Evening up power output – interim suggestions from Allison KB1GMX

Allison KB1GMX has provided an update on her experimentation with flattening out the power curve on the µBITx.

Gain and power line up with a few possible solutions listed:


Mixer – output at full tilt about -10 dbm. Go higher and the spur gets bigger so lower output here is better.


Q90 – no mods at 80m about 16db at 10M about 10-11db and not more than 3mW power. Replace it with a really hot transistor. BFR106 has a FT of 5ghz and can do over 100mW. This should keep the stage gain at about 16-18db from 80 through 10M and deliver the 3mw! It is the easiest stage to make flat and high gain as this get more difficult at higher power out.


Pre-driver – takes that 1mw and boost it to about 40mw, We hope. What she saw was about 45mW at 80m and barely 8mW at 10m . Note the gain at 80m is about 16db and at 10m maybe 9db.

We need the gain again to be more stable and higher as well. Transistors tried that worked better included the TO18 2n2222A, 2n3866, and 2n5109. The 5109 was best even though she used only one. Second best was tie between a single 3866 and two 2n2222. MPSH10 was disappointing.

Allison plans to try an oddball 2n6661A, [at 14$ each most will choke] a VMOS fet has potential and requires many circuit changes[Bipolar bias to MOSFET]. They worked really well in another project at VHF.


Driver – takes that 40mw and make about .4W at 80 and sinks to barely .08W at 10m. Gain for that stage is supposed to be about 16db and likely is at 80m but at 10m measured for different 3904s from around 8 to 11db.

This is where the 2n3904 really fails. Its bandwidth at high currents actually does down. The 2n2222A has the reverse, the gain and bandwidth increased with increasing current. While not an ideal part it does work better. The ideal parts here would be two devices in push pull [not 4] and with higher FT.  Allions hasn’t yet tried 5109 parts here but its a solid bet. She wishes 2n3553s, 2SC2166, 2SC799, 2sc1306 and others were still around.

She plans to try an oddball 2n6661A here too as its good for up to 6W.


Finals IRF510 at 80m approaches 15-20W with a gain of over 17db, at 10m its about 13db, but the drive is so low that yields maybe 2W.

If there is enough power at the gate it does the job we ask. RD16HHF does not offer more gain or bandwidth as MOSFETS do not have the equivalent of FT.  These parts do offer a handy tab that can be grounded.


To go from -10 dbm[.0001W] to +40 dbm[10W] we need 50 db of gain over all. That includes losses to transformers and other circuit features. So we need more gain than that available.  Maybe 6 to 10DB more gain would allow some latitude on the gain adjustment pot.

So with four stages and the last being limited to the IRF510s. We set a few rules.

  1. We never run a transistor wide open as one may exceed and another fall short.
    For 2n3904s that happens and the lowest common denominator for them is around 10db. Use better transistors and lots of feedback. More likely to work for everyone than a bet on Monte Carlo.
  2. We only have four stages! The board is laid out that way. Reality sucks.
  3.  IRF510 or RD16HHF you get about 13-16db of gain, period. More
    is wishful thinking or running wide open and risking stability. Hint IRF510s blown cost about US$2, RD16HHFs blown cost US$10. Going to IRF520 and 530 are not better [for 10W output] as the internal capacitances are significantly higher and these parts don’t make the job easier.
  4. Based on total gain needed and what the finals can be reasonably expected to do: The three prior stages must deliver 45 to 47 db of gain. Its also a lot so attention to stability is everything.
  5.  The result must be stable. Oscillation will kill the finals.

As it turns out, item four is the killer as its basically asking for 16db from all three stages. You need good parts for that. Also the interstage coupling must be up to the job while not introducing uncontrolled losses. This is a tall order. So far I have only partial answers.


Answers so far:

Dump the 3904s and use 2n22222(TO18), for those interested in 80-17M it works remarkably well and give a boost up high too. If you go to 2n5109s you may need one as pre-driver and 2 in the driver stage.  They are big and the space is small.  Use the SHORTEST leads possible.

Replace or parallel R941,R911, R96,R942 to get 11 ohms each (I paralleled 22ohms across them).  Lower emitter resistance helps  the gain and power out to finals.

Replace Q90 with BFR106.  Note R81 has to be increased to between
2K and 2.7K for this part. (for those making suggestions I tried 2n2369 in
SMT, it was better but not great). Mouser has the BFR106 for a whopping 38 cents each.

