Thanks to Lewis, M3HHY for lending me this one 🙂
Here’s a quick look at a Sainsmart frequency counter module. These are useful little gadgets, showing the locked frequency on a small LCD display.
It’s built around an ATMega328 microcontroller (µC), and an MB501L Prescaler IC. The circuit for this is very simple, and is easily traced out from the board.
Here’s the back of the board, with the µC on the left & the prescaler IC on the right. This uses a rather novel method for calibration, which is the trimmer capacitor next to the crystal. This trimmer varies the frequency of the µC’s oscillator, affecting the calibration.
Input protection is provided by a pair of 1N4148 diodes in inverse parallel. These will clamp the input to +/-1v.
The prescaler IC is set to 1/64 divide ratio. This means that for an input frequency of 433MHz, it will output a frequency of 6.765625MHz to the µC.
The software in the µC will then calculate the input frequency from this intermediate frequency. This is done because the ATMega controllers aren’t very cabable of measuring such high frequencies.
The calculated frequency is then displayed on the LCD. This is a standard HD44780 display module.
Power is provided by a 9v PP3 battery, which is then regulated down by a standard LM7805 linear regulator.
I’ve found it’s not very accurate at all at the lower frequencies, when I fed it 40MHz from a signal generator it displayed a frequency of around 74MHz. This is probably due to the prescaler & the software not being configured for such a low input. In the case for 40MHz input the scaled frequency would have been 625kHz.