Build a Very Simple AM Transmitter.




If a crystal radio is the distilled essence of a radio, this transmitter is the matching distilled essence of transmitters.

The transmitter goes together in about 10 minutes, and is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Depending on the antenna, the transmitter can send voice and music across the room, or across the street.

This is the transmitter off of .

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Step 1: Stuff You Need

Our transmitter will need these parts:

A one megahertz crystal oscillator
This is a crystal clock oscillator such as those used in computers. There are many suppliers, such as

An audio transformer

This is a 1000 ohm to 8 ohm audio transformer, such as Radio Shack #273-1380. 

A generic printed circuit board
I used Radio Shack's #276-159A, but any general purpose printed circuit board will do.

A phone plug
This should match the jack in your sound source. I use a 1/8 inch (Radio Shack #274-286A) plug to match standard earphone jacks of transistor radios and Radio Shack's Archer mini-amplifier speaker.

A 9 volt battery clip
I like the Radio Shack heavy duty type, part number 270-324.

A 9 volt battery

A set of alligator jumpers.
Radio Shack part number 278-1156, or you can find them anywhere electronics parts are sold.

Some insulated wire for an antenna.

Step 2: Building the Transmitter

The oscillator is the heart of the transmitter. It has four leads, but we only use three of them. When the power is connected to two of the leads, the voltage on third lead starts jumping between 0 volts and 5 volts, one million times each second.

The oscillator is built into a metal can. The corners of the can are rounded, except for the lower left corner, which is sharp. This indicates the where the unused lead is. The lead is there to help hold the can down firmly on the printed circuit board, but it is not connected to anything inside the can.

The other main part is the audio transformer . In this circuit it is used as a modulator. The modulator changes the strength of the radio waves to match the loudness of the music or voice we want to transmit. 

The transformer has two leads on one side, (red and white in the photo ) and three leads on the other side (blue, black and green in the photo). The two leads are the low impedance side of the transformer, (the 8 ohm side). The three leads are the high impedance side (the 1000 ohm side). The middle of the three leads is called the center tap, and we won't be using it in this circuit.

To get the best range, we put the low impedance side of the transformer in series with the oscillator. This means that the signal source must be capable of driving heavy loads, like an 8 ohm speaker.

If you are trying to use a weaker signal source, such as an iPod or some other MP3 player that can only drive 32 ohm earphones, you will want to reverse the transformer, so that the 1,000 ohm side is in series with the oscillator, and the 8 ohm side is connected to your signal source. You will get slightle less range, but your odds of getting some modulation of the signal will be much better.

Step 3: Putting It Together

The transformer has two metal tabs on the bottom. These can be bent out flat, so the transformer can be glued to the printed circuit board, or two holes can be drilled in the board, and the tabs can fit into the holes and be folded over to hold the transformer in place. If you choose to drill the holes and fold over the tabs, the tabs can be soldered to the copper pads on the back of the printed circuit board for a more secure anchor.

The transformer should be placed on the left side of the printed circuit board, leaving plenty of room on the right for the oscillator.

Insert the leads of the oscillator into the printed circuit board, placing it far to the right. The copper side of the board should be down, with the oscillator on the side without copper.

Gently bend the leads of the oscillator over, so it is held firmly onto the printed circuit board.

Solder the pins of the oscillator to the copper foil of the printed circuit board. Be careful not to use too much solder, or it may form bridges of solder between copper traces that are not supposed to be connected together.

Insert the stripped end of the red wire into a convenient unused hole in the printed circuit board (such as the bottom left hole). Insert the red wire from the battery clip into a nearby hole that is connected by copper foil to the first hole, so the two red wires are electrically connected. Solder the two wires to the copper foil.

Insert the white transformer wire into a hole whose copper foil is connected to the upper left pin of the oscillator. Solder this wire to its copper foil.

Cut one of the clip leads in half, so you have two pieces of wire each with an aligator clip attached. In the photo, I used two different colors for clarity (yellow and green). Strip the insulation from the last half inch of each piece.

Insert the black wire of the battery clip into a hole whose copper foil connects to the lower right pin of the oscillator. Insert the stripped end of one of the aligator clip leads into a hole that is also connected to the lower right pin of the oscillator. Solder the two wires to the copper foil. The aligator clip will be the ground connection, just like in the crystal radio.

Insert the stripped end of the other aligator clip into a hole that is connected to the top right pin of the oscillator. Solder the wire to the copper foil. This will be the antenna connector.

Open the phone plug, and insert the blue and green wires of the transformer into the plastic handle. The metal part of the plug has two pieces, each with a small hole. Put one of the transformer wires into one hole and solder it, then put the other wire into the other hole and solder it. When the metal has cooled, screw the plastic handle back onto the metal phone plug.

Step 4: Using the Transmitter

We are now ready to test the transmitter.

Plug the phone plug into the earphone jack of a convenient sound source, such as a transistor radio, tape player, or CD player.

Plug the batter into the batter clip.

Hold the transmitter near an AM radio, and tune the radio to 1000, so you can hear the your sound source in the AM radio. Adjust the volume controls on the sound source and on the AM radio to get the best sound.

Without any connection to an antenna or a good ground connection, the transmitter will only transmit to a receiver a few inches away. To get better range, clip the ground wire to a good ground, such as a cold water pipe, and the antenna to a long wire, like the one we used for the crystal radio. Many countries limit the length of the antenna you are allowed to use without a license, so check with your local laws before using a wire more than a yard or two long.

For a science fair project, the transmitter and receiver can be placed within a few feet of one another, and a short wire antenna should be just fine.



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    28 Discussions


    3 years ago

    What's the input voltage recommended for this transmitter? The data sheet for the 1 mhz oscillator off the website shows a maximum of 4.5v?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Can anyone tell me what is the maximum range i can get by this circuit? How can i increase the range of the circuit?


    5 years ago on Introduction

    i am wondering if i can find all these in electronic parts stores..


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Built it and it works. There is lots of interaction though with leads. Running it off a power supply instead of a battery also had varying results. Be prepared to tinker.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I tried it with a 50MHz crystal. It works surprisingly well for something so simple. I can pick it up on my police scanner set to 50MHz.

    2 replies

    50 mhz is in the 6 meter amateur radio band. If you are transmitting there without a ham license, you are transmitting illegally.

    I'm pretty sure it's not legal, but I only ran the thing for a few seconds to see if it works. It only had enough power to go about 20 feet anyways.


    6 years ago on Step 4

    where does the audio-in plug into?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    My crystal has two leads (and one ground). What do I do with it?

    This is the exact same AM transmitter I built in 7th grade for science fair... If I remember right I was trying to test if high humidity effected how well the signal traveled... It was horribly not thought out well.... Basically I used a humidifier to create the humidity and a decibel meter to measure the volume from the receiving radio....


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Digi-Key has 1mh osc ic's. Here is one stock number CTX775-ND.
    They cost about 4 bucks.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I knew that - I was trying to check whether he had permission to re-post Simon's projects.

    I don't know how to create a instruct-able, but I did this using a LM-386 audio amplifer hooked up to the crystal oscillator, and the audio sounds great.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    please post step by step instructions for the layout of the ciruit board and a shematic. also Spell Check is a very useful tool.. thank-you