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12 bucks and a handful of parts or Building and using the Soft Rock lite




 
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Author Topic: 12 bucks and a handful of parts or Building and using the Soft Rock lite  (Read 75703 times)
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W2INR
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« on: February 16, 2008, 09:12:05 AM »

Over the last few weeks I have been building and playing around with a Soft Rock Lite version 6.2.

The objective was to have the best of both worlds. A great boat anchor radio that performed like the best of todays radios being produced at less than the thousands one must spend to get the signals off the airwaves. So I purchased a Softrock 6.2 lite for the 455 IF of the r390a.

I had some reservations because I have never worked with surface mount components (SMT). There are 4 chips and a dozen .1 caps that are SMT. The rest of the components are standard stuff and there are two toroids that need to be wound up.

I must admit that with a good magnifying lamp and a good grounded soldering iron the assembly was very easy.

 There are few tricks that Bill KA8WTK gave me that made the smt part of the project easy and in less than 1 hour I had mounted all the smt components. The rest of the components were placed and soldered in place and I had a populated circuit board in less than 2 hours.

All that was left was two coil I needed to wind and frankly that took more time than the rest of the project only because I wanted the coils to be perfect and  I took my time. I will say after winding the first one which took about 40 minutes the second one was done in about half the time.

I downloaded the Flex SDR software which has a selection for the Softrock and fired up the circuit and  bingo we had a working device.

I now have a very nice R390a that has all the capabilities of todays radios and it cost me $12.00. I now have Synchronous AM, LSB, USB, DRM , Digital L and Digital U.  All coming from a radio that didn't even know this stuff existed when it was built. Good stuff.

I spoke with Tony Parks (Softrock) and he can make a Softrock lite for any IF. I know a few people that have ordered a few for various radios and if's they have.

So if you want to play around with the SDR stuff this is a cheap and easy way to do it while enhancing your boat anchors performance and capabilities.

The attached image is a shot of the SDR software using the new Softrock lite . I am listening to Nick KG2IR as you can see on the pan adapter.

If you decide to do this or need any help send me an email and I will try to help you on this cool little project.

G



* SRLITEINR.JPG (156.24 KB, 1051x794 - viewed 835 times.)
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G - The INR

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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2008, 09:15:57 AM »

Quote
12 bucks and a handful of parts

Gary thanks for the user/builder report.

When I first heard people talking about this unit, it struck me the same way as the magic of external synchronous detector boxes like the Sherwood, below.

My friend dating back to high school, Chuck Rippel, WA4HHG, showed me the extraordinary performance the Sherwood brought to his R390A. Chuck,  many here will know, is the unchallenged leader in the repair and restoration of the R390A, so his testimonial carried great weight.

But, while quite innovative when I saw it a dozen years ago, the Sherwood offered primarily just that one function, synch detection, and then at about $400a the benefit was not that powerful for me.

This latest external unit, if only I had the time to build one, sure sounds like a winner.

aManufacturer's price now $569.



http://www.sherweng.com/interfac.html


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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2008, 10:35:56 AM »

Gary,

You have us at an advantage...

No idea what the hardware is that you're talkin' about!
The kit?
The software?
How about a link to it?
Google has not been terribly helpful so far...

Sounds exciting.

                 _-_-bear

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KF1Z
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« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2008, 10:48:40 AM »

http://www.amqrp.org/kits/softrock40/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/softrock40


or google   softrock40
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WA3VJB
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« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2008, 10:52:23 AM »

http://ewjt.com/kd5tfd/sdr1k-notebook/sr40/v6-pics/index.html

http://www.elektor.com/magazines/2007/may/software-defined-radio.91527.lynkx?gclid=CIHeqYSIyZECFQGzGgodJ3Zj3A


http://www.cliftonlaboratories.com/softrock_lite_6_2.htm
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W2INR
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« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2008, 10:54:15 AM »

Sorry Bear

The links Bruce and Paul  posted were for the TX/RX . The kits are single band boards.

The Lite is a single board receiver only

When using the lite from an IF you get all bands /any frequency you can tune from the receiver front end!! One Boards all bands  - - - -- $12.00  Nice

 All you need to do is email Tony and let him know the IF you need to us. Paypal 12 and in three days build it.

