Micro-Tel MSR-904A Microwave Receiver: AM detector/AGC circuit fix, A3B5 assy

After fully refurbishing and fixing the MSR-904A receiver, and some months of service, another look at the AM detector. It is working fine, but at times, is seems to have some microphonic resonance and random shifts of level. Nothing that prevents use of the machine, but a small flaw worth correcting.

Locating the faulty assembly – pretty obvious when knocking at the A3B5 assembly. This takes in a sample of the 250 MHz IF signal, and performs the AM demodulation, and also generates the AGC signal.

msr-904A a3b5 assy schematic AM detector 250 MHz

These are the inner workings, the signal is first attenuated, about 20 dB, then amplified, about 25 dB, using an Avantek GPD-202.
GPDGPM gpd-202
The signal is then futher amplified via a tuned transistor amplifier.

Demodulation is performed by a zero-bias HP Schottky diode, a HSCH-3486. This was state of the art at the time, and still, there aren’t many diodes around that are any better.

hsch-3486 hsch-3206 hsch-3207

Turns out that this diode must have suffered damage earlier, and it was fixed with a drop of epoxy!

msr-904a a3b5 assy open

The HSCH-3486 are not so common any more (with the SMD package HSMS-2850 being widely used), here a comparison:

hsch-3486 sens

hsms-2850 sens

hsms-2850 hsms-2860

The HSMS-2850 and HSCH-3486 use the same technology – the HSMS-2850 is more or less a SMD version of the earlier HSCH-2486 (glass package, similar to DO-35).

Now, should I replace the flaky diode with a HSMS-2850? Well, after some thought, rather keep the parts as they are, for such a rare instrument. With some effort, this is what I found:


Glad I didn’t have to buy at USD 20 each, that’s what some vendors are asking for.

A bit of soldering, without taking the whole assembly apart:
msr-904a a3b5 new diode soldered

Finally, a quick sensitivity and microphonic test – no issues at all.

Quite interestingly, someone must have fixed this assembly before – note the ECG opamp, 1991 datecode (it is a LM1458 replacement; for the AGC circuit).

msr-904a a3b5 assy ecg

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