Cheap USB interface to connect Ham radios and other devices to the PC October 14, 2011Posted by GuySoft in Crictor, diy, Electronics, Hamakor, ITU, linux, open source, wireless.
Tags: diy, Electronics, hacking, ham radio, open electroncs, open source
As promised in my last post, I have finally finished designing and building a cheap interface to connect ham radios or any other audio device that does not share audio common ground to a PC, including a PTT interface. Price should be around $17 or 60 NIS. The control is done using a USB interface, so unlike most ham radio hardware that uses serial connections, this one is plug and play in modern PCs. The neat thing is that it uses them same commands as a RigBlaster. So this interface works out of the box with common ham radio programs like Echolink and Svxlink. The interface should also work with soundmodem which can be used for X.25 packet digital communications, without any extra hardware (I am still trying to get this to work). This interface could also be used to connect to other devices that don’t share a common ground. For example like phone lines.
Parts you will need
- TTL USB Serial interface – The main part is a simple CP2102 $4 controller that can be percussed from ebay. It simulates a serial device, meaning you can still work with older pieces of software with it. Note though you need to solder a cable from the RTS pin on the board, because normally they don’t come with a pre-made pin.
- Audio line isolation transformer – This can be easily salvaged from any old dial-up modem. That’s how I get mine, it seems to be much easier to get them off old modems than finding them in electronics shops, plus they are so easily identifiable (just make sure not to break the contacts when you take them out, happened to me twice). If you can’t find any old dial-up modems you can get it from ebay.
- 3.5mm stereo and 2.5mm mono earphone connectors – You need one of each, PCs use a 3.5mm stereo jack and the radio’s microphone is usually a mono 2.5mm jack (consult your HT’s manual, they tend to have a schismatic for the mic). I personally like to have two 3.5mm phone plugs on each side and an adapter, so in the future I can use this interface for other things than ham radio.
- (recommended) Isolated audio cable – Ham radios can produce a lot of interference and using isolated audio cable close to the transformer is a good idea, you won’t need more than half a meter, unless you want to put a larger distance between the radio and the PC.
- Prototyping Perfboard – So you have what to solder the parts on.
Now comes the difference between the two circuits, you MUST have either of the two options 6 or 7 below:
- (option 1) Reed relay – If you manage to find this part number HE722A0510, then you will really get a simple board, with just 3 parts on it. Its also quiet compared to a normal relay.
- (option 2) 6 pin 5V mechanical relay and two NPN 2N3904 transistors – Adding two more parts to the board and a louder relay, this would be a lesser choice, but still fully functional interface. I am putting this as an option because these parts are so common I doubt anyone would have a problem finding them.
- (recommended) 14 pin socket – If the relay breaks, it would make it easily replaceable.
- A 3.5mm audio splitter and a set of cheap earphones – Most sound cards today have a circuit that checks if a device is plugged in to the card, otherwise they would not play anything though it. To overcome this you can split the outgoing audio signal, connect one side to the radio interface, and the other to a set of earphones. This is not needed if you want to plug a device like an MP3 player, where there is no such check.
I am going to supply two schematics, the first is the one I built which uses a reed relay, which is more quiet, faster but slightly less common and costs around $3 more. The second, I built and tested on the breadboard. It uses a normal 8 pin mechanical relay and two NPN 2N3904 bipolar transistors.
The finished interface looks like this:
And here is the schematic:
Note that the reed relay I used can handle the strange 3.3V to 5V connection used (pin 2 and 6 on the relay). This saves the need for an inverter, since for some reason, the TTL’s logical high is 0V and logical low is 3.3V and not the other way round (still trying to figure out if this is the spec, or the Chinese assemblers fault).
If you can’t find part number HE722A0510, then you could use two NPN 2N3904 transistors and a 8 pin mechanical relay. The NPN transistor on the left inverts the signal, while the transistor on the right amplifies the signal to 5V. This is the schematic:
Will build ham radio interfaces for food – If you want I would build you one
I am willing to build these for people and get paid via paypal, price is negotiable, but I don’t think I’d be willing to build this for under $55 (or 200 NIS). If I find cheaper ways to get parts, I’ll lower the price. This depends on how much call there is, and if I find a cheap way to print PCBs for this project.
I hope this interface brings use to people. The one I built I hope to donate to the Jerusalem Amateur Radio Society operations.
That’s it, Looking forwards to hear your thoughts on this post, 4Z7GAI wishing you 73, best regards.