Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bi-State Amateur Radio Society

New group of HAMs, calling themselves "BARS" (Bi-State Amateur Radio Society), has been founded in the Missouri - Illinois area. You can find some basic info on their blog site.

The BARS have a simple mission - to enjoy our hobby. BARS will support new technologies, such as microwave and optical communications, digital television, even digital modes and packet radio on all frequencies incl. HF, with emphasis on microwaves.


Thursday, December 29, 2016


Hope you scatter joy and happiness wherever you go all 365 days of the upcoming year and get the same in return. Happy New Year to you!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Boys with Toys 2

My last posting was about using my RIGOL Spectrum Analyzer with frequency range up to 1.5GHz to show characteristic of a 10GHz filter. That little test made me wonder if I can use the same Spectrum Analyzer to display a signal in the 10GHz range on that analyzer. Obviously, I have to mix the signal down below 1.5GHz using a transposing signal from another synthesizer.

I have used my 24GHz transverter with 11.88GHz local oscillator, because that signal is conveniently fed to a connector on the transverter's front panel. The same mixer from my previous test (IF range only 0-150MHz) was used for the first test today:

Yes! It really works! My ELCOM on the left side is programmed to 10.805GHz (+13dBm) and the gray transverter on the right side delivers 11.88GHz (+10 dBm). Difference of these two signals is exactly 1.075GHz which is what we see on the analyzer. What we also see is the signal level below -40dBm. Hmm ...

I have tried to "zoom in" and changed the RBW ratio on my RIGOL from 1MHz to 300kHz. Signal still looks nice and clean, just not too strong:

Can we do something about the attenuation? Of course we can. I tried 3 things:
  • Find better flexible cables
  • Replace flexible cables by Semirigids
  • Use different mixer
Luckily, I have bought good sized bundle of these flexible black cables with SMA connectors cheap on eBay. Maybe I could find some better pieces in that bundle? Tried and ... the signal strength improved +30dB:

Wow! This is almost perfect! Maybe Semirigids will make it even better:

Hmmm, not too much. Only about 2dB. Surprising, really. These black cables are RG-178 which is OK but not as good as semirigid, at least in theory. Whatever ... let's try another mixer:

Nice! Improvement about 8dB! This mixer has IF range 0-2GHz, but it has apparently been exposed to salty water somewhere. I have bought it cheap on eBay. Lets try better one:

No surprise here, less than 2dB below zero. This mixer behaves as expected. Note that I am feeding it LO signal 11.88GHz about +10dBm and the test signal is 10.8GHz about +13dBm. My RIGOL has internal attenuator of 10dB, so the conversion loss in this case is 13 - (10-2) = about 5dB. That is certainly very acceptable!

My next test will be with a Harmonic Mixer (same thing, but the mixer will generate harmonics from a strong base signal to be able to display higher frequencies, such as 24GHz). But that will be the topic for some other day.

73 Herbert

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Boys with Toys

Even at my age of 55, I still feel like a boy when it comes to my electronic (not to mention radio electronic) toys. Especially if my friends keep encouraging me by sending me links to interesting articles on the Internet. Like the document (tnx OK1DXD) where I found following picture:

Nice ... especially after finding dual mixer (two mixers with integrated LO power divider) on eBay:

The seller stated max frequency 18GHz and max IF frequency 150MHz. Well, I overstepped the IF maximum almost 10x and the mixer still worked, so I hope that RF inputs will accept 24GHz.

Now, what to test? Easy pick. I have found a nice waveguide filter on 10567.5MHz:

So, I have located couple of cables, not really suited for 10GHz but at least with SMA connectors, and connected everything together:

Where to get LO signal from? That was easy too - my favorite ELCOM synthesizer provided +13dBm on the frequency of 11GHz:

So far so good ... but will that thing work? I have turned my RIGOL analyzer on and activated the Tracking Generator - and YES, it worked:

Let's try to zoom in to check how steep the filter is:

Pretty good, actually. The passband is flat and only ~40MHz wide. Looks like good filter for general use. With this mixer, I should be able to re-tune it to 10368MHz easily.

Of course, I need to calibrate the "Y" axis. No idea how much attenuation came from the mixer itself. Some definitely was introduced from the measuring cables ... still work to do on my side. I will also try to use the same principle (different Local Oscillator and maybe different mixer) for 24GHz.

