To add to the PA madness that is going on here at the moment, I decided today to build one of the 2 QRP Labs 10w PA’s kits i have here. At the risk of inflaming all the QRP Labs fan boys out there, i both love and hate their kits.
I love that they are well thought out, designed and tested and bring a level of professionalism to the whole kit process, but, and this is the clincher for me, they are mostly a total pain in the arse to build and fix when something goes wrong because they are so densely packed.
Now, some of this has a lot to do with my own personal situation, I have arthritis in my fingers and only have about 75% use of some of my fingers and these boards are backed dense. Might be ok if you are perfect dexterity in your hands, but if not, well the build is not impossible, just frustrating. It would be nice to have say 30% more board space on all their kits. It would really make things much easier to work on, for me at least.
Anyway, it works, with 12v, 250ma bias and 15dbm drive I am seeing about 5W out, not 10. To get 10W out i need to drive it into hard clip with 1W input and turn the output into a square wave. Obviously not good. I figure it could probably do with some more bias current. Gain is pretty flat which is a nice thing. I will have to come back to this and play further at some point.
What i might end up doing is copying the design and laying out my own board and having some boards made up using larger ferrites, even if I lose some gain at 28mhz, it would be worth it to me as I dont use 10m anyway. If i do this, i will not be releasing my gerbers, because you know that someone will take them and start selling boards and that would not be good.
Power amps are pretty much smoke and mirrors, magic and voodoo all rolled into one for me. I have avoided doing power amps for quite sometime because I find them frustrating Well, i have made some progress, I am now making 5W out of an amp designed to make 10w LOL. I still got some work to do.
So I am sitting here this morning drinking a massive cup of espresso coffee and thought i really should post up where I am at with the receiver project. Its getting closer now to final testing and making noise. In fact, the final board will arrive today from china and as long as it does what its meant to, i might only be days away from hearing beeps
So anyway, onto the IF amps and mixers. I find the whole amp design, input and output impedance matching and how one can effect the other to be slightly confusing. So I went with an IF amp design that eliminated that confusion for me, the TIA amps. Termination Insensitive Amplifier by Wes Hayward
The mixers will be ADE-1 Mini Circuits jobs as I have a bunch of them here doing nothing and figured why not. I do have a board here I am designing with a number of different mixer topologies on it that I will eventually have made and test out homebrew mixer designs more fully, but for now I will use the commercial product.
I built the 2nd IF amp first, so I can have a direct conversion receiver happening in short order once I have a working audio board.
Well it works as designed and does the business obviously. There is a missing trace on the board, so I will eventually have to respin them and I want to fix the layout somewhat also and change the transistor footprints to wide not narrow. I do not like those small pads to solder to. LOL
So last nights adventure was actually quite profitable. 3 new DXCC entities worked and 2 confirmed already. There was a pretty good opening to Central America and I worked Aruba, Suriname and Belize. Belize was on CW to. I was surprised to see that I had confirms already on 2 of those after I uploaded my log to LOTW. This brings be to 90 confirmed. Ticking closer and closer to that DXCC 100 LOL
A couple of months back I bought a pair of cheap lab power supplies off ebay that turned out to be crap. 20mv quoted ripple was closer to 200mv. I managed to clean one up with some massive filtering, but it was impractical and still the ripple and switch noise was to high. So while searching for something else i came across these on ebay. 28v, 10A and a linear supply. They weight about 8Kg each. So did some googeling to see if there are any issue and there is one, over shoot when you cycle the power on and off and there is an easy fix to that by adding a cap. But hey, who cycles power supplies on and off anyway. So i grabbed one and then checked the ripple, about 10mv. Thats perfect, so grabbed another one, cause you just cannot have enough power supplies.
So it looks like I am becoming a HeeHaa fan boy. 2 power supplies and soldering and reword station. Oh the humanity LOL
I updated the board and so its a bit better laid out than previously and have shortened the rf path by moving the SMA connectors Gerber files for the board can be downloaded from here: http://vk4ffab.info/Files/Dual_Xtal.zip
I am going to redesign this board. The layout is sub-optimal. But for now, I am going to assemble it and see if I can make 2 filters worthy of use.
