The FV-1 based SDR revisited

I have really enjoyed my FV-1 based mini SDR radio but it has one problem…its too small! I made the thing so small; it’s hard to operate and assemble. So I decided to make it a little larger, allowing for all the controls to be larger and more spaced out. It has a larger display and the circuit board layout provides for the switches, encoder, volume control and display all to be soldered directly to the board. All of the circuit components are now on the top side of the board as well. Along with these physical changes, I made some minor circuit changes. These include: some component value changes, a different microcontroller, clocking the FV-1 at 48Khz with the third output of the SI5351 and adding a on/off power circuit which utilizes a momentary switch instead of a latching one. It now has a built in flat pack lithium ion battery that can be USB charged. I also refined the DSP demodulators and I am now utilizing a weaver demodulator for USB/LSB.

I started using a simple graphically based CAD tool(SPINCAD) to develop the demodulator DSP code for the FV-1, and I have been able to improve my demodulators algorithms. The CAD tool is free and is Java based. It runs natively in windows with Java installed. You can wire together functional building blocks and generate the required hex code for the FV-1 without writing any assembly code.

Examples of SPINCAD Graphical Programs

Link To Tech Data:

https://www.adrive.com/public/rPpBxR/MiniSDR%20Tech%20Data_11_2020.zip

High Efficiency 4V supply QRP Amplifier

This is an example of a high efficiency QRP transmitter designed to work at very low supply voltages (3v-5v). It can produce 2 watts a 4 volt supply @ 70% efficiency. It uses small, inexpensive switching mosfets. The primary requirement for these mosfets is low output capacitance, a VDS of >20V, a logic level VGS and a drain current rating of a couple amps. There are many devices that will work. Unlike a Class E amplifier, this design requires no special alignment, providing for multiband operation easily. Only the output filter consisting of a L Network and Pi network in series need to be changed for a given band. It is tolerant of all kind of load conditions including infinite Z and maintains efficiency when poorly matched. While this circuit utilizes a microcontroller, display and clk generator, the logic buffer can operate from any oscillator source so the amplifier can be adapted to simpler designs.

QRP Transmitter Schematic

Simple low current mini-whip antenna

I decided to try using a small  wide band E field type antenna with my newest receiver  design…the Mini SDR and the results have been gratifying. There many useful articles describing this type of antenna; so I won’t go into much detail about how it works. More or less it functions as  a capacitive E field probe and therefore is very sensitive to EMI. However, if placed outside away from house wiring and provided with a modest local ground reference..the antenna is a good performer. The classic circuit uses a JFET source follower and a BJT follower stage to provide impedance transformation of the Hi Z capacitive terminal to a 50 ohm Z drive for transmission line. This circuit works fine but has some drawback, namely requiring 65mA of current and having a somewhat large input capacitance, which reduces performance with frequency. I decided to use a wide bandwidth op amp to simplify the circuit, reduce current, and provide a little  voltage gain. The op amp I chose was one I have used before for RF amplification..the LT1818. When choosing an op amp for such an application..there are a few important criteria to focus on:

1. current noise: Unlike low impedance  topologies where voltage noise and resistor thermal noise will dominate, having a Hi Z input will make the current noise the dominant source of amplifier noise.

2. Bandwidth: you need a wide bandwidth on the order of hundreds of MHz or more to provide the required frequency response up to 30Mhz. This is especially true for voltage feedback op amps, where the phase shift compensation rapidly reduces performance over frequency.

3. Slew rate: You want the largest slew rate you can get to reduce distortion and IMD products.

4. Input bias current/ input Z/ input capacitance: You need low input capacitance so as to not to create a lossy divider with the antenna terminal. You want low input bias current and high input Z to not load down the terminal. If the input bias current is too high , then you need a low value  bias resistor which loads the terminal.

5. Low output impedance: To drive 50 ohm Z and minimize distortion.

The LT1818 has excellent specs with regard to all of these criteria. It can operate on 3v-12v and requires only 9mA of current to operate. The Amplifier will operate from VLF to beyond 30Mhz with no change in performance.

Schematic:

E Field Ant

The antenna is powered via a power splitter connected between the receiver and antenna. This is the purpose of L1 to isolate the DC power from the RF output from the antenna.

I 3D printed antenna capsule  from HIPS, which is a low RF loss material and used a 3″ square of PC board to create the capacitive antenna terminal.  The printing was done at 50% density so it’s a very light, low dielectric loss enclosure.

