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Heterodyne Principle

Heterodyning is a radio signal processing technique invented

in 1901 by Canadian inventor-engineer Reginald Fessenden
that creates new frequencies by combining or mixing two
frequencies. Heterodyning is used to shift one frequency
range into another, new one, and is also involved in the
processes of modulation and demodulation. The two
frequencies are combined in a nonlinear signal-processing
device such as a vacuum tube, transistor, or diode, usually
called a mixer.


In the superheterodyne receiver, the incoming signal through the antenna is filtered to reject the
image frequency and then amplified by the RF amplifier.
RF amplifier can be tuned to select and amplify a particular carrier frequency within the AM broadcast
range. Only the selected frequency and it two sidebands are allowed to pass through the amplifier.
The carrier of the received signal is called radio frequency carrier and its frequency is radio frequency
fRFfRF and the local oscillator signal operates at fOSCfOSC. The amplified RF frequency is then mixed with
the local oscillator frequency.
The combining of these two signals is done at the mixer which produces sum and difference
frequency signals of the incoming carrier signal and local oscillator signal, which are fOSC+fRF and
The sum frequency (fOSC+fRFfOSC+fRF) is rejected by the filter and the remaining difference frequency
(fOSC - fRF) signal which is a down converted frequency signal is called as intermediate frequency (IF)
carrier (fIF=fOSCfRFfIF=fOSCfRF).
The frequency of local oscillator is not same as the frequency to which RF amplifier is tuned. Local
oscillator is tuned to a frequency that may be either higher or lower than the incoming frequency by
an amount equal to the IF frequency.
Thus, idea of the superheterodyne receiver is to reduce the high frequency radio components of the
incoming carrier to a fairly low, fixed value such as to be processed at the different stages of the
receiver, and also to provide good stability, gain and proper selectivity and fidelity.
The modulation of the IF carrier signal is same as that of the original carrier signal and it has a fixed
frequency of 455kHz which is amplified by one or more stages of amplification.
The IF signal is amplified with the help of IF amplifier which raises its level for the information
extraction process. Also, the IF amplifier fulfils most of the gain and bandwidth requirements of the
IF amplifier operations are independent to the frequency at which receiver is tuned, maintaining the
selectivity and sensitivity of the superheterodyne receiver considerably constant throughout the
tuning range of the receiver.
This amplified IF signal is applied to the detector to detect the information signal component from
455 kHz IF, to reproduce the original information data, which is generally in the form of audio signal.
The detector stage eliminates one of the sidebands which is still present and separates the RF from
the audio components of the other sideband.
The RF component is filtered out and audio is supplied to the audio stages for amplification.
The generated audio signal is then applied to the AF amplifier to increase the audio frequency level
of the signal and to provide enough gain to drive the speaker or headphones.
A speaker is connected to the AF amplifier to play the audio information signal.
An important part of superheterodyne receiver is Automatic gain control (AGC) which is given to the
RF, IF and mixer stages in order to generate constant output irrespective of the varying input signal.
Superheterodyne radio receiver in spite of being more complicated than some of the other receivers
offers many advantages in terms of performance, most importantly the selectivity. It is more
efficiently able to remove unwanted and distorting signals than other forms like TRF and regenerative
Due to the enormous advantages provided by the superheterodyne receivers compared to the other
radio receivers, they are widely used in all broadcast radio receivers, commercial radios as well as
televisions operate on the basis of the superheterodyne principle.