Change C81 to 470 pf, This flattens the 80 and 40M runaway power and helps the higher bands.

There are many changes to transformers possible but for the moment the above are best bang for the buck. Also changing the transformers might be a handful for some.

Warning every time I tried the 2:4 turn transformer with any ferrite the finals were heating a lot and the stage efficiency was well under 40% [terrible with IRF or RD16]. The 2:3 was better at high power but below 50% efficent. This is still in the grinder…

Reference

Latest release of the TFT Colour Touch Control from VU2SPF and VE1BWV

VU2SPF and Joe VE1BWV have released the latest version of their TFT Colour Touch Control.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS
Low cost, standard easy to get parts, Colour, Touch Control and any combination of Touch Control or physical buttons.

TFT (Touch) Display module, Atmega 2650, Si5351 DDS, 1 UBITX and a few wires = All Band rig with Computer / Radio Touch Control Colour Display.

Some new features:

  1. Automatic Scanning – up to band edges in both the directions is now added in V2.9bU of software. The scanning allows one to find signals of interest across the band. Two small buttons labeled ‘U’ and ‘D’ scan in up and down directions from the currently set frequency. The scanning can be stopped by touching the frequency display area.
  2. CAT Control  – the software now has new code to emulate FT817 Cat commands… This provides radio and computer control for the digital modes.
  3. User Manual   A new comprehensive user manual has also been added. Various users and new builders have been looking for this for quite a while.The new version is available on Github at : https://github.com/sprakashb/TFT_TouchScreen_for_uBitxInfo also available at:
    http://vu2spf.blogspot.ca
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkg-IrjV2h4&t=375s

(UBITX ver2.9bu Installation Results)

Note that at present the firmware doesn’t support CW.

Reference

Hints for removing blown TDA2822

Many constructors have suffered the failing TDA2822.   Today, few will have this experience as the v4 board doesn’t use the TDA2822 at all, but discrete transistors in the audio amplifier.

If you have a blown TDA2822 then it helps to know how to remove the blown chip.   Advice from other constructors is:

  1. Cut off the legs of the chip as close as possible to the chip itself
  2. Hold each leg tightly with pliers, while heating the soldered end on the board.  Wiggle the leg until it comes out.
  3. Clean up the holes using a solder sucker.
  4. Install an 8-pin DIL socket to hold a new TDA2822 or one of the potential replacement chips.
Reference

An add on PCB proposed by Howard WB2VXW

Howard WB2VXW has posted a PDF (download here)  of circuit diagrams that would be incorporated on a single add-on PCB as an addition to the uBitx board.

Please respond to Howard if you see anything to improve or other features to add in. You may also want to respond if you are interested in a PCB or a kit has Howard may offer it as a PCB or kit with sufficient interest.

Page 1
U4 is an audio amp to replace the problematic TDA2822. U3A and Q1 etc. form the AGC circuit, not original. U3B is a log amp the drives an analog S meter (the digital one is better) that is in my enclosure. U1 is a switch to put the CW filter in or out of the circuit. (Note there is a drawing error +VM shouldn’t connect to U3.)

Page 2
The Cheybchev 750 Hz LPF 0.1 db ripple

Page 3
I/O JP2 and JP3 plug into connectors soldered on the underside of the uBitx. The odd pins connect to the Raduino and audio connectors. The even pins are hardwired to the uBitx.

Page 4
Chebychev Low pass filters, 0.5 dB ripple for the external linear amp I posted previously.

Page 5
Relays for the above filters. Copied from and driven by the uBitx

Page 6
New driver for IRF510s. connects between VR1 and the output of T10 which is removed.

Reference

Ashok VU2KY has designed a PCB to apply some modifications to his ver 3 uBITx.   These include mods incorporated in the ubitX v4  board.

In addition he has included an S-meter sensor based on the LM386 chip used by Ian KD8CEC in his design.   For more details visit Ashok’s blog

Reference

Improving the CW wave shape on TX

Allan VK2GR was concerned to reduce key clicks and improve the shape of CW from the µBITx.

Being mainly a CW operator, he was concerned about the V3 board uBitx transmit CW wave shape being very hard – almost a square waveshape. As expected, key clicks could be heard on either side of the signal. A look at the circuit diagram and a little tinkering has vastly improved the situation.

