NJQRP home

Ensemble RX II Group Build - December 11, 2010

> Ensemble RX II

The Ensemble RX II receiver kit is one of many Software Defined Radios (SDR) designed by Tony Parks, KB9YIG. His SDR work started with the famous Softrock 40 receiver and has continued through many more receivers and transceivers. Technical details for the Ensemble RX II are available at the WB5RVZ web site.

This is an all-HF band receiver kit that includes the components for building the receiver for HF operation (1.8 MHz through 30 MHz). We're looking forward to getting this compact little receiver working first with the PC, and then shortly thereafter with a small project board (our follow-on group build) to eliminate the need for the PC. "We don't need no stinkin' PC!"

Kits were distributed at our November 20th meeting, and we held a group build Workshop on Dec 11th at the Armstrong Hall Engineering Lab at the College of New Jersey.   Great thanks to Professor Al Katz (the famous UHF ham) who let us use the engineering lab. A big thanks to Joe Jesson, KC2VGL for arranging this venue, which could become a regular place for the continued stream of Group Build activities that we have planned for the club.

We had some 15 club members attending the Workshop, and perhaps about four guys completed assembly of their Ensemble boards.  Many others made good progress on winding the toroids, and attaching the surface mount ICs.  Ted W2TAG sat right there at his spot at the lecture table and attached his SMT integrated circuits using a heat gun - see the pics of him below, and we'll try to get a YouTube posting of the short video we made.  See the pics of others distributed out among some 7 workbenches, each outfitted with 100 MHz digital scopes, DVMs and solder stations - what a homebrewer's paradise!  See if you can identify the NJQRPer at each workbench!

Thanks to all who attended the Workshop.  While the time literally flew by and we didn't get everything done that we originally intended, we think it was greatly worthwhile for everyone on multiple levels ... exposure to a lab environment, solder assist for SMT devices, winding assist for the dreaded toroids (standard donut ferrites as well as the binocular ones!), measurement of the clock signals coming from the USB cable, usage of the software (drivers, config application and SDR application), and the demonstration given of PowerSDR application on N2APB's machine running his Ensemble receiver.  We even had another whiteboard walk-through of the "SDR architecture", including some good discussion of the sound card, data flow amongst all the cables, and what it takes to perform SDR.

Our next meeting is on Dec 18th at 9am the regular Brooklawn community center location.  See the maps for that elsewhere here on the website.

73, George N2APB & Joe N2CX

Pics of the Workshop on Dec 11th ...
Notice: W2TAG hot air gun attaching SMT devices, N2CX checking out K2SZ's wisdom teeth, new member Tony W2HWW next to Smiling Denis, 3 views of KE3S superb construction of the Ensemble (note trick of mounting screws to support board during construction), and N2APB smiling despite being able to get WA2DJN's board working (at first).  Click any image to see bigger view.


Project History

Fri, 22 Oct 2010

Here's an update on the Group Build project ... We're almost ready to go!

1) We've now received all parts from Tony Parks KB9YIG (Mr. Softrock) and have sorted them into the 20 kits that we have planned for our group build participants;

2) We've arranged to meet at the Engineering Lab at the College of New Jersey on Saturday morning Dec 11th. This is the small campus where the Trenton Hamfest is held each year, so many of you know its location on Rt 31 just within the northern stretch of the 95/295 loop around Trenton. (The NJ College is pretty close to Princeton.) It will be very, very cool meeting in a lab with access to solder stations, power supplies, oscilloscopes and other test equipment! What a great place to get your new Ensemble receiver working, along with some helpful technical guidance where needed. A big thanks to Joe Jesson, KC2VGL for arranging this venue, which could become a regular place for the continued stream of Group Build activities that we have planned for the club.

3) And we want to meet even before the Dec 11 date in order to hand out the kits (and receive your payment), overview the project, walk through the design and construction steps, and more. A regular location is being scouted out right now that will become our regular meeting place on the 3rd Saturday of each month going forward. We expect to have this nailed shortly and our first such meeting will be on November 20th.

Fri, 08 Oct 2010

I've got 20 of the Rx Ensemble kits on order for our group build ... should have them next week.

We're going to have a good time with this NJQRP group build. I'm looking forward to making an all-HF band receiver to use (first) with a PC, and then later with a small standalone package that cuts the cable to the PC ... "We don't need no stinkin' PC!"

Joe and I are now working up the logistics. So in the meantime, if you are interested in participating, let Joe or me know and we'll get you weaved into the plans.

Fri, 01 Oct 2010

Hey guys, here's a group project idea we'd like to bounce off you all ...

Joe and I would like to suggest that we put together a group purchase of a small receiver board called the Softrock Ensemble RX. This is a simple board approximately 2" x 4.5" that serves as a switchable all-band HF receiver when used with a PC sound card in the normal Softrock fashion.

The idea is that we would purchase a number of these kits and put them together as a group over the course of several meetings (at the meeting, between meetings, debug at meetings, use at and after meetings, etc.) The Ensemble RX is relatively inexpensive (~$50) for what you get: a superb, low-cost, full coverage, all-mode HF receiver. It consists mostly of thru-hole components, other than a few SMT integrated circuits that we could pre-attach for those who wish. Start to finish it would take someone with modest kitbuilding and soldering skills approximately only 3-5 hours to complete. And again, this would occur over a series of several monthly meetings.

Now the beauty of this idea is that everybody likes to listen (i.e., it's a receiver) and you could use just a wire out the window as an antenna. No big requirements here.

Another devious part of the plan is that a second, follow-on project could be undertaken by the NJ group that would serve as an add-on to the Ensemble RX receiver and eliminate the need for the PC. In other words, with a scaled-back SDR card (Cube "lite" or even the SDR2GO project by the Austin QRP Group), we disentangle the project from the nasty ol' PC and have a standalone, full-coverage, all-mode receiver.

Anyway, that's the idea. We start off by placing a group order for the Ensemble RX kits, built them and use them together as a group. We'd have some fun building and would learn some basic principles of radio at the same time. Then for those interested, we follow on with another el cheapo card to eliminate the need for the PC. (Or go straight to that point, if individuals are interested.)

What better way to learn, grow as a ham and have radio fun with your comrades all at the same time?

What do you think ... Would you be willing to work this project together?

73, George N2APB and Joe N2CX

PS: Another club has recently been doing this with great enthusiasm and success (the Pacific Northwest QRP Group).

PPS: For perhaps obvious reasons, this group project would necessarily be limited to those who can attend the local monthly meetings.


Last updated: December 11, 2010