1. Selectively
The selectivity of an AM receiver is defined as its
ability to accept or select the desired band of
frequency and reject all other unwanted
frequencies which can be interfering signals.
Adjacent channel rejection of the receiver can be
obtained from the selectivity parameter.
Response of IF section, mixer and RF section
considerably contribute towards selectivity.
The signal bandwidth should be narrow for
better selectivity.
Graphically selectivity can be represented as a
curve shown in Fig1. below, which depicts the attenuation offered to the unwanted signals around
the tuned frequency.
2. Fidelity
Fidelity of a receiver is its ability to reproduce the exact replica of the transmitted signals at the
receiver output.
For better fidelity, the amplifier must pass high bandwidth signals to amplify the frequencies of the
outermost sidebands, while for better selectivity the signal should have narrow bandwidth. Thus, a
trade-off is made between selectivity and fidelity.
Low frequency response of IF amplifier determines fidelity at the lower modulating frequencies while
high frequency response of the IF amplifier determines fidelity at the higher modulating frequencies.
3. Sensitivity
Sensitivity of a receiver is its ability to
identify and amplify weak signals at the
receiver output.
It is often defined in terms of voltage that
must be applied to the input terminals of
the receiver to produce a standard output
power which is measured at the output
The higher value of receiver gain ensures
smaller input signal necessary to produce
the desired output power.
Thus, a receiver with good sensitivity will detect minimum RF signal at the input and still produce
utilizable demodulated signal.
Sensitivity is also known as receiver threshold.
It is expressed in microvolts or decibels.
Sensitivity of the receiver mostly depends on the gain of IF amplifier.
It can be improved by reducing the noise level and bandwidth of the receiver.
Sensitivity can be graphically represented as a curve shown in Fig2. Below, which depicts that
sensitivity varies over the tuning band.

The terms detection and demodulation are often used
when referring to the overall demodulation process.
Essentially the terms describe the same process, and the
same circuits.
Terms like diode detector, synchronous detector and
product detector are widely used. But the term
demodulation tends to be used more widely when referring to the process of extracting the modulation from
the signal.
AM amplitude modulation demodulation principle
The term detection is the older term dating back to the early days of radio.
The term demodulation is probably more accurate in that it refers to the process of demodulation, i.e.
extracting the modulation from the signal.
That said both terms can be used equally well, although modern terminology tends to err towards the use
of the words demodulation and demodulator.
AM demodulation techniques
There are a number of techniques that can be used to demodulate AM signals. Different types are used in
different applications to suit their performance and cost.
Diode rectifier envelope detector: This form of detector is the simplest form, only requiring a single
diode and a couple of other low-cost components. The performance is adequate for low cost AM
broadcast radios, but it does not meet the standards of other forms of demodulation. Read more
about diode envelope detector.
Product detector: It is possible to demodulate amplitude modulated signals with a receiver that
incorporates a product detector of mixer and a local beat frequency oscillator or carrier injection
oscillator. In its basic form, the local oscillator is not synchronised to the incoming signal carrier.
Synchronous detection: Synchronous detection provides the optimum performance. It uses a mixer or
product detector with a local oscillator signal that is synchronised to the incoming signal carrier. This
provides many advantages over the other methods of AM demodulation. Read more about synchronous

Automatic gain control

Automatic gain control (AGC), also called automatic volume control (AVC), is a closed-loop feedback
regulating circuit, the purpose of which is to provide a controlled signal amplitude at its output, despite
variation of the amplitude in the input signal. The average or peak output signal level is used to dynamically
adjust the input-to-output gain to a suitable value, enabling the circuit to work satisfactorily with a greater
range of input signal levels. It is used in most radio receivers to equalise the average volume (loudness) of
different radio stations due to differences in received signal strength, as well as variations in a single station's
radio signal due to fading. Without AGC the sound emitted from an AM radio receiver would vary to an
extreme extent from a weak to a strong signal; the AGC effectively reduces the volume if the signal is strong
and raises it when it is weaker.

Simple AGC for radio receiver

The automatic Gian control circuit
also AGC with audio signal is
simplest for compress to signal in
the Radio receiver. It is ideal
for short wave radio receiver used
in areas with weak signals.
You should adjust the master
volume control dress until the
desired signal intensity. While
tuning the receiver to the station light, then gradually tuned to the power station and adjust the AGC pot
until the pressure in the hearing as needed.

