Introduction: 555 AM Transmitter

Picture of 555 AM Transmitter

This is a very simple easy to make AM transmitter if you don't want to use inductors or capacitors and don't mind not having extreme power. The best part is everythinf you need to build it is at Radio Shack.

Step 1: Building the Circuit

Picture of Building the Circuit

Once you have all the parts the circuit is very simple to construct (on a breadboard anyway). The simple seven component schematic is below.

A decoupling capacitor is needed for battery operation =]

Step 2: Tunning the Circuit

Picture of Tunning the Circuit

Once its assembled you have to tune it and then adjust the audio in ground for optimum audio level and clarity. The pot on the left (or the one thats hooked to the IC) adjusts the frequency. It really doesn't adjust it that much ±30 kHz and is for fine adjustment only. Since the frequency is near 540 kHz sweep the radio and the right pot (audio ground). Once you hear it your done, but the radio has to be a little loud because there is no pre amp on the transmitter

Step 3: Specs and Troubleshooting

Picture of Specs and Troubleshooting

Range: 2m
Power: 5-15V
Freq: 530 kHz - 640 kHz possibly higher

If your tuning it for the first time do not use a portible radio it dosn't work well wit them.
If you know its getting power and you can't tune in try stepping away from it or touching parts of it to act like an antanna (I coulden't get wire to work)
Also it might not be enough amps i never mesured how many it took, but it likes computer power supplies and 9.6V packs.
If you want better audio put an inductor between the IC's output and audio in.


PRO DR MR BOB (author)2014-08-22

What dose 2m mean is it 2 meters or 2 miles in the specs of the trasmiter

yousef777 (author)PRO DR MR BOB2017-10-26

mean is it 2 meters

bo'connor1 (author)2014-08-11

By portable radio, do you mean battery powered or socket powered?

cbatenga (author)2013-05-06

What is the purpose of using a 555 ic in an am transmitter? im just curious about it, i hope you can help me.. thanks a lot.. :)

jazzzzzz (author)cbatenga2013-05-07

It acts as the oscillator. So it produces the 500 kHz for transmission.

LSD3 (author)2013-01-22

I am building remote motion/IR sensors that would simply make a 5ms transmission. The receiver converts the frequency to a 4 to 20 ma and the PLC can now assign the location of the transmission. I am an industrial automations guy and any help in the low power transmitter area is appreciated.

jazzzzzz (author)LSD32013-01-28

So are you using separate IR sensors going to one receiver for the PLC. If so what are the specs of the receiver. (or do you need to make that to?)

LSD3 (author)jazzzzzz2013-01-29

I thought I would use a 10 meter base station with side band. The units would simply transmit a binary address on a single frequency much like morse code. This would identify the unit which was disturbed. I own a mountain and simply want prewarning of egress on my property. Any modulation into an Analog to digital converter could be inputed into the PLC (also existing) and grid location plotted on the HMI.

jazzzzzz (author)LSD32013-01-30

I had a project much like this in mind, with a computer I'm not lucky enough to have an HMI. Unfortunately the 555 maxes out at about 1 MHz. If you plan on building the transmitters from scratch there are many ways to go about it. I like building them with logic and timing IC's.(no  real reason why)
If your going IC the 74HC5555 is quite nice(89MHz at 25°C).
The problem is most IC's are going to give a square wave with a lot of harmonics and not so much power. A Colpitts or Hartley would be better. Also easy to get componants for.

Do you have microcontrollers and a programmer for the addressing?(if not i have a backup plan). Are you using a PIR sensor for detection?

rob0t (author)2012-10-04

Hi I'm new here.
Thanks Lectric Wizard for other circuits, always good to have a few to compare.
Good job Jazzzzzz.
But I fail ;).
Audio pot:
| | |Ground
| \+5v

Audio- to 3.


jazzzzzz (author)rob0t2012-10-04

I believe I went audio + to Pin 3.
Since audio is technically AC it will depend on the audio source.
If the source crosses zero (true ac) it wont make a difference I would just try it both ways, it is the best way to be sure

rob0t (author)jazzzzzz2012-10-04

Mh, you'd answered!
I tried.. all the ways! I was having trouble with audio jack, which was the live pin, and what was just a pin (to fix).
The audio pot really changes volume too, which is cool.

Now, why would you think my 5v setup was not working?
Antenna problem, i.e. I was too far, and using 9v boosts anyway the signal, so I assume the 5v was for me too little (too far).
I will have to try 5v again, very close, on top of radio.
Or, 100uF cap between output& gd might help.

Cool anyway!
My first working project in MW! :)

Thanks Jazzzz.

jazzzzzz (author)rob0t2012-10-04

I'm glad you got it working.

what were you using as a 5V source?

rob0t (author)jazzzzzz2012-10-05

A 5v mains adaptor. 500mA. Too low?

jazzzzzz (author)rob0t2012-10-06

No but the ripple from that adaptor will make the 555 very angry (I assume its a charger) some decent capacitor filtering should fix that. And inductance for good measure.

rob0t (author)rob0t2012-10-04

Forget that!
I used 9v (instead of 5v) and voila!

Cool! :)

Lectric Wizard (author)2012-06-22

Here's a quick schematic I threw together to show how to really amplitude modulate a 555. Lots of calculators online to figure out values so I didn't bother.

Lectric Wizard (author)2012-06-22

like this ?

