AVR Microcontrolled PLL FM Transmitter

Posted on May 6, 2012

An LMX1601 Phase locked loop, a discreet FET VCO, and an AVR micro controller combine to make a stable, easy to use monophonic FM transmitter that includes a an audio activated switch that turns the transmitter on only when its being used. The common characteristic of all of the previous low power FM transmitters I've built over the decades, is that their operating frequency is determined by an LC resonant circuit. Some of them had excellent stability, some of them didn't, but I had always wanted to make one that is crystal controlled.

AVR Microcontrolled PLL FM Transmitter
Click here to download the full size of the above Circuit.

Various schemes had been considered from time-to-time, including the direct approach of modulating the load capacitance of a a crystal oscillator, a whimsical phase modulation scheme involving a phase shifter, some balanced modulators, and limiting amplifiers, and at times, the down-to-earth and sober approach of modulating a VCO within a phase locked loop (PLL). While browsing Digikey's online catalog, I found the LMX1601 frequency synthesizer chip and thought: "Just maybe, the PLL approach is finally within my grasp." The LMX1601, which apparently was designed for use in cell phones, includes everything need to make two phase locked loops except for the VCOs. More importantly, one of the PLLs, specifically the "AUX" PLL, is specified to work in the FM broadcast band. The LMX1600 and the LMX1602 were also considered, but the LMX1601 was selected because it has a "500 MHz option", meaning that it can work down to about 50 MHz. The Phase Locked Loop In order to function, the LM1601's registers need to be loaded. In particular, they need to be loaded with the divide ratios for the reference and signal (VCO in this case) counters, and to set some control parameters. To load the registers, I used a Atmel AT90S2313. It could have been any microcontroller with 3 I/O pins, but I had chosen the AVR processor, and I still have a lot of AT90S2313 chips left over from another project. To the best of my knowledge, the ATtiny2313...

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