Delayed Automatic Gain Control

The disadvantage of automatic gain control,
attenuating even the weak signal, is
overcome by the useof delayed automatic
gain control (dagc). Lets take a look at the
typical dagc circuitry in figure. This type of
system develops no agc feedback until an
established received signal strength is
attained. Forsignals weaker than this value,
no agc is developed. For sufficiently strong
signals, the delayed agc circuitoperates
essentially the same as ordinary agc. Our
circuit uses two separate diodes; one is the detector diode and the other the agc diode. The agcdiode is
connected to the primary of the last IF transformer and the detector diode to its secondary. Apositive bias
is applied to the cathode of the agc diode. This keeps it from conducting until a prearrangedsignal level has
been reached. The adjust delay control allows manual control of the agc diode bias.Manual control allows
you to select the signal level at which agc is applied.

FM receiver
RF section
Consists of a pre-selector and an amplifier
Pre-selector is a broad-tuned band pass filter with an adjustable center frequency used to reject
unwanted radio frequency and to reduce the noise bandwidth.
RF amplifier determines the sensitivity of the receiver and a predominant factor in determining the noise
figure for the receiver.

Mixer/converter section
Consists of a radio-frequency oscillator and a mixer.
Choice of oscillator depends on the stability and accuracy desired.
Mixer is a nonlinear device to convert radio frequency to intermediate frequencies (i.e. heterodyning
The shape of the envelope, the bandwidth and the original information contained in the envelope
remains unchanged although the carrier and sideband frequencies are translated from RF to IF.

IF section
Consists of a series of IF amplifiers and band pass filters to achieve most of the receiver gain and
The IF is always lower than the RF because it is easier and less expensive to construct high-gain, stable
amplifiers for low frequency signals.
IF amplifiers are also less likely to oscillate than their RF counterparts.

Detector section
To convert the IF signals back to the original source information (demodulation).
Can be as simple as a single diode or as complex as a PLL or balanced demodulator.

Audio amplifier section

Comprises several cascaded audio amplifiers and one or more speakers

AGC (Automatic Gain Control)

Adjust the IF amplifier gain according to signal level (to the average amplitude signal almost constant).
AGC is a system by means of which the overall gain of radio receiver is varied automatically with the
variations in the strength of received signals, to maintain the output constant.
AGC circuit is used to adjust and stabilize the frequency of local oscillator.

FM slope detection basics

The very simplest form of FM demodulation is known as slope detection or demodulation. It consists of a
tuned circuit that is tuned to a frequency slightly offset from the carrier of the signal.
As the frequency of the signals varies up and down in frequency according to its modulation, so the signal
moves up and down the slope of the tuned circuit. This causes the amplitude of the signal to vary in line with
the frequency variations. In fact, at this point the signal has both frequency and amplitude variations.

FM slope detection concept

It can be seen from the diagram that
changes in the slope of the filter, reflect into
the linearity of the demodulation process.
The linearity is very dependent not only on
the filter slope as it falls away, but also the
tuning of the receiver - it is necessary to
tune the receiver off frequency and to a pint
where the filter characteristic is relatively
The final stage in the process is to
demodulate the amplitude modulation and
this can be achieved using a simple diode
circuit. One of the most obvious
disadvantages of this simple approach is the fact that both amplitude and frequency variations in the
incoming signal appear at the output. However, the amplitude variations can be removed by placing a limiter
before the detector.
A variety of FM slope detector circuits may be used, but the one below shows one possible circuit with the
applicable waveforms. The input signal is a frequency modulated signal. It is applied to the tuned transformer
(T1, C1, C2 combination) which is offset from the centre carrier frequency. This converts the incoming signal
from just FM to one that has amplitude modulation superimposed upon the signal.

