Post Go back to editing

Choosing a mixer for HF transceiver

Hello guys,
I'm trying to design an analog portable single side band receiver (ham radio transceiver in future).

I am looking for a good matching components.
Initially I started with SA612 mixers but I was disappointed by their noise level.
So I tried AD831 which had almost no gain while dissipating tonnes of heat. I understood I was foolish underestimating their power consumption and made many mistakes.

I have drawn this block diagram:

It uses Si5351 as VFO. First mixer VFO is set above receive frequency. RF BPF is up to 2MHz wide. IF 8MHz BPF is 3 KHz wide. LO can move up & down to be able to receive USB or LSB.

Now I am trying to build something which will be power efficient, compact.
So I picked LT5526 as double balanced mixers.
But I am looking at LT5560 and LTC5562.
LTC5562 seems having better characteristics and claims to have ESD protecting which sounds important for HF applications having an external antenna. The only caveat it has some note about external matching for lower frequencies which is my case.

For IF amplifier I picked AD8338. It has attracted me by presence of AGC and 80dB of dynamic range. But I struggle a little bit with proper configuration for this chip. I had to manually set AGC setpoint. Also I think I made poor decisions regarding my PCB design, I guess it starts self excitation. Many people recommend 4 layers board but it is an overkill for ham radio. I think it is doable with 2 layers. Also I was thinking to tap to AGC loop and use it for S-meter.

Next, I am thinking about some LNA after RF bandpass filters but unsure about it. In different designs I see LNAs and attenuators there. If signal will be stong it will overload LNA and small signal might be lost. From the other side, ham radio signals are usually very weak unlike broadcast radio stations so it worth to have it.

For audio amplifier I used SSM2211 and LM358 as preamp/filter. It is the only one which has option to have single ended output which is one my requirements.

TBH, I am not RF engineer and radio is my hobby so I am very welcome to any advice.

typo fix
[edited by: zoonman at 4:21 AM (GMT 0) on 21 Jan 2020]
  • Hello,

    I think nice design, well described. Did you check your frequency plan? I am not sure, but if I understand the solution correctly, 1st IF (8MHz) is in the input RF band. Or is there a gap in the RF received band? If no, you should revise the frequency plan and use e.g. 1st IF above the RF band. You have to decide about the noise figure. Usually the noise figure is requested ~3dB (or less) for the VHF, UHF bands but I don't have experience with the HF band, I assume the noise figure can be higher because of higher noise background. To reach better NF, LNA shall be placed in front of mixer of course at the expense of linearity. Define what you want to reach (NF, IIP3) and calculated level diagram gives you answers whether use or not to use gain blocks somewhere in the RF chain. 

  • I read SA612 datasheet and noticed that it has just 5dB noise figure which is smaller than all ADI mixers. Now I am very confused.

  • You have are really good English. It's a second language for me too and we are able to communicate which is totally great! I truly appreciate your help!

  • I think I found what can give me really good performance.
    BGA420, Pi=-6dB, 19dB gain.

    Lets see what we are getting here.
    From previous calculations we have -14dBm at the input of LNA which is totally fine for this one.
    So we are getting +5dBm at the mixer input. Which is right under 6dBm input 1dB compression point for LTC5562.
    I plan 8 crystal filter which has about 80+ dB loss outside of passband.

    At the same moment we have S1 signal level -111 dBm. After LNA we have - 92dB, and if I will use AD8338, I will get -12 dB at input of the second mixer.
    From the other side Pi for AD8338 is about 10dBm per Fig 23 from manual but specifications says 3V p-p which translates to 0dBm because input resistance is 1kΩ. So it translates into -20dBm after band pass filters with active LNA!
    I think, this means we can pretty good grip on the dynamic.

    Regarding Mixer schematic I am slightly unsure.

    I drawn it like this. I have certain concerns about audio injection in TX.
    Also second mixer has to do something with audio.

    Almost forgot, for relays I found G6K-2F-RF, those quite affordable on aliexpress also G6K esily can be used as pin-to-pin replacement, not fancy but should work.

  • Hi Philipp.

    Short calculation:

    BGA420: OIP3=13dBm => IIP3=13dBm-19dB=-6dBm

    Two interferers, power per each Pim= -30dBm (as an example)

    IM3 product at LNA = 3*Pim - 2*IIP3 = 3*(-20dBm)-2*(-6dBm)=-78dBm, which higher than -111dBm wanted signal. I don't know, what you want to achieve, but this simple calculation shows, that the RX-LNA can intermodulate. 

    I am working now with LTC5562, it is 7GHz mixer. It seems to me like "with a cannon on a sparrows" for the applications at 30MHz. 

    If I understand the schematic, you want to use mixer for both RX and TX modes. For the AM in the TX mode you can use also  PIN-diode attenuator (or AGC circuit) instead of common RF mixer. 

  • Hi Viktor, so, how can I find "a perfect" LNA? :-)

    I know that this mixer looks like overkill but it has a perfect dynamic range.