The photos below are the Softrock Lite.

Here is a link that may help.

G
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/softrock40/message/7846


* 1241810743_b00afbd3db.jpg (124.59 KB, 500x375 - viewed 780 times.)

* 1242691812_b0d1bb705c.jpg (130.91 KB, 500x375 - viewed 776 times.)
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G - The INR

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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2008, 10:55:59 AM »

Hi Gary,

Did you order it from this site?  

http://amqrp.org/kits/softrock40/version5.html 

This is for the latest version of the receiver.

I'm looking for a source for the RXTXv6.1 SoftRock QRP transceiver.

73,
Ellen - AF9J
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W2INR
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« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2008, 11:07:26 AM »

Ellen I have the 6.2 version which is the latest SoftRock Lite version . Just email Tony and he will give you the ordering info. I did not order from that site.

==raparks@ctcisp.com==    (remove = signs)

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G - The INR

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« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2008, 11:09:31 AM »

Here's a link to the most recent ordering information, with product info for all models.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/softrock40/message/17011

- JT
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KF1Z
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« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2008, 11:10:11 AM »

The "main site" for the softrock kits is the yahoo groups....


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/softrock40

BUT, it can be difficult to sort out what is what....

The best place I found for current info is:

http://www.softrockradio.org/node/1



Purchasing Information

The SoftRocks kits may now be ordered via PayPal to raparks @ ctcisp.com (remove spaces around the "@").

Or by mailing a check or money order to:

Tony Parks
1344 E 750
N Springport, IN 47386





I've built about a dozen of these kits so far... most of them the "IF" kits...
And several  transciever kits.....

A lot of people want them... but don't want to try to solder them together themselves!

They are a FINE entry level SDR kit..... and fun, once you get your mind around how, and WHY they work!



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N1ESE
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2008, 11:16:20 AM »

KF1Z or Gary

What would be a good way to get coverage on the Lite units up to the AM portion of the bands if one doesn't already have an IF source.  Out of the box, the 80M versions are down around 3.504 to 3.552 MHz.
 
- JT
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W2INR
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2008, 11:17:33 AM »

You are right Bruce, perfect entry level stuff for SMT.

I can say that after I soldered my first cap in place I knew that I could do it and it wasn't all that hard.

Again for the price and the performance it really is a no brainer

G
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G - The INR

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« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2008, 11:19:59 AM »

JT ,


You have a radio and it has IF's. You could just find a pick off point run a wire out of the radio and hookup. You would just need to determine the IF frequency.
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G - The INR

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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2008, 11:20:55 AM »

KF1Z or Gary

What would be a good way to get coverage on the Lite units up to the AM portion of the bands if one doesn't already have an IF source.  Out of the box, the 80M versions are down around 3.504 to 3.552 MHz.
 
- JT

JT,

I used a NorCal DDS  to replace the oscillator that comes on the unit...
(On my RX/TX)

That gave me full coverage of 75/80 meters....

You can do the same with crystals..... but you are limited to 24 and 48khz depending on your soundcard....

Also, a little tweak of the input xformer could be done to improve things at the 3.885 area...
But not necessary .


If you get one, email or PM me and I'll give you more details.

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KF1Z
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« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2008, 11:22:41 AM »

JT ,


You have a radio and it has IF's. You could just find a pick off point run a wire out of the radio and hookup. You would just need to determine the IF frequency.


Right for the kit we're talking about.....

But JT doesn't HAVE a receiver yet!


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W2INR
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« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2008, 11:27:07 AM »

Yes good point Bruce.

I can see this getting confusing.

I just want to be clear to all that I built the Lite which is a receiver only(single band stand alone) but by using the IF they will go anywhere your receiver goes.


If I can help anyone please PM or email me
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G - The INR

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« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2008, 11:30:19 AM »

Ok,

let me try to understand this thing... probably this ought to be in the Technical Section...


the receiver is usually a direct conversion receiver. A xtal or some other rather high freq synthesizer source determines the receive frequency. In your case Gary, you've got the receive frequency set for "455kc".

Do I have this right?

