into the code so that key recognition works exactly.

The button once pushed will increase the tuning step by a certain amount of Hz. Steps are 10, 50, 100 (standard step), 250, 500, 1000 and 5000 Hz in and endlessly revolving chain.  The step will be reset to 100Hz (standard tuning step) by leaving the tuning knob idle for 2 seconds. That’s all with the controls. Very simple, but sufficient.

Practical aspects

The transceiver is constructed on a double sided veroboard with 6 by 8 centimeters area. Components are through hole and SMD where available. The Arduino is mounted to the front panel (another Veroboard carrying the controls etc.) as well as the OLED is. The veroboard is inserted into an aluminium frame connected to the front panel with 4 lateral M2 screws:

Mounting frame - The Micro42 - A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver
Mounting frame – The Micro42 – A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver

Design hints:

Wiring can be made by using the colored lines stripped from old parallel printer cables. These cables have a diameter of precisely 1mm an fit through the holes of the veroboard excactly.

If you connect any external components that are not on the same veroboard use standard 2.54 mm (0.1″) male and female board connectors! This will make it much easier to dismantle and reassemble the rig in case troubleshooting is neccessary.

Use M2 srews instaed of M3 when building very small rigs like this one!

The reverse side of the main arrangement:

Reverse side of mounting frame - The Micro42 - A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiverord-and-front-assembled-in-frame-reverse
Reverse side of mounting frame – The Micro42 – A really shirt pocket sized QRP SSB transceiver

Two brass made bends (from the local hardware store and each cut to a length of 8 centimeters) hold the PCB inside the mounting frame. A winding has been cut into the brass to fix the bends with screws in M2.

Final assembly

Together with 2 halves of a bent aluminium cabinet covered with “DC-fix” (a German manufacturer of self-adhesive PVC coating) the final rig looks like that:

The Micro42 - A really pocket sized SSB QRP transceiver for 7MHz
The Micro42 – A really pocket sized SSB QRP transceiver for 7MHz

So, that’s the end of the story so far. Now it’s time for going outdoor and test the rig in field use. 😉

73 and thanks for watching!

Peter (DK7IH)

A Micro Multibander – Step by step (Part I)

This project tries a new personal approach in designing a very small (i. e. a micro) QRP radio. And also new is the way I want to report about it. The blog entries will be published more or less simultanously to the building progress of the respective modules.

1 A brief project description

The main objective is to set up a SSB QRP transceiver for 6 HF bands (similar to my 5-bander introduced in 2015) now starting with 160m, then 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m at last.

Another idea I have in mind is to build the rig from separate modules for each single stage so that each main circuit (mainly receiver and transmitter section) is constructed with the needed stages on verobaords that are mechanically identical.

The idea behind that is that a board which does not show top performance in function (or even completely fails) can be changed quickly and an improved version can be installed easily without the need to throw the whole receiver (for example) into the junk box labelled with “failed projects”.

Band switching will be done by small relays again (I purchased 60 SMD relays for 40€ some months ago). The band filter section will be shared by tx and rx section this time. This saves space and reduces effort.

The transmitter will be a 4 stage unit again (more or less the same like in my 5 bander). Output power projected is 5 to 10 watts on all the bands.

The receiver is designed once again as a single conversion superhet because experiments with double conversion were not successful due to a large number of spurs audible in the receiver.

The first mixer is set to be an SBL-3 diode ring mixer. This will give the receiver a very good handling of strong signals, I hope. IF amplifier will be a two staged one with dual gate mosfets controlled by an audio derived AGV voltage. The rest? The usual suspects, I would say. Wait and see!

1.1 The VFO module

I have become quite familiar with SiLab’s Si5351 oscillator module the recent months. I first used it in my “Micro 20-3” trx which was a success. The module is very small, completely ready for use (I’m still using a breakout board made by Adafruit) and able to handle 5V. It provides 3 oscillators that can be programmed independently to put out something lieke a square wave ranging from 8kHz to 160MHz. I have developed a software that avoids any tuning noise, so, this oscillator (which is a clock oscillator by intention) can be used as a VFO for an amateur project.

To keep the effort simple, I reused the 1306 oled module that you can see in lots of my previous projects. Both boards (Si5351 and 1306 oled) are controlled by I²C-bus which allowes me to use a relatively simple micro controller. In this case again I have the Arduino Pro Mini containing an ATMega168 controller (16 MHz) on board. If it should turn out that I might need more memory, the same board here is on stock carrying an ATmega328 controller. Let’s see how this will work out.

This is the circuit of the complete VFO module:

Si5351 VFO for Micro Multiband QRP SSB TRX (C) DK7IH 2018
Si5351 VFO for Micro Multiband QRP SSB TRX (C) DK7IH 2018

The module will be placed behind the front panel.

Tuning will be done by a Bourns optical encoder that turns very smoothely. I purchased some for under 5 Euros each from pollin.de. An unbeatable price! Unfortunatley they have been quickly sold out.

The core of this module is the Arduino Pro Mini microcontroller centered on the diagram. It is connected to the Si5351 breakout board and the 1306 oled display by I²C bus.

Si5351: Output 0 is used as VFO terminal and output 1 carries the LO signal with 9Mhz. To avoid digital noise spreading on the +5V line a 100µF capacitor should be switched close to the VDD terminal. Proper and short grounding also is recommended to avoid spurs.

