Ensemble RX Kit Build

Discussion in 'Homebrew and Kit Projects' started by AF6LJ, Jul 2, 2012.

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  1. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I was presented with an opportunity to build an software defined receiver from one of the generous hams here on the Zed. It is our hope to stimulate interest in kit building in the hobby. I have always enjoyed building kits, I built a number of Heathkits back in the day and this kit looks like an enjoyable build and (for me) a challenge considering there are some SM parts involved in the build. So join us for the journey over the next few days and at the end I should have a working receiver...

    First thing was to read the assembly manual through, making sure I understand each step and there is clarity of procedure. After that the tools needed for the build are set aside....
    The usual items are seen above pliers, soldering iron with a tip for the work at hand...
    my two magnifying loops one is a 10X which I use daily it has a dual lens one 2X one 5X then my dual loop that has 10X and 20X loops along with my monocular I use for most things at a distance beyond 18".. Solder Flux, etc...........

    Hopefully I am the only one who actually needs all this high powered magnifying stuff, in those three appliances there is tied up as much money as I paid for my IC-756 (two Killobucks). I have used dime store magnifying glasses but they are poorly ground, easily damaged and seldom come in a power that is usable for my daily use.

    So the next thing to do was take inventory of the parts, I did that last Friday afternoon and I sorted things into the Official AF6LJ anti-static parts storage containers.
    Yah okay the chip caps are not in a anti-static container....
    I took particular care not to loose the 3.3V regulator IC....
    I'll bet Pat is good at changing these, once he has them sorted out from the Pepper and the fly PooP.
    There is a cautionary note in the instructions not to install this part after the second cup of coffee. While my eyesight is crap my fine motor control is above average and I don't anticipate having too much trouble with this part....

    Murphy always manages to find a way into the best laid plans, I received calls from a couple of clients yesterday so this afternoon I will be off fixing computers.....
    Tomorrow I will begin the building process.....

    Stay tuned...........
    I can't wait to get started :)
  2. N0XL

    N0XL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for this. I'm very interested in trying something like this.

  3. K9FV

    K9FV Ham Member QRZ Page

    You'll enjoy building that and using it Sue - I've built several of the softrock SDRs over the years. I think the first was 3 or 4 yrs ago. The 4.3MoBo is really neat. They've really came a LONG way with the SDR rigs based around the first softrock.

    Have fun. 73 de Ken H>
  4. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I am enjoying putting it together, albeit with a degree of eye strain....
    And for those who don't know, I am legally blind and on a good day my vision is 20/300. I don't anticipate anybody with more or less normal vision and reasonably good fine motor control having much trouble....
  5. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    So today the build begins.
    I have finished both voltage regulators and tested the first one (+5V regulator)
    Here is the completed +5V regulator...

    This is straight forward assembly.
    I have a couple of habits held over from my work in manufacturing, I try not to have parts like resistors and diodes mounted flush to the board. If they get bumped they can crack.

    The 5V regulator was checked for shorts and power applied. The regulator was 100% functional...
    Next the USB power supply was built. I decided that I would tackle the hard part first...
    This is the fine motor control part...
    Patience pays off along with staying away from the coffee and not getting all anxious over a part that is small. What I did was to tin the pads first and place a tine drop of flux on each one with a toothpick. That was the tool I forgot to show above... Along with the box of caps in the kit when I photographed the inventory of parts...... :)

    After this I finished the rest of the USB power supply I'll post a picture tomorrow after I test it. For now it's time to rest my eyes and I will continue tomorrow.
  6. K9FV

    K9FV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sue, have you ever seen any better built instructions than Rob provides on his webpage? They are GREAT!!!

    With your vision any electronics is a challenge - you do good with it. My eyesight is ok (about 2.75+ for close up) and I use a stereo microscope for some of those tiny parts. Keep the post active with photos.

    73 de Ken H>
  7. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Those are great and after I post the test results and pictures (after clean up) of the USB power supply I will post some of the links he uses to bring the newcomers up to speed.
    They are great.
    If only Heath had color pictures and could publish their manuals on a Nook or a Kindle. :)
  8. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I good lesson to relearned today is to inspect your work carefully.
    I usually don't have a problem with that, except I overlooked an open connection on the 3.3V regulator IC this morning while testing. The ground lead wasn't making good contact and I had 4.5V coming out of my 3.3V regulator. fortunately after a little closer inspection I found the problem and fixed it.


    So there you have two working voltage regulators, next we move on to the local oscillator and control circuits. This will be a little more involved and we will actually be able to test the computer interface and have the first major parts of the receiver functional.
    And the parts get larger also. :)
    There are a number of videos linked in the assembly instructions and I will be linking them here and commenting on them as well.

    Stay tuned....
  9. AF9J

    AF9J Ham Member QRZ Page

    Looking good Sue! :cool:
  10. KB9LXP

    KB9LXP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice close up photos Sue, but if you would include a six inch wide finger tip by those extremely small parts for reference to give any newbie an inkling to if they would even want to tackle SMT projects.
    I just built a 30m Rock mite last winter. It has 1 SMT, and that scared me a bit.
    Thanks for sharing
  11. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    My parts inventory post shows the smallest part, that 3.3V voltage regulator.
    At first it can be a bit intimidating however patience and taking things slow and easy will always yield success.
    The soldering iron tip I am using is just a little bit large for the task, however it works fine and the real fine point tips besides being expensive have a short working life. In the next post I will give some idea as to the scale of the parts in the kit. I have plans for today and tomorrow and the next date with the receiver will be Sunday. Yesterday I did a computer hardware upgrade, this computer received a new solid state drive in order to have room for the software to power this project and to bring some of my radio related software out of their temporary storage location.

    Here is something for folks to look at between now and Sunday when I begin the build of the local oscillator and control circuit. there is a page full of useful information regarding building kits much of it applies to both this kit and just about anything else one might build these days in the way of a kit.


    Stay tuned......
  12. K9FV

    K9FV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey Sue - those SSD are neat aren't they? I got my first one a yr or so ago and WOW!!! they sure make a computer faster..... Well, while the processor might not do anything faster, the overall effect is nice.

    Keep up the good work - I enjoy SMD work - as long as it does not get smaller than 0804 size. That 0603 can be done, but the 0402? That stuff should be outlawed<:)

    73 de Ken H>
  13. K9FV

    K9FV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Dup post - too bad a dup can't be deleted.
  14. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The SSDs are really nice....

    As for SMT for me it's slow going however I do enjoy it. :)
  15. KD0CAC

    KD0CAC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sue , I am lost looking for this kit , the closest thing I see is the enclosures .
    I started with , Ensemble RX Kit Build ?
    Looks good other wise .
  16. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    This kit unfortunately has been discontinued.
    I think there is another receiver kit that replaces this one.
  17. KD0CAC

    KD0CAC Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's good & bad .
    Good that it wasn't there to find , rather than not being able to find :)
  18. WN6U

    WN6U Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is a link to the website for the SDR kits. You have to check for availability several times a day
    because they sell out fast. The replacement for the kit Sue is building is the SoftRock RX Ensemble II Receiver Kit.

  19. 4L4AGU

    4L4AGU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for photos!

    I was also considering to buy a such kit, but quickly discovered that it needs quite expensive soundcard, so total price may be same as some 2nd hand radio.
  20. K9FV

    K9FV Ham Member QRZ Page

    An expensive sound card is required for max performance, but the on-board sound card will work just fine for playing around to experience SDR. It's surprising how well a $20 SDR radio with onboard sound card will work.

    73 de Ken H>
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