The photo above shows where a short wire was soldered to the hot side of C1 for the tests. In reality the wave shape is now a little soft on the trailing edge, so 0.047 or 0.68uf may be sufficient for some people. More work could possibly be done with the CW keying RC network to the 1st balanced mixer, however this one component simple fix will suit my needs.

All that was required was to increase the value of C1 from 0.1uf to 1uf. Below are some oscilloscope photos showing the end result of improvements to the leading and trailing edge of the transmitter output using a 1uf connected across C1.

Reference

Microphone idea

Dave KD0UYH has made a microphone from an old desk lamp purchased from a “resell it” shop.  He says, “Not much to look at, but it serves my purpose. Used some vacuum tubing to attach the mic element and hot glued a handful of nuts into the base to give it some weight.”

Conclusions on how to eliminate spurs

Alison KB1GMX has advice to constructors on the spurs on the higher bands:


For bands below 20Mhz spurs are NOT an issue as the low pass filters catch it.

Spurs are only a problem for SSB and frequencies greater than 20mhz.

NOTE: due to the way the uBTX does CW it is never an issue on any band.


The short form is when you mix two frequencies you get a third, in a perfect world.

The diode mixers used are handy but they can present conundrums.  If any of the three ports (IF, LO, and RF) are mismatched (think SWR) The signal can be reflected back in.  Since DBMs are omnivorous in that any port can be input or output and if mismatched both!  This does not include effects of distortion in the source signals.But in the real world things like this exist.

Double balanced mixers also suffer from overload, too many and too strong and you get a plethora of signals.   What that means for lots of simple and complex reasons you can get “spurs” or spurious  outputs that are undesired.

Basic math, addition and subtraction:

If you mix 45Mhz with 73mhz you get 28mhz.  We want that  and the radio needs that.   However if any of the 28 gets reflected back into the DBM where it originated it mixes with 45mhz and we get 17mhz.With those four signals you get mixtures of those like:

  • 73-17=56
  • 28-17=11

Those are “first order” as they do not involve harmonics.  They will be the strongest, but not always equal strength.

Both inputs can have harmonics like 90mhz and 146mhz and the 34 and 56 coming out can have harmonics too.  If you add and subtract all the possibles you get an increasing sea of signals some weak some stronger.  We will not cover the possibles as the first order ones are the most troublesome.

The solution traditionally applied is band pass filters or if it isn’t between 28 and 29.9999 the filter strongly attenuates it.  But you need a band pass filter for most every band… uBitx takes the path of below a certain frequency you only need low pass filters and fewer of them.  And it generally works well especially for 80 though 17M…

But at 20mhz and up the low pass filter passes everything below 30mhz and if you overdrive the rig slightly you get a spur on the tech window on 10m where the spur is 16.5 to 16.7mhz and there is no filter for that.  What makes this worse is some radios are very poor at 10M putting out maybe 2W so pushing the audio to get more invites the problem to be greatly worse.

There is no setting we can safely give that absolutely assures there will
be no problem that is consistent with maximum achievable power.

As a licensed amateur radio operators we are responsible for signal quality and also not generating signals outside our assigned bands.

There are two solutions one is bandpass the other is high pass filter.
Either way the rig must be modified to allow those and there are side effects.

One side effect is you need extra switching not provided.  The other is any filter has a loss though it and that would further reduce power out.

Short of that, keep the power right down on the higher bands and go for it…

Reference

Kees has been busy sending out boards!

Kees K5BCQs has 403 paid orders for AGC and/or Anti-pop Mini-Kits and 399 of these have been shipped.  He has additional boards and parts and will continue to supply these Mini-Kits as long as there is demand. Details are in the “Files” section of the BITX20 webpage under his call K5BCQ.

Kees was somewhat surprised to be able to process such a quantity over a short period of time. That indicates there are opportunities for others to join in with their ideas. As Kees notes, the uBITX is a great vehicle for modifying and improving.

Reference

Is a heatsink required on FT8 mode?

One of the challenges with digital modes is their higher duty cycle than phone or CW.   However, Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE, designer of the µBITx, assures us that on FT8 the standard heatsinks supplied with the kit are adequate.  FT8 has a 50% duty cycle.

This may not apply with other digital modes such as WSPR.

Reference