KL7R Memorial Receiver Experiments


This web page is a memorial to Mike Caughran, KL7R, who died suddenly in January 2007. Mike was a passionate experimenter who was embraced by the homebrew radio electronics community. He was best known as the co-creator of and sidekick to Bill Meara, M0HBR on the podcast Solder Smoke. Mike was a hardcore science and technology buff. His knowledge of general science and curiosity about minimalist RF designs was amazing. I worked Mike on 40 and 80 meter CW and later by voice on eQSO. Mike was the first person to refer to this web site as the "popcorn site". He held an interest in digital circuits. In tribute to Mike, a series of receiver experiments which includes some digital circuits are presented. Mike Caughran will be remembered as a remarkable, kind and passionate homebuilder.


There are 3 linked web pages associated with this KL7R tribute web page.

  1. 1. Mike's personal web page  His own web page memorializes him best
  2. 2. Supplemental web page  Additional schematics and photos which supplement this main web page
  3. 3. VFO web page  Describes the VFOs used for these experiments

My special thanks to Wes, W7ZOI for his coaching and suggestions to improve many of the circuits on this web page. This web page borrows heavily from his designs as presented in EMRFD.

Receiver Description

Receiver block diagram

Shown above is the receiver block diagram. The KL7R memorial receiver depicted on this web page is the final output of many hours of experimentation. Most of the circuits or circuit ideas originated in EMRFD.
From our conversations, Mike was always challenging himself; experimenting, testing and pushing his knowledge threshold. The joy of discovery motivated him. Fired by his spirit of inquiry, I explored methods to build a receiver containing at least 1 digital circuit. On many days, I accomplished nothing. The circuits did not work and little to no progress was made. These were the difficult dry spells all experimenters must endure. Design and circuit failures can be very disheartening. I also wasted a lot of parts. However, I kept going and slowly successes occurred and my confidence rose. The end result was a little more knowledge and a cool, popcorn, direct conversion receiver which I hope will provide ideas and inspiration for your own experiments.

Double Tuned Band-pass Filter

Figure 1 shows the front end band-pass filter.  If you can't obtain a 3.3 pF coupling capacitor, try this other 7 MHz band-pass filter circuit or perhaps just design your own. See the Webmaster's page for information concerning many of the parts used on this web page.

Shown above is a photograph of the Figure 1 breadboard. The inductors were spaced apart at right angles to reduce unwanted coupling. The copper clad board L-C tank divider is not necessary. The 51 ohm load resistor seen to the right was removed after testing.

Shown above is a GLPA simulation of the Figure 1 band-pass filter.  Хорошо.

Product Detector Experiments

Shown above in Figure 2 is the BJT driver, D flip-flop and the CMOS switch product detector. The 14 MHz VFO connects to Q1 via a 0.1 uF coupling capacitor that is shown on the VFO schematic. A dual FET bus switch (CBT3306) serves as the product detector. The on-resistance of this switch is only around 3 ohms! If you are ambitious, you might try using a 14 pin SOIC switch such as the QUAD FET SN74CBT3125DR with 2 pairs of the 4 switches wired in parallel. I tried 3 different CMOS switches in the U2 slot. The other switches were the MAX4066CPD and a 74HC4053 (wired up appropriately using their datasheets). The insertion loss and performance of these 2 switches was disappointing. My bench standard for comparison was a 7 dBm diode ring mixer. Numerous experiments were performed. For example, I tried running the 4066 at 12 volts VCC to minimize its on-resistance and had to modify most of Figure 2 as well. Being new to digital, blending 5 volt and 12 volt logic IC required great effort to get it working properly. These experiments consumed the better part of 2 days. My conclusion was that if you are going to go to the trouble of make a CMOS switch work, you might as well use a part that has a low on-resistance. Hence, I have since abandoned using DIP IC CMOS switches (4053, 4052, 4066 etc.) as mixers and product detectors. They may still be a good choice in your own context.

The CBT3306 is outstanding and very similar to the diode ring mixer with respect to insertion loss and audio quality as a product detector. There are some other good CMOS switches you might try. I chose the CBT3306 because it was SOIC (the largest of the common SMT topologies), costs only 77 cents (Canadian dollars) and only has 8 pins to deal with. Pragmatism on the workbench is always good!

