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AD8310 Log Amp Module: Corrected Input Circuit

After puzzling over the AD8310 Log Amp module’s peculiar frequency response, I hacked up the front end circuitry to match the data sheet’s recommended layout:

AD8310 Log Amp module - revised

AD8310 Log Amp module – revised

Given the intended LF crystal-measurement application, a hulking 51 Ω metal film resistor sprawled across the ground plane will work just fine. All three ceramic caps measure a bit under 1 µF; I intended to solder the input caps atop the existing 10 nF caps, but that didn’t work out well at all.

I should harvest the InLo SMA connector to prevent anyone from mistaking it for an actual input.

With that in place, the log amp output makes more sense:

AD8310 - modified - 100 kHz 150 MHz - 0 dB atten

AD8310 – modified – 100 kHz 150 MHz – 0 dB atten

That trace tops out at 150 MHz, not the previous 500 MHz, but now the response is flat all the way out. The log amp generates plenty of hash when the tracking generator isn’t producing a valid signal.

The 60 kHz response looks different:

AD8310 - modified - 60 kHz 1Vpp

AD8310 – modified – 60 kHz 1Vpp

So it’s really the log amp response to the absolute value of the sine wave (or, more accurately, to the sine wave re-zeroed around Vcc/2), with minimum output at the input’s zero crossings. At 500 mV/div, the log amp says the input varies by 42 dB = 1000 mV/(24 mV/dB), which might actually be about right for a zero-crossing (or zero-approaching absolute value of a) signal; logarithms don’t deal well with zeros.

The AD8310 datasheet  and AN-691 suggest the 2.5 V output corresponds to +10 dBm = 12.5 Vrms input, which flat-out isn’t the case. However, the actual 500 mVpeak = 350 mVrms input is 2.5 mW = +4 dBm, so maybe it’s within spitting distance of being right.

AN-691 recommends 10 µF input caps for “low frequency” use, showing results down to 20 Hz; 1 µF seems to get the circuit close enough to the goal for use near 60 kHz.

It also recommends a cap on the BFIN pin (pin 6) to reduce the output stage bandwidth = “video bandwidth” and improve the overall accuracy, which remains to be done. The datasheet suggests rolling VBW off at 1/10 the minimum input frequency, which would be around 3 kHz for use with 32.768 kHz crystals. The equation, with reference to the internal 3 kΩ bias resistor:

CFILT = 1/(2π 3 kΩ VBW) – 2.1 pF = 18 nF

For a bit more margin, 1 kHz would require 56-ish nF.

The PCB has a convenient pair of pads labeled C6 for that capacitor. This may require protracted rummaging in the SMD capacitor stash.

Rolling off the VBW should reduce the hash on the 100 kHz end of the frequency sweep and filter the 60 kHz response down to pretty much a DC level.

Applying the 10 dB and 20 dB SMA attenuators to the input from the tracking generator and recording the log amp output voltage produces this useful table:

AD8310 Log Amp - mods and log response

AD8310 Log Amp – mods and log response

With the terminating resistor on the correct side of the input caps, the log amp seems to be working the way it should, with an output varying a bit under the nominal 24-ish mV/dB over a 30 dB range.

We need caps! Lots of caps!

A quick search with the obvious keywords suggests nobody else has noticed how these modules work over a reasonable bandwidth. Maybe I’m the first person to use them in the LF band?

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  1. #1 by RCPete on 2017-05-16 - 11:11

    I have a tool question: my 40+ year old Weller soldering station isn’t easy to use on surface mount devices, (actually, it’s been tough keeping the tips properly tinned lately) and I’m thinking of upgrading. What’s the good (as in decent and more-or-less affordable) setup now?

  2. #5 by bob on 2017-05-16 - 15:31

    Not sure if its 100% relevant but Owen Duffy in Australia noted some issues and suggested mods for a similar module featuring Chinese “quality” control (snigger). Ref is owenduffy.net/blog/?p=7559 for part 1 of the brief series.

    • #6 by Ed on 2017-05-16 - 16:53

      Looks like a different verse of the same song: if they’d just build the circuit as shown in the datasheet, it’d be all good. I wonder where they got the “improvements” and why they spent money on the wrong parts?

      Thanks for the pointer!

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