Installed Antenna(with LED illumination)

MVIMG_20200206_213153

Antenna Element

IMG_20200206_172500062

 

Complete 4″ x 1-1/2 inch antenna

IMG_20200206_172722888

 

Amplifier Circuit

IMG_20200206_172521323

 

Antenna Terminal

IMG_20200206_172412346

 

Efield Antenna Demo:

 

Si5351 based SDR Circuit Updates

I am going to be posting any tweaks, component changes and firmware/circuit mods here on this page.

02/02/2020: Changed the RF input buffer to a better performing amplifier with another option annotated as well. Also I changed some resistor values in this gain stage to  improve performance.

02/07/2020: Oops the integrating capacitors on the switching detector were shown as 1uF…it has been changed to the correct value of .1uF

02/07/2020: Updating the download link with the new schematic and an improved  AM demodulator for the FV-1.

Coming soon: New code for FV-1 based on 48Khz sampling…plus new schematic/layout utilizing the leftover SI5351 output as The FV-1 clk instead of a 40KHz xtal.

Newest Schematic here:

Updated Schematic

 

Compact Si5351 based SDR

Go here for the most up to date circuit /firmware mods: Design Updates

This is a revised version of my FV-1 based SDR. I replaced the CS2100 clk generator with the Si5351 clk generator. The Si5351 has some advantages over the CS2100, namely you can generate quadrature clks directly. This simplifies the hardware design and improves the quadrature accuracy. The sideband rejection in LSB/USB modes is impressive..somewhere around 60 db as best I can measure. The DSP processing is accomplished by the use of a FV-1 audio processor. The device makes the base band signal processing a snap. It requires some code to be loaded on a EEprom but the circuitry is simple and allows for up to 8 selectable programs. I created three: AM/USB/LSB . The FV-1 provides for three analog POT inputs to control any parameters you choose. Gain, variable filter bandwidth and depth, AGC are some examples of adjustable parameters if you desire. I kept it simple and created fixed band pass filters to taste. I did use one of the controls for AF gain. The design has no tuned circuits or band pass filters but they could easily be added.  It works just fine without them. Occasionally, I come across a ghost signal from harmonic mixing, when tuning, but not enough to matter. The design uses an OLED display and a rotary encoder for tuning. The frequency coverage is from 2.7 Mhz to 25Mhz. The bottom limit is created by the inability of the Si5351 to support quadrature below this frequency. Although I have improved my DSP programs for the FV-1 and have developed new display drivers and the new code for the Si5351, useful detail about using the Fv-1 can be found in my original design from a few years ago: https://circuitsalad.com/2015/06/19/comming-soon-stand-alone-software-defined-radio-baseband-demodulator-no-computer-required/

Schematic: Updated 05/17/2020

The design uses a LT1818 or THS4304 low noise op amp as an RF input with gain. It provides a constant and reliable resistive Rf termination for the sampling detector.  This allows for random antennas to be used without adversely affecting the input termination to the detector. All the code to operate the main processor(display/clk generator/tuning, band select and receive mode) was written in MikroC which is a C compiler for PIC and AVR processors. The generation of quadrature signals out of the Si5351 is not difficult to implement once you know how but..figuring that out took me a couple weeks of experimentation! You can connect switches, the encoder, volume pot and display directly to the main board for operation but I created a secondary board to mount the display and encoders. Instead of an analog pot and selection momentary switches, I used another microcontroller and two encoders(with one built in momentary push switch each) to create all of the switching signals, gain control, etc. This allowed me to have just two controls for all features.  The controls include: tuning, audio gain, mode, and tuning step. Tuning resolution is from 1Hz to 100KHz . For fun, I made the output of the FV-1 differential into the audio amp. This is not necessary.

Here is a link to all the files used to build this radio in a zip file(updated 2/07/20):

Tech File Download

The schematic and PCB was done with express pcb freeware. The C compiler used was MikroC, and FV-1 assemble was built in SpinAsm which is free and available from Spin Semiconductor(who makes the Fv-1). The gerber files provided were created for OSH park. I had my boards etched by them.  If anyone is interested in building this radio or leveraging elements of the design. I can answer questions.

Misc Notes: I use a 16650 3.7v lithium  rechargeable battery to power the radio. The current draw is about 100 mA with audio.  The radio works even when the regulators drop out so it will work at 3 v.

The enclosure is a machined aluminum 1590A style hammond box which you can buy on Ebay from alpinetech. They are $14.00 which is pricey but they are not cast. The quality is much nicer and you can anodize them.  It’s a different topic but home anodizing of aluminum is easy…and I do it with all my enclosures now. In this example, I anodized twice to create the base blue color and then the labeling as well. It looks really clean with this method. The nice thing about anodizing is if you make a mistake, it’s really easy to go back and redo the process.

