The PSoC Project:
A Standalone SDR Receiver

Using the Cypress PSoC 5 controller with a Softrock as the RF front end

Latest Update: July 21, 2013



If you were following along in our recent CWTD episode, we introduced the CWTD PSoC Project ... a small, inexpensive "PSoC" controller that will interface to the popular Softrock Ensemble RX-II, or to the Softrock Lite-II for use as a standalone receiver.  The PSoC chip is able to do the clock control, demodulation and I/O device control to let you use the Softrocks as a low-cost, standalone receiver.

This is a technical idea that we're starting to flesh out for coupling a PSoC controller chip to create a standalone SDR receiver, using the popular Softrocks as the RF front end ... without relying on a PC for the SDR processing!   The CWTD PSOC Project is a low cost, Programmable System On a Chip controller that has internal digital, analog and DSP blocks that may be configured to perform a wide range of functions for the designer.

Ours is a simplistic design that is guaranteed not to blow the socks off other SDR radios.  But it will demonstrate for us experimenters the wealth of programmable circuit functionality that is available in the Cypress PSoC family of controllers.  You can see a block diagram below.

Block Diagram

The Controller

While we had first intended to use the Cypress PSoC 3 device, it turns out that a better and more powerful PSoC chip is available:  the PSoC 5.  And most importantly, we can rely on a convenient and not-too-costly plug-in module containing the PSoC-5.  You can read about the "freeSoC" and "freeSoC Mini" boards at ... The "freeSoC Mini" is what we're thinking of using as the little platform for our CWTD PSoC Project.  This is for sale at ...

freeSOC Mini 

To quote the developer of the freeSOC Mini ... Imagine having the power of an FPGA, the flexibility of a microcontroller, and a handful of precision analog components all integrated into a single development kit. With freeSoC, one chip does it all. Harnessing the power of the powerful PSoC 5 microcontroller, freeSoC is the platform for the maker generation.

Our First PSoC Program

First I downloaded and installed the PSoC Creator "integrated development environment" ... Click on first link in table at bottom of this page ...

And then I successfully went through the very first tutorial for programming my freeSOC Mini board to produce an LED brightness control via a potentiometer.  There is a good video describing the steps for this at ...

See the results below! ... How simple can this get?!

So just think, even in this simplest example of creating an LED Brightness Control by dragging symbols to the screen for an ADC, PWM generator and a clock, adding some canned "glue software", compiling the package and downloading it to the reprogrammable PSoC chip ... what a powerful homebrewing and experimenting capability for mixed-signal logic (analog, digital, etc.)

This is really quite a nifty and powerful device and we should be able to find many uses of it for our projects around the shack. As well as, of course, to control the Softrock Lite II receiver card that we started describing
during the CWTD show.

The RF Front End

And if you don't already have a working, undedicated Softrock to use as an RF front end with this project, you could consider the Five Dash (  "Softrock Rx Ensemble II Receiver Kit" or the "Softrock Lite-II kit" ...

Softrock Lite-II 

So, if you wanted to get a head start on things, these are the two components that Joe and I (and a few others) we'll be playing around with as we develop this CWTD PSoC Project.  No guarantees or promises yet, but things look promising and we'll keep everyone posted on how we progress.  (We already have PSoC-3 boards to experiment with while our "freeSoC Mini" boards are on order!)


1) freeSoC and freeSoc Mini capabilities overview page ...
2) Buy the freeSoC Mini board ($40) at ...
3) Download and install the PSoC Creator "integrated development environment". Click on first link in table at bottom of this page ...
4) Video describing the first demo project you should do (LED Brightness Control ...



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