The one thing that has always frustrated me with many SSB/CW homebrew rigs is that you get one filter and one filter only. I have seen some use varactor diodes to solve this problem, by varying a voltage on the diodes you can vary the capacitance and this the width of the filter. I thought about going down that route myself for a while, but in the end, settled on having 2 filters as I have lots of relays already.
The plan is for an SSB filter that is about 2200hz wide and a CW filter about 500hz wide. I am also using the good crystals for these also. 4.91520Mhz xtals sorted to within 10hz of each other.
Each crystal was loaded up into my you beaute xtal tester and the frequency measured to within an inch of its life.
My function gen also has a frequency counter that counts down to 1hz resolution. So I measured my crystals and sorted them into piles within 10hz of each other. If i cannot make acceptable filters with such tightly grouped crystals, then there is no hope in hell i can ever make a good filter ;
Out of this pile of crystals I have 6 groups of 8 crystals all within 10hz of each other and a few more groups all within 20hz of each other. Buying these crystals was certainly well worth it. The pile in the bottom right corner are the outliers. It seems even good quality crystals have some in each batch that should be rejected.
Got the parts all sorted, just gotta build it now. Will update this post once i have built and tested each filter.
Part 2: Well i kind of expected that to not take forever, but anyway here is the update.
The build is pretty straightforward and all went to plan
Other than the width being a little wide in both cases and a bit to much ripple, I will say that I am happy with the shape of both filters. I can narrow both up easy enough, just need to change the cap values and the ripple, well it might be a bit of work, I will need to play with transformer values. I used 4:1 impedance transform, but 3:1 might actually be closer to the mark. I will have to play there and see what i can come up with, but a better match will remove some of that ripple.
For now though, I can keep on building the rest of the project as these will be acceptable to get things working. I can make them perfect later. Next job is IF Amps and mixers.
Being invasion day here in Australia with not much doing, between watching the cricket, sleeping and doing not a lot more I managed to build and test the bandpass filter board.
Overall, well its MEH. The filters are nothing to rave home about, they will work for now, but I do think i am going to redesign the board using a different topology and get much better attenuation in the stop band.
I ran all the filters though the bode plotter and remembered to screen grab 3 of them which i will now present here for laughter and ridicule.
40m bandpass filter is a 2 humped camel. The width between the peaks is fine, but i will have to play with the coupling cap value to see if i can take some of that hollow out.
20m bandpass filter looks ok, its just to narrow.
The 15m band filter is also to narrow and the high side attenuation is kind of poor at best.
The 80m filter was also MEH but i forgot to screen grab it, It was double humped, but only -3db down in the middle and the high side attenuation was also poor. Anyway, these will allow me to get building and testing more parts of the radio and think about changing the topology and laying out a new board and having it made. I have 2 other board sitting there waiting to be sent to JLCpcb, the 3rd iteration of the audio board and the first of a final PA board. More on those to come.
So between the first iteration and the 2nd, I have changed from using Sprint Layout to using Diptrace. I have tried a few different programs from Kicad to the free version of Altium and I just could never get the hang of how to make components and footprints in either of them
Diptrace on the other hand I find to be much more intuative and straight forward to use and I can make components and footprints in it with easy, as will be seen later when i get the latest batched of board back from china and write a blog post. So many new parts all created by me in the one library so i can find all my parts easily.
Anyway, to the board at hand. Its still got a couple of minor mistakes on it, the cap footprints were in 2.54mm not 5mm which the caps I use mostly are, the 5v regulator and caps are in the way of the right angled SMA connector and I am not sure that the variable RF preamp is actually varying. Circuit wise it should work, but the spectrum analyzer was not showing any gain change.
Anyway, the design will not be changing now, its built, tested and it works. And i can stay like that :