Shortwave Radio Picks Up Sideband

With the push to having most of a radio receiver as part of a PC, it might seem odd to have a standalone communication receiver, but [OM0ET] reviews the latest one he picked up, an ATS25. Inside isn’t much: a battery, a speaker, an encoder, and a Si4732 that provides the RF muscle.

It appears the receiver is pretty broadband which could be a problem. [OM0ET] suggests adding selectivity in the antenna or adding an extra board to use as a bandpass filter.

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Traditional Analogue And An FPGA Make This Junkbox HF Receiver A Bit Special

We will have all at some point seen a fascinating project online, only to find not enough information to really appreciate and understand it. Such a project came [Bill Meara]’s way over at the SolderSmoke podcast, and he was fortunately able to glean more from its creator. What [Tom] had made from junkbox parts was a fairly traditional analogue receiver for the 20m amateur band which would be quite an achievement in itself, but what makes it special is its use of an FPGA to augment the analogue tuning.

A traditional analogue radio has a local oscillator which is mixed with the signal from the antenna, and an intermediate frequency of the difference between oscillator and desired signal is filtered from the result and amplified. The oscillator on older receivers would have used a free running tuned circuit, while a newer device might use a phase-locked loop to derive a stable frequency from a crystal.

What [Tom]’s receiver does is take a free-running traditional receiver and use the FPGA as a helper. It has a frequency meter that drives the display, but it also uses the measured figure to adjust the oscillator and keep it on frequency. It has two modes; while tuning it’s a traditional analogue receiver, but when left alone the FPGA stops it drifting. We like it, it’s definitely a special project.

We’ve featured a lot of radio receivers over the years, and this certainly isn’t the only one that’s a bit unconventional.

Listen To The RF Around You

These days, we are spoiled for choice with regard to SDRs for RF analysis, but sometimes we’re more interested in the source of RF than the contents of the transmission. For this role, [Maker_Wolf] created the RFListener, a wideband directional RF receiver that converts electromagnetic signal to audio.

The RF Listener is built around a AD8318 demodulator breakout board, which receives signals using a directional broadband (900 Mhz – 12 Ghz) PCB antenna, and outputs an analog signal. This signal is fed through a series of amplifiers and filters to create audio that can be fed to the onboard speaker. Everything is housed in a vaguely handgun shaped enclosure, with some switches on the back and a LED amplitude indicator. [Maker_Wolf] demonstrates the RFListener around his house, pointing it at various devices like his router, baby monitor and microwave. In some cases, like with a toy drone, the modulation is too high frequency to generate audio, so the RF listener can also be switched to “tone mode”, which outputs audio tone proportional to the signal amplitude.

The circuit is completely analog, and the design was first done in Falstad Circuit Simulator, followed by some breadboard prototyping, and a custom PCB for the final version. As is, it’s already an interesting exploration device, but it would be even more so if it was possible to adjust the receiver bandwidth and frequency to turn it into a wideband foxhunting tool.

Radio Build Goes Outside The Box

It’s easy to get caught up in a build and forget that the final version usually needs some sort of enclosure, especially things with sensitive electronics in them. The [Director of Legal Evil] at the LVL1 Louisville Hackerspace notes as much in his recent radio build. It seems as though the case was indeed an afterthought, but rather than throwing it in a nondescript black project enclosure it was decided to turn the idea of a project enclosure itself inside-out.

The radio build is based on an SI4732 radio receiver which is a fairly common radio module and is easily adaptable. It needs a microcontroller to run though, so a Maple STM32 platform was chosen to do all of the heavy lifting. The build includes a screen, some custom analog controls, and a small class D audio amplifier, but this is the point it begins to earn its name: the Chaos Radio. While playing around with the project design in CAD, a normal design seemed too bland so one was chosen which makes the radio look like the parts are exploding outward from what would have been a more traditional-style enclosure.

While the project includes a functioning radio receiver, we have to complement the creator for the interesting display style for this particular set of hardware. It can get boring designing the same project enclosures time after time, so anything to shake things up is often welcomed especially when it puts all of the radio components on display like this. In fact, it’s reminiscent of some of [Dmitry]’s projects, an artist known for deconstructing various common household appliances like this CD Player.

Thanks to [Jose] for the tip!

Q Multiplier — Er… Multiplies Q

If you are below a certain age, you’ve probably never heard of a Q multiplier. This is a device that increases the “Q” of a radio receiver’s intermediate frequency and, thus, provide a higher selectivity. If you enjoy nostalgia, you can see inside a 1960s-era Heathkit QF-1 Q multiplier in [Jeff’s] informative video, below.

The Q multiplier was a regenerative amplifier that operated at just below the oscillation point. This provided very high amplification for the frequency of interest and less amplification for other frequencies. Some radios had a stage like this built-in, but the QF-1 was made to add into an external radio. For some Heathkit receivers, there was a direct plug to tap into the IF stage for this purpose. Othe radios would require some hacking to get it to work.

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FM Radio From Scratch Using An Arduino

Building radio receivers from scratch is still a popular project since it can be done largely with off-the-shelf discrete components and a wire long enough for the bands that the radio will receive. That’s good enough for AM radio, anyway, but you’ll need to try this DIY FM receiver if you want to listen to something more culturally relevant.

Receiving frequency-modulated radio waves is typically more difficult than their amplitude-modulated cousins because the circuitry necessary to demodulate an FM signal needs a frequency-to-voltage conversion that isn’t necessary with AM. For this build, [hesam.moshiri] uses a TEA5767 FM chip because of its ability to communicate over I2C. He also integrated a 3W amplifier into this build, and everything is controlled by an Arduino including a small LCD screen which displays the current tuned frequency. With the addition of a small 5V power supply, it’s a tidy and compact build as well.

While the FM receiver in this project wasn’t built from scratch like some AM receivers we’ve seen, it’s still an interesting build because of the small size, I2C capability, and also because all of the circuit schematics are available for all of the components in the build. For those reasons, it could be a great gateway project into more complex FM builds.

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Gathering Eclipse Data Via Ham Radio

A solar eclipse is coming up in just a few weeks, and although with its path of totality near the southern tip of South America means that not many people will be able to see it first-hand, there is an opportunity to get involved with it even at an extreme distance. PhD candidate [Kristina] and the organization HamSCI are trying to learn a little bit more about the effects of an eclipse on radio communications, and all that is required to help is a receiver capable of listening in the 10 MHz range during the time of the eclipse.

It’s well-known that certain radio waves can propagate further depending on the time of day due to changes in many factors such as the state of the ionosphere and the amount of solar activity. What is not known is specifically how the paths can vary over the course of the day. During the eclipse the sun’s interference is minimized, and its impact can be more directly measured in a more controlled experiment. By tuning into particular time stations and recording data during the eclipse, it’s possible to see how exactly the eclipse impacts propagation of these signals. [Kristina] hopes to take all of the data gathered during the event to observe the doppler effect that is expected to occur.

The project requires a large amount of volunteers to listen in to the time stations during the eclipse (even if it is not visible to them) and there are only a few more days before this eclipse happens. If you have the required hardware, which is essentially just a receiver capable of receiving upper-sideband signals in 10 MHz range, it may be worthwhile to give this a shot. If not, there may be some time to cobble together an SDR that can listen in (even an RTL-SDR set up for 10 MHz will work) provided you can use it to record the required samples. It’s definitely a time that ham radio could embrace the hacker community.