Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Heathkit MA-12 Hifi amplifier restoration.

Neil called ...

"Got a load of old 'eathkit gear here , could use the once-over... Care to have a look?"

Yeah... why not?

There's four MA-12 amplifiers, two USC-1 "Stereo control units" (that's a pre-amp to you and I), and an AMF1 tuner ...

The amps are in various states of repair ...

Including one with a valve down to air ...

It's a simple push-pull amp, with an EF86 front end, an ECC83 (12AX7) phase splitter and a pair of EL84's wired ultra-linear. Hmmm , we've seen that before, and looking at the schematic, it's a Mullard 5-10 in disguise..

Off with the bottom ... 

Nice tag-strip construction, and, as these were sold as kits, the assembly looks OK.. some of these can be a disaster area.

Obvious faults... it's full of Hunts capacitors (evict on sight) , and the electrolytics are, well.. past it.

First things first, get that can out, and re-stuff it with nice modern parts ....

The cap is simply removed by gently prying it out with a screwdriver, and saving it.

Next drop the whole can into a container of boiling water for about 15 mins...

Wind a screw into the capacitor's innards ... 

and extract! Probably best wearing some gloves whilst you're doing this bit, I don't know what chemicals are in there ... 

This can is a dual 250uF, 60uF , 350V device. I've got a modern 220uF and a 68uF to go in there, so this is assembled and wired... 

.... and slid back into the can. The cap is sealed on with a little RTV.

The other can is a dual 50+50uF. As it's rubber cap is visible, we want to leave that intact. 

So the bottom bracket is warmed up slightly, and pried off.. 
and the bottom but off with a small pipe cutter... 

It's stuffed with two 47uF caps. They're slightly different shapes so they fit inside the can. 
The base is then sealed up with a splodge of hot-melt. 

The Hunt's are evicted and replaced with some nice polys. 

The two cathode bypass electrolytics (22uF, 25V) are replaced.

Testing shows the output is weak (our valves may be old), and unacceptable distortion...

Attention is turned to the output stage ... 

DC conditions on the two valves should be closely matched... they're not.

The two cathode resistors R21 and R22 have risen significantly in value, one to more that 3 times it's value, they're swapped out. R23 and R24, the screen gird resistors, are also out of spec. Changing this lot puts matters right. 

Now to do the other three! ....

Friday, 11 December 2020

Ham radio digital modes interface.

Many moons ago I built an interface to connect my computer to my IC-706IIG transceiver so I could operate a digital mode, PSK31.
I don't do much operating really, but quite fancy coupling my new Raspberry Pi400 up to a radio and having a go with another digital mode, FT8 (I know, I'm a bit late to the party.)

So, the plan is to re-jig my interface and up-grade it a bit. 

First things first, is to work out what I did originally !

It's all a bit of a lash up of parts. 

There's a stipped out USB hub, which has 2 USB to serial adaptors plugged in, and a really cheap USB sound card connected. 

The sound card mic and headphone sockets feed two pots on the front panel to control RX and TX level..

... and onto this PCB, where the audio is isolated by two transformers and connected to the transceiver via a 9-Pin D.

One of the USB to serial converters is just gunged to the back panel. It's the socket on the right. This was originally interfaced to the transceiver to control it's frequency. It's redundant now, as I have USB CAT control leads. 

The other USB to serial converter feeds two optoisolators on the PCB, which are used as KEY or PTT to tell the transmitter to go into transmit. Why two lines to do the same task? Practically speaking, there's no difference between KEY and PTT, except KEY is traditionally meant to mean a morse code or telegraph key, and PTT or "Push to talk" for voice modes. Software generally requires one or the other, rarely (if ever) both, and is generally configurable in your chosen software package anyway, so the RTS or DTR of the serial port can be specified to trigger transmit, as either PTT or KEY. 

A decision is made to rebuild. I want to upgrade the little USB soundcard in there, as it's not a great performer. After doing a bit of research, it seems the Sabrant USB soundcard rates well, and is only £9.99 from Amazon. As pointed out above, there's little point in having two PTT and or KEY isolators, so I'll make one, and make it switchable between a DTR and RTS, and output as either PTT or KEY to two separate jacks.

Both the serial converters in the box can go. I will use an FTDI board to control the PTT, which has the added benefit of only having a 5v output, rather than +/-15V (although I somehow doubt the original RS232 converters actually did this, I may be wrong!). Also it will provide convenient access to a +5V supply to run a level monitoring circuit.

The FTDI board is wired up to give a 5V supply, GND, RTS and DTR outputs.

After a couple of false starts, it turns out that the RTS and DTR signals are inverted, active low, but this was resolved by re-wiring the opto isolator, using the FTDI to sink the current. Whilst this seemed like a good idea at the time, something rang alarm bells with me... a check of the datasheet shows I can only sink 6mA, so I use a couple of BC547 transistors to invert the output and drive the optocoupler. 

