K4AHO Jim’s Rockmite Mods
Here’s an email from my good friend and cohort in the Central Florida QRP Group. Jim wanted to share his latest mods for the Rockmites and some thoughts on the NEScaf filter. I think you will enjoy his notes too …
I thought I would bring you up to date on my latest project. I just finished a Small Wonder 20+ and used it on the Flight of the Bumblebees. I found my earbuds a little weak on audio output and the IF bandwidth of the SW20+ a bit wide for my liking. I read the specifications on the NEScaf filter offered by the New England QRP group and decided that that would be the best solution to my problem and be usable on other radios as well. I ordered, built and installed the NEScaf board in a TenTec TG-24 enclosure. I tried it on the SW20 and it sounded like a viable solution.
I also have a 40 Meter Rockmite in a TG-24 enclosure and decided I would see how well the RM/NEScaf combination sounded. The Rockmite, of course, uses a DC receiver and the bandwidth is determined by the upper response of your ears… My RM sounds like about 40 khz wide, hears the whole band for me as my response is in the upper tens of kHz. Yes, I know, at my age 69 it shouldn’t be but is. Been tested. At any rate suddenly the Rockmite bandwidth is manageable. I had some audio artifacts, whistles and the RM sidetone would drive the NEScaf into cutoff which only a power cycle would clear. I googled the problem and Charlie KE2SP advised lowering the NEScaf input Z with a 10 to 47 ohm input load. I installed a 27 ohm resistor on the input connector and suddenly all artifacts, whistles and sidetone problems disappeared. WOW, the RM is really sounding great! Except the RX/TX was very low. I measured it at 500 cycles and the NEScaf would not tune down that low…
After considering several approaches to the problem and considering that the RM crystals don’t oscillate on exactly the QRP frequencies, I settled on completely revamping the RX/TX method used in the RM. Using the RM40 as a test bed, I removed D5, D6, R9 and R10. I purchased 2 Murata trimmers( TZ03 Series) from Skycraft, our local Surplus emporium, and installed them in the holes for D6 and D5, R9 combination of holes. I had to cut a small run on the right side (antenna connector side) to isolate that pad from Vcc and jumper to two trimmers together… I also had to drill out the pads to accept the trimmer leads. The Fet Q2 does a great job in switching to second trimmer in and out for the offset. The alignment was not difficult but I recommend using a freq counter connected thru a times 10 scope probe to the physical top of R5 (base of Q5). Don’t have to key the Tx to see the freq… I set the trimmer in the D6 position for the higher freq (7.030750 Mhz) and the other trimmer for the lower frequency (7.030000 Mhz. The trimmers I use are available at Digikey. I used the Red colored model (4.2 to 20pf, N750) but the Blue colored (2.7 to 10pf, NPO) might have been a better choice. These guys are Digikey p/n 490-1971-ND and are $0.43 each… I also changed the RM40 volume control from an audio control (1 Megohm) to a RF front end attenuator control (1.5 kohm) and there is a noticeable improvement in the overload and broadcaster breakthru problem. I strongly recommend these changes. If you can build the RM you can certainly modify it… If you break it, build another… I plan to make the same modification to my RM80. (CLICK THE THUMBNAILS for larger view)
How did it work? Well, the RM/Nescaf stack is now a real radio not just a toy. I worked WD8MHT Raul in Waynesville, NC one morning this week and we had a great conversation. He was 569 to me and I was 439 to him. His TS570 was working hard but copied me no problem. The amazing thing for me was that there was a really strong signal at 700 cycles and Raul was about 200 cycles higher. I tuned the Nescaf center freq on Raul and sharpened the bandpass and turned up the volume and he was armchair copy the entire QSO… WOW, not a struggle… I have since used the NEScaf on my SW20+ and yes, it works great…
I have attached a couple of pictures of the stack and the innards of the RM for reference. The switch on the front is for a future expansion.