FT-817 Phone Audio interface part 2

Hi all,

I have continued to work on the interface, described in Designing a Phone/Radio interface, and I think things are looking pretty good. I have changed some component values slightly to fit in with easily obtainable parts. One approach is to use thru-hole parts for everything, but this results in quite a big board. Now SMT does scare people. but if we stick to the larger part sizes, it should be easy enough. This does however means steering clear of 0402 and 0201 tiny sized components.

My first try at drawing a PCB used SMD capcitors while keeping everything else thru-hole. Using 1/4 watt thru-hole resistors ends up taking up a lot of space. I decided to change over to SMD resistors as well, but leaving the diodes, transistors and the trimmer potentiometers as thru-hole. This allowed me to get the board size at 2 inches by 1 inch. My resistors are generally 1206 size (this is .12 inches by 0.06 inches, or about 3 by 1.5mm. Most of the caps are 0805 (about 2mm by 1.2mm) size. These are reasonably easy to manage with tweezers.

People have asked what components are used for the transistors and diodes. I am using 2N4401’s for the BJTs and 1N5819 for the schottkies. Both these components should work very well.

In some of my simulations, I have tried quite “out there” scenarios. The circuit actually still works with a 1V power supply, especially with higher audio frequencies on the digital mode being used. It works with 8V, actually very well. I have not bothered higher voltages, perhaps I should give 12V a go, however no phone is going to be supplying that kind of voltage level. I suspect that they (i.e. the various phone manufacturers) are either stepping up the cell voltage output – typically a LiIon cell that will range from 4.2V down to 3.5V or so, and stepping it up to 5V, or just feeding it in unregulated, with a 5 to 10K resistor in series to current limit the supply on the microphone pin. Any of these scenarios will work with this circuit. If anything like a 3V or higher supply is involved, there will be over 50uA to drive the second transistor to sink 450uA of current on the PTT pin. Even if other radios to the FT-817 have different loads on their PTT pins, I can’t imagine it’s orders of magnitude!

On the radio side, there are clear variations. The FT-897 has a lower impedance output on the fixed audio, and a lower Vpp level. I still expect the circuit will work fine. I also had a look at the Elecraft KX3. This does not have a data port, but rather relies on the speaker output and microphone input. The speaker output will be at a higher level than what either the FT-817 or the FT-897 will drive this circuit. The trimmer potentiometer can be turned down to help. Also the radio audio control will change the voltages seen on the output. As for the input, again the potentiometer will have to be turned down, because the circuit is feeding something approaching a line level. Microphone is a good 15dB to 20dB down on that. I would presume that the KX3 would have some forgiveness about the input impedance, as cheap mics are high impedance (10K plus), while high quality mics can be as low as 100 ohs. I’ll need someone to investigate if there is any DC on the microphone input as well, as this could be there for the same reason that there is DC on the phone microphone input. If someone has a Oscilloscope and a KX3, it would be interesting to see the audio output levels, but you would also need to know what load resistor you used.

I have a picture of the circuit for you to enjoy below:

Phone Radio circuit board image

Btw, the diodes are back to front, and this is a consequence of whatever bug is in the schottky files used by GEDA. It is easier to just highlight it as an errata. The circuit will not work if the diodes are not correctly put in place.

I used the geda suite to design the circuit, using gschem to draw schematics, ngspice to do simulations, and PCB to draw the circuit art. These programs can be a little hacky and the help files are not for the uninitiated, but they certainly get the job done. I feel pretty comfortable with these, and I am now also looking to do a design for a bias tee and a preamp for 6m/2m/70cm. More about that later.

Send me an email at vk3wam (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested in getting one of these interfaces. If people are interested, I could sell the boards at $10 US. I’ll need to look through the cost of the materials if people are interested in kits.

73 de Wayne VK3WAM

EDIT: Here is a slightly updated board design, optimised to remove some of the via holes, improve some spacing and comply with various production house design rules.
Phone to Radio interface board

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Designing a Phone/Radio interface

Hi all,

I have been interested in digital modes for some time. I purchased a SignaLink USB in the early days, even when I was an F-call, anticipating my full call would be issued before it arrived. This turned out to be the case. It would be a bummer if I could not use it! Note: in VK, F-calls may not transmit anything aside from SSB, AM, FM, PM. and hand generated (inc using an electronic keyer) CW.

My early days were focused on Easypal, a DRM based SSTV mode. I also did a little bit of playing around with RTTY, PSK and other narrow band based modes. Eventually SOTA started in VK, and I began to think about the possibility of doing digital modes on summit, but not taking a computer and the Signalink.

I use a Samsung Galaxy S2, and I began to think about what would be needed to use this for PSK and RTTY. Wolphi has some andriod apps on Google play for these modes, and also of interest, sells an interface. He also has put some designs up on the web here and here.

Version 1 of these interfaces uses a transformer to boost up tx audio from the phone device, so a transistor can be switched to pull down the PTT on the radio. Version 2 removes the transformer and instead relies on a voltage that is present on the microphone pin. There is also a bug in the schematic of v2, as the rx audio does not go to pin 1, it needs to go to pin 4, plus add a capacitor.

Separate to this, VK3XJM developed an interface between his FT-817 and his ipad. His initial try was broadly similar to the v1 Wolphi interface, and I then made him aware of v2. His next revision is similar to the Wolphi v2.

My design effort

Well, homebrewer extrodinare, I wondered if I would buy one of these interfaces, or build my own. Answer: design and build my own!