More false starts... lord only knows what the isolation transformers I have are, but they're not the right thing at all  (did the original box ever work at all? I'm damned if I can remember!). 

I order some small 1:1 600 ohm isolation transformers from eBay

and conjure up a schematic in Kicad ...
I've changed the BC547 transistors to their smd brothers, to maximise the available space. It actually turned out a bit smaller than needed, but that's no bad thing...

Because (this time) our transformers are 1:1, we may well need to add a bit of attenuation into the signal. This is provided by the four SIT (suit in test) resistors R1, R5 ( transmit audio) and R11, R12 for received audio. RV2 is going to be mounted on the front panel, so it connects via a three pin header. I also plan to connect another front panel pot before the input at J1, it's the same deal as RV2. You may notice the RTS and DTR lines are coupled together. I'll feed one or the other from a change over switch. 

May as well design a board ...

I do love Kicad's 3d modelling. It's not just pretty, its great for polishing the layout of labels etc..

The gerbers are sent to JLC PCB for manufacture, and after a little wait for delivery, arrive. 

A little while is spent mounting the components. 
The four SIT resistors are set for no attenuation to start with. (R11 & R1 S/C, R12 & R5 O/C)

... and as usual, an error is spotted... thankfully it's just on the legend for the FTDI, the 5V and GND are reversed! 

It's all wired up into the enclosure... I'll tidy it up later, after we're happy with the performance...

WSJT-X is loaded up onto the Raspberry Pi400, and set up, the interface connected to my FT-817, and we're decoding!

The two trimmers are adjusted on the PCB, to give an indication of level on the LED indicators...

Incidentally, my friend Pyers 3D printed the front and rear panels for me.

There's an issue though... the FT-817 won't transmit :( 

The PTT is working just fine, but there's no modulation.

A fair amount of time went into checking and re-checking cables, and audio levels, then caution was thrown to the wind, and the FT-817 gets it's first ever factory reset in the many years I've owned it... after resetting menu 26 to USER-U , it bursts into life and transmits. 

A few minutes later and our first QSO on 2m (144MHz) is complete, with Stuart, G0LGS a few miles down the road in Cheltenham.  

PSK reporter also reports my tiny signal is being heard just outside of Cork, in Ireland, and, although I can't hear him, that's not bad for 5W into a discone antenna!

I've got a number of boards left over... if you'd be interested in one, drop me a line.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

NAD 3020 repairs

The famous George rang.

My NAD's developed a nasty hum, can you have a look?

Yeah, why not...

It's the very excellent NAD 3020.

A particular favourite of mine. These must have been one of the best selling amps throughout it's life...

(There's even a wikipedia article on it here.)

Now, many of these are getting a bit long in the tooth now.... and George's is no exception.

I switch it on, and there's some awful humming which just won't go away. Some of these amps suffer with a hum on switch on, which disappears after a few seconds, after frightening the user. We'll come back to that later.

Remove the screws on either side, slide the lid back slightly and lift it off...

One feature of this amp is the shelf at the back, where all the connections are located. Makes access easy if you're fishing around around the back. It's not without it's issues, however...

Turn the amplifier upside down, and remove the base plate (8 screws, short one's in the middle!) 

This is the underside of the connection "shelf" ... dry and broken joints are normal here, so solder the lot up...

There's some caps showing signs of their age, and have failed. I'm going to change the usual suspects..

... as well as the four main smoothing caps.

You'll need to pull the knobs off, and remove the four countersunk screws securing the front panel, and remove it ... be careful to support it, as we don't want to go to the hassle of removing the power meter's ribbon cable. The power LED will pull out.

Remove the screw securing the brace bar behind the front panel..

... and the other screw securing it on the back 

Two screws attaching the PCB to the brace bar, one through the heatsink.....

and the other towards the rear ...

You can now remove the brace bar to access the whole of the PCB. 

So after a quick cap change (there's 4 2,200 uF 63V caps, two 1,000 uF 6.3V caps (I fit 16V types here , I don't trust those 6.3V elctrolytics!) and two 330uF 63V caps...) 

(The other 330uF 63V is hiding!)

..things are much improved, but there's another fault... I mentioned it earlier. When you initially switch the amp on, there's a very unpleasant hum which decays, leaving the amplifier performing ok.. it's like a "whomp" as it turns on. It's a very common fault...

It's caused by this capacitor (and sometime's its neighbour too). I change them both for 47uF 63v types... whomp gone!

Bias is checked , and is spot on. Just got to button it up, and give it a good testing with "The Lasters" by Fred Deakin.

The guilty parties...