SMT versus VE7BPO

The difficulty with using the CBT3306 was that I had to learn about and equip for SMT. I ordered the switches and after their arrival, hesitated to do anything with them for 5 days. I managed to borrow a magnifier and bought a SOIC prototype board and some flux. Still, I seemed to be paralyzed with fear about soldering U2. I was stuck. For inspiration, I went back to Mike's web site and found this web page. Here Mike was working with a 18 pin SOIC chip and I was worried about a mere 8 pin IC!  Part of the problem was my relatively poor eyesight. I learned this can be managed with a magnifying visor. I bought mine here , but only after U2 was soldered in. The borrowed table magnifier was okay, but constrained arm movement and reduced lighting. The visor seems to be a better choice.

Shown above is the CBT3306 soldered on my prototype board. I put flux on the board traces and then tinned them. Following that, I lined up U2s leads on the traces and began soldering. The bottom pins (pins 1-4) did not go well, but they were soldered all the same. Following that, the soldering of pins 5-8 went very well. I was very happy; the SMT monster had been tamed! It was learned from Wes, W7ZOI that many builders use Surfboards for SOIC applications. I will get some for future SMT IC work. Using SMT parts in your Ugly Construction allows you to use parts which are unavailable otherwise. Increasingly, good old DIP ICs are disappearing from catalogs and some new parts are appearing as SMT only. It makes sense to jump in and use SMT parts when it is advantageous for spec reasons, or if miniaturization is required.

With some effort, the Figure 2 circuit could be morphed into Colin, G3SBI's H-mode mixer format. Not on this web site though! If you Google "H-mode mixer" , many good websites will be returned.

The product detector's baseband audio output is at the 47 uF capacitor which connects to Q1 of Figure 3. A simple 51 ohm, low pass network is used to terminate U2. This is from W7EL's An Optimized QRP Transceiver from QST for Aug 1980. I have some more information regarding AF termination circuits on this web page. You may wish to increase the 170 uH inductor value somewhat to get more low pass filtering. The product detector circuit is the number one potential source of hum and noise in this receiver. Take the time to plan your layout to minimize wire length and crossing and provide some physical symmetry. Decouple well.

Shown above is the product detector. At this point, I had not decide how to terminate U2 and had soldered a shunt 0.1 uF cap and 51 ohm resistor to the switch output. U2 is dwarfed by the FT37-43 toroid; a part we normally think of as small in size.

Figure 3. Photographs of the FET bus switches I have in my collection and the pin-out for the 14 pin CBT3125

A diode ring mixer was used as a reference mixer in the product detector experiments.

Audio Amplifier Chain

Shown in Figure 4 is the audio preamp and first low pass filter. Direct conversion receivers are all about audio. High performance DC receivers have become more common since Rick, KK7B unleashed his R1 on the world in 1992. High performance receivers are out of scope for this popcorn website, however, this design is welcome. The entire audio chain uses low-cost 5532 op amps, cheap BJTs, plus fairly common resistor and capacitor values. Poly"something" capacitors were used for all audio AC coupling and shunting capacitors of 4.7 uF or less.

For hum immunity, the familiar BJT capacitive multiplier popularized by Roy, W7EL was used at Q2. Using a high-end spectrum analyzer, Wes, W7ZOI demonstrated that this circuit can oscillate. He detected oscillations at UHF. Thus, Wes recommended using a 100 ohm snubber resistor on the Q2 collector to alleviate these parasitic oscillations. Additionally, 2 diodes were added in parallel to the 100K base resistor. This provides an instant-on feature for the audio preamp, as normally there is a time-constant delay when you switch on the receiver. I like this feature, but it is purely optional.

Q1 is a common base amp biased for 0.54 mA. Therefore, the input impedance is 26/0.54 or about 48 ohms. The 6K8 + 2K2 collector resistors were paralleled so that the quiescent collector voltage was close to 6.1 volts. You could also substitute a single 9K1 resistor, although this is an uncommon value. This voltage provides the approximate VCC/2 bias needed for U1a and U1b. Connecting the Q1 collector directly to the pin 3 op-amp input allows the exclusion of a coupling capacitor and the usual VCC/2 resistor network used to bias the 5532 op-amp from a single power supply. I borrowed this from EMRFD.