FM slope detector circuit showing

This amplitude signal is applied to a simple
diode detector circuit, D1. Here the diode
provides the rectification, while C3 removes
any unwanted high frequency components,
and R1 provides a load.
In an FM signal, the instantaneous frequency varies in accordance with the modulating signal. For a
sinusoidal modulating signal, the frequency deviation in an FM signal is sinusoidal, and it is
proportional to the modulating, amplitude. Recall that the changes in the instantaneous frequency of
the carrier signal occurs with respect to the previously attained value of the carrier frequency. This
clearly suggests that a PLL can be used to demodulate an FM signal.
Suppose the centre frequency of the FM signal is fc, and it lies within the hold-in range of PLL the
VCO is locked to fc, by applying a demodulated carrier at the input of the phase detector. When VCO
is locked to fc, the error signal is zero, and therefore, the control signal that changes the VCO
frequency is also equal to zero. If an FM signal is applied to the phase detector, there will be a
difference in the phases of the VCO output and the input FM signal. The control signal is produced in
proportion to the phase difference at an instance of time. This control voltage will modify the VCO
frequency, which is again compared with the incoming frequency. In this way, the current incoming
frequency is compared with the previously attained value of the VCO frequency, which is the
previously attained frequency of the FM Signal.
The VCO, therefore, tries to track the instantaneous frequency of the applied FM signal. The control
signal is produced in proportion to the difference between the VCO frequency and the instantaneous
frequency of FM signal. In other words, the control signal so produced is proportional to the frequency
deviation in the FM signal. Since the frequency deviation is proportional to the modulating signal, the
control signal appearing at the output of LPF is the modulating signal. Therefore, the FM signal is
demodulated by PLL.

A PLL is also available as an integrated

circuit IC. IC 565 PLL can be used for FM
Figure shows the circuit diagram of an
FM detector using 565 PLL.

The internal block diagram shows that IC

565 PLL consists of phase detector, VCO,
and amplifier. The
amplifier also functions as the low pass
filter. This is a 14-pin dual in line
In figure (b), notice that PLL IC consists of
two power supply pins marked Vcc. The
positive terminal
of the Vcc is connected to pin number
10, and the negative (ground) terminal
of Vcc is connected to
pin number 1. The output signal to the
phase detector is applied to pin numbers 2 and 3. The VCO
output is applied to the phase detector through pin number 5. The output of the phase detector is
internally connected to the amplifier (low-pass filter).
The output or the phase detector is low-pass filtered and amplified by the amplifier stage. The Output
or the amplifier is the control voltage that is applied to VCO to force it to track the incoming frequency.
The control voltage is also available at pin number 7. This is the output signal. In the ease of FM
demodulator, the signal at pin number 7 is the modulating signal. The amplifier also generates an
output at pin number 6for reference purposes.

The VCO gets its control voltage internally from the amplifier and its output at pin number 4. The VCO
output should be given to the phase detector through pin number 5. It is customary to short pin
numbers 4 and 5 so that the VCO output is applied directly to the phase detector. The external resistor
and capacitor can set the free-running frequency of the VCO. The resistor and capacitor are called the
timing resistor and the timing capacitor. The timing resistor is connected at pin number 8, and the
timing capacitor is connected at pin number 9.
Pin numbers 11, 12, 13, and 14 are not connected because they do not have any internal circuitry with
them. These are marked as NC in Figure (b). These pins are there because they are connected to IC.
Circuit Description
Figure (a) shows the circuit external to the IC 565 PLL for FM detection. The circuit shown in this
figure is a general circuit. The choice of the timing components, resistor R and capacitor C decides
the various parameters and the free-running frequency of PLL. Accordingly, the values of other
components are also chosen.

In Figure (a), only a few components are externally

connected to IC. The power supply, V, is
connected between pin numbers 1 and 10, with +V
applied at pin number 10. The timing resistor R
is connected to pin number 8, and the timing
capacitor, C is connected to pin number 9. The VCO
output, which is available at pin number 4 is applied
to phase-detector input at pin number 5. Pin
number 4 is shorted with pin number 5 as no
external component is required in this case.
The input FM signal, V, is applied to pin number 2
through the coupling capacitor C. A part of this
signal is also applied to pin number 3 through the
potential divider network, consisting of R, R, and
R. The dc power supply is also provided to the input
pins 2 and 3 through R from +V supply. The
capacitor C is used to filter out an AC ripple, if
present in the DC supply.
The demodulated FM signal is nothing but the
control signal, which is available at pin number 7.
Therefore, the signal available at pin number 7 is
the required modulating signal.