Building the Softrock Ensemble RX/TX SDR Radio
I am currently building the Softrock Ensemble RXTX SDR transceiver kits from Tony Parks KB9YIG. I will say that this is a very challenging kit. I have built previous kits from Tony Park and Elecraft and I would say this one is a real challenge. It has plenty of tiny parts, but the LFEA (aka FLEA) chip used in the 3.3 voltage USB circuit was especially interesting (to be kind) when soldering it to the board. (Click on the photo and look in the upper left corner, the LFEA is the tiny speck of black.) The SMA capacitors look terrifying, but are actually fairly easy by putting a little solder on one pad and then holding the part in place with a pair of side angle tweezers. The use the soldering iron to tack one end of the capacitor down to the pad with previously applied solder. Also WB5RVZs builders notes should be required reading.
I will tell you if you are interested in building one of these neat kits you will definitely need the following:
1. Patience and steady hands. So lay off the coffee.
2. A sense of humor (you will need it to laugh at how many mistakes you may make)
3. Super human vision. If not, then you will need a very good hobby magnifying lamp. Some people like the head magnifiers, but to me they look silly and just get in the way.
4. A decent temperature controlled soldering station. Don’t even dare to try to approach this kit with a cheapo soldering iron. This kit only deserves the best. Use a fine tip.
5. If you borrow a set of tools used for micro surgery from your local hospital that would great. If you can’t, a pair of side angle tweezers will get you by.
6. A fairly decent multimeter helps. I recently replaced my 15 year old Radio Shack model with a TekPower TPC4000ZC logging multimeter and been happy with it for $30 it costs. The continuity checker is your friend when building and installing the coils and transformers. I have had more problems with coils than any other component because they didn’t make good solder contact.
I will let you know how it goes. Now where did I put that Jack Daniels?