There’s a reason why most homebrew transceiver kits and scratch-built projects are monoband and single mode — theres a chance you’ll finish it, or at least, get it working for a while. Building a multiband HF transceiver is a big job, as any homebrewer who has attempted it will tell you. It may take years.
My build of Eamon EI9GQ’s transceiver is no exception. It was started in 2018, the first rush of enthusiasm resulting in a working superhet receiver on 160 to 40m, and boxed up in a custom solid aluminum case. This video shows it off circa 2018.
With a heap of work ahead, and a list of unresolved minor problems, other projects took priority, and the rig ended up spending the next four years in a carton (with all my notes, schematics, assembly and PCB sketches, and unused components). Until recently.
E-mail discussions with another keen maker (Neville ZL2BNE) about his build of this transceiver gradually tickled my interest to resume. Nev was making good progress, had his rig transceiving, and was working QRP DX. I dug mine out of its carton and fired it up — it had all the appeal and problems that I remembered from 2018. I resolved to kick it along the road for a bit, to see how much interest I could reconstitute. Upon resuming, a number of issues needed addressing, some easy, some repetitive, some more difficult but not impossible. Here are those that I can remember…
Firstly, the 9MHz IF amplifier oscillated with the manual AGC turned up, and was generally unstable. To fix this, I put a 5k5 resistor in parallel with the drain tuned circuit — a well known technique for taming high gain stages. I figured that of the three identical 15 to 20dB gain stages, it made sense to damp down the gain of the first stage. This did the trick, and all three stages exhibited a nice resonance peak using the trimcaps, and overall stability.
The next thing was to calibrate the si5351, a simple job I’d never bothered to do, resulting in the display showing odd and fractional frequencies for the property resolved SSB stations in the 2018 video. If you want to know how this is done, go to your si5351 library’s README file, it is quite easy to do, and once done, lasts for years, or for ever.
Next problem was the LCD backlight. The large font 20×4 LCD I had chosen for this rig was a bit of a novelty back in 2018. I liked that it’s huge characters could be read from half a room away. I used to joke with myself that I’d still be using this rig in my 90s, when all the compact rigs with fiddly little OLED displays were beyond my failing eyesight. And the four lines of 20 characters gave me extra display space for luxuries like a UTC clock and metering. But that big display had an equally oversized backlight which could light up a darkened room, but drew more than half an amp. Although this rig was intended for the shack bench, I was not used to my receivers pulling over an amp.
I decided to multiplex the LED array with a simple PWM LED dimmer, which uses one half of a 4093 quad gate as a variable duty cycle oscillator running at around 70kHz, driving an IRF540 FET switch. This worked a treat and the dim potentiometer was mounted right on the front panel. It controls the backlight from off to 90% on, when it drawn around 500mA.
The next mini-project was an AM detector. I was not interested in full AM transceive capability– I have other homebrew projects for operating VK legal limit AM — but I did want to be able to enjoy decent AM reception using the high quality 6kHz filter in this receiver’s set of three KVG crystal filters. I chose an infinite impedance AM detector, successfully used in a prior AM receiver project.
This mod necessitated making a PCB to overlay the existing product detector and audio preamp, with a plug-in board containing the AM detector, it’s own preamp, a miniature relay to steer the incoming IF signal to either detector, and a shared 4046 quad bilateral analogue switch which selects the product or AM detector’ s output, and additionally does receiver muting and Sidetone routing when in CW transmit mode. This assembly worked well. One hickup — I originally left the BFO powered up in AM mode — and even though there was no direct BFO coupling anywhere, there was more than enough stray coupling to resolve sideband. This was fixed by switching the BFO board’s DC power off in AM mode.