73 Herbert

Friday, June 10, 2016

Filters, filters and more filters

Exact, stable frequency is very important in ham radio. Especially if you intend to use digital modes, such as WSJT. I have built a GPS disciplined oscillator to generate 10MHz reference signal and used it in my 1296MHz transverter. It worked nicely ... until the moment when I connected a 40W power amplifier. Wow ... I intend to run 1500W for EME some day, so my GPS should withstand much more than 40W!

What is a solution? A filter, of course. The 23cm band uses 1296MHz while GPS uses 1575MHz. Should be easy to separate.

I have found an eBay seller named "iseeabluewhale" who sends packages signed "GPIO Labs" from Ontario, Canada. This seller offers reasonably cheap filters. One of them is a bandpass for 1575MHz (GPS frequency L1):


I have measured the frequency response. Looks quite good, 1296MHz suppressed nearly 60dB:

Time to test the GPSDO with this filter again. I will post the results later.

Second filter that I needed was 432MHz bandpass between my new 10GHz and 24GHz transverters and IF radio. One of them will output IF on- and below 432MHz, the other above 432MHz. Luckily, GPIO Labs make both filters, see the pictures:

Nice filters! It would be nice to find something like that for the 1296MHz frequency. There was one in their eBay listing, but the bandwidth is too narrow for the weak signal portion of the 23cm band:


What can we do? Obviously - get a filter elsewhere. Maybe make it ourself! For example using this design from W6PQL. I have made one of these filters (very easy to build) and here is the result:


Yes, this filter is quite good. Definitely cheap and easy to make. And the suppression of unwanted signals goes below 80dB!

I have recently used that filter to suppress unwanted spurious signals from ADF4351 synthesizer in the posting below. Quite a game changer there!

73 Herbert

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Synthesizer with ADF4351

I have discovered interesting synthesizer modules on eBay:

I have also found an interesting project from Alain, F1CJN on the Internet.

This synthesizer can easily be controlled by Arduino Uno and a Shield with LCD Display:

Final result is here. A synthesizer that can be programmed for many stored frequencies. Following picture shows one of them:

I will upload more about this wonderful synthesizer shortly. Hoping to use it for a small local beacon for 23cm.

73 Herbert

UPDATE 2016-06-07:

Nothing is perfect. Not even synthesizers. There is a serious problem with spectrum purity when used for frequencies above ~ 1.1GHz. See following pictures.

We need 960MHz reference signal for a Microsource YIG that generates 23GHz. Spectrum around 960MHz seems to be OK:

However, 1296MHz seems to have a problem with spurious signal only 25MHz away and only 39dB suppressed:

Workable solution seems to be to generate the beacon signal on 1/2 frequency and double it. That would require 648MHz. Following picture shows reasonably clean spectrum for that. You can see the 2nd harmonic on the spectrum analyzer already:

Looks like I have to work on frequency locking in my lab - frequencies shown on my RIGOL analyzer are little off the frequencies shown on the Arduino. Luckily, this synthesizer allows (wonder of all wonders) locking to a 10MHz reference!

(to be continued)

73 Herbert

UPDATE 2016-06-10:

I have retrieved my old 23cm filter that I built long time ago with the idea of using Flex 1500 with IF between 28 and 50MHz in mind. This filter was made per W6PQL description and is described incl. pictures and frequency response in my other posting here.
Wonder of all wonders, it fixed the problem! The 1296MHz signal is a little weaker (6-7dBm) but all unwanted peaks seem to be suppressed more than 55dB:

In fact, I can't identify them in the noise floor anymore. Definitely good enough for a small local beacon! I will follow that idea soon ...

73 Herbert

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Microwave Activity Day - May 7th, 2016

This posting comes after long, long period of doing nothing .. I mean nothing for my ham radio hobby. Looks like the overload from my job is finally over and some weekends not spent on job sites are in line now.

We (WA0CNS, N5MU and myself - AF4JF) went to our local hilltop in EM48rq with open view towards West and tested our 24GHz equipment.

Results were not perfect, but promising. My transverter copied 24GHz signal from Harry WA0CNS quite nicely, but Harry didn't hear mine. My station was only a mixer, no PA used today.

It was very interesting to watch how narrow the signal beam from dish antenna on 24GHz actually is. We need to work on aiming system, probably make contact on 10GHz first and then switch to 24GHz. Some more testing still needed.

73 Herbert