The last couple of months I have been listening a lot to the soldersmoke podcast. In case you do not know, it is two guys, Bill N2CQR and Pete N6QW babbling about building homebrew radios. I am very happy I found this podcast. It is highly inspiring, and by listening to the two experienced homebrewers I immediately wanted to melt some solder and build radios myself. Hence, I had to get myself a licence (got it last week: LB0MG) and start soldering radios.
As much as I would like to be in the possession of a totally homebrew fundamentalist discrete component ham radio station (like Bill N2CQR), I concluded that I rather should start out with a kit. (I guess some homebrew fundamentalists threw up a bit now since I mentioned the word “kit”).
Anyway, choosing a kit I might as well do it the modern way and build a SDR. I initially considered the PeaBerry SDR, but ended up with the Softrock Ensemble RXTX SDR Transceiver kit since I have the required sound card capabilities laying around after my previous synth projects.
The kit is nicely packaged and contains about 250 parts. Some through hole and some SMT.
I am pretty sure I will not do much contesting in any perceivable future so I choose to build the Softrock for the 17m, 20m, and 30m bands (two contest free bands).
So far I have built the entire RX part of the kit and it has come along quite nicely. The SMT parts are rather easy to solder. Surprisingly enough, the through hole parts are a bit more challenging since there are very little space around the components, and the pads are really small and not gold plated. A lot of flux really helps.
The only mistake I did was that i lost the LT6231 SMT RX opamp (probably in the vacuum cleaner). Straight away I ordered two new chips from DigiKey and when they arrived at my door merely 36 hours later, I was so eager to get the RX working, that I accidentally soldered the small SMT chip in the wrong orientation. Hence I had to use the second one (glad I ordered two of them). But it worked! I got a small Image rejection problem, but traced it down to a setting in the sound card I used (Behringer UCA-202).