Author Topic: School spectrum analyzer project.  (Read 4367 times)

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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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School spectrum analyzer project.
« on: March 22, 2024, 06:21:55 pm »
Hi, I am wondering if anyone knows any good sources for making spectrum analyzers. I looked at my local library and all I could find were some basic electronics 101 books.

I don't necessarily need sources that explain how a spectrum analyzer works, but rather maybe you can point me towards sources that explain the design of the things used in such devices such as voltage controlled oscillators, IF filters, mixers, and so on.

This is for a school project. In freshman year in my HS, we do something called a personal project that lasts about 8 months until sophomore year. We research, think about, and do our project. This could be baking, making a guillotine (yes someone made that in a previous year), or making a robot to help victims of forest fires get to safety. I chose to make an analog swept front end spectrum analyzer. I plan to make this work in a Tektronix 5110 mainframe.

Anyway, I'm just a bit under educated on how certain things work. I am quite familiar with electronics, It's just that I can't find any good sources that explain in great understandable detail on how certain things work. All I know about a VCO is that a varidiode will change it's capacitance based on the voltage applied to it, and we can use that to make a VCO. I'm also a bit confused on how the hell a logarithmic amplifier works.

My goal is to make a spectrum analyzer work with a bandwidth of 0-10MHz.

My basic understanding of a swept front end spectrum analyzer is that it is just a superhederodyne AM receiver with wider bandwidth and can tune across a number of frequencies really fast.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2024, 02:00:09 am by BlownUpCapacitor »
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Offline CaptDon

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2024, 06:52:26 pm »
There is a VCO in the CMOS 40XX series that is good for a swept VCO. Very linear. Sadly, I forget the number. You'll need a good balanced mixer. making the front end track the local oscillator + or - your I.F. frequency is a bit of a trick. Going 0 to 10MHz may be far more challenging than going from perhaps 5MHz to 10MHz where you are only going one octave and not several decades. Coming off your balanced mixer you may want a crystal filter to keep some of the junk out of your I.F. strip. Log amplifiers have been around since the radars of the WWII. They usually involve the log function of a small signal diode. We used the non-linear characteristics in the S.T.C. Sensitivity Time Control because the strength of the echo diminishes as the square of the distance so the gain starts out low for close in echos and advances to max gain over time through a non-linear function. Remember in your analyzer that High-Q narrow bandwidth circuits take time to 'ring up' like trying to accelerate a heavy weight on a pendulum and then have the nasty habit of continuing to ring which is the quality factor of the Q, sharp peak, low loss. Point being 'if you sweep to fast across a band of frequencies the I.F. won't have time to properly respond. That is why the old tube type analyzers swept slow and used the same sort of long persistence phosphors like the radar scopes to get a usable readable trace at 1 to 5 sweeps per second. Of course, now it is all digital storage and LCD screens.
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Offline MasterT

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2024, 09:34:28 pm »
Very time consuming and very complicated.  Better alternative is arduino + some RF IC, like si4732-a10 or similar.
 
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2024, 10:29:32 pm »
There is a VCO in the CMOS 40XX series that is good for a swept VCO.

Thanks, I'll look into that.

Coming off your balanced mixer you may want a crystal filter to keep some of the junk out of your I.F. strip.

Yes, I'm planning to use 3 stages of standard 455kHz IF transformers and a crystal filter to improve selectivity.

Point being 'if you sweep to fast across a band of frequencies the I.F. won't have time to properly respond. That is why the old tube type analyzers swept slow and used the same sort of long persistence phosphors like the radar scopes to get a usable readable trace at 1 to 5 sweeps per second. Of course, now it is all digital storage and LCD screens.

Slow sweep speeds won't be an issue for me. I can use a storage CRT scope such as the Tek 7613 or Tek 314.

Very time consuming and very complicated.  Better alternative is arduino + some RF IC, like si4732-a10 or similar.

I don't want to do something as simple as that. I already know like 4 people who are doing an arduino project where they use specialized pre-built devices, almost like a kit. I like to keep things as discrete and jellybean as possible.

