I am a certified oscilloscope nut, who owns more of them than he needs and is always looking for another one. So when I learned that cheap scope and frequency analysis programs are available for smartphones I was smitten. Unfortunately, the practical utility of the software by itself is limited. A pair of alligator clips connected to the audio jack will handle only a small range of low-voltage and low-impedance signals, could inject voltage from the phone into the external circuit, and might carry a risk of frying the phone.
This Instructable describes a preamplifier circuit for making smartphone scopes more versatile, more useful, and highly resistant to accidentally transferring lethal voltages into your audio jack. The input impedance is increased from around 2 KΩ to 1 MΩ, the voltage range is 10 mV to 50 V or more, and the safe overload range is equal or higher. The scale is easily calibrated with not much more than a volt-ohm meter (VOM.) No software is included; why reinvent the wheel when good apps are already out there for many platforms at a few bucks—or even free? The same basic circuit can be used, with minor changes, in many other systems including laptops, iPads, and Android tablets.
STANDARD WARNING: the complete circuit and your phone should be safe from accidental overvoltages of reasonable magnitude. But I take no responsibility for any damage that may occur to you, the circuit, or the phone. Nor can I guarantee that your particular brand/model phone will give good results. The frequency range will be limited by the parameters of your device; most should be usable from about 75 to 15,000 Hz (no DC). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE PREAMP OR YOUR PHONE EVER BE CONNECTED TO THE AC WALL JACK OR POWER LINE.
Step 1: Parts and Tools
Mouser part numbers are listed because Mouser carries the special 4-contact audio plug that smartphones require. I advise that you not waste too much time soldering components together and drilling lots of holes in the box. Leave the components permanently on the solderless protoboard/breadboard. This saves a lot of effort and grief correcting mistakes and modifying the circuit, and can last for years. A see-through plastic box lets you leave the LEDs right on the breadboard as well.
Minimal Circuit – $12-15
-Miscellaneous wiring. Old audio cables (the kind with RCA plugs) are good for the input and output leads.
-Small alligator clips (2)
-SPST “on-off” switch
-Solderless breadboard [Mouser 510-EXP-350E, $5.00]
-Resistors, ¼ watt: 1.5 KΩ, 22 KΩ (2)
-1 MΩ linear trimpot [Mouser 652 -3352P -1-105LF, $1.24]
-4.7 uF capacitor [Mouser 810-FK18X5R1A475K, $.17]
- TLC272 dual op amp [Mouser 595-TLC272IP, $.71]
-3.5 mm 4-conductor (TRRR) audio plug [Mouser 171-7435-EX, $2.60]
[-3.5 mm 3-conductor (TRR) stereo audio plug for calibration signals – OPTIONAL]
-9V battery clip
-Small clear plastic box. I used a 2.5 by 3.25 inch “Really Useful Box” from Office Depot, $1.29. This is about as tight as you can get.
#volt-ohm meter (VOM) for calibrating and troubleshooting
Full Circuit – additional parts about $3.00
-bipolar LED [ Mouser 604-WP57YYD, $.46]
-blinking LED [Mouser 696-SSL-LX5093BSRD $.87]
-0.1 uF 100v capacitor [Mouser 594-A104K15X7RH5TAAV, $.50]
-Resistors, ¼ watt: 560 Ω, 330 Ω, 3.3 KΩ, 33 KΩ, 330 KΩ
-6.0 V 1/2 watt zener diode [Mouser 512-1N5233BTR $.05]
[-3.5 V ½ watt zeners (2) [Mouser 771-NZX3V0B,133, $.03 each - OPTIONAL]
-SPDT “range” switch