Marty KN0CK developed a very interesting v1.0 HF converter based on surface mount technology that fits inside the casing of an RTLSDR tuner dongle. He’s recently sent me schematics for the revision, which should offer even better performance!
This new iteration has a few major upgrades from the previous – an ESD protection diode on the input, and an optional Mini-Circuits MAR 8+ RF preamplifier which should really draw out some weak signals. Nice weather is coming up soon and once I have some free time, I’ll string up my long antenna – this should really pick out the weak shortwave signals I love hunting for.
Marty KN0CK sent me some details to publish about his great looking miniature HF upconverter board for the RTLSDR, the HF Alchemy DVB-T Active HF Upconverter. It’s an incredibly miniature SMT board with an SA612 mixer and SMT oscillator, and with some very careful soldering the entire board fits inside the housing and draws its power from the tuner’s USB port. The design upconverts at 120MHz, which is well out of the FM band to reduce the possibility of interference from strong local stations. A 40 MHz low-pass filter on the input further reduces interference. Marty reports it works GREAT!
I also had the opportunity to test an identical dongle and it was very easy to use. It requires a PAL adapter, but most of these dongles need an adapter and this one wasn’t difficult to locate; the integrated form factor is excellent. It’s very sensitive, a bit more-so than my other tuner module even, and the integrated form factor is perfect. It would be very easy to purchase an active USB extension cable and locate this integrated SDR in a shielded enclosure at your antenna’s feed point for even lower losses and versatility.
Update 1/28/2014: We’re up to Rev 5!
Thanks for sending this in, Marty!
Reader David Forsman, WA7JHZ, read the round-up of RTLSDR upconverter choices and sent me a photo and build schematic of one he designed which was featured in the January 2013 issue of QST, the ARRL‘s monthly magazine.
This circuit up-converts frequencies between 2.3 MHz and 43 MHz by 125 MHz (127.3 MHz to 168.0 MHz) for driving the Realtek RTL2832 quadrature decoder DVB-T device with Elonics E4000 tuner chip with USB 2.0 output. It also incorporates an input bandpass filter (BPF), diode limiter, RF attenuator, and amplifier.
The filter’s response curve:
David reported he’s built two of these up-converters with good sensitivity on 20 and 15 meters. I think I have all the parts except the crystal and coils to build this on hand, so this might be a good excuse to sting my antenna up again and try it out. Thanks David for sending this in!
[Full size schematic]