The gain of U1 is set by the resistor labeled Rg1. If after testing, the AF gain is too high (for example if this AF stage was used in a superheterodyne receiver), simply lower this resistor value. I chose a 22K ohm resistor to allow enough gain for weak signal listening. On louder stations, you will need to lower the volume control to prevent distortion in the stages that follow as overall, there is a lot of gain in this AF chain. Adjust the Rg1 value to suit your needs. If you use a switch such as a 4052 for U2, or your receive antenna is small, you may want to increase this resistor a little for more gain. This is an experimenter's receiver after all.  The 0.0022 uF capacitor in the op-amp feedback loop provides a single pole of low pass filtering. I ran this capacitor as high as 0.0082 uF. This gave a theoretical 3 dB cutoff frequency of ~ 880 Hz, but the receiver lost its sizzle. Experimentally, I learned that using a 0.0022 uF feedback capacitor on both U1A and U2A dropped some of the high frequency noise while preserving some sparkle in the received audio.

The audio preamp chain is concluded with a 750 Hz low-pass filter. Resistor values were kept low to minimize noise. All the active low pass filters are low Q, Sallen-Key designs with a Butterworth response. They are stable, easily scalable and brain-dead simple. These filters are fatigueless due to their gentle cut off slope. I actually had a 0.30 uF capacitor in my parts collection, although it was a 600 volt rated part from my tube amp parts bag. You could use two 0.15 uF capacitor in parallel or just substitute a 0.33 uF capacitor. If you can't find a 500 ohm volume control potentiometer, swap in whatever you have, but try to keep the resistance low.

In Figure 5, the remaining preamplifier stage and low-pass filters are shown. Rg2 was chosen for the same reason as Rg1 in Figure 4. Please experiment with these values. The low pass filter stages are scaled up by a factor of 10 as resistance values are less critical at this point in the audio chain. You could use the same resistor and capacitor values used in the first low-pass filter or use the Figure 5 values for all of the low-pass filters. Very often, our parts collections dictate how we experimenters design and build circuits.

Figure 6 is the power amplifier schematic. Apart from field portable transceivers where headphones are used to save battery power, I exclusively listen to my receivers via a loudspeaker. This safely allows the exclusion of AGC circuits. You may have noticed that AGC circuits have not been presented on this web site. I rarely use them. The extensive VCC decoupling in Figure 6 is needed in this high gain AF chain. The 1 ohm emitter resistors in the finals invite instability, but were tamed with the 10 ohm / 0.1 uF low pass filter. My original design called for 2.2 ohm emitter resistors, but none were available. This final amplifier is moderately loud and very quiet. When it was first built (the AF chain was built backwards), you could not tell it was on when no signal was applied. With no antenna connected to this receiver and the volume on full, there is only a little noise. This is a good way to test a receiver AF chain for noise. Speaker choice is also important. Speakers of a greater power rating and size sound better; especially when mounted in a wooden cabinet.

Biasing power amps has been discussed extensively on this web site. Ensure you measure and record your quiescent DC voltages as shown in Figure 6. If you hear cross over distortion or the quiescent voltage between the bases of the paralleled final transistors is less than 1.25 volts, try decreasing the 6K8 resistor to 5K6 ohms.

The final preamp breadboard is shown above.  You can tell by all the grunge and the solder marks, that many different configurations were trialed. Despite looking haggard, the AF chain is quiet and does not hum nor detect broadcast radio.

Shown above is an early breadboard of Figure 6. In this version, the volume control was at the input and a voltage divider network was wired to pin 5 to provide VCC/2 bias. Testing with an audio signal generator, a tape player and other sources were performed. Later, the biasing resistors and the potentiometer were removed and the Figure 5 stage was added to the copper clad board and tested.

Final Thoughts

We are remembered best by those whom we affect. Certainly Mike's unique perspective and enthusiasm inspired me to dig deeper into this hobby. I asked Bill, M0HBR, for a quote to conclude this web page. Bill wrote this: "Just last week somebody was asking me for background info on Mike's DSB modification of the Heath HW-8... I think it is a real tribute to Mike that years after his passing, hams around the world are still talking about him fondly, still visiting his web site, still following his lead on homebrew radio projects. Certainly among the 3,000 + listeners of the SolderSmoke podcast, Mike is present in spirit every time a soldering iron is heated up." Thank you Bill.

My heartfelt regards to Mike's family.