There was a time when a Vector Network Analyser or VNA was the type of instrument that cost as much as a very fancy car or even a small house. The advent of commodity semiconductors that perform at high RF frequencies coupled with microcontrollers powerful enough to handle the data acquisition and processing might not yet have put those high-perfomance instruments within reach, but at our end of the market it’s opened the possibilities for some useful yet affordable devices. A fresh contender comes from [Jankae], whose LibreVNA tops out at 6 GHz and shows some significant attention to design detail that puts it above some of the budget offerings.
At its heart is the versatile Si5351 multi-way clock generator, accompanied by a pair of MAX2871 phase-locked-loop chips for the higher frequency local oscillators. A switched bank of low-pass filters take care of local oscillator harmonics, and in the receive chain there are ADL5081 mixers feeding a dual conversion IF running at 70 MHz and then 300 kHz. Finally the ADCs are Microchip’s MCP3313, and all is kept in sync by an FPGA and an STM32G431 microcontroller. The main data proccessing is offloaded to a host computer, with a software package and GUI able to be compiled on Windows, Linux, and OSX.
The PCB shows the attention to detail, not least in the power supply arrangements, with every major component receiving its own regulator to ensure no RF makes it down the power rails. It’s clear that a properly made LibreVNA won’t be as cheap as some of its rivals, but we think the corresponding performance hike would make the extra cost worthwhile.
If VNAs are new to you, we covered an introduction from [W2AEW] a while back.