Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Starting on a Tiny Spectrum Analyzer

I have been playing with building a simple spectrum analyzer for a couple years now.  I have tried several different versions, and have ran into similar problems with all of them.  For what I want I need several different resolution bandwidth settings. For more than two band-widths  the overall complexity becomes greatly increased. I have tried several different approaches, but have not been happy with anything I tried.  I had joined the Homebrew Test Equipment group on ( , when it started.  Recently there has been a series of posts on a Tiny SA that has most of the features I would like to have.  It has a interface to a PC application for control and display.  I plan on adding a TFT dispalay to make it a stand alone instrument.  I have several STM-32 'Blue Pill' modules that I purchased a year ago. I think one of them should work well for this project.

This SA uses a pair of inexpensive SI4432 wireless ISM transceiver modules.  For use in a SA the important features of the SI4432 transceier is a frequency range of 240 to 940 MHz. at up to 20dBm output, variable receive bandwidth using DSP technology, and a Receive Signal Strenth Indicator signal with  .5 dBm. resolution down to about - 120 dBm. Complete modules with all the support components needed are available for less than $5 through the normal sources.

There are two different filters in the SA that I needed to design for a circuit board.  The first is the input low pass filter.  I decided a range of up to about 200 MHz. should be more than adequate for what I need.  My favorite design tool for filters is Elsie, with it  I can quickly design various types of filters, and tune the circuit to use standard value components.

For the low pass I decided on a 7th. order capacitor input filter. Playing with the program and values I have on hand, I came up with this circuit.

 This should give a frequency response similar to this, depending on the actual components used.

I had some circuit boards made by one of the Chinese board houses and, built and tested the LPF.  I used some SMD capacitors I had on hand from an assortment I purchsed a while ago.  Using a online calculor I designed and wound some air core inductors that are close to the values needed. ( )
   I used some 24 guage silver plated wire wound around a 3mm. screw as a form.  Four turns for the first inductor and five turns for the other two. 
 Connecting the circuit to the NanoVNA using one temporary SMA connector, and with a little reforming of the coils I was able to come up with  a filter with the following response.

I had to settle for a little bit lower cutoff frequency than the original design to reduce the passband ripple but will be fine for the frequency range I want.  It also gives me the option of using a 315 MHz. first IF frequency if I want to try instead of the 432 MHz. in the original Tiny SA.
The next filter I need to build and test is the first  IF bandpass filter,
This will use a pair of  432 MHz. SAW filters.


  1. Sounds like an interesting project you have there DuWayne. If your at this years fdim I'll look forward to hearing about it in person.

  2. Looking good Wayne. Not sure how thick your pcb material is but did you design trace width for 50ohms?
    Also it might be better to have the central coil at right angles to the others to reduce mutual coupling. Which may or may not be an issue
    Glenn vk3pe