Plus I have 8 months to do this, so plenty of time.
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Offline LaserSteve

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2024, 12:08:33 am »
No one expects you to build this, but you can Learn from the Master:

https://lea.hamradio.si/~s53mv/spectana/sa.html

This was popular:

https://www.robkalmeijer.nl/techniek/electronica/radiotechniek/hambladen/qst/1985/11/page23/index.html

The must have books for a beginner in RF:

Experimental Methods in RF Design, Bob Larkin, Rick Campbell, and Wes Hayward

Has a full Spectrum Analyzer design that is very good and inexpensive. Covers home made crystal filters well, at levels from beginner to advanced. Covers VCO design and  Preamp / IF /RF amplifiers from DC to 2 Ghz  Its a great book, but it has doubled in price recently, for an 8 month school project it's perfect.. Try to find it used or on inter-library loan. Goes into the theory and design  of every receiver circuit element without high order math from a amateurs' radio point of view.  Learn what is in that book and have a good start on a career.  I think of it as a book that you'd have to pry from my cold, dead, hands...

But NOT dumbed down like the ARRL Handbook, of which OLDER like 1980s-1990s editions are a good read...

Navy NEETS, the full set... Free from the US Navy...

Art of Electronics, Volume one, Winfield Hill..  Probably can find a PDF on-line.

You need this chart eventually:

https://www.minicircuits.com/app/DG03-111.pdf

You need this chart now...
https://www.minicircuits.com/app/AN40-012.pdf

_-------------------------------------------------------

You will eventually need the circuit in figure 6 of this:

https://interferencetechnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WyattArticle.pdf

Also make it with a 1 Mhz TTL Crystal oscillator

-----------------------------------------------------

Print out copies and download the images on this page:

https://techlib.com/electronics/detect.htm

You'll need a rudimentary RF voltmeter, the above page is it.  Dr. Wenzel made that page  for me way back when I was building a SA, like two decades ago. Its accurate.

You'll need attenuators:

https://www.qsl.net/z33t/rf_step_attenuator_eng.html

Eventually you will want a Ebay "DDS" frequency  synthesizer for testing and measuring resolution and level.

For RF under 200 Mhz or so, Manhatten Style PC construction  is great for beginners:

https://qrpme.com/docs/K7QO%20Manhattan.pdf

Snag some Analog Devices inc  RF log Amps and Detectors...  Their web site is a treasure trove for a beginner

Like these:, https://www.ebay.com/itm/166352071945?itmmeta=01HSMAM3EZGBGHTD6ZKK80N4PH&hash=item26bb5b2d09:g:rKgAAOSwKsFlFLEN&itmprp=enc%3AAQAJAAAA0EISSxez%2BBTXxKGsQFea8desWappsYYsz%2FnSnqNuzInJ8rr5A7OGWcg3xPL%2FHpJR4dAm3Ezj8EkPOLlidRfntmKKk7I%2FWGWCvFcJ2igsyf%2B6TpSgfCKaS10YeTcw3xzvehi4yjheZn3BaIzCvwXZfz1hoCE7%2BY0F9ssrStos%2Br5CdiobDBIDMEkeyRosjBwnX%2F85%2F5kv1USYFyMoSdK%2BaaL7hUWOVaYX0PMfy6i7v4hcfuro2xEOhwjxUXHP4Ai3pDlPypm9u8Bz%2B13hzrqujMU%3D%7Ctkp%3ABk9SR9S30IrNYw

There are other varients.

Shop Class:   Interdigital filters are a key part in High End Spectrum Analyzers with High Side IFs for greater performance. This is a Java calculator that helps you make them:

https://www.changpuak.ch/electronics/interdigital_bandpass_filter_designer.php 

Can be made with hand  saw, file, taps, and drill, but have your parents permission before using power tools and have supervision.



This program, you may need later:  http://www.hp.woodshot.com/   One of my favorite tricks with Appcad is to turn hobby shop brass tubing  into  Solid Coax Cables  and RF fittings such as cased diode detectors.

https://www.broadcom.com/info/wireless/appcad  Also hosted at Broadcom...


Lastly:  www.minicircuits.com 
www.rfparts.com
 www.amplifiedparts.com  (Great Knobs)
https://www.rf-microwave.com/en/home/ (Italy, but ships to US)
www.mcmaster.com  = Hardware treasure trove.

