Saturday, August 27, 2011

Surplus RF-Transformers for Random Wire Antennas

In some of my last posts I was sharing thoughts about broadband aerials using transformers to match the high impedance of the non-resonant "random" wire. Well, the leghth of those wires is not that random at the end. Some typical lengths that come to my mind 6m, 7m, 7.5m, 11.5m, etc. you may know some more...

Now, let's have a look at some options provided by surplus (the junk box respectively).

CFL bulb transformer  vs.  surplus iron powder toroid
On the left side we have a transformer that was in a (defective) CFL bulb, aka as energy-saving light. The thing on the right side is one of the is a surplus transformer based on a T68-2, which came in bags of 5pc for just 0.80 €-cents.

So, what do we have, the CFL transformer countd 3:3:12 windings. Using the black and the white in series, that would be 6:12. This would be, in other words, be a fine 9:1 UnUn.

The T68-2 is provided with 12 bifilar windings. This would therefore make you average 4:1 UnUn. Obviously, those can also be 1:1 isolation transformer.

Both junk-box items are proven in ham-radio designs. I figure, I will experiment with both out of the box options. Additionally, I may possibly try a 6:1 UnUn, as in the BB6W/BB7V design. Staying at QRPP levels would even offer the change of trying the termination resistor used in the BB6W/BB7Vs.
Oh, I forgot, to get closer to the BB7V, I will add some additional Al-pipe to top of the 5.5m  long 27MHz vertical.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Half-wave 27MHz Antenna as Broadband Vertical

Years and years ago, a friend of mine gave me a (brand new) half-wave CB antenna. Well, I have never used it, for the reason of not being QRV on 11m. For 10m I had my double bazooka, so there was no need for it. Now that it has been sitting in a corner for a while, I thought, maybe it could be useful for something else. Some else as in broadband vertical...

Now, let's have a look how those things are built:

aerial schematics
This drawing is not made by me, however, it nicely sketches what the following photographs of my very own version of that antenna show.

all still in one part

taken apart
What we have is the cavity and the transformer that was sitting in it. The air core transformer has got a winding ratio of 7.5:2. I figure, using a ferrite or iron powder toroid would improve performance on lower frequencies.
The cavity measures 35mm in diameter, having a depth of 24mm. This clearly offers enough space to house a smaller toroid transformer.

At this place, I would like to remind you of the BB7V (Diamond) having an UnUn transformer with (resistive) termination shunt. This vertical would be 6.7m tall. The regular 11m half-wave vertical could possibly be stretched to a tallness somewhat beyond 5.5m. Close enough to me.

Now let's think... for QRP work a T80-2 would make an ok UnUn. With some luck, transformers with a T130-2 core could possibly be squeezed in the cavity, if made carefully.
Reconsidering the BB7V's terminator, would I put one in there? Only if I would be using this aerial for QRPp only. The base of the CB-aerial is made from plastics material, which is not able to conduct any heat. Hence, heat created inside the cavity would never be dissipated. For QRSs/QRPp, the resistive terminator is a very appealing option, in particular since for such power levels, a T50-2 transformer would offer sufficient empty space for the terminator.
A T130-2 would possibly be good for a regular 100W rig. However, in a worst case, 50W of heat have to be dissipated, hence, some cooling of the termination would be required, therefore, this is a no-go. Some adjustments and selective use of bands would still be an option for such an arrangement.
Personally, I am very tempted to try a version of a T68-2 transformer (not sure about termination yet), in combination with my IC-703. This is somewhat of a compromise...
Should I ever again get into QRPp/QRSs/WSPR/WSJT/ROS actively, my preference would be the small transformer&terminator option.

Additionally, I figure, it could be of use to add an additional Al-pipe of about one meter to the top of the vertical. This will result in a total length of about 6.4m and a further distance to a quarter-wave on 20m, without getting too close to a quarter-wave on 30m.

There you have it, a new life for a cheap half-wave 11m vertical.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

455kHz SDR - a second thought

My previous blog was all about the idea of adding a softrock, or any other simple SDR-DC-RX, to a cheap (synthesized) AM radio. Well, honestly said, when thinking of it, this may be a totally unnecessary overkill.
Why? Well, very simple. The main purpose of all the quadrature stuff is to make the two sidebands that a DC-RX receives different. But, what if there is not other sideband? The following may not apply to the absolute cheapest of AM-receivers.
Concerning the ATS-404, I have ambiguous information. While some technical data mention the AM i.f. being 450kHz, the schematics diagram mentions a LT455H, which is a 455kHz ceramic filter having +/-3kHz 6dB bandwidth (+/-9kHz for attenuated bandwidth). If we tap before that filter, we definitely need quadrature, should we however tap the i.f. behind that filter, a non-quadrature SDR would be OK too.
Most of the better world-band receivers use a first i.f. somewhere high with a relatively wide crystal filter. Most of the narrow filtering is done at 455kHz. In this case, we probably wont need quadrature at all. All we have to do is to ensure that our SDR center frequency (or SDR-l.o.) falls close to but outside the range of the intermediate frequency range. In such a scenario, there would not be a second sideband to care about and also a simple mono-audio interface would already do the job.
The Target HF3 would be an example for such a receiver. The first i.f. is at 45MHz having a bandwidth of +/-3.75kHz. The second i.f. band would consequently be 455-3.75=451.25 to 455+3.75=458.75 kHz. In yesterday's example, using a 1.8432Mhz local oscillator, we ended up at an SDR center frequency of 460.8kHz, which is close but outside the HF3's second i.f. band. A regular direct conversion receiver with a local oscillator at 460.8kHz would therefore receive only a lower side-band, since there is no signal in its upper side-band.
My idea would be to try that out using a canned oscillator and two flip-flops for frequency division. With some isolation amplification a singled ended diode mixer and a cheap USB audio adapter should round up that experiment.

ATS-404 idea

Using the second intermediate frequency, often at 455kHz, is widely known. A suitable I/Q-SDR would be based on a 1.8432MHz (canned) oscillator, resulting in a 460.8kHz center frequency. Assuming a 24k sample rate, would be adequate to cover the range from 450 to 460kHz perfectly.

Many I/Q-SDR kist are available, due to the size and the low price, the softrock lite could be suitable best.

So, why the ATS-404. I was looking for a relatively cheap wide coverage receiver having direct frequency entry. The 5kHz tuning steps on shortwave suit the 10kHz wide SDR just fine.
The ATS-404 uses the TA8132AN AM/FM-receiver IC. This IC has go the advantage of providing an IF-out at pin 9 (see data-sheet). Slight downside: the TA8132 employs a 450kHz intermediate frequency...
A service manual for the ATS-404 can be found here:

The remaining question... where to put the I/Q-SDR? Using a softrock lite, one may consider using the battery compartment. Speaking of battery, the radio runs of 4 AA cells. It can also be operated from 6V external power. I wonder if 5V from a USB-port would be sufficient, finally, the idea is to use a computer for the SDR anyway.
Which brings me to the last idea... a cheap (stereo!) USB-sound-interface could also be accomodated in the battery compartment, so that only connection would be a USB cable to the computer.