Sunday, 20 November 2011

A New (Old) Direct Conversion Receiver

For a while now I've been participating in the "QRSS" aspect of the hobby, mainly by streaming my "grabber" or sometimes "grabbers" (I can run two simultaneously if I am feeling keen!).

Each of these grabbers ties up a radio and a PC.   As you may have realised I have quite a number of each of these commodities, a ridiculous number, if you were to ask my wife, but being brought up in post-rationing Yorkshire (though not of such Noble birth), I always felt that tying up a sophisticated multi-band multi-mode transceiver just to stream a Spectrum Laboratory grab onto the Internet was "overkill".

I've been pondering for some time knocking up a direct conversion receiver for, say, 10MHz which happens to be the most popular band with QRSS enthusiast.  I've built a few of DC receivers over the years.  They tend to be fairly "minimalist" devices, and yesterday it struck me in a flash that I have already got, gathering dust on a shelf, a 14MHz single-band receiver built back in the 1980s which would potentially fit the bill.

The receiver in question was dubbed the "RC-14", and was a project featured in Rad Com back in 1987, described as a "beginners receiver".   When built at the time it worked reasonably well, and I reworked it slightly to fit it into on of those ubiquitous die cast boxes as the one which came with the Cirkit (remember them?) kit was rather flimsy to say the least.  In my opinion, the nicest feature of that particular design by Steve Price GW4BWE was the AF stage which featured a nice two stage active low pass filter'  The performance of this filter meant that the radio sounded like a "proper" SSB receiver, when the received signal was strong and in the clear.

It hasn't had a great deal of use since then and it occurred to me yesterday that it would be relatively straightforward to "wavechange" it to the 30m band.

QRSS stations tend to operate around a single 200Hz channel either side of 10.140MHz, and just below the WSPR segment.   In  view of this, simply moving the built-in 14MHz VFO to 10.1MHz would probably not be the best thing to do.  Instead a fixed oscillator on the right frequency would fit the bill, or maybe a "VXO" to give a little more operational flexibility.

Now I haven't got a suitable 10.14MHz - ish crystal to hand at the moment, but as proof of concept I have temporarily modified the radio to accept an external oscillator, and used a synthesised signal generator as that external oscillator tuned to 10.1387MHz instead.   This puts the wanted frequency of 10.14 plus or minus right in the middle of the receiver pass band.  A slight tweak to the receiver's input tuned circuit was all that was needed to get the receiver up and running, and in this way I've been streaming this new (old) grabber receiver onto the Internet all afternoon with satisfactory results.

I am now wondering at the practicability of using this principle as the basis for a two or possibly three band dedicated QRSS receiver.  And so another project is born!

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