Designing Ham transmitter

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I thought, since I am designing a transmitter for myself, I would walk through all the steps here.

First, I decided to eventually run a pair of 6146 tubes. I want to measure the difference between 6146 tube types at HF, and document if they really are as different as claimed. These tubes are also a good choice for CW because they have high gain and are compact for the power level.

The 6146 data looks like:

Rated maximum ICAS  anode dissipation is 25 to 35 watts depending on tube type:

Maximum Ratings (Design Center Values)

RF Power Amplifier & Oscillator - Class C (ICAS)
Plate Voltage ................................. 750 V
Grid No. 2 Voltage ............................ 250 V
Negative Grid No. 1 Voltage ................... -150 V
Plate Input ................................... 90 W
Plate Dissipation ............................. 25 W
Grid No. 2 Dissipation ........................ 3 W
Plate Current ................................. 150 mA
Grid No. 1 Circuit Resistance
Fixed Bias .................................. 30K Ω
Bulb Temperature (At Hottest Point) ........... 220 C

Looking at tube characteristics we can pick a zero drive bias point based on limiting to 20 watts dissipation at 700 volts (20/700= .029 amps or 29 mA safe no-drive current). If we look below at the -50 volt curve (just below G) we would have safe plate current with just over -50 volts bias. This will eliminate any need for a screen clamp tube!

6146 transmitter design

The rated output of a class-C 6146 at 700 volts is around 65 watts. This would be with about 600 volts of peak anode voltage swing, or about 400 volts RMS voltage (because the waveform has high harmonic content, RMS voltage swing is less than .707*peak we might expect).

At 130 watts for two tubes, the plate load impedance would be about 400^2 / 130 = 1230 ohms. If we compare this estimate to the approximation Ep/2Ip=R we have 700/.26*2 = 1346 ohms. I will design around my estimate of 1230 ohms optimum plate load resistance. It is probably closer, although this value is not critical.

Many articles suggest a network Q of 10-12, but in reality there is very little difference in harmonic performance between a Q of 5-6, and a Q of 10-12.

The calculated difference in 2nd harmonic voltage going from a Q of ~7.5 to a Q of 12 is only 1.4 dB. If harmonics are an issue, it is more effective to find other means to suppress them than to increase tank Q.

Good harmonic suppression is more a matter of construction and layout than it is tank Q, so long as a somewhat reasonable Q is selected.

Minimum Q for a Pi-network is generally accepted to be 1+(sqrt of Rp/Rl). This means if we plan for the highest impedance transformation we should be OK at all other settings. If we don't do that, the network might act "spongy" or tune backwards, with less loading capacitance decreasing plate current at dip.

If we plan on a 1.5:1 load SWR, we should use sqrt of (1230/33) +1= 7.1.  Q would be 7.1. This also covers us at reduced power, because tank Q increases at a faster rate than the required increase in Q as the ratio becomes higher. We will never have a condition, at reduced power, where tank Q is too low.

We will plan for a Q of 7.1 on all bands into 33 ohms (not 50 ohms). This gives us headroom for SWR errors!!

Homebrew transmitter pi-network

Attenuation vs frequency

Because of the large values required, 160-meter tank values determine the physical area required for the tank circuit.

For proper headroom, we need just over 500 pF at 1kV for the plate tuning capacitance. I decided to use a 208 pF capacitor with a 360 pF padding capacitor for the plate. This will provide a tuning range of 375-568 pF on 160 meters. The tuning capacitor will need padded on 160 and 80 meters.

For loading, I have an 1100 pF air variable. The loading capacitor will need padded only on 160.

Band Cp est C pad L C load est C pad
160 507pF 360pF 16.4H 1100pF 680pF
80 261pF 100pF 8.4H  830pF none
40 130pF none 4.2H 415pF none
20 65pF none 2.1H 208pF none
15 44pF none 1.4H 138pF none
10 33pF none 0.7H  69pF none



Power Supply

Also see this link

I've settled on a power supply. The schematic below is a p-spice model of the supply. R5 and R6 actually represent internal resistance of the transformer. R1, R2, and R3 represent the load by external circuits, including voltage dividers and vacuum tubes:

choke input supply bridge


This supply moves the choke into the negative rectifier lead so I can extract bias from the AC voltage appearing across the choke. I've done this in a Globe Scout and it works OK.

This is a full wave bridge that uses the transformer center tap to obtain half voltage for the low level stages and screen grids of the PA tube. R1 is the HV load, R2 the low voltage load, and R3 the bias system.

Diodes can be conventional 1N4007's.




Here is how the real-world supply actually tested in a load-pull as R1 was varied. It looks like I have a good 100 watt supply, and a marginal 150 watt supply. This should be suitable for a single 6146B tube, or perhaps a pair:

Full wave choke voltage













Full wave choke regulation










120   Vac Line With 50k bleeder across HV plus the additional load in left column. Current excludes bleeder.      
Load P load mA HV LV bias neg ESR ERS2 ESR3 Sag %
100000 6 8 758 298 180        
33000 16 22 722 307 230 2518     -13.0
18500 21 34 628 317 325 7790     0.0
14000 25 43 596 319 335 3710 6089   5.4
10000 34 59 587 313 345 558 1656 3666 7.0
5000 64 113 564 301 355 425 456 812 11.3
2500 111 210 526 280 400 389 402 417 19.4
1700 146 293 498 262 420 339 366 380 26.1
1500 158 325 487 255 435 347 341 363 29.0
1350 169 353 477 249 442 349 348 343 31.7
1200 180 388 465 240 450 351 350 349 35.1


Supply ESR looks to be around 350 ohms or so. I tried several chokes and couldn't find anything better, and no matter how reasonable bleeder current or how much I increase inductance I can't seem to get less than 700 volts no load from my 700VCT transformer. I'm working on stabilizing the supply more if possible.