    For TX I am trying to achieve single side band modulation. Double balanced mixer should suppress carrier signal but leave DSB, then one of the sides will be filtered by the narrow band quartz crystal filter. Depending on the band there will be either upper side band or lower side band.
    I don't have plans to transmit AM/FM but it would be cool. Right now it is SSB or CW.

    Are you doing any ham-radio stuff, Viktor?

  • Hi Philipp.
    Yes, it is correct both mixer or PIN attenuator do the same job - amplitude modulation. I think it is easier to filter unwanted side-band, than to use IQ-modulator. 
    how can I find "a perfect" LNA? :-)
    This is hard to answer, I think the answer probably does not exist. I have very good experience e.g. with Norton amplifier, which uses BJT. Something is for sure on the internet e.g. .I used it in the VHF radio. NF can be very low (1.2dB) and it has got good linearity. Good amplifier has AD, Qorvo, Minicircuits.
    But I recommend you something else. I am sure, you have experience with ham-radios. There are many on the market Icom, Kenwood... Take the spec of one, you like, and use it as a template for your own specification. Do not try to win, these companies are very long time on the market, you can not be better, just write, what is sufficient for you based on the preferred spec. This (noise figure, IP3, AGC characteristic) will be a start point for the level diagram. The level diagram gives you answer, what LNA you need. 
    Are you doing any ham-radio stuff, Viktor?
    No, actually I have never did it.

  • I can grab something like FT-891 Specifications:
    Sensitivity for SSB (2.4 kHz, 10 dB S+N/N): 0.16uV which translates to -123 dBm.

    I know it is a good and popular transceiver.
    My goal is to be capable to recieve S1 signal which is -111dBm. If we have 10dB for signal to noise ratio that gives me -121dBm sensitivity baseline.

    Let me workout signal chain backwards.

    If I want to have S1 signal to be 1W audio it means 30dBm.
    SSM2211 allows up to 40 dBm gain. Let's stick to 30 dB gain here to ensure stability of audio amplifier. Please, forgive me my newbie assumptions.
    This gives me 0 dBm at the LF amp input. I was planning to add tiny pre-amp + filter on LM358 which can give 10 db of gain or more.
    So at this point for S1 signal we will have -10 dBm at the mixer output.
    LTC5562 has 1dB conversion gain which I totally disregard due to losses in filters and bad impedance matching.
    AD8338 has 80dB of gain which lowers our input to -90dB.
    Basically this threshold dictates our sensitivity and gain requirements for pre-amp. So far it has to be around +30dB. If I will play around with audio amplifier I can lower it to 20 dB. Again, it is ballpark estimations.
    TBH, I don't know which part will introduce more noise and where is better to get maximum of the gain.

    Here I drew some schematics so you can get idea of tranceiver design.

    First mixer:

    And the second

    I have concerns about getting audio out and proper audio injection but this idea seems ok to me. I got some inspiration from phase detector schematic inside LTC5562 manual.

  • Philipp,

    I have looked on FT-891 spec, it quite "brief". Thus I found something more detailed e.g. here:

    NF is mentioned there NF=7dB (LNA is ON) and I calculated from measurement IIP3=-1dBm (LNA is ON).  Gain you know, I think, from your prev. post. This 3 numbers are important for you. Modify NF, IIP3. Gain is fixed. And calculate level diagram. IIP3 you calculate of course without audio amp. Use e.g. ADIsimRF in order to build RX chain, it is quite useful.

    Thank you for pictures, but I can not do a review of whole schematic. And I mean this EZone should be oriented on the AD devices, we are now quite far away with this topic, we are discussion general theory of receivers. 

  • I had to jump over several humps to get ADISumRF running. It doesn't work on MacOS. When I finally got it working I was unable to find mixers. It looks slightly abandoned to my taste.

    I think I need to learn more theory of receivers and all these parameters.

  • Aha, OK, I did not know you use MacOS, it gets complicated a bit. And I did know, that ADISimRF does not support LTC5562. In the past I tried use ADISimRF, but I did not match my expectations. Thus I went back to calculatin (evaluation) of level diagram in the MS excel sheet. In principle it is very simple to write down formulas for: total gain, NF, IP3. For each component you need to know also these 3 mentioned parameters: gain, input IP3 and NF, so the calculation can be made in any spreadsheet.

    Or stay with ADISimRF, it offers more calculations, but in the first step, you will not need them. If you don't find the component in the AD list supported components, nevermind, write corresponding values from the datasheet. 

    Very simple calculation find also here:

  • I tried to calculate some metrics:

    I tried guesstimate certain values from this thread

    I am not sure if it gives me anything. Total gain is just sum of gain on every stage.

    I don't understand how the noise figure works. I really need to learn this.

    Also noise floor is given in dBm/Hz for mixer, and in nV/√Hz for amplifiers. I don't know how to relate these values and I have to factor them in.

    P1dB for AD8338 is not specified in datasheet.

    If I had the math behind I can easily build online calculator for those things.

  • Reply Children