Fun & Games With 3rd Order IMD Products

A local group of hams has been talking on 2 meter FM simplex for as long as I can remember. In recent years, they’ve been using 146.4 MHz as their primary frequency. I recently ran into one member of the group on a local repeater trying to test something. I responded to him, in case he needed assistance. He he told me how the local repeater on 443.200 MHz was bleeding into conversations on 146.4. Trying to be helpful, and knowing who to get in touch with on the tech side of 443.200, I got involved.

The 443.200 repeater in my area is linked to 146.76 MHz. I surmised that 146.76 was the actual culprit. At my location, 10 miles from the repeater, I could not hear the interference. The hams that are being interfered with are much closer to the repeater site than me. They provided links to some recordings and I gave them a listen.

I noticed that in addition to hearing the audio from 146.76 I also heard mixing from 147.12. I reported that to some of the folks at the club responsible for 146.76 as well as to the owner of 147.12. I observed that 147.12 – 146.76 = 0.36 and that 146.76-146.4 also = 0.36. This seemed significant to me although I did not know what it represented. The club president chimed in with the determination that the 2 repeater output frequencies, when mixed, generate a third order intermodulation distortion product on approximately 146.4 MHz. Wow!

From my reading, a third order IMD product is created when two non-linear signals mix. To me, that indicates a problem at one or both of the repeater sites. Some local hams familiar with the situation voiced the opinion that there is no way to fix this for stations close to the 2 repeaters (which are also relatively close to one another). I was told that at least one of the repeater keepers was also heard expressing this position. Based upon my understanding, I initially disputed the “nothing can be done” position with the thought that if the cause is non-linearity, something can and should be done.

Today I tried an interesting experiment. I took 2 HTs which are probably fairly spectrally pure (a Kenwood D74A and a Yaesu VX7R). I set them both to one watt and put a receiver on 146.4 MHz. One radio transmitted on 146.76 and one on 147.12 MHz.

If I keyed up one radio without transmitting on the other, no signal was heard on 146.4 MHz.

However, when I transmitted on both frequencies simultaneously a perfect signal was heard on 146.4 MHz!

If this behavior can be so easily reproduced with two (supposedly) spectrally pure transceivers and provides the same result on multiple receivers — an RTL-SDR stick and a Kenwood TS-2000– there may just be something to the “nothing can be done” school of thought.

73 de K2IE