Author Archives: Thomas

John takes the Elecraft KX2 on the shortwaves

ElecraftKX2

I just noticed that John (AE5X) has updated the firmware on his KX2 and made a short video of a shortwave band scan. On his blog, he notes:

Before getting my ham ticket, I was a SWL and am very happy that AM capability has been added to the KX2, making a fantastic radio even better.

[…]We have a very powerful AM broadcast station near my QTH on 740 kHz. I was not able to receive it at all with the KX2. Unlike some, I see this as beneficial – it tells me the 80m filters (the KX2 doesn’t operate on 160m) are doing what they were designed to do.[…]

Read the full post on John’s excellent blog.

Click here to view John’s video on YouTube.

Update: I’ve had my KX2 for 24 hours now! I’ve already updated the firmware and will post a couple AM audio samples soon.

The RTL-SDR V.3 dongle on shortwave: Gary details setup and reviews

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary Wise (W4EEY), for the following review of the RTL-SDR dongle:


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Based on your blog post on the Version 3 release of the RTL-SDR dongle I had to buy one. I ordered mine from Amazon for $25, and it came in two days. I have an earlier version of this unit that was VHF and above only. What intrigued me about the V3 was the possibility of HF reception in the Direct Sampling mode (without an up converter). So I had to try it.

I used the RTL-SDR Quick start guide at RTL-SDR.com/qsg. While I did not see any mention of Version 3, I hoped that the software that was linked would be adequate. As I am using a Windows 7 laptop, I downloaded the Zadig driver installer, along with copies of SDR# and HDSDR.

Getting the dongle going was pretty straightforward. And right away I was receiving VHF and above signals. The I/O driver defaults to Quadrature demodulation and this was what is used to receive VHF. But what about HF?

It took me awhile to figure out that you select Direct Sampling in the setup screen for the driver. In SDR# software this is found by clicking on the gear wheel icon.

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Under sampling mode select Direct Sampling (Q branch).

In HDSDR you select the EXTIO icon.

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Here you select the Q Input under Direct Sampling.

Note that with both you must use the Q input.

With the telescoping antennas included with the dongle, I received very few signals (of very poor quality). But I had read that the unit can only receive HF with a substantial antenna, so I moved the laptop to my hamshack.

I use an ELAD antenna distribution amplifier for my HF receive antennas.

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It was easy to use a spare output from the ELAD ASA15 to drive the antenna input of the RTL-SDR V3.

Wow, what a difference!

First up was international shortwave. Here’s a shot from my Alinco General Coverage receiver on 9955 kHz this morning using my 260′ beverage antenna (pointed toward Europe). S9 on the Alinco S Meter.

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And here’s the same signal on SDR#.

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There was a delay in the audio coming from the PC versus from the receiver, but other than that, reception was identical. Audio quality was very good.

I then moved to the 20M Amateur Radio band. USB audio demodulation.

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The little dongle worked! It is not what I would call my first choice in receivers, but it will demodulate AM and SSB just fine.

I did not try it on CW as I ran out of time.

I also tried the HDSDR software, which worked equally as well (but I think I prefer SDR# for ease of use).

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All in all, if you have or can put up a good antenna for HF, the little $25 dongle is in, my opinion, worth trying out.

73,

Gary
W4EEY

Click here to purchase the new RTL-SDR–$24.95 shipped on Amazon.com.


Thank you, Gary, for not only giving a quick evaluation of the RTL-SDR’s HF performance, but for describing how to setup HF reception via SDR# and HDSDR.

Over the years, I’ve gotten probably hundreds of emails from readers who would like to try their hand at SDRs, but were cautious about investing. For many years, a 3rd generation SDR would set you back at least $300-400. At $25 shipped, the RTL-SDR V.3 is an SDR receiver that is accessible to anyone who can afford a fast food meal or a few cups of Starbucks coffee. My how times have changed!

Once I get a few transceiver reviews off of my table, I might do some side-by-side HF comparisons between the RTL-SDR and a few of my other SDRs. 

Thanks again, Gary!

Marco recommends KB6IBB SWL Logger for Mac OS

SWL-Log1

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marco, who writes:

Great blog! I am an SWLer (have been inactive for some time but I am back again, mainly when I travel) and I really love it.

I am a Mac user and have now found a great, free SWL logging application: KB6IBB SWL Logger.

I suggest you give SWL Logger a try. It works really well and it’s free. The QSL part is lacking, but the rest is well done.

Thanks again for the hard work!

Thank you, Marco, for your recommendation!

Arvin Model 68R05: John’s 1967 transistor radio

arvin_68R05

Many thanks to John Harper (AE5X) who shares the following in reply to our post about transistor radios:

Attached is a pic of a like-new transistor radio from 1967 [see above].

Remember the days when they bragged about how many transistors a gadget contained?! Sort of like bragging about RAM or clock speed today I guess.

That’s a cute little Arvin radio, John!

You’re right, too–radio manufacturers used to boast transistor compliment like nothing else. Crosley, Zenith and RCA did the same thing–boasting tube/valve numbers–in their 1930s consoles as well. Thanks for sharing the photo of your pocket radio!

eBay find: Mint Panasonic RF-2200

RF-2200-eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor,  Jeff McMahon, who writes:

There might be a bidding war on this “possibly never used” with box Panasonic RF-2200.

Click here to view on eBay.

Last night, when Jeff sent this link, the price was still under $300–it’s now over $400.  I suspect this listing might achieve top dollar.

It’s certainly saying something that this RF-2200 even includes the original four Panasonic D cells in the supplied cardboard tube! (I wonder what their voltage would be after all of these years?).

For what it’s worth, the RF-2200 is the best mediumwave/AM receiver I’ve ever used. They’re widely available on eBay and one in decent condition will typically fetch $200-300 US. Money well-spent if you want a benchmark portable with amazing audio fidelity.