40m WSPR Transmitter

Following on from playing with WSPR last week, I grabbed out on of CW TX boards i have here, reworked the gain in each stage to account for the greater signal input from the SI5351a and ended up with 8W out. Keydown for the last 30min and all the important bits have remained steady at 55 Deg C. So it should be more than upto the job of high duty cycle TX from WSPR.

The Transmitter board.

Signal from the SI5351A VFO board.

What the scope says is happening into a 50ohm load. And here are a few more pictures, because why not 🙂

Setup as transmitting currently into my 40m antenna.

A close up of the swarez meter. Showing 6W but its closer to 5W according to the scope.

And this was the reports after the very first wspr cycle. It works rather well.

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More Receiver Work

So with the VFO and Audio board working i turn my attention back to working on the receiver. Now the first version of this was an unmitigated disaster. Clever me, always throwing caution to the wind used MMIC gain blocks for IF amps and had nothing but trouble with them oscillating and going bonkers. Well, this time I threw caution to the wind again and used high speed op-amps for the RF and IF amps. Everyone has done a 2n3904 IF amp and i could have done the same, but, lets try something different. And i could not be more pleased. Actually using op-amps might just become my thing LOL they are actually surprisingly easy to work with once you know what you are doing.

 

I have posted about this before somewhere on the blog, but this is the circuit I used after reading some app notes from one of the big manufactures. Non inverting, 50 ohms in and out impedance and thats about it really. Unity gain bandwidth of the op-amps i used is 380MHz and they are a 20 cent Chinese part.

Doing the initial alignment of VFO and BFO frequencies I had more probes up its cackler than an abductee at a aliens convention.

 

The mighty RF Explorer spec-an for the win getting the VFO frequency mixing with the RF input to be right smack center in the passband of the 500hz wide IF filter. Yeah its a CW rig this one.

VFO A is the IF frequency and VFO B is the BFO frequency.

And this is the 600hz tone out the AF port. Which will eventually get routed the audio amp that I actually short circuited while fixing it until it was broken. Actually, the AGC and the Audio filter circuits work just fine, its the AF amp i killed. Its just a matter of de-soldering the amp module and replacing it with one that works. Every day I am getting closer and closer to something that actually works good enough to use more than once.

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ESP32 With Dual VFO’s

Hey look, its a home brew radio post. HAHAHA. So i have settled into this whole locked down for corona virus nightmare and have sorted out most things and have a game plan for how life will go on for the next 6 months of lock down and no work. And because i have everything in order, i have slowly been getting the enthusiasm to get into building some of the stuff i have in the pipeline and seeing if it works.

I have shelved the tuner for now, i really am not sure about it and it or how to correct its problems, which are both design and code and have started on the second iteration of the universal control board. First time round all the audio stuff worked just fine, more or less, but there were some design issues in the micro controller side of things. Namely, i screwed up things pretty bad and destroyed the 2 older ESP32 Dev Boards i had here which meant redoing footprints and all the other exciting things.

Obviously not everything has gone smoothly this time either, turns out that i laid out the board with to use an L7833 3.3v regulator as I am using a L7805 5v regulator as well, you know bog standard parts everyone uses. But guess what, the TO220 3.3v regulators I had were 1117A’s and they have a different pinout. Turns out, getting an L7833 regulator in Australia is not as simple as it seems, I had to order them from Element 14 for way to much plus way to much in postage. But, it got the parts and well got to getting this thing working. Lesson learned.

On the board, we have an ESP32 micro controller, the little red daughter board is a shift register module, ESP32 is 3.3v logic and most of the crap hanging off it is 5V logic, thus the need for shift registers on the I2C lines. The fuse is there from another lesson learned from the previous version of this board where I turned the solder on the micro into lava HAHAHA. We also have 2 headers for LCD screens, 2 rotary encoders, SI3531A module, yeah still using modules because the 2 times i have tried to roll my own using bare components, they never worked, and finally a real time clock. There is also footprints for 5 buttons, one of which is a reset button for the micro, 2 banks of 5 pins for band switching and pads for a thermocouple for monitoring heatsink temp of the final PA.

A bit blurry, but this is the initial fire up to make sure that I had things working right. Not much use spending hours writing code if there is an issue on the board.

Here I am starting to make some progress on the software, which is pretty much a ground up rewrite of one of the basic VFO codes out there, I think if i recall right was a very early version of a VFO by Jason Mildrum NT7S https://nt7s.com/

And finally, this is where I am at with this. All the buttons work, the rotary encoders work and both the displays work. The one thing i do not like about just about all the VFO codes out there is that they all follow the radix math method for setting the vfo increment value. I want to have a 500hz increment, and actually, when i start to build things for 2m FM i will want an 12.5Khz increment and the like. Now using radix math you only get to have things go up in orders of magnitude, 1, 10, 100 etc. So I changed how that all works and simplified things alot, by combining the increment and displaying into the one function that gets checks once per loop. I can now set my increments to whatever value I like to suit my purpose.

