Whilst preparing A first test of the FA-VA5 antenna analyser, issues were noticed with the user interface design / implementation. I stated in a later article that The matter of the clumsy / unproductive user interface will be explored more at a later time.
This article introduces a short video demonstration of the frustrating / unreliable user interface (UI) in firmware v1.08 where buttons do not seem to operate intuitively and consistently.
The parameters above capture the most basic operation of RFPM2 as a power meter directly displaying dBm with bar graph in fixed 2dB increments to 16dBm FSD. These values serve as a basis for some other applications as they capture the basic intercept and slope of the AD8307 module in this instance.
Current probe calibration
Alternative config files can be loaded on the fly from the webserver interface, for example http://192.168.0.86/config?filename=/dBA.cfg will load the dBA config file for a certain current probe. Continue reading RFPM2 – calibration files
The RF Power Meter 2 (RFPM2) stores calibration constants in a file located in the (SPIFFS) file system in the microcontroller flash.
The WiFi credentials are stored separately at the default location in the flash.
The AD8307 outputs a voltage from zero to about 3V for inputs from around -90 to +15dBm. The nominal output has a slope of 25mV/dB and intercept of -84dBm.
A starting point for RFPM2 calibration constants is intercept=-84 and slope=0.129.
Modules such as that used here may have pots to adjust the gain and offset of the output. Adjust the gain so that the maximum output voltage is a little lower than 3.3V (the maximum ADC input), say 2.7V.
The response of the AD8397 has some ripple in the transition between log amp stages. The log cell ranges are 14.3dB, so min error repeats every 14.3dB. My own practice is to calibrate at -62 and -5dBm input as they fall approximately on the mid line of the ripple trend (4 cycles of the error curve). Continue reading RFPM2 – calibration
This article describes a current probe for use with a power meter calibrated in dBm (eg RFPM1 and RFPM2).
For use with RFPM1 and RFPM2, both of which read to 16dBm max, it is convenient that the scaling factor for the probe is 0dBA/dBm, ie that those meters read dBA directly, implying a current range of -75-16dBA or 0.186mA-6.3A. In fact for low measurement noise, the effective range would be more like -65-16dBA or 0.56mA-6.3A.
The probe comprises a ferrite cored transformer that is clamped or placed over the conductor(s) of interest, and uses a 10t secondary which has a low value resistive load, across which the power meter connects.
The RF Power Meter 2 is a development based on the utility of RFPM1, but it shares nothing with the RFPM1, save using an AD8307 as the sense module.
The design criteria are:
small, portable, battery powered;
direct reading dB scale;
flexibility for a range of adapters to measure power, current etc;
local display including bar graph, time, and dB value;
log measurements to a serial port of some kind;
offer remote access for recent measurement log.
The RFPM2 uses an AD8307 log power detector to obtain a analogue ‘DC’ voltage proportional to the log of the input power. The input port is 50Ω SMA, and accommodates from about -75dBm (the noise floor) to +15dBm.
The analogue output of the AD8307 is digitised on a microcontroller board, a NodeMCU which uses an ESP8266 processor with integral WiFi. The board also contains a CP210x USB to serial adapter for programming, power, and serial logging.
The display is deliberately generic, the units are dBm at the SMA input, but they could be dBA with a suitable current probe, or +xx dBV/m with a field strength sense antenna. Continue reading RF Power Meter 2 (RFPM2)
The directional coupler at top left contains half wave peak detectors for forward and reflected waves. They are wired to the two compensated op amps at lower right (the connections are not shown on the circuit as the coupler may be remote, follow the terminal designations). Continue reading Should you trust your VSWR meter – linearisation
One often sees newbies ask about their VSWR meter readings, and a common observation is that the measured VSWR is better at low power and as power is increased, VSWR increases.
With the evolution of the ‘shack in a box’, and knowledge and experience to match, the problem is often reported observed with the transceiver’s internal VSWR meter.
Some of these ‘shack in a box’ have some pretty nifty features, for example the very popular Icom IC-7300 not only has an internal VSWR meter for the HF bands, but it can perform an assisted sweep and display the results graphically.
This article started off as a video demonstration of measuring the Matched Line Loss (MLL) of a 6m length of old / budget grade RG58CU for comparison with the datasheet.
Using the instrument was such a frustration due to the user interface design / implementation, but more time was devoted to trying to understand it and experimenting with button press timing etc… but I must admit, to no avail. I persevered and made the measurements which are reported here, the matter of the interface issues will be dealt with separately.
So, the interpolated datasheet MLL for quality cable, Belden 8262 (RG58C/U), is 0.319dB.
The measurement technique is the measure the ReturnLoss of the DUT with o/c and s/c terminations, and estimate MLL=(RLo+RLs)/4.
The analyser is a low cost kit (~A$265 including high accuracy cal kit and postage), the SM components are already fitted to the PCB, but the other components like switches, display connector etc need to be fitted. Whilst these parts are hand soldered, some pins are quite close to other components and require a fine soldering tip and steady hand. It is probably an hour’s work to complete the assembly.
Above is the completed FA-VA5. As can be seen, it has just three buttons which are used to navigate a menu system and to perform data entry, both of which can be a bit tedious but that is the trade off for a simple user interface.