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VLF - LF Up-Converter  

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VLF-LF <5KHz to 500KHz Up-Converter

 

Two models are available depending on the conversion frequency:

Model 350 <5Khz-500KHz converts to 3.5MHz-4MHz

Model 400 <5KHz-500KHz converts to 4MHz-4.5MHz

   
 

Since many countries are allocating the 472 KHz band for experimental use by Radio Amateurs, a growing number of them as well as listeners have become interested on VLF and LF bands.

The fact that few radios are available on the market covering properly frequencies from below 5KHz to 500KHz, convinced us to provide radio amateurs and listeners with the high-performance receiving VLF-LF Converter that we introduce here.

The VLF-LF Up-Converter extents the range of any shortwave receiver to below 5 KHz to 500 KHz. It is connected between the antenna and a shortwave radio receiver. When it is power-on the <5KHz to 500 KHz band segment is translate to 3.500MHz to 4.000MHz, Model-350 or 4.000MHz to 4.500MHz, Model 400, allowing the reception of VLF and LF bands.

For example, if a conversion frequency of 4.000MHz - 4.500MHz, Model 400, is used, and the receiver tuned on 4.135.500MHz, you are receiving on 135.500KHz, just ignoring the digit “4” on the dial.

Alternatively most SDR radio control software lets customise the dial by the user, in this regard see below PowerSDR configuration.

The VLF-LF Up-Converter enables reception of VLF mobile maritime communications, aviation and marine navigational aids such as NDB and DGPS beacons, DGPS reference stations, NAVTEX, Standard Time & Frequency stations, LF Amateur bands, European LW broadcast stations, monitoring the sounds of nature created by planet Earth (Natural Radio) such as sferics, hiss, tweaks, whistlers, Dawn Chorus, other not well known VLF radio atmospheric sounds, and many more.

It is advisable to use a variable attenuator in front of the converter in order to improve signal to noise ratio. Its use have more or less noticeable effects depending on local conditions. If you are living in the country side far away from noise sources probably you do not need one.
In urban areas in presence of strong signals and/or noise a variable attenuator avoids saturating the IF receiver. Adjusting the attenuation to a proper value weak signals buried in the noise can be seen emerging.
In addition better energy transfer is achieved between antenna and converter due the broad impedance matching effect.

 


 

"A walk along VLF-LF Bands"

An introduction to the new VLF/LF Up-Converter.


 

"The Big Jump"

"Alexanderson Day" special transmission on 17.2 kHz from SAQ Grimeton radio station in Sweden
was received in Granby QC Canada (FN35RK) on 28 June 2015. Distance 5.700 km (3.600mi)

This was the group effort of VE2CRG,the Granby Amateur Radio Club.

The radio station setup included a tuned 1.7m diamond loop, FET balanced preamplifier,
Heros Technology VLF-LF Up- Converter model-400, multiband IF receiver tuned on 4.017 MHz
and Spectral Analysis software Spectran v2.

 


Radio station SAQ, Grimeton. Alexanderson Day celebration Special Transmission on 17.2KHz. VLF band. 28 June 2015.


 

"SAQ 17.2KHz Special Transmission"

UNESCO World Radio Day

13 February 2015


 

Specifications:

- Type: Superheterodyne converter. Double balanced mixer; Quartz crystal oscillator.

- Frequency range: <5KHz to 500KHz.

- IF output: 3.5MHz-4MHz, model 350; 4MHz-4.5MHz; model 400.

- Input/Output impedance: 50 Ω

- Gain: 5 dB

- IF rejection: 110dB typical.

- MW band rejection: 80dB

- Crystal oscillator: Low phase noise; quartz crystal ±10ppm;
   3.5MHz or 4MHz, fundamental.

- Power: 12volts/40mA

- Enclosure: Aluminium

- Size: 125mmx105mx55mm ( 4.921x4.133x2.165in)

LF Up-Converter manual

VLF-LF Up-converter User Manual, rev05(web)

 

 
VLF-LF Up-converter Architecture diagram.  

Connecting the VLF/LF Up-Converter to a SW receiver or transceiver (click on image to enlarge)

     
Receiver connection   Connection to FlexRadios
Connection to a generic receiver.  

Connection to FlexRadios.

     
By-Passing   PowerSDR configuration.
Preventing accidental transmission. By-Passing.   PowerSDR configuration.

 

Operating

The VLF-LF Up-Converter is suitable for use with active antennas, loop antennas and preamplifiers providing an output impedance of 50 Ω.

If an active antenna is powered through the coaxial cable a DC block device must be connected at the converter antenna Input in order to avoid damage the unit.

Beverage antennas may need a 50 Ω matching network device for best performance.

WARNING!
If the VLF-LF up-Converter is connected in line to a HF transceiver acting as IF receiver, take precautions to prevent transmitting any signal into the converter.

 

 
  VLF-LF Up-Converter design

Input Filters

Referring to the above functional blocks diagram, the 50 Ω antenna is connected to J1 ,BNC type connector; a Gas Discharge Tube protects the converter from transients that may come from the antenna.

Next the input filters section is a combination of a 110dB IF trap and a 7th order, 0.3dB insertion loss, Elliptic Low Pass Filter with a cut-off frequency of 500 kHz.

This section provides good performance right up to the start of the AM broadcast band with a sharp roll-off, giving a good rejection to MW broadcast signals avoiding introducing overload or intermodulation products in the receiver.

Input plot

500KHz LPF and 3.7KHz IF trap input filter section plot.

(Up Converter model 350)

 
 

 

Local Oscillator

A low phase noise, crystal controlled oscillator provides +7dBm signal level to the mixer

A high quality quartz crystal of 3.5MHz or 4MHz, according to the model of converter is used. A trimmer capacitor is accessible by the user if fine adjust of frequency is required in times. A linear fixed voltage IC regulates the voltage applied to the oscillator to enhance stability and avoid drift.

The oscillator is followed by a buffer stage to improve its stability. Next, an amplifier accommodates the signal to the required level. It connects to a 4 MHz, 7th order, Elliptic Low Pass Filter which cleans up any harmonics and assures that a pure signal applies to the mixer to minimize spurious responses.

 

Mixer

The mixer stage is designed around a Mini-Circuits SRA-8+ double balanced mixer. It is rated to operate from 500Hz, giving and excellent frequency coverage. Designed for +7 dBm of LO power, it have a conversion loss of less than 5 dB at VLF LF bands, which is compensate by the post-mixer amplifier. A double balanced mixer has the advantage of high port-to-port isolation, which keeps the strong LO signal from degrading the dynamic range of the IF receiver. Every effort has been made to terminate the ports of the mixer in a proper 50 Ω impedance to maximize its performance.

The mixer IF port is most critical in terms of proper termination, for so, a diplexer circuit provides a 50 Ω resistive load to the mixer while passing the desired signal to the IF amplifier, with minimum loss.

Next, a Band Pass filter at IF frequency connects to a Low Noise Amplifier to compensate losses, delivering around 5dB of gain to the output, necessary to overcome losses from external cable tails, relays and connectors.

Design

A carefully PCB and shielding design keep feed through signals of the HF receiving frequency down to a very low level; therefore, weak LF signals will not be interfered by strong HF signals on the same frequency.

The HF receiver used should have strong rejection of HF signals through paths other than the antenna connector. Most HF transceivers and receivers have good performance in this respect, but some SWL receivers do not and may be used with the addition of filters and shielding.

 

 
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  VLF LF Up-Converter.    
       
       

 

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