Steve
















« Last Edit: March 23, 2024, 12:55:52 am by LaserSteve »
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Online mawyatt

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2024, 12:54:56 am »
Sounds like we have an up and coming future stellar Scientist/Engineer in the making :clap:

Quite a project for freshman college student, much less a HS student, so hats off for taking this on :-+

Lots of good advice and info sources above.

If you want to get somewhat lost in just a small section of the SA circuitry, look deeply into Log Amps, especially the more modern Successive Detection Types. We've utilized this concept often in IC design, even directly at very high frequencies.

Good luck and please keep us posted on your project!!!

Best,
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Offline LaserSteve

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2024, 01:02:06 am »
BUC, I'm done with updating my post. Good Luck..  Rf takes patience, and a lifetime of learning.  Enjoy...  I'll keep an eye on the thread.

"What the devil kind of Engineer are thou, that canst not slay a hedgehog with your naked arse?"
 
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2024, 06:47:17 am »
Just a quick question that I probably already know the answer to; will these relays shown in the image be good for 10MHz? I would assume they would suffice, but I am discouraged by the complex attenuation system I see in low bandwidth scopes such as my Tek SC502 and Tek 5A18. The 5A18 is only 2 MHz and looks more sophisticated than what I was planning with these relays.

The black relay is some kind of random relay I got out of a microwave oven, and the orange one is from the surplus of relays I used to build my CW transceiver. I'm not a total stranger to RF. And yes I have an amateur license. I bought these off amazon and they're advertised as signal relays. The transceiver works fine at 3.579546MHz and 7.1MHz with "faster?" (is that the correct word?) crystals. SOOOOO I would assume the relays work fine at 10MHz???

My plan for this project is to follow this very rough road map. First, research and gain knowledge, start thinking about what I need for this project and if they would work well in it, design something, make a prototype, improve the prototype, make it look nice, design PCBs, get physical PCBs, 3D print a nice housing, assemble, showcase my project next year, done.
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Offline Bud

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Offline geggi1

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2024, 10:09:32 am »
i believe the "Experimental methods in RF Design" spectrum analyzer is the best option.
By adding some modern components you will be able simplify the device.
Add a DDS, Arduino and a Logamp (AD8307) you will be able to have a digital control and use a laptop as the display instead of a oscilloscope.
 
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Offline TimFox

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2024, 03:33:10 pm »
A couple of books, repeated from my post to a different thread about SAs:

Two useful reference books about the previous generation of swept-spectrum SAs with digital control and analog processing (ca. 1990) with examples from Tektronix.
(1) M Engelson Modern Spectrum Analyzer Measurements JMS, 1991;  Practical uses.
(2) M Engelson Modern Spectrum Analyzer Theory and Applications Artech House, 1984;  More mathematical background than (1).
« Last Edit: March 23, 2024, 05:16:23 pm by TimFox »
 
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Offline RoGeorge

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2024, 04:31:35 pm »
Look in the Tektronix 'Circuit Concepts' series, too, i.e.:

Spectrum Analyzer Circuits by Morris Engelson (1969)
https://w140.com/tekwiki/images/5/53/062-1055-00.pdf

Offline jonpaul

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2024, 10:54:18 pm »
see mini-circuts for amps. attn,  mixers, VCO for  RF/VHF,UHF  bands,

https://www.minicircuits.com/

Use attenuators and protection, since   mixers and front ends  are  prone blow out if overloaded.


Jon
« Last Edit: March 24, 2024, 02:49:01 pm by jonpaul »
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Offline cncjerry

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2024, 01:15:58 pm »
I have a bunch of analyzers and recently bought an MMS but building Scotty's looked like fun, so maybe 5yrs ago, I bought a complete set of extra boards, all done by Osh, from a friend.  He built it and really likes it.   I doubt i will ever build it, but having the boards is a motivator.
 

Offline NiHaoMike

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2024, 02:27:16 pm »
If you can change the range to about 50-800MHz, you can modify an old TV tuner. http://www.gbppr.net/wireless/appendixF.html#9

Or mod a cheap RTL-SDR. There's software to use a RTL-SDR as a spectrum analyzer, but the latency of the frequency select makes sweeps very slow. If you could have a microcontroller take care of the sweeping and somehow sync the data capture to it, it can work much faster.
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Offline kimballa

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2024, 04:28:12 pm »
What an ambitious project! I think that's a pretty cool challenge to take on. Good luck!