OLED1306: Also a 100µF electrolytic capacitor has been added including a 10µH rf choke forming a low pass filter together. I found that these oleds a very prone to distribute digital noise via VVD line, so this measure contributes much to keep your receiver clean from any unwanted signal spektrum generated by the oled.

Keep in mind to tie SCK and SDA lines to +5V via two resistors of 4.7kOhms each!

Band switching: It is software controlled. To save output ports I did not connect the 6 relay drivers for the 6 bands directly to the ports of the microcontroller. I’m using an open collector BCD to DEC driver (74LS145) instead. Ports PB0, PB1 and PB2 are forming a 3-bit pattern that is switched to 6 output lines (output 0 to output 5) of the BCD2DEC driver IC. 74LS145 is capable of handling switch voltages up to 15V thus working with 12V coil relays is easy.

User control interface: This rig has 4 different switches that will be explained later from the functional point of view. The operator can set nearly all functions of the transceiver by using these push buttons and the main tuning wheel. The buttons  switch to GND by 4 different resistors and are read by PC0 port of the micro. PC0 equivalents to  channel 0 of the integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC) inside the ATMega168. This also saves controller ports to a large extent (using 3 instead of 6 ports!). So, all in all, I think I can dare controlling a multibander by a relatively small microcontroller.

(To be continued!)

My “Vintage Style QRP Transceiver” on YouTube

This transceiver was built to celebrate my 30 years anniversary in homebrewing QRP transceivers. The 14MHz rig was designed building an SSB transceiver like I did in the 80s. The only exception was, that this one uses SMD technology whereas in 1987 I used thru-hole components. But the rest is original 80s-style:

  • VFO instead of DDS
  • Standard S-Meter for TX and RX instead of OLED
  • Dynamic mic instead of electret mike

Have fun watching!

73 de Peter (DK7IH)

A very compact SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 watts of output power (Product detector, AF, AGC)

The demodulator section of the transceiver’s receiver starts with the product detector, which is made of another SA602. To get more audio volume a preamplifier has been added before the LM386 follows.

Homemade SSB amateur radio transceiver 40 meters (SSB demodulator, AF, AGC section)
Homemade SSB amateur radio transceiver 40 meters (SSB demodulator, AF, AGC section)

The AGC section hast got 2 crucial components: One resistor (this case 100k) and an electrolytic capacitor (in this case 100uF): They determine the time ramp for the AGC regulation curve. This means they define the response and decay time for the AGC and thus should be made easily changable for example by putting them into socket strips.

Hint: In certain cases it can be useful to add a potentiometer to give you control on the audio input of the AGC preamplifier.

Thanks for watching!

73 de Peter

A very compact SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 watts of output power (IF amplifier)

The if amplifier has been slightly revised. I added a preamplifier after the 1st mixer to enhance overall gain. Due to the fact that the veroboard is crowded with the components that had already been installed, the preamplifier has been worked out in SMD technology using the reminaing space on the reverse side of the board underneath the SSB filter were still some room has been available:

IF peamplifier in SMD technology
IF peamplifier in SMD technology

This new part of the circuit  is not marked in the block diagram I’ve posted some days ago. As main amplifier of this stage, MC 1350 is used. Due to space saving reasons the tuned circuit to terminate the if amplifier IC has been made of a very smmall pig-nose core:

IF amplifier detail
IF amplifier detail

The parallel capacitor has been experimentally optimized by putting various capacitors into a 2 pin part of a socket strip and keeping the best valued. The MC1350 is gained controlled by an AGC amplifier and DC rectifier section to be described later. Please notice the correct termination of the SSB filter with 2 resistors 2.4 kOhms each.

Homemade SSB amateur radio transceiver 40 meters (IF amplifier) Homemade SSB amateur radio transceiver 40 meters (IF amplifier with bipolar transistor and MC1350)
Homemade SSB amateur radio transceiver 40 meters (IF amplifier) Homemade SSB amateur radio transceiver 40 meters (IF amplifier with bipolar transistor and MC1350)

Thanks for watching! Vy 73 de Peter (DK7IH)

A very compact SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 watts of output power (Overview and block diagram)

In my last article I talked about my ideas fo a new transceiver project beyond the QRP level. First pictures of cicuitry were also shown. In the meanwhile the transceiver has been finished, some minor changes had to be made and now it’s time to go to the details.

All construction objectives (compact size, sufficient output power to establish even DX contacts on 40 meters, good stability, good receive performance, rigidness for outdoor use) have been met so far as I can say. I had the rig with me, when I was on vacation on the Island of Jersey (GJ/DK7IH/P) from 12th to 19th of August this year. It was big fun operating the rig. Lots of stations were calling during the two days when I was on 40 meters. ODX was HL1AHS, OM Kun from Seoul. So, this was very nice for 50 watts and a vertical antenna made of a fishing rod.

First, to give an overview, let’s have a look on the completed transceiver. Cabinet size is 7.5 x 16 x 6 centimeters.

SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 Watts of output
SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 Watts of output
SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 Watts of output
SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 Watts of output power (by DK7IH)

As you can see, the rig is very compact in size. The block diagram gives you an overview what is inside. Receiver section is on top, DDS can be found in the center and the transmitter is sited at the bottom of the diagram. As you can see, it’s again not rocket science and SDR-virus could not strike as well. 😉

SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 Watts of output (Block diagram)
SSB transceiver for 40 Meters with 50 Watts of output (Block diagram)

The next posts will describe the rig in details step by step. Proceed with the receiver’s front end.

73 de Peter