Double Balanced Cross Coupled Product Detector

Back in 1980, Pat Hawker G3VA(SK) spoke about this circuit in his technical topics column for the RSGB Mag. This circuit has surfaced again in the latest issue of SPRAT. I do not have access to the SPRAT article but I do own a copy of the RSGB Technical Topics Scrapbook which comes with a CD of all 50 years of Pat’s column.

Other than that, I do not know all that much about this circuit and I cannot find any other references to it, or the references in the article, though the sprat article does go into its mode of operation. So while I do not know all that much about it, what I do plan to do is to build this circuit on some vero or scrap copper clad board and run it through its paces and see how it performs and then compare that to some known mixers I have here and try and quantify its qualities.

Anyway, i will post more on this once I have done the work and published the results. For now, I am off to LTSpice to simulate it and see what happens.


The Filter That Never Was

One upon a time in a land far far away, LOL. Well, this is one of those stories and it reads like a horror story. I have spent all day on this, pulling my hair out and trouble shooting and wondering what the fuck is going on here. Is it me, was it my design, was elsie screwing me with stupid values. Well, hold onto your hat Batman, this is going to be a bumpy ride 🙂

It all starts here. Designing a filter in elsie. Bandpass filter, 7.150mhz center frequency, 400khz bandwidth, chebychev response with 0.001 ripple. All good, simple even. I do not like the inductor values it spits out, i rescale the network to use 500nH. And begin to wind up the coil forms.

Everything goes to plan, i wind up 9 500nH coil forms, LCR meter says I am a genius and I agree with it, not only am i super smart and know everything, I am also good looking and a legend. 😉 That was this morning. Now let me rewind things back 4 weeks ago when this plan started to evolve. This should not be the problem.

After having elsie tell me what to do, I laid out this schematic in Diptrace and proceeded to produce a pcb to use. Schematic looks fine to me, looks the same as what elsie says i should do. This should not be the problem.

This is a small screen shot of the PCB layout, if you close your eyes and squint you can see the series capacitance and the shut capacitance and the inductance are all in the right places electrically. This should not be the problem.

Elsie gave this plot as an idea of what the filter should look like. Looks fine.

Never to take the word of a machine seriously, I checked the design in LTspice, just for sanity sake. Looks fine.

Then i built the filter, just one mind you, there are 4 on the board, but i have learned the lesson many time not to jump ahead of myself, because as the Mythbusters would say, failure is always an option. Becides, things going to shit are the norm around here. Today was no exception, bloody abortion of a filter was on 14mhz. Its like 1/2 my inductance and capacitance just vanished into thin air and left me with a pile of shit. And i had no idea why.

Being the clever idiot that I am, i did say i am a legend right, I began by melting the plastic cases on the relays, I mean pulling all the caps off the board and measuring them. Frequency went up, so that means less capacitance and less inductance. I am the boss of making strays of everything on my boards, so i usually have more than i need. Caps turned out to be correct.

So i rechecked the value of the inductors.  Actually i wound the slugs all the way in and as expected the frequency shifted lower. LCR meter says that i had 600nH. More than i needed but I was still on 14mhz, not 7.

Then after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I grabbed out an inductor of a known value and measured it. It was wrong. Not just a little bit wrong, but a lot bloody wrong. I calibrated the LCR meter and checked the known value again and BOOM right on value. Checked the other coils i wound and they were 160nH not 500. Well there is your problem. I screwed up royally. I did not calibrate my crap and thus made a huge pile of it and wasted half a day on what should have been a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour.

So there you have it. That has been my day, fun, entertaining and well, i learned a valuable lesson. Never trust your meter not to lie to you. And with that, i am off to have a shower and cook dinner. The filter board can wait now for another day. I am done 🙂

Oh one last picture, i put some 500nH crappy inductors in the circuit and yeah its in band. Now i need to rewind my nice coil forms and make some filters that do not suck as bad as this nano vna plot looks.


The Building Blocks of Amateur Radio

Ultimately when you break things down a receiver is not all that complicated. Sure in its entirety it can range from ultra simple to overly complex, but fundamentally they all share the exact same building blocks, switches, attenuators, amplifiers, mixers, filters and oscillators.

Within each of these individual building blocks there are many different variations of circuit topology that can be used. For sometime I have been thinking of writing a series of posts looking at each of these fundamental building blocks in some detail and offer some typical circuit typologies that are often used in homebrew receivers.

The image above is a block diagram of the receiver that  I have been building for what seems like forever. What I will probably do with each building block is take a look firstly at different typologies and then at the specific topology I used, why i used it and will more than likely add in LT Spice simulations as well just for good measure. Being able to test and compare different circuit typologies without murdering parts is certainly a good skill to have.

So I will approach things in this order, Filters, Mixers, Amplifiers, Oscillators and then a quick look at switches and attenuators.