I would definitely advise you to buy a VCO IC. I built my own analog VCO and that alone took 6 months to get right. You can do it, but you have bigger integration projects to focus on.

There's an SSM chip that will do that for you. I forget the number.

Typically for a VCO you want one volt of input control voltage to double the frequency it outputs. This means an exponential conversion of f_out = 2^(Vin). That's where the expo /log converter comes in. This is the tricky part of a discrete VCO to build. It's a very sensitive circuit, needs temperature compensation, etc.

VCO ICs should have one built in so you can just input a 1V/octave control signal and it takes it from there.

There's a community of DIY music synthesizer folks online. VCOs and amplifiers is what it's all about. If you search for "DIY synth" or "sdiy" you will find a lot of resources including open source schematics for things you could repurpose for your homebrew test equipment.

Check out the "music tech DIY" forum at modwiggler.com. Lots of helpful folks and links to more resources there.
 
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Offline MisterHeadache

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2024, 12:06:00 am »
I actually built the Wes Hayward design about two years ago.  I put together a three video series on it on my alter-ego YouTube channel, here's the playlist:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYNQ4erd0Qw_i-QfPq328sHskbDIZSACk

Also Wes still maintains some additional notes and subsequent mods on his design on his website.
https://w7zoi.net/sa-stuff.html
Daryn 'MisterHeadache'
 
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2024, 06:09:45 am »
Update: So I finally got around to actually starting some prototype designs, and I've got down two of the main parts. The mixer and VCO. I still need the detector, log amp, attenuator, LPF, and other stuff; those I'll save for another weekend.

For the mixer, I've tried using a ring diode mixer mentioned in some of the sources provided. But I just couldn't get it to work. I think it's just the very low impedance of my transformers. They only start to be effective at 100MHz from my Tek 191; I think that's just the RF transmitting from one side of the board to the other, and not actually being conducted.

So I opted for a different design. I remembered that my dual tube transceiver project that I copied from LA6NCA used a 6BE6 pentagrid converter tube to mix the LO and the RF in to make a CW tone, and I just so happened to have a couple extra 6BE6s lying around. So I just decided to use that; it worked perfectly. I could have just used a dual-gated MOSFET, but I think using tubes is just much cooler.

Also, about the VCO, it has a range of about 5MHz to 8MHz, so that limits my bandwidth to 3MHz. I wanted 10MHz, but that's proving difficult. Most of the sources I see are using commercially manufactured VCOs; they're also for microwave ranges.

Anyway, just a brief update. It's 11pm right now and I need sleep.
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2024, 06:32:25 pm »
There is a VCO in the CMOS 40XX series that is good for a swept VCO. Very linear. Sadly, I forget the number.

Is the 74HC4046 what you were thinking of?
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: Good sources for making a DIY swept front end spectrum analyzer?
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2024, 01:59:45 am »
Last week the project officially started. I need to do my research first and write a few journal entries on that.

One thing I'm a bit confused on is why do some spectrum analyzer designs utilize two mixers instead of one? The first one mixes the RF input and variable LO, and the other mixes the filtered IF of the first mixer stage with a fixed frequency LO.

I see this design with superheterodyne radio receivers as well. I tried looking it up and tried to find answers myself. But to no avail.

If I were to guess, it would be used to further improve selectivity? But that can be improved with just a better filter right?

For my project, should I use two mixers? Or just one? I think just one is enough right?

I've also renamed the thread to "School spectrum analyzer project"
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Online KE5FX

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Re: School spectrum analyzer project.
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2024, 03:14:27 am »
Last week the project officially started. I need to do my research first and write a few journal entries on that.

One thing I'm a bit confused on is why do some spectrum analyzer designs utilize two mixers instead of one? The first one mixes the RF input and variable LO, and the other mixes the filtered IF of the first mixer stage with a fixed frequency LO.

I see this design with superheterodyne radio receivers as well. I tried looking it up and tried to find answers myself. But to no avail.

