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Friday, June 3, 2022

Phase Noise and all that

Our friend Dave K8WPE has been listening to old podcasts.  He recently came across those in which Pete and I were talking about phase noise.   He asked for some resources on this topic.  Here is what I sent him: 

 Receiver performance expert Robert Sherwood explains it this way: 

Old radios (Collins, Drake, Hammarlund, National) used a VFO or PTO and crystal oscillators to tune the bands. Any noise in the local oscillator (LO) chain was minimal. When synthesized radios came along in the 70s, the LO had noise on it. It is caused by phase jitter in the circuit, and puts significant noise sidebands on the LO. This can mix with a strong signal outside the passband of the radio and put noise on top of the weak signal you are trying to copy. This is a significant problem in some cases: You have a neighboring ham close by, during Field Day when there are multiple transmitters at the same site, and certainly in a multi-multi contest station. You would like the number to be better that 130 dBc / Hz at 10 kHz. A non-synthesized radio, such as a Drake or Collins, has so little local oscillator noise the measurements were made closer-in between 2 and 5 kHz. 

Rhode and Schwarz have a good oversight video with great graphs that explain the fundamentals,  See above or here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfgaEjf1154 

I think a lot of the fretting about advanced receiver performance measurements are really kind of over-the-top, and mostly of interest to advanced builders who want the very best performance from their receivers.  Most of the rest of us are happy if we can hear the band noise and separate the desired signals from the QRM.  But I must admit that as time goes on, I find myself getting more and more finicky.  I start to worry about gain distribution and dynamic range.  But I don't worry so much about phase noise because I am more of an LC oscillator guy and don't make much use of the PLL devices (like the Si5351) that do produce more phase noise. 

I've had many articles on the blog about about phase noise.  Here they are: 

1 comment:

  1. NZPO "carrier" telephony systems (1960s-70s) had umpty-stacked synchronised SSB channels over co-ax, and they used Psophometers ('piss-off-ometers) :) to measure channel noise, which would have shown phase noise. The earliest such systems I encountered, still in service, were 1930s tech, directly-heated valves with cathode filaments glowing, 2-channels on open-wire rural lines. I only sussed that out much later, when the diode-rings were disposed of as redundant junk obsoleted by fibre-optics and associated developments. In training they were just numbered 'channels' in numbered groups, with frequencies not even mentioned let alone disclosed. I'd guess the likes of NZBC leased blocks for bandwidth.


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