The next task involved coming up with a mechanism to select one of the three KVG (ex TelRad) filters. These high quality 9MHz crystal filters were common on eBay a few years back, and are a feature of this receiver. These filters came in a set of three. In a slight departure from superhet convention, a separate filter is used for USB and LSB, with a 6kHz AM filter in the middle. The BFO runs permanently on 9Mhz. I wanted to have filter selection under software control, so that the correct sideband filter would be selected for the current band. One of the front panel pushbuttons was used for a mode control — pushing it cycles thru the sidebands and an AM setting. A small daughter board was added to the filter assembly containing a PCF8574 demux IC on the I2C bus. A few additional lines of code implemented a simple control function.
The 2018 receiver’s front end board included space fo r an RF amp block, with a pair of miniature relays to bypass it. The original PCB was layed out for a MMIC which probably would have worked fine but in the end I built up one of EI9GQs broadband RF gain blocks using a parallel pair of MPSH10 transistors for around 20dB of gain. The EI9GQ amp was built on an overlay board sized for the available space.
A few minor additions followed. A 41MHz Low Pass Filter was added on the VFO buffer input. On the highest band (28MHz) the VFO is 9MHz higher, on 37MHz. This low pass filter cleans up any VFO harmonics, probably low anyway, but a safety precaution.
The diplexor was added, a balanced tee arrangement, with series and parallel 9MHz tuned circuits arranged to pass through 9MHz energy, but sink all other frequencies into 50 ohm resistors. This ensures proper termination of the receiver mixer and keeps unwanted mixing products, particularly at the image frequency, out of the first IF amplifier.
One of the nore repetitive jobs (which just has to be done!) is making and tuning up the remaining Band Pass Filter modules. Three mire were built, for 17, 15 and 10m, using the EI9GQ design. This gave eight bands, 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15 and 10m. My approach to the last three boards was mostly as I’d used in 2018, other than improving the use of right angle 0.1″ header pins inserted through a row of holes drilled through the PCB for mechanical strength.
Next job was a small board mounted on the rear panel next to the two SO239 sockets. This board has the transmit-receive relay, and a second relay that switches between two SO239 for an Antenna A/B switch. Three 7812 regulators supply the three supply rails, 12v always on, 12v receive, 12v transmit. All three unregulated DC supplies are available on headers as well, to avoid heavy current being drawn thru these regulators, such as the transmitter PA and the LCD backlight.
The rear panel has two antenna sockets (for A and B antennas, switched from the front panel), a panel XT60 socket for DC 12V, and a set of 3.5mm and RCA sockets for connections (external muting, paddle, external speaker, and an auxiliary RCA, as yet unassigned). These 3.5mm switched stereo sockets are very useful pieces but unfortunately are not long enough to go through a 3mm aluminum panel. The best solution is to mill out a recess larger than the socket, but that requires a milling machine that I don’t have. So the workaround was to cut a rectangular hole in the 3mm rear panel, and bolt on a 1.2mm aluminum plate to hold the sockets. Its easy to paint and label this small piece.
Preview of the Exciter
To turn the EI9GQ receiver into a transceiver I needed a microphone amplifier, balanced modulator, transmit mixer, T/R switching, a PA stage and LPF set. Back in 2018 I built Eamon’s LM324-based microphone amplifier (a design out of EMRFD) and another hand made diode balanced modulator. All of these mixers use 1N5711 Shottky diodes individually matched to within a millivolt on the diode test setting on my digital multimeter. The transmit mixer is another hand made diode ring mixer, this time an unconventional triple balanced mixer.
The PA chain after the transmit mixer will be MPSH10 x 2, 2N5109 and a pair of RD16HHF1s for about 10 watts 160 to 10 meters. The LPFs will be by Eamon, derived from the original W3NQN designs, each filter on its own plug-in board, relay-switched at either end, filter selection via another PCF8574 on the I2C bus. There will be six LPFs (for 160, 80, 40 and 30, 20 and 17, 15 and 10 meters).
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment, and stand by for the third and final post on this transceiver project, which will address completing and commissioning the SSB and CW transmitter stages.