Yet Another 5w Amp

I have had the parts and boards for this sitting here for quite some time. After posting all the schematics and board files for everything i had working, i took a few weeks off to chill and regroup. Actually I have been racing F3 in Iracing and having a really good time. So anyway, today i got keen and thought i would assemble this board to see how i went. Other than leaving the DC blocking caps off and having to bodge them in, the board actually worked well. It has been sitting on the bench running for the last 30 mins and its barely gotten warm. Talk about some efficiency in these modern transistors. Signal source is an SI5351a and so square wave in and square wave out. This thing will chooch 5w all day without a problem. I was not sure it would work well, the fets are speced for UHF and I am using them at HF. I have the big brother to this fet and it will do 20w, so when i get brave I will have to see if i can make more power.


I Now WSPR On 3 Bands

This has been a fun little journey. What started out as look at me i can WSPR on one band, is not looking like, look at me I can WSPR on 5 bands. So what we have here is the 3 band WSPR TX that does 20, 15 and 10m and with an extra PA board and a little bit of code i can add 80 and 40m into the mix also, all this from just 2 antenna.

Here is the schematic for the PA board, less the power supplies. It requires 7V for the fets and 3.3V for the bias. The 10K pots and 3.3v bias supply allow for really fine changes in bias voltage. If memory serves me correct, 600mV was enough to run the fets at about 400mA draw each. The fets themselves are for VHF to GHZ range, so running them at HF is not ideal but its all about what you can find. These are 50 cent parts and what is used in many dual band HT’s as their 5w PA. The fact that I am getting 5w out at HF is rather nice.

Here is the PA board sitting in the box I made for the never ending story transceiver LOL. Note the 5A buck converter being used for the 7V power supply.

Here is a more broad view of how things are looking. 2w out using the old LPF board that was more loss than pass. Built new filters and things are now much better.

Fresh built LPF board without the losses of the old board means I am not wasting 1/2 the power in the filters. I was always going to be happy with a couple of watts, but the fact its making 5w, is nice. Note the heatsink stuck to the back of the PA board. A tone of vias are uses to wick the heat away from the fets and into the heatsink. Its been running for 24 hours straight and temps have remained steady around 50deg C.

Close enough to call that 5w. Its a little less on 20m, more like 4. But that is ok.

And finally, no spots on 15 or 10m, that is to be expected, but we have a number of spots on 20m. So i am calling this a success. Learned a bunch thought this project and the outcome was better than I expected.


Tri-band WSPR Transmitter

3 posts in 1 day. HAHAHA. Got this little amp working. Its making less power than I expected, or would have hoped for, but 3 watts is handy, was expecting closer to 5. Anyway, when dialed in, it will only be running 1w on 20, 15 and 10m and will run 24/7 while the antenna is not needed for anything else. 🙂


Antenna Tuner V2.0

So the first version of the tuner was a dismal failure. Somehow i ended up with 300pF of stray capacitance floating around and, well, as you know, that is only ever going to screw things up. Now I am not sure that I have fixed that problem, But i have pulled back the copper pour on top and bottom around the RF path and that should reduce the stray capacitance, i have also used different relays and modified the design slightly. All things which should help.

The other main thing i have done is moved to the ESP32 rather than an arduino. The plan here is to be able to remote control the tuner over wifi thus allowing it to be placed at the feed point to the antenna. SWR and auto tuning will come later. First thing is to get this part actually working as a tuner.


Using NanoVNA To Measure Inductor Q

How good are those inductors you just wound? What about those inductors you just bought from your favorite online store? Don’t know? Well knowing the Q of the part is going to help you know whether they are going to be useful in that bandpass filter or oscillator and it could not be simpler if you have a nanoVNA.

So what I have here is a T68-6 toriod with 19 turns of enamel wire on it. 19 turns gives a theoretical inductance of 1.7uH, the actual measured inductance with my cheap LCR meter is 1.747uh yeah that is surprisingly close and not something that I typically find that happens. Usually 1 or 2 turns either way is required to get to the value I want.

For this measurement you want the inductor to be in series. So you can see from the picture above my test jig the inductor goes from the center conductor to the shield of the coax.

So the most important part is how to make the measurement. First is to re-calibrate the nanoVNA for the frequency range of interest for the part. For me, Captain HF, 3 to 30Mhz is where I keep a saved calibration for. Next, the measurement is an S11 1 port measurement and the plot you require is R+jX.

So from here the math is rather simple, Q = X / Rseries for the frequency of interest. So for the above at 14Mhz, for simplicity sake lets call it Q = 200 / 1 || Q = 200. In reality the Rs is less than 1 and the X is less than 200, but thankfully NanoVnaSaver does the actual calculations for you and displays them in this case the actual Q was 150. Which is pretty damn good for a hand wound toriod inductor. Now the good thing is, you know how to measure Q and you can start checking all sorts of parts you might have sitting around.

Take these cheap ebay variable inductors as an example. I built a filter with them for 40m and it was crap. Q at 7Mhz was about 20. But at 14Mhz though to 150Mhz the Q was about 50 to 75 on average. So they would be useful to use at higher frequencies and certainly not useful at lower ones. Unless you have a datasheet that tells you what the Q is for a given frequency range is, you will never know unless you measure them.