If I were to guess, it would be used to further improve selectivity? But that can be improved with just a better filter right?

For my project, should I use two mixers? Or just one? I think just one is enough right?

I've also renamed the thread to "School spectrum analyzer project"

The double-conversion block diagram is used for image rejection.  Remember that you're building a radio at the end of the day, one that receives signals at both LO+IF and LO-IF.  If your LO is too close to the frequencies being received, it will be hard to build an RF input filter that rejects the unwanted input image frequency for all possible LO frequencies. 

A common workaround is to use an LO that is higher than the highest RF frequency to be received, so that  the image on the other side of the LO will be so far out of band that it is easy to reject with a simple inexpensive filter.  The IF then ends up between the lower end of the LO tuning range and the upper end of the RF range.  This might be several GHz, so another conversion is then used to bring the first IF down to a second IF frequency where it's easier to filter and amplify. 

Coming up with the right conversion scheme can be tricky in more complex designs.  Spectrum analyzers with four conversions were common in the past, but nowadays it's becoming more common to convert the signal to DC baseband right at the second mixer or even the first, doing the job with expensive ADCs rather than even more expensive RF parts.
 
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: School spectrum analyzer project.
« Reply #21 on: May 22, 2024, 06:24:14 pm »
I just had a new idea. My original LO frequency range was meant to be 12MHz-22MHz to get that 10MHz band, but as you can see, 12 and 10 are awfully close to eachother, and according to KE5FX, it's not particularly good to have the LO so close to the measuring bandwidth. From low pass filter I'm thinking of, with a low pass frequency of 10MHz, 12MHz will still pass through the filter. Yes it will be attenuated, but that may mess with my project.

Other people pointed out why not just use a TV tuner module? Well that's because that will only tune TV bands. So what I was thing was, instead of using the tuner as a whole, why not use the tuneable local oscillator inside the TV tuner? Then I have a reliable LO and I'm not limited to what the TV tuner is designed for.

Does this sound like a genius idea? Or is the idea flawed?
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Offline geggi1

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Re: School spectrum analyzer project.
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2024, 04:05:49 am »
I see that you have been using a DIY mixer.
These does ususlay not have good slelectivity and can be a bit noisy.
Try to get a fabricated mixer because then you will have propper data on its performance.
You might be able to scavange a mixer from some old rf gear.
 
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Offline Sensorcat

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Re: School spectrum analyzer project.
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2024, 09:16:33 pm »
Interesting project!

Perhaps you could post what test equipment you have, because that way we know what you can do when it comes to analysis and debugging of your modules (and what is out of reach).
 
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Offline BlownUpCapacitorTopic starter

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Re: School spectrum analyzer project.
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2024, 10:03:37 pm »
Interesting project!

Perhaps you could post what test equipment you have, because that way we know what you can do when it comes to analysis and debugging of your modules (and what is out of reach).

Tektronix 2230

Tektronix 7904

Tektronix 7613

w/7B85, 7B80, 7A19, 7A26, 7B53A, TD-1085/U

Tektronix SC502

Tektronix DM501A x2

Tektronix DC504

Tektronix PG501

Tektronix TM503 and TM504

Tektronix 314

Tekpower 50v 5 amp dual supply

BK Precision 4040

Tektronix 5110 w/5A18N, 5CT1N, 5B10N

Tilswall Soldering Unit RJ969. This is an excellent soldering unit I've been using for a couple years. Still works great. I recommend this iron.

Tektronix 191

Longwei 30V 10A supply

Hantek DSO2C10 hacked up to DSO2D15

Global Specialties 4010

HP 427A, This meter is in my profile pic.

(I keep forgetting I have some stuff so I have to keep editing stuff in)

A lot of stuff for a 15 year old eh? My local e-waste center sells this kind of stuff for very very very cheap. The 7904 was $50, the 5110 with all plug-ins as $75, and the BK 4040 was $20. Just some small repairs and cleaning were all that was needed.

If need be, I can go there again and see if they have something I need.

There are these two guys with TM500 units attached also for $100 each including the cart. Just wanted to share  ^-^
« Last Edit: May 23, 2024, 10:15:28 pm by BlownUpCapacitor »
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