Designers will note that the resistive terminations on the input RF OP amp contributes to the noise figure of the radio. As a practical matter. a negative impact on performance is not noticeable because of  atmospheric noise in the shortwave bands. For the best performance…no front end circuitry or a different front end input amplifier should be considered. Note that the op amp serves to bias the analog switches to half supply; so this bias must be provided to the sampling detector if the input termination is modified.  R10 set the impedance of the sampling detector, conversion gain, and low pass roll off. The schematic shows a value 0f 210 ohms…I think I am using 100 ohms actually now…which works well.

If you want quadrature out of the Si5351 below 3MHz you can create two outputs with 0 deg offset with one output at F and the other at 2F. You can then drive an analog mux with those signals and generate quadrature sampling for low frequency applications. Just note the output sequence of the samples change so you have to flip two outputs of the detector.

Top view of the circuit board:

sdr_top

Bottom View Showing FV-1 circuitry

sdr_bot

 

Display board

sdr_interface

Completed Radio

IMG_20190924_165851259

 

Demo Videos:

 

A very efficient half size 40 meter Vertical

I had an old broken 20 foot fishing pole that only had 16 feet of length so I decided to see if I could make an effective half size 40 meter antenna with it. Here is what I did. I used a capacitive hat to increase the radiation resistance of the antenna considerably. There are 8- 15 foot radials suspended a little less than a foot above ground. Finally, I made a small loading coil to tune the antenna up to the center of the band (7.100 MHz) for CW.  I first tested  a full size vertical to optimize the ground plane. By suspending the radials by only a few inches above ground, significant improvement was achieved . With 8 half size radials 10 inches above ground (compared to 4 on the ground), the measured loss went from about 20 ohms to  4 ohms. My loading coil has a measured Q at 7Mhz of about 300…with about 1 ohm of loss. The form was printed on my 3D printer out of HIPS..which is a low loss RF material. So my total system loss was about 5 ohms. With the HAT top load, the 17 foot antenna had a total impedance of 20 ohms.  This means I had a total system loss of only 1.25 db…which is not bad. the full size antenna had a loss of about .5 db … so really the difference is negligible. Finally I matched the whole antenna to 50 ohms with a little L network connected at the base. I like to use crimp style bullet connectors for all wire  connections because they provide quick disconnect and you can field repair(crimp) without need to solder anything(nice for portable setups).

I use it for QRP work on CW at about 1.1 watts. The antenna is a solid performer and it is very portable and easy to breakdown/setup. I can hear my signal on the many of the web based SDRs around the country. and have made numerous casual QSOs with it. Six or Seven radials work well also..you start seeing some more  loss when you go to four radials but it is still usable even then.

tophat

View of Top Load( 2 -8 inch strips of thin aluminum)

ant with loading coil

View of loading coil and base assembly

loading coil

The Loading coil

unmatched ant

Unmatched Antenna Z at Resonance

lmatchedant

The Final Matched Antenna Z

SmartPhone DI with Phantom Power

I frequently use my phone to record video for my blog and for my music projects…but I have been frequently frustrated by the limitations of the internal microphone embedded in the phone. So I created this circuit to provide a means to use a high quality Dynamic or condenser studio microphone with my phone. The circuit operates from a rechargeable  9 volt battery and plugs into the standard 1/8 inch four ring audio connector. It provides phantom power at 28 volts…which works fine …you typically don’t need 48 volts It utilizes a SSM2019 balanced microphone preamp IC, operating from a dual polarity charge pump power circuit at +-5V. At the output you need to provide a 2.2k resistive signature such that the pone can detect the microphone connection. The circuit also employs my simple momentary latching switch circuit which I often use and is described here at circuitsalad. Everything about the circuit is straightforward but the phantom power over voltage protection circuitry merits discussion. Basically, the isolation capacitors C5 and C6 are slowly charged up by the phantom supply but depending on what is plugged and unplugged can be be discharged very rapidly into the preamp input circuitry. This will be destructive and requires circuitry to shunt this energy to ground and dissipate it. This is accomplished by means of TVS1 and TVS2…which are prepackaged back to back zener diode. However the issue arises that simply using large zeners or transorbs is not a good idea because they have large reverse bias junction capacitance…which creates distortion as it modulates. To prevent this, I chose a very tiny 9 volt transorb. The one I chose (DF2B6.8ACT.L3F) has only a few pF of capacitance and is very small(402) surface mount package. The device works great but can only sink 1 amp peak. This further requires series resistors R11 and R16 to help limit the surge current to less than 1 amp at 28 volt. R1, R2, R4, and R5 must all be precisely matched in order to maintain circuit balance. R4 and R5 are required to provide a absolute ground reference such that the output does not float to some common mode DC value above 0 volts. The gain of the preamp is -6dB -20dB and is adjustable by means of R10. The reason for the negative gain is the use of an attenuation network that also provides the 2.2K resistive signature for microphone detection. The attenuation is required because of the inherent gain of the phone circuitry, which is easily overloaded.