Finally before i close down this epic post, on Jason Mildrums etherkit github https://github.com/etherkit/Si5351Arduino/issues/66 some people have reported issues with ESP32 and the SI5351A library. I am not having any problems at all here. Everything works as expected and there are no I2C glitches. Well, that was a manuscript, thanks for reading and I will catch you next time.

Rob.

 

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Corona Virus Update

Corona virus, whats it mean to me and my home brewing? That is an interesting question and one i am asking myself daily. Sure it looks like I might have more time on my hands with the chance of being locked down growing daily. So that is the positive. The negative is I am also watching the economy tanking and along with it my income. I am a contractor, our clients are all pulling work so that means I will not be earning much at all. This is ok, I have some savings and will survive, but it means that I will lock down my budget to essentials and so I cannot see me starting any new projects for quite sometime.

However, I do have 4 or 5 projects already going on at various levels of progress, so i have plenty to do for now and I have a lot of parts so that is not going to be an issue. I think what will happen is that once i have worked through the projects in the cue, I will end up going back to doing manhattan builds with through hole parts. I have a lot of board and parts, so I am good for a couple years at least. About all it will really mean is that I wont be buying any fancy PCBs at all.

Oh and I have a lot of kits here also, so I can bring them out when things get desperate and have something to build. All in all, i will be ok, but if things get really tight, I might have to shut down my blog, or move back to cheaper VPS hosting rather than having dedicated server hosting. One stupid flu and the world is turning to shit.

Stay classy everyone.

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I Have Finally Built Something I Am Proud Of

So a few weeks ago I had sent and email to Pete Juliano asking some questions and showing off the progress of my projects, he commented that my work bench looked way to clean for me to have been productive, well I sent him this picture from this morning when I was hard at working building this project. There is currently CRAP EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, now onto the real story. The first thing I have built and designed that I am actually proud of. It all works as designed and I think i am finally starting to get up the learning curve.

So there is nothing revolutionary here. Its a simple CW transmitter biased Class A all the way. Why class A when there are more efficient biasing schemes for CW? Well, because I want reusable circuit blocks that I can use for DSB, SSB and other modes that require linearity.  The theory of operation is simple. We have an ATMEGA328 that controls an AD8950 DDS module, Q3 is a buffer so the gain stages do not load down the DDS. Q1 is a simple switching circuit. When the key is keyed, it pulls the base to ground, 12V can flow from collector to emitter of the PNP transistor, turning on Q4 and Q5.

I had to switch both of these and you will notice on the build board below a mod wire, as originally I had only one of these stages switching, but i was getting massive leak through. In a future build I will look at a better switching method to improve the overall usefulness of the transmitter and think about adding in some wave shaping and all the fancy stuff.

Q4,5 and 6 amplify the 300mv DDS signal to 10V p-p where it is then amplified by a single FET to around 5 watts. Its simple, but works, and getting those gain stages all working together was not an easy feat, I spend a lot of time in LTspice making them place nice with each other.

Here is a close up of the board. You can see the mod wire on the top side, on the bottom side of the board I cut a trace to isolate it.

This is most of the test setup, using only 1 side of the paddles because my straight key has the wrong size jack on it.

Current draw is around 0.7 amps key down.

Power out is 5w.

\

 

Output on the oscilloscope.

And this is why you should never trust the output on the scope to give a honest representation of the harmonic content of the signal. First harmonic is -40db down and the second harmonics is only -30db down. Not good enough for the kinds of girls I go out with. So I need to spend sometime going over the build and see where added distortion is coming from that was not present in the prototype. When I put it on air later to test it out, I will add an extra 7th order filter to knock those harmonics on the head.

You know what. Its really nice when things start to click and what you build looks and works like the design. I get the feeling that 2020 is going to be a ground breaking year for my home brewing.

Cheers,

Rob.

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Clickety Clack of the Relays

Slowly integrating all these bits together in software and currently all the relays are clicking in sequence when I change bands on the control board. If you look closely on the upper right, you will see an updated version of the Band Pass Filter board that uses different inductors and filter topology. I need to populate and test one filter to ensure its right and then build the entire board.