Lectric Wizard (author)2012-06-22

Are you connecting the audio "shield" to the output & the audio "hot" to the pot ? It's unclear in the schematic & may be the cause of the confusion

jazzzzzz (author)2012-01-14

I will have to derive one for you (assuming the potentiometer is the only variable)
I will post it as soon as possible

jazzzzzz (author)jazzzzzz2012-02-15

Frequency = 90000000*Resistance-2.431
Where Frequency is in kHz
Resistance is in kΩ (from potentiometer wiper to positive supply)

With R² of 0.993
It will get you close to help tuning but not 100% accurate.

jazzzzzz (author)2012-01-21

Simpler TX (range and audio quality suffer a little, looking for a quick fix)

jazzzzzz (author)2012-01-21

If you wanted the frequency equation because you were having trouble tuning in, the reason for the trouble was the schematic (I fixed the schematic still yet to derive the equation it is harder to regress than I anticipated)

Also remember the decoupling cap for Battery operation.

tsedor56 (author)2010-09-18

I cant wait to build this!
Going to radio shack now!
1 or 2 things though.
are those blue things tuning capacitors or something?
I forget what their called.
and How far will this circuit go?
Hope at least 2 miles like in the specs.

jazzzzzz (author)tsedor562010-09-19

They are potentiometers Radio Shack doesn't sell trim capacitors
and unfortunately "m" is meters "mi" is miles, I'm working on better range.

napsterpat (author)jazzzzzz2010-12-23

higher frequencies go farther with a smaller antenna...if you have a low frequency (as you estimated 530khz - 640khz), your antenna would need to be 161 meters (530khz) to 133 meters (640khz) for an optimal antenna to a simple "radio station"

most cell phones operate at around 900 mhz with a 1-3 inch antenna so it is possible to send out radio signals over longer distances without making a long-term investment in a large radio tower

then again i see your concern for a you can stick with lower frequencies. just keep in mind that your signal will not travel far if your antenna is not large enough to counter the lower freqency

aeve1 (author)napsterpat2011-07-12


Lower frequency signal have a much longer wavelength, so for every single oscillation (cycle) a greater distance is covered. VHF is line of sight, you must theoretically see it to broadcast to it. The reason GSM signals cover large area is becasue they are relayed from base station, you phone doesn't connect directly to satellites or anything.

Antennas must be matched to the siganl they are attempting to radiate. It is true that lower frequencies require longer antenna, but in this applicatioon (not that it is that suitabel) no antenna would do!

jazzzzzz (author)aeve12011-07-12

I agree lower frequencies are better as they can bounce off the ionosphere and curve around the earth (with enough power). Bouncing means longer distance on a curved plane, on a flat one hi low frequencies go the same distance. Transition frequency depends on application, but since this is an AM transmitter I chose the commercial AM band to avoid having to make my own receiver

The antenna does not need to be full half or quarter wave to be matched, it could be 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 etc. They won’t go as far as a full but, they are better than an arbitrary length of wire.

AND IT DOES HAVE AN ANTENNA!!!!! IT IS THE AUDIO IN CORD. Cheap FM scan receivers use the headphone cable as the antenna, so did I.

tsedor56 (author)napsterpat2010-12-23

I agree.
I know some one who does ham radio
and He told me when working with FM transmitters and what not
to measure the wavelength or something.
And I defiantly have had luck with smaller antennas!
your right napsterpat.
In my opinion.

techno guy (author)2011-01-23

Where's the antenna or transmitter?

jazzzzzz (author)techno guy2011-01-31

It was discussed earlier, the antenna is the audio in cord. The whole circuit is the transmitter.

robot797 (author)2011-01-12

it will not work

jazzzzzz (author)robot7972011-01-14

Really because it worked fine for me.

Why do you not think it will work?

jazzzzzz (author)2010-11-23

I will have to rebuild the circuit and fix the schematic, I don not know what I did. I would try the pin 2 to 6 hookup. Let me know if it works.

If you are talking about the potentiometer one on the right of the breadboard, it hooks to positive on one side and negative on the other, with the wiper (center) on the audio ground.

napsterpat (author)jazzzzzz2010-12-23

2 goes to 6, and for an astable multivibrator you need a capacitor

jazzzzzz (author)napsterpat2010-12-28

You do not need a capacitor, all it does is control the time constant. At half of the chip’s max frequency it does not need delay, the propagation delay of the flip flops in the 555 have enough delay.

maclir (author)2010-11-22

The circuit diagram connects 2 to 5, but unless I'm missing something, the picture of the circuit on the breadboard shows 2 to 6 and 5 unconnected (which matches what I've seen of 555s making square waves).

Also, I'm just learning, so I apologize for the noobie questions, but I don't understand the circuit diagram, how does the resistor in the upper right hand corner connect to the rest of the circuit? (I can't follow the connections on the breadboard to figure this out)


transistorguy (author)2010-10-29

How many ohms are those potentiometers rated for (the range)?

jazzzzzz (author)transistorguy2010-11-01

Thses are 10k pots

transistorguy (author)jazzzzzz2010-11-01


jam BD (author)2010-08-10

Breadboards should really not be used for radio circuits... But at lower frequencies it is alright...

NoNameme (author)jam BD2010-09-11

Breadboards were originally designed to be used FOR radio circuits.

jazzzzzz (author)jam BD2010-08-11

yeah its not a vhf circuit so I wasn't to worried

jazzzzzz (author)2010-07-12

The audio does plug into the output. The reason is so the audio can push against the carrier wave to modulate it. The other audio goes through a pot to V+ and V-.

beehard44 (author)jazzzzzz2010-09-01

oh ok

beehard44 (author)2010-09-01

why is the input of the audio on the output of the 555 chip?

Unit042 (author)2010-07-07

This schematic is not clear. Can you take another look at it? The audio source is plugged into the 555's output. That does not look quite right to me...

killroy (author)2010-07-02

Ah the trusty breadboard...

jazzzzzz (author)2010-07-01

It doesn't need an antenna the 3.5mm male-male cable to hook it to a source is it (its on pin 3 too =] )

Kiteman (author)2010-06-28

Maybe I'm being dim, but I can't see where the antenna is...?

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