Now, my question is don't you have to take the 455kc right after the mixer, and before the IF cans, if you want to have the spectrum analyzer feature work in a useful fashion? Otherwise, I'd think that taking the output after all or most of the IF cans & filters would yield the highest performance if you want the thing to listen through?? Once you run through the IF, you've got the selectivity of the IF section and that will be shown on the spectrum display.

Do I have any of this correct?

And, the other question is just how much computer does this thing take to run, and what OS's?? Seems to me that if you have to buy a $300+ computer to run it, it starts to look less attractive cash-wise?

Oh on the site: http://www.cliftonlaboratories.com/softrock_lite_6_2.htm
he talks about problems with the 0.1ufd blocking cap on the audio output. Scratching my head as to why he doesn't make the cap larger, or strap a an opamp follower on the ouput and get rid of the problem and all that transformer testing...??  Roll Eyes


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« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2008, 11:30:36 AM »

Right for the kit we're talking about.....
But JT doesn't HAVE a receiver yet!
Yeah, sorry for the confusion Gary.
 
Bruce, yeah.. please PM me any additional details.  This may be a good way for me to get a RX on the air while I save for a really nice AM receiver instead of settling for something mediocre at best for now.
 
- JT
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W2INR
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« Reply #18 on: February 16, 2008, 11:46:22 AM »

Quote
the receiver is usually a direct conversion receiver. A xtal or some other rather high freq synthesizer source determines the receive frequency. In your case Gary, you've got the receive frequency set for "455kc".

That is correct Bear. You can buy as an direct conversion receiver but your limited unless you get the DDS Bruce mentioned or you can have Tony design you a IF model for whatever IF you may have and then be multi band.

In my situation I  had an 455 IF off the back of the r390a so I just wrote to Tony and asked for a 455 IFmodel. He just has a different tuned  circuit for whatever IF you may need.  Mine is 455 so you can see the 455 in the frequency box on the software. I just turn the dial on the R390 and the rest is done through DSP in the software.

As far as the .1 blocking cap ? I have no clue . This little board I have worked perfectly and I have no problems with the audio -- it sounds great.

In reality I am sure all the "experts " could punch holes in this little board but for the cost and the improved performance I could care less. It is just a fun little project .

I just loaded the SDR software on my existing computer Bear. It works fine and there are several different software programs for this board so i am sure you could find one that will work with your existing computer. Bill KA8WTK is really a better expert on this stuff and I am sure he will chime in hear when he gets back form the hamfest he went to this morning.

For me I just bought, built, and used this great little board. I leaned how to solder SMT and wind toroids.  Good schtuff sonny!!

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G - The INR

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« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2008, 11:50:43 AM »

I don't see a thing wrong with this...Adapt improvise and make do...Sounds like Amateur Radio to me...Good Job... Smiley
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KF1Z
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« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2008, 11:51:29 AM »

Bear...

Yup....  direct conversion RX with the osc freq running at 4X the receive freq, through a quadrature detector...


You need to determine where to pick of the IF for best performance...
Sometimes mods to the receiver are needed....


You don't need a super-computer to run it...
And just about ANY stock soundcard is sufficient.


As for the site you mentioned....
Looks to me like a case of someone taking what is meant to be a simple, ENTRYLEVEL kit......
And OVERANALYZING  the bejeezus out of it.


As Tony stated.... it is NOT going to give you the performance of a commercially built SDR, like the Flexradio.
It is meant to give you a little taste of software defined radio, with a useable, homebuilt kit.






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AF9J
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« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2008, 11:55:29 AM »

Gary - W2INR & Bruce KF1Z,

Thanks for the order info on the RxTX V6.2. Smiley

73,
Ellen - AF9J
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« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2008, 11:57:17 AM »

What Bruce said -- -

All I can add is that it works great and the SAM is worth the adventure.  Wth e filter and DSP I can hear stations I can't hear on the r390a alone!
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« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2008, 12:00:57 PM »

Hmm, a simple DC receiver for 75M shouldn't be too hard to build for use with the Softrock Lite.

- JT
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N1ESE
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« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2008, 12:04:23 PM »

Although changing the crystals to 15.36 MHz crystals should, when divided by 4, give a center frequency of about 3.84 MHz. 

- JT
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