Something that I did not notice was that when I changed Ecad software my mounting hole pattern has changed slightly, so neither of the old filter board designs will stack with the other boards. So i have to redo the low pass filter board and I am going to redo the rf frond end board as well and move things around to make it a little more usable and to make sure the 3.3v regulator has a heatsink on it. With bugger all current running though it, it still gets burn your finger hot and that is not right. I am starting to wonder if these ebay parts are actually dodgy or something.

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WPX and 3 Endorsements

WPX Award Confirmations

Its taken me 4 and 1/2 years to qualify for Worked All Prefixes. Mostly this has been achieved using low power. I wouldn’t even call it mostly QRP. Maybe 50% at most. However its all been done with low power. And by low power, im talking less than 50 watts.

For 4 years i was license restricted to 10w SSB and CW and made over 1/2 the contacts. But since upgrading and getting FT8 and other digital modes, mostly I have been running between 20 and 30w.

FT8 has been a game changer for me. I have really upped the contact rate. Like close to 1000 contacts in 6 months and that is not being very active on the bands.

WPX Endorcements

So along with the main WPX award, I qualify for 3 endorsements. WPX Digital Asia, well given that I have been operating almost exclusively on FT8 that one is no surprise. The other 2 are also low hanging fruit , Asia and Oceania. If you cant work everyone in your region there is really something wrong no? LOL.

LOTW Fees

The only disappointment here is that LOTW wants $50 Usd to process the award. Add in the 3 endorsements and cost will be $100 Usd. Converting to local currency that is $150. That is an extraordinary amount of money to have an award processed. Obviously I am not going to pay that. You would have to be mental in the head to spend that kind of money to have someone rubber stamp your participation award, so that the award manager can rubber stamp your award.

Applying for the award is $12 + postage Usd. Not bad, and reasonable. But, if i wanted the endorsements then that is 4 time $12 + postage. Say about $100 Australian. So in total, I could spend $250 or 1/4 the average weekly wage to get a participation certificate and 3 add on stickers

And they say ham radio is not a rich white mans folly. I mean, come on, that is an extraordinary amount of money for a piece of paper that only has some meaning to me that I have passed some arbitrary number of contacts. Horses arse comes to mind for wasting that much money on a piece of paper.

LOTW Horses Arse Award

In a follow up to this, you actually do not have to apply for the award and get extorted by LOTW. You can fill out a spreadsheet and apply directly to CQ Mag and bypass the middle man. Now they might ask you to confirm some certain contacts just to be sure to be sure, but then you are only paying LOTW for a couple of confirmations and thats gotta be better than spending a small fortune on nothing.

So I will probably fill out the spreadsheet and apply for the main award. Being a paper chaser that i am. HEHE

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Radio Bebek 1st IF Amp

Radio Bebek First IF Amp

I did a bit more on this today, went through and added in the first IF amp and tested it to ensure it was working. After sorting out some probe issues with my scope, it was all systems go.

Radio Bebek First IF Amp

After working out where the input to the first IF amp was and also buzzing it out back to the first mixer, I fed a 100mv signal into the amp and scoped the output on the other end of the xtal filter to ensure signal was going in and coming out. As you can see from the oscilloscope output above it works.

The blue trace is the 100mv signal from function generator and the yellow trace is the signal on the other side of the xtal filter. Now to build the 2nd IF amp and test it also.

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Radio Bebek RF PreAmp

Radio Bebek RF Preamp
Powered Up and Testing
100mV in and 500mV out

So the RF preamp has about 5x gain. On 40m its probably not really needed unless there is a lot of loss in the filters. Which in this case might actually be the case as the RF path from the antenna goes through the LPF, into the Relay and then into the BPF. So a little gain ahead of the mixer might be a good thing.

One thing that I left out for now were the back to back clipping diodes. I am only building this as a receiver pretty much to begin with and I am not sure clipping diodes are really necessary. Next I will be working on the LPF and BPF. Need to do some LTSpice here to make sure my values are correct.

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Radio Bebek LO Buffer Amp

Ok, back to doing some work on the Bebek. In this block the only real issues are that there is an extra DC blocking cap on the board that is now shown on the schematic and that the Cap values on the schematic are not the same shown on the board. In this case I have defaulted to using the values on the board. 10nf and 100nf on the board are 1nf and 10nf on the schematic. The former values just seem more logical to use and the latter are most obviously an error on the part of the designer.

Bebek LO Buffer Amp
250mV in and 2.5V out

So the LO Buffer Amp has a 10x gain. I injected it with a 250mV signal to get 2.5V out. Now obviously this is not good if you are using a SI5351A as it puts out 1.5V. But this should work quite well with an AD9850 which puts out 200mV. It still might be a little to much drive for a -7dB mixer, but it should be ball park upper limit.

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