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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DK7IH 1st "Shirt pocket transceiver" Rev. 1 - SchematicThe radio consists of 3 sections:

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

Receiver improvements

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

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

Transmitter improvements

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

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

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

micro26_output_spectrum_5w_pep

T/R switch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front panel labeling

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

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

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

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

front-panel-0

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

front-panel-2

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

front-panel-3

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

front-panel-4

front-panel-5

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

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

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

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

Mechanical construction

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

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

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

73 de  Peter (DK7IH)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Abstract

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

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

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

Measurements (Graphical presentation)

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

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

Results

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

Voltage examination

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

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

vy 73 de Peter

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

Abstract

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

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

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

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

Also a heat sink had to be planned.

Practical design of a compact medium power QRP RF linear amplifier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73 de Peter (DK7IH)

 

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

Abstract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power amplifier strip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73 de Peter (DK7IH)

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

Introductory article of this project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mini5_qrp_ssb_trx_dk7ih_receiver_close_up_2

Click to enlarge!

Vy 73 de Peter (DK7IH)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hints:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73 de Peter (DK7IH) and thanks for watching!

 

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

Follow-up articles published so far:

Abstract

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

Frequency generation is done by integrated ready made modules 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.

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

Description

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:

Design considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mechanical construction and transceiver units

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

Major units in this construction

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

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

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

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

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

The same technique has been used for the transmitter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73 de Peter (DK7IH)

An experimental HF 6-band SSB transceiver – Part 7: The Transmitter

This unit basically consists of two parts:

  • SSB-Generator and TX-mixer
  • TX-power amplifier stages

The SSB-Generator and TX-Mixer  Board

After having built this respective board with two NE612 ICs (one for DSB generator, one for the TX mixer) I was not satisfied with carrier suppression of the DSB generator. It turned out as only 40dB. Afterwards I constructed a new board with an old SIEMENS Mixer IC (S 042 P) that is still available NOS from various sources. With this one I gained carrier suppression rates of around 55dB. I think this is OK for a homemade transceiver.

The board looks as follows, set up on a 6x4cm 0.1″ veroboard:

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - SSB-Generator and TX-Mixer board
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – SSB-Generator and TX-Mixer board

The circuit starts with an AF amplifier equipped with a bipolar transistor where also a power supply for Electret microphones has been added. The radio now can handle dynamic and Electret microphones adequately.

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - SSB Generator and TX mixer
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – SSB Generator and TX mixer (Full size schematic)

Afterwards we see the S042P mixer IC where I have changed the circuit slighty to the one used in my 40-meter-QRO TRX. Audio input signal is now to PIN8 of the IC, Lo input on the rf side of the IC to PIN11 and PIN13. To reduce carrier level and enhance carrier suppression a 5.6pF cap is in series because the relatively high level of signal coming from the LO amp would deteriorate the performance of the DSB generator without countermeasures.

Output from this DSB generator is also symmetric and fairly high. Thus a low valued capacitor has been inserted prior to the SSB filter, sited on the RX board.

After that we see an amplifier with limited gain due to high emitter degeneration and the NE612 as TX mixer. The latter one also with an symmetric output to get more gain from it by using the two inherent output transistors.

TX-power amplifier stages

As I have described in the article of my “Give me 5“-Transceiver some years ago, building a broadband power amplifier is challenging due to one special problem related with the wide range of frequencies that this amplifier must be able to cope with. an extra gain of 5 to 6 dB is commen, when the frequency is divided by the factor of 2. Usually the necessary compensation is done by adding adequate capacitors and inductances using their frequency depending reactance.

With this radio I tried something new. I added an amplifier that is gain controlled by an adjustable voltage. Here a dual-gate MOSFET with gain control to gate 2 sets up the initial stage of the whole amplifier strip. The stage’s gain is set by a simple bipolar driver transistor controlled by a digital-analog-converter (DAC). A numeric value for each individual band is stored with in the EEPROM of the MUC. This numeric value is calculated during adjustment, then stored in the MUC and recalled whenever the radio is switched to a certain band. The DAC is an MCP4725 breakout board, containing a 12-bit device.

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Power transmitter
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Power transmitter (full size picture)

After that we see an amplifier that is common solid state technology. Preamp stage and predriver stage are set to A mode which requires a heat sink for the predriver stage. Here a 2N3866 is used as amplifying element.

Driver stage is single ended, operates in AB-mode and also is protected by a heat sink.

After that a somehow uncommon technique has been applied. Instead of using a broadband transformer to reduce the stages output impedance to the some ohms input impedance of the final stage, a set of 6 switchable low-pass-filters is used.

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Intermediate LPF section
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Intermediate LPF section

This filter section has been optimized to an output impedance of 50 ohms for each band thus enabling me to test and optimize the transmitter to a maximum with a defined output impedance (remember, this is an experimental radio! 😉 ).

After this filter section the final amplifier stage follows which is able to drive the output power up to 15 to 20 watts on all bands but depending on the DC voltage used for transmitting. The max. power gained during tests was 22 watts pep at 15V DC with two NTE236 transistors. Unfortunately the turned out not to be so rugged and blew in the tests. The eleflow 2SC1969 inserted later showed no problems at all. Thank God! When running on 12.0 V DC the amplifier puts out 12 watts at all bands.

The final part of the transmitter section is the last low-pass filter that is positioned next to antenna relay in the same compartment:

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Low Pas  Filter Unit for TX
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Low Pas Filter Unit for TX

The whole transmitter looks like this:

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Practical setup of the transmitter board
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Practical setup of the transmitter board

The various units are:

  • 1: DSB-Generator and TX mixer
  • 2: Amplifier stages 1 to 4
  • 3: MCP4725 transmitter gain controller
  • 4: Intermediate LPF board
  • 5: Power amplifier
  • 6: Final LPF section
  • 7: TX/RX switch board

Here a little bit of analysis to end with the article. First is the output of the SSB-Generator/TX-mixer board with maximum output (Around 500mV pp) set to the 40m band.

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - TX-Mixer's output signal
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – TX-Mixer’s output signal

Nest we see the carrier suppression when dual tone audio in has been suspended. Carrier is about 55db under the signal peak.

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - TX-Mixer's output signal, suppressed carrier only
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – TX-Mixer’s output signal, suppressed carrier only

And here an output signal with max. power at 3.5 and 7 MHz:

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - TX output at 80m band
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – TX output at 80m band
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - TX output at 20m band - Pout = 12 W PEP
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – TX output at 20m band – Pout = 12 W PEP

So, that’s all for today, thanks for watching and 73!

Peter (DK7IH)

An experimental HF 6-band SSB transceiver – Part 6: The Receiver

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:

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Band Filter Unit for RX and TX
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Band Filter Unit for RX and TX

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:

  • 160m: green
  • 80m: blue
  • 40m: brown
  • 20m: yellow
  • 15m: grey
  • 10m: violet
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Band Pass Filter
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Band Pass Filter

The receiver’s circuit

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Receiver Unit
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Receiver Unit (Full sized picture)

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.

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - SSB-Filter placement for Experiments
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – SSB-Filter placement for Experiments

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:

DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 - Receiver Board
DK7IH 6 band QRP SSB TRX 2019 – Receiver Board

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.

Receiver performance

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.

Vy 73 de Peter