LINK TO SCHEMATIC

As seen in the pictures below, the circuit board fits in a compact 3D printed enclosure. The battery sits above the circuit board and is enclosed by a a top cover. I use a rechargeable 9 volt because the device draws about 30mA in total.t I included a 2.5mm circular power plug as a charging jack such that the battery can be charged without removal from a generic 9 volt battery charger.

Picture of home etched Circuit Board:

direct3

Circuit Board mounted in 3D printed Case:

direct2

direct1

 

Link to Demo:

 

My Hell Dice Pedal Board Design

I have been performing way more than I use to! I play club gigs twice a week or more these days…and as a result, my relationship with my rig has really changed. Which is to say, my perspective on what I actually use and what features matter most, has evolved. My conclusions are these: I want small, light weight rugged equipment…I don’t want too many knobs or complexity. I like to use a few basic settings and sounds and that is it.  So I have designed a compact amplifier and set of small 1590a form factor pedals to create a complete amplifier/pedal board rig that weighs a couple of pounds and is about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. It includes: My 100 watt stomp amp with an auxiliary 9 volt output, a high performance PT2399 type delay, a simple but really nice sounding LDR based envelope filter,  A very pleasing two stage LDR phase shift Vibrato and a hex inverter based overdrive with slightly different approach than the typical design.

My New Compact Pedal Board

pedal board2

As an aside all of these pedals are made with machined(not die cast) Hammond sized aluminum enclosures from Ebay (alpinetech), which I etched and anodized. You cannot properly anodize die cast enclosures because of other ingredients that are mixed with the aluminum…so you have to get CNC milled enclosures if you want to anodize the enclosures.  I discussed my home anodizing process here: Anodizing discussion

More Pictures:funkyfilt

vibrato board

delay board

Links to Schematics and Design Notes:

A few notes: Many of the part choices are  not critical..like transistors, op amps and voltage regulators I use.. The LDR based effects will need tweaking based on the output efficiency of the LED/photo-resistor combo or if you use a commercial opto-coupler instead. The vibrato uses my pic based LFO…but it can easily be replaced with other LFO circuits. The delay uses a 8 pole switch cap filter IC but if desired, this can be replaced by using the unused op amp on the PT2399 IC as a low pass filter.

Compact Stomp Amp:

Hell Dice Delay:

Hell Dice Vibrato:

Hell Dice Overdrive:

Hell Dice Funky Filter:

Pedal Board Demos From Live Show:

Demo of Delay and Vibrato:

Demo of Envelope Filter(two minutes in):

PWM Vibrato that sounds Awesome!

Vibrato is the slight changing of frequency of a musical note. This can be accomplished by means of a varying time delay in a delay line or by phase shifting and analog signal over time.

The delay approach works fine but creates inherent latency and can sound clownish. So I wanted to create an analog design.

A modulated allpass filter can be used to change phase over time (which is frequency). This analog approach can sound lovely but to sound really good has to linear in its sweep and be modulated  in a sinusoidal manner. Both the design objectives are not trivial.

It occurred to me that my PWM phaser design does all this but simply mixes the original signal back in to create the phasing notches. So I modified the circuit and optimized it to simply modulate the filter and it works great. The PWM driven analog switches are very linear and the PIC DDS works great to create the sine wave modulation. I added some pre- emphasis/de-emphasis, adjusted some values and made an improved layout…so the pedal is super quiet. I left in the peaking filter adjustment to allow for some cool modulated filter effects along with the Vibrato. The range of PWM controls the extent(depth) of the effect at a given modulation rate and so the vibrato pitch bend level is easily adjustable.  Keep in mind the faster the modulation rate; the pitch shift is also greater because a faster the rate of change of phase over a given time, produces more pitch shift.  An alternate analog modulation circuit can be used if desired but the output swing needs to be limited from 0 – 2 volts.

Link to Schematic:

 

Brainwash Phaser converted into Vibrato pedal:

Coming Shortly Demo: