As supplied, the RTL type tuner dongles are a little fragile, especially when they’ve got a rather heavy coax feeder attached for Ham Radio use.
The MCX antenna connectors on the tuner can’t stand up to much abuse, and even the USB plug rips itself from it’s mounts after a while with a heavy weight on the end. Since this dongle sits in my radio go bag, it definitely needed some protection & support.
The PCB itself is removed from it’s flimsy plastic casing, the USB plug is desoldered from the board.
To the exposed pads, a USB cable is soldered, giving much more flexibility in where the tuner is placed.
Instead of using the MCX antenna connector on the PCB, the coax is stripped & soldered direct to the PCB itself, as this connector has become unreliable.
To get the RF into the device, the case is fitted with an N connector, as is everything else in my shack.
The box used is a surplus one which previously housed an electronic lighting transformer. This would be very easy to waterproof as well, for more protection against outdoor use.
In my original review, I noted that this radio was supplied with a SO-259 socket for the antenna connection.
However I’m less than fond of these, due to their non-constant impedance, which can cause signal loss issues at VHF/UHF. Because of this, I’ve replaced it with a high quality N-type connector. These connectors are much better, as they are a constant 50Ω impedance, they’re weather resistant, and being rated to 11GHz, are more than sufficient for a radio that will only do up to 70cm.
Here can be seen the point where the connection is made to the PCB.
I’ve already replaced the socket in this photo. The pair of solder pads either side of the central RF point were soldered to wings on the back of the original SO-259. As there are a pair of screws, also connected to the ground plane, there have been no signal issues with just using the frame of the radio as the ground point. Shown below is the original socket, with the ground wings.
Finally, here is the back of the radio with it’s shiny new N connector.
Chassis mount connectors are pretty standard, so this new connector fits perfectly into the same recess of the original. Looks like factory fitted!
I am now standardising on N connectors for everything in my radio shack, next on the project list for conversion is the SWR meter I recently acquired.
Following on from my review, here are some internal views & detail on the components used in this radio. Below is an overview of the main PCB with the top plate removed from the radio.
Most visible are these MOSFETs, which are Mitsubishi RD70HVF1 VHF/UHF power devices. Rated for a maximum of 75W output power at 12.5v (absolute maximum of 150W, these are used well within their power ratings. They are joined to the PCB with heavy soldering, with bypass caps tacked right on to the leads.
Here is the RF pre-driver stage, with intermediate transistors hidden under the small brass heatspreader.
In the top left corner of the radio, near the power input leads, is the power supply & audio amplifier section. Clearly visible are the pair of LA4425A 5W audio power amplifier ICs, these drive the speakers on the top of the radio. Either side of these parts are a 7809 & a 7805 – both linear regulators providing +9v & +5v logic supplies respectively. The large TO220 package device is a KIA378R08PI 3A LDO regulator with ON/OFF control, this one outputs +8v. Just visible in the top right corner are the sockets for the speaker connections.
Here are the two ICs for dealing with DTMF tones, they are HM9170 receivers.
In the corner next to the interface jack, there are some CD4066B Quad Bilateral switches. These make sense since the interface jack has more than a single purpose, these will switch signals depending on what is connected.
Here are visible the RF cans for the oscillators, the crystals visible next to the can at the top. The shields are soldered on, so no opening these unfortunately.
Also visible in this image is a CMX138A Audio Scrambler & Sub-Audio Signalling processor. This IC deals with the Voice Inversion Scrambling feature of the radio, & processes the incoming audio before being sent to the modulator.
Shown here is the RF output filter network, this radio uses relays for switching instead of PIN diodes, I imagine for cost reasons. The relay closest to the RF output socket has had a slight accident 🙂 This is slated to be replaced soon.
Finally, the RF output jack.
Here the speakers are shown, attached to the bottom of the top plate. They are both rated 8Ω 1W.