The first issue to consider is that line devices are supposed to present high impedance to the audio out device. While the mobile(cell) phones will think that they are driving headphones, these still will typically be 200ohms plus. The idea to use a transformer to boost up voltage is going against the principle of trying to minimise the load. So, I will not use the transformer approach. Both VK3XJM and Wolphi have found that this approach is barely viable anyway.

So the next step: time to find out more about this microphone voltage. It has been highlighted that this varies quite a bit between devices, and this can cause some of the above interfaces to not work so well. What is this voltage? It turns out that most devices will put this voltage on as part of the “Plug-in Power Supply” system. This is to provide power for Electret Condenser microphones. These devices have a permanently statically charged film over a metal plate. This forms a variable capacitor, which changes based on captured sound. The tiny signal is placed on the gate of a common source JFET, with the signal taken from the drain. “Plug-in Power Supply” provides the voltage on the drain to drive the JFET. Typically the voltage is 3V with a 6.8Kohm resister in series in the supplying device. This is not supposed to be a high current power source!

Unfortunately, there is no one standard for the voltage, plus the series resistance of this source. On the net, there are stories of voltages anywhere from 1.5V to 3V. Hmmmmmm, this variability could be a problem.

I took a hybrid circuit based on a combination of the VK3XJM and the Wolphi v2 design and put it together in gschem. After a bit of stuffing around to find libraries for various devices, I used gnetlist to use the gschem saved file to generate a spice netlist for spice simulation.

The first thing I found is that I was sucking just way too much current from the voltage on the pin! If the supply voltage was high, the circuit still worked, but it was marginal. Things needed to be improved. I also found on birdwatching web sites (these guys are using these electric condenser microphones) that many devices will not supply much more than 300uA, and my circuit was pulling far more than that. Time to put this circuit on a diet!

The biggest pull of current was the first transistor Q1. It was time to get the Ic down, to 200uA tops! Using some design principles in Ludeman Introduction to Electronic Devices and Circuits, I ended up selecting a 20k collector resistor. This then flowed through to a 1.1k emitter resister, although my choice here was a little arbitrary. I was still trying to keep Ve low, when Ludeman recommends Re to be 1/3rd of Rc. From there, the Ib can be determined, and Vbe found using a formula. This then sets what the two resistors used as a voltage divider should be. My resisters used were far higher than the initial circuit. Ludeman also provides formulas for the input, output and emitter bypass capacitors, based on what low pass is required. I chose 100Hz. Its quite low, but it means that there should be no problems doing PSK at 500hz AF. I was prepared to fall back to 200Hz if required, but the really high impedances made capacitor choices easier. Note that Ludeman points out that the emitter bypass capacitor is not just set by Re, but there is also a AC path out of the base of the transistor. This path can be quite significant in the capacitor sizing.

The ngspice simulators showed the Q1 switching nicely on TX input, while presenting very low load to the signal. Next up was dealing with the PTT switching transistor Q2. The FT-817ND has a 11k load from a 5V source on the PTT pin based on the circuit diagram. Both the initial circuits basically rectify the AC output of Q1, filter it with a cap and feed this to the base of Q2. I first used Schottkies like VK3XJM. Hey the lower drop across the diode should help? I could not get the ngspice model working properly, so I went to ordinary 1N3891 diodes. I got these working nicely. I also bumped up a resister on the base to 20k, but also Q2 effectively provides a high resistance to the tiny weany current that is going through the base. This also allowed me to slice the filter cap right down to 100nF. This is the only cap that actually has to be charged in this circuit, and the early high current versions of this circuit required much higher values of this cap to work. It also meant that this cap was presenting too much load to the “Plug-in Power Supply” system.

So what I have now will work quite happily on anything from 1.2V to 3.5V, and I have not bothered testing outside these ranges ’cause it should cover just about everything. Once the voltage is below about 1.5V, it takes around 80ms to pull down the PTT on a 500Hz AF source, but it will pull it down. I think it would even work with a 1V supply! At 3V, it basically pulls it down in 2ms, which is on the first signal waveform! I am happy with these results, because this circuit should be very robust.

Current requirements: At 3.5V, it pulls around 80uA average, 140uA peak from the supply. Well within the 300uA for a mono electric! When the supply is 1.2V, it pulls 70uA peak and 20uA average. This circuit has certainly come out trim after its diet!

Where there any consequences in using such a tiny filter cap at 100nF. Well, yes, but they don’t matter. At 3.5V supply, the ripple is 200mV, but the signal at the base is plenty high enough, and the thing is so current limited that it does not matter than Vbe is 0.9V to 1.1V!

When the voltage is 1.2V supply, the ripple is hardly anything. So 100nF is perfectly fine for the filter cap on the base of Q2.

I have a screen shot of the circuit below. Click for full size.

v1 Phone Radio interface circuit

I plan to build one of these on variboard. If people were interested, I could design either a through hole or a surface mount circuit PCB for it and make a kit available.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

EDIT: I replaced the ordinary diodes with Schottkies as their lower voltage drop across the diode helps the robustness of the circuit. The updated circuit diagram, with light background, shown below, can be clicked on.
Updated interface circuit between an FT-817 and a phone device (iPhone, Android)

EDIT2: Updating of the schematic as microphone audio in (to the phone) is taken from pin 4 as discussed in the text. I had kept the old one up, but Gerald DL3KGS noticed the difference.

Schematic as implemented on PCB

Schematic as implemented on PCB