And lets face it, measurement is king. Even a non perfect measurement with a non perfect instument like the nanVNA is vastly superior to having no measurement at all. Oh and one last nugget, now that you know the Q of your actual parts, you can then use that value in Eslie when designing filters. Being able to measure things can really improve everything you do.


Red Goes Faster

HAHAHA, this is going to be bright. I am painting the bottom half of the case I made for the current never ending project. Its bright, its loud and it is RED. Stupidly i painted this without my reading glasses on because i did not want to get over spray on the glasses and because of this i have a couple of small runs. Not that i really care, but its not as perfect as it could be. But damn, its red. LOL


OpAmpia: The Op-Amp Receiver

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Well A video must be worth 1000 pictures then. I have to admit, i really do not enjoy making videos for youtube. I do it reluctantly and only when I really have something worth showing off. I really do not care about building an audience and being famous, I just like to do what I want, when I want and not feel compelled to make anyone else happy other than myself. I am not entertainment, I am just a guy who is documenting his journey, nothing more. Even this blog, its not a how to, its not a guide, its often not even correct, does not work or is fundamentally flawed. That is what happens when you home brew. You make mistakes, things do not work and you have to trouble shoot and trouble shooting means learning something. A good day for me, is a day I learn something.

Well, this is the PCB. I have named this receiver OpAmpia. Because its just a bunch of op-amps. There are 3 high speed op-amps on this board, acting as RF Amp and IF Amps and then on the other board another 5 op-amps doing audio agc and preamp and audio filtering. So all up, we have 8 op-amps, hence the name.

This is a revision of what I actually built. I have redesigned the bandpass filter and will be using TOKO styled canned inductors. The higher Q of the inductors should see much less loss than the SMD inductors I used on the test board.

Same goes with the IF strip, the IF filter is now not plugin, but will use all SMD components, I have a bazillion SMD crystals and so its time to start using them. Actually in everything I am moving away from through hole components where I can. SMD is just so easy to use you can always find a useful part that is cheap. Take the Gainsil op-amps I used, they cost like 30 cents each. Try and find a highspeed op-amp in though hole for that price.

For alignment I used the function generator set to 7mhz and with both VFO’s showing no offsets tuned things until they sounded great. Having 2 VFO’s really helps here. Now i can just do some simple math and remove the offest and display the actual RX frequency. A little bit of coding and we will be in business.

That’s all from me. Another month and I might have this as a complete and working transceiver. LOL Who are we kidding 😉



The Fine Art Of Making Power

Make no mistakes, I think real amp designers are witch doctors and that amp design is more voodoo than art. But this has never stopped me from having a go and seeing what I can come up with and what I can learn.

Today I hit a new milestone, I raised peak power to 50W. 50W might not sound like much to those who have gone out and bought their kilowatt to power cheat with, or for the guy who bought a amp pallet off the interwebs and assembled a kit. But for me, someone who has looked at lots of schematics, tried to understand each design decision the designer made and why they made it, then went and captured the schematic, laid out the PCB and had boards made, 50W is something of an achievement.

And don’t get me wrong here, 50W is what WA2EBY was getting out of 2 IRF510 and I am using 4 of them to make that same amount of power and still struggling to contain the magic smoke within the epoxy that is covering the silicon.

I was hoping for a little more out, 70W or there abouts would have been really nice. I do have room to push the amp a lot harder than I currently can. I can give it more drive, more bias and more voltage, with the current limitations being 5w drive from a CW transmitter i home brewed, 2V gate bias, and 30V and 10A from the lab power supply.

Along the way many parts were broken. I call this pile My Shame. Actually its not as bad as it looks, the first 4 fets to go were Ebay specials from China. I think they are fakes, they were never happy and just ran into uncontrolled oscillation.

The next 4 were all my fault. I gave it all the amps and they gave up the ghost after about 40 seconds of full key down madness.

This is the current mess of what is my work bench. Plenty of crap on the bench. A certain old guy home brew legend would say my bench is to clean LOL

Nothing like burned flux to get the soldering fan boys to go wild. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the board, its is a little bit pedantic though. Its window of oportunity is quite narrow. Its kind of all or nothing. I had to change the input transformer and its ratio, the bifilar inductor feeding power needs to be changed as it gets to hot. Everything else is ok. Mechanically its easy to change out the fets on detonation. That is a plus.

Using the CW transmitter I built a while back to drive it.

This is the schematic. I probably should learn about temperature compensated biasing to make it a little more bullet proof. Other than watching the duty cycle and keeping it to say 50% or less, its ok and I have not harmed anything yet. It really could do with a bigger heatsink and some forced cooling to really crank it up. But for now, I am happy that it works.

I did key it up on 40m and sent some CW with it. Listening on KiwiSDRs i could hear myself in VK2,3 and 4. Not that, that is a challenge, I can do that with 5w. But i know its working and sounds fine. So that’s the end of this journey. I am calling this one won and done and now its on to the next thing.

Better add this image as well. Fiddy Whats. Oh one last thing, 5w in and 50w out, is 10dB gain. It is what it is.