Look what just landed on my desk: the new Icom IC-7300 direct sampling transceiver

Icom-IC-7300-Front-2 I have a new toy in the shack: the Icom IC-7300.

Last night, a good friend handed over his brand-spanking-new IC-7300 and is allowing me to evaluate it over the next week or so.

The IC-7300 is Icom’s first “entry level” RF, Direct Sampling System HF transceiver.

I’ve only had the IC-7300 on the air for a few minutes, so can’t comment about performance. I can say that it has one of the most intuitive interfaces I’ve seen on a transceiver with so many functions. I also love the spectrum display–small, but large enough to see all of the pertinent information:

Icom-IC-7300-Front-Display

It’s a slick machine, indeed!

Time permitting, I plan to post a few audio clips and get reader reactions much like I did for in the portable shoot-out.

I’ll compare the IC-7300 to my Elecraft KX3 and a few SDRs as well. Of course, I’m evaluating this during one of the busiest times in my life, so we’ll see how quickly I progress–!

Simply follow this tag for updates: IC-7300.

Mike’s overview and review of the $40 Soft66RTL3 SDR by Kazunori Miura (JA7TDO)

RTL3

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Ladd, for the following guest post and overview of setting up and using the Soft66RTL3 SDR:


Soft66RTL3 SDR: A low cost…Good performer direct from Japan

by Mike Ladd

Much has changed in the last 8 years in the world of SDR radios. Fast forward to 2016 and just about everyone in the hobby has heard the buzz word “SDR radio”. When SDRs first came out to the market they were all aimed at HF listening and you had two types to pick from. The first being soundcard based and the second being direct sampling. The price gap between the two were several hundred dollars. The more expensive being direct sampling. As the hobby progressed, so did the technology and the prices started to shift dramatically.

You can now purchase a TV dongle for $10.00 and turn it into a SDR. The Soft66RTL3 is basically a TV dongle but with a lot more features.

The Soft66RTL3 comes from an engineer who is no stranger to the world of SDRS. Kazunori Miura (JA7TDO) has been designing and selling many models of SDRS over the internet and shipping them direct from Japan for about 7 years. The Soft66RTL3 is his latest of model hot off his bench. This SDR is a dual input RTL-SDR with a built in 50 MHz upconverter along with 4 user selectable band pass filters that greatly increase your signal to noise ratio in the HF bands.

Soft66RTL3-board-001 Soft66RTL3-Board 2 Soft66RTL3-board

The frequency range of the RTL3 is from DC to Daylight (0.4 kHz to 1.7 GHz). Miura also addressed a heat issue with the previous version (RTL2) by adding a thermal pad and heatsink. RTL dongles are notoriously unstable due to overheating. In theory, the thermal pad should add frequency stability and keep drift to a minimal.

RTL3-TrimmerPot

The last feature of the RTL3 is the input gain trimmer pot (see image above). The trimmer pot is for the HF side of the SDR and is already set before it’s shipped from Japan. If you would like to reduce or increase it the trimmer pot is easily accessible. I would suggest leaving it as is.

The RTL3 is broken down into two sections: the HF input side and the VHF/UHF input side.

Soft66RTL3-encoder

The HF side of the SDR (above) has a red rotary encoder and trimmer pot port. The VHF/UHF side (below) has the USB Mini-B connection.

Soft66RTL3-back

Both sides of the RTL3 terminate to a SMA-Male connection and Power comes from a single USB Mini-B cable.

Soft66RTL3-BandPassFilter

Band pass filter selection

If you look at the rotary encoder (red cap cover) you will see a small notch window. The 12 o’clock position is #5 on the encoder dial. One click clockwise will take you to switch position #6 and one click counterclockwise will take you to #4. You should pull the red cap cover off to have a look and get your bearings.

The band pass filter selection is as follows:

  • #4 enables BPF 0.4 to 1.2MHz
  • #5 enables BPF 1.2MHz to 5MHz
  • #6 enables BPF 5MHz to 15MHz
  • #7 enables BPF 15MHz to 30MHz
  • #8 or #9 enables the VHF UHF side of the SDR

All other positions will bypass the filtering section on the HF side of the SDR.

Installation

If you already have a RTL-SDR on your system then all you need to do is swap it out with the RTL3 and change the offset of -50,000,000 in HDSDR or SDR# to listen to the HF side of the RTL3–but if this is your first SDR we will need to install 2 items: the front end app and the driver.

I will assume your system is Win-7 or better and we will be using SDR# as our program of choice to drive the RTL3. The RTL3 runs just fine in HDSDR and SDR-Console, but by choosing SDR# it will reduce our setup time considerably.

ScreenShot-SDR

  1. Plug in the RTL3
  2. Make a folder on your desktop and name it SDR#
  3. Download the latest version SDR# from www.airspy.com and copy the contents of the zip file to your newly created SDR# folder
  4. Inside of your SDR# folder, double click on install-rtlsdr
  5. After the batch completes, double click on the “zadig.exe” inside your SDR# folder

screengrab

When you run the “zadig.exe” make sure you select “list all devices” as shown above.

ScreenGrab-Window

The next 3 steps are:

  1. Select “Bulk-In Interface” (Interface 0)
  2. Make sure the proper USB device is selected (2838)
  3. Click “install driver”

The RTL3 is now ready to be used and no further setup is required.

For a more detailed installation I would visit RTL-SDR.COM for a complete setup instructions: http://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-quick-start-guide

I will assume you did not have any issues setting up the ZADIG driver and now move on to using the RTL3 inside of SDR#. I will show you real world conditions that are not from any scientific standpoint.

Antenna wise, for the HF side I will be using a G5RV mini and for the VHF/UHF side I will be using a Scanntenna ST-2.

You can now launch SDR# and check the following settings (see image below).

SDRSharp-Settings

For the VHF/UHF side of the RTL3 you will want the rotary encoder on position #9. You want the cutout in the encoder cap showing the 5 o’clock position.

Summary

I have been using this SDR for a little over 3 months. Out of all the low cost SDR’S on the market, this one gives you the most bang-for-your-buck and it is a great entry level SDR with some “Pro” features.

Pros:

  • Low Price
  • HF VHF/UHF in one package
  • Works with any app that supports the RTL-SDR front end
  • 4 user selectable band pass filters for HF
  • Highly sensitive user controlled input RF amp
  • Small & very compact metal case
  • Dual input SMA jacks
  • ESD protection diode

Cons

  • Some intermod in the 460-470 MHz range
  • Inputs are on opposite sides of the SDR body

The Soft66RTL3 price is $40.00 US shipped–click here to order.


Mike, thank you so much for this excellent overview of the Soft66RTL3!  I’m especially appreciative of the time you’ve taken to explain the installation process–for many, this is one of the more difficult RTL-SDR learning curves.

I’m very tempted to check this