The following is a design for a separately
quenched super regen receiver I first tried in early 1992. It worked far
better than any other solid state design, so I built a portable version
for use during my commuting from the Blue Mountains to Sydney on the train.
Running off 10x AA nicads, this gave me a week's listening before recharging.
I submitted the basic circuit to Silicon Chip, whereupon it was published
in the April 2003 issue (and I won a nice true RMS meter as a result).
My portable version differs in that it uses varicap tuning, the output
transformer has a 1K primary, and the output transistor is a BC108, with
bias components to suit. It also uses the headphone lead for the aerial.
There is no doubt that the separate quench feature makes all the difference.
Simple one transistor self quenched circuits cannot match this design for
sound quality or sensitivity.
This is the article as submitted to Silicon Chip and edited by them:
This little super-regenerative receiver
is essentially an AM receiver, with "slope detection" used for FM. By tuning
to one side of the carrier, the receiver's tuned circuit converts FM to
AM. The bandwidth is about 200KHz so wideband FM stations can be demodulated
by tuning the receiver to the most linear point of the response curve,
rather than the top of the curve as one would for AM. In practice, this
simply means tuning for clearest sound.
The heart of the receiver is Q2 which is a Hartley oscillator, with its tuned circuit in the base circuit. It determines the frequency of oscillation and hence the receiving frequency.
RF amplifier Q1 is a self biased untuned common emitter amplifier, included to prevent aerial loading from affecting the detector's oscillation frequency and amplitude. It also reduces any RF radiated from the aerial. RF is coupled into the oscillator coil by C2. The aerial can be a piece of wire cut to 75cm. A 75cm telescopic rod aerial is better but a proper outdoor FM aerial is preferred for non portable use.
Most simple super-regenerative detectors are self-quenched, however this makes it difficult to obtain the optimum quench waveform. Particularly for wideband FM, the quench waveform has considerable effect on sound quality.
In this receiver, the quenching of the detector is achieved by Q6, a unijunction transistor (UJT) relaxation oscillator. The emitter of the UJT provides an approximate sawtooth waveform, which as it also provides the bias supply for Q2 takes the detector in and out of oscillation at about 50KHz.
It is necessary to be able to set the optimum quenching voltage and this is done by adjusting Q6's supply by pot VR2. This effectively functions as the regeneration control.
Present at the collector of Q2 is the demodulated AM or FM signal as well as the supersonic quench. This is of sufficient amplitude to overload the following audio stages, so C6, R7,C7 and C9 provide simple low-pass filtering.
Transistors Q4 and Q5 form a class A amplifier which can provide about 80mW output. Bias stabilisation is automatic using current feedback. If the current in Q5 rises then Q4 turns on harder, reducing the bias for Q5. Negative feedback is obtained from the secondary of the speaker transformer and fed into Q4 via R18. The windings of the transformer must be phased correctly, otherwise the amplifier will oscillate. The transformer is a standard DSE/Jaycar 500 ohm to 8 ohm output type.
The prototype receiver uses the local oscillator section of a plastic AM radio tuning capacitor, in the same way as Silicon Chip did with the TDA7000 receiver (November 1992 issue). (The aerial section tunes a ZN414 AM receiver in the same enclosure, sharing the same audio amp).
The air-cored coil (L1) consists of four turns of 18 gauge B&S tinned copper wire on a former with 3/8" ID and tapped at one turn. With this coil, frequency coverage is
about 60-150MHz depending on tuning capacitance.
As with all VHF circuitry, some care needs to be taken with construction. My portable version was built on a small piece of Veroboard. When using this, or any other super-regenerative receiver, it may often be found that an audible tone is heard in the background when listening to a station transmitting stereo or SCA programs. This is a result of subcarriers beating with the quench frequency. Adjustment of the quench frequency will usually minimise the problem.
In this receiver, if adjusting VR2 doesn't get rid of it, then it's worth experimenting with C11. It's important to note that raising the quench frequency too high will reduce receiver sensitivity. Decreasing the quench frequency will improve sensitivity but the subcarrier beat will be more evident.
Further decreasing it will make the quench audible at all times. For non FM stereo/SCA applications, C11 can be increased until just before the quench becomes audible.
Optimum sensitivity occurs with VR2 adjusted to the point where the receiver has just gone into oscillation.
At this point, a "rushing" noise becomes evident and stations can be tuned in. With very weak signals, it will become obvious that the settings of VR2 and C4 interact slightly. I tested this receiver with an HP8654 signal generator and could receive a 3uV signal, albeit with some noise.
Note the three pots. This portable version uses varicap tuning.
The prototype, February 1992. The small PCB on the left is an MK484 receiver for Medium Waves, while the PCB on the right is a two germanium transistor audio amp.
Taken from my original notes, this is how to use varicap tuning and the headphone lead as an aerial. The 1N914 in series with the zener diode provides temperature compensation.
Fellow FM enthusiast, Andy
Mitz, decided to have a go at building this receiver with a few minor
The front end was kept as is, but an audio amp IC replaced my two transistor circuit, and an 18V supply was used. This is what Andy had to say: "I have attached some photos of a regen build using much of your design. This version uses a Motorola varicap diode and a Philips audio amp chip. The unit is sensitive (does not need the whip antenna), selective, and has enough audio to overdrive the speaker."
Inside and outside views of Andy's receiver. The 18V supply would provide better
stability for the varicap tuner's zener diode stabiliser as well as providing high audio output.
Here's the circuit in .pdf.
email me: cablehack at yahoo dot com