Fluke/Philips PM66xx Frequency Counter OCXO Upgrade

Frequency Counter OCXO Upgrade

Introduction

A few months ago I purchased a Philips PM6674 frequency counter on eBay. It’s an older 9 digit counter with two channels that has a maximum input frequency of 550MHz. The design feels dated compared to more modern counters, such as my Agilent 53131A. However, it is still a fully functional piece of lab equipment with a simple user interface and compact design. I often prefer older counters for day-to-day use because I don’t have to fuss with complicated menu-based interfaces and features that I don’t need. (Set the gate time on a 53131A and count how many button presses it takes).

My counter came with the standard XO timebase option, which has fairly poor specs for stability and drift. It is difficult to trim precisely with the single-turn trimmer capacitor on the board. For most testing in my lab I use an external reference from a GPSDO, but it is still nice to have an accurate timebase available in the counter if I need to take it somewhere and do testing away from the bench.
Previously I posted about an OCXO upgrade I made for my Racal-Dana 1992. The fun of designing a similar upgrade for the Philips counter was one of my motivations for purchasing it. My upgrade board is roughly equivalent to the original PM9691 OCXO module, and it should be compatible with any Fluke/Philips counter that is capable of using that option.

Designing an OCXO Upgrade

Creating a timebase upgrade board for the PM6674 was a bit more involved than the process for designing the Racal-Dana upgrade. That counter had a clean 5V supply available on the header where the timebase board connected, which was exactly what I needed for the OCXO. The header for the OCXO module in the Philips counter also has a 5V rail. However, that rail does not stay active when the counter is in standby. The original Philips OCXO modules operated from the 24V rail, and I had to use that for my own upgrade. In my counter, the “24V” rail actually runs at about 27V, and drifts up to 30V when the counter is in standby. There is also a substantial amount of ripple.
I opted for a Recom 78C5.0 DC-DC converter to get the 5V I needed to power my board. This is a nice little module with a pinout that mimics the 7805 linear regulator. It has good specs for efficiency (as high as 96%) and was very easy to implement on my board. I used a combination of electrolytic and ceramic capacitors on the input and output for filtering.
With power taken care of, the remainder of the board is very simple. I used the CTS 10MHz OCXO that I did a teardown on and reverse-engineered the schematic for. This OCXO has a 4V reference available on one of the pins, so I did not need to add a separate reference IC to the design. Additionally, the CTS OCXO has a ~1.4Vpp sine wave output, which is quite compatible with the Philips counters. The input spec for the internal reference signal is 1Vpp into 1kohm.

nstallation Note: On some counter models, such as the PM6674, you need to remove the stock 10MHz crystal when you install this board. I simply cut the two legs of the crystal from the top of the board and left it glued in place, as you can see in the first picture in this article. Other counter models such as the PM6680B have jumpers near the crystal to easily disconnect it and select the OCXO reference.

12V/24V Rail: Some frequency counters in the series, such as the Fluke PM6680B, have a 12V rail available for the OCXO instead of 24V. This upgrade board is still compatible with those models, as 12V is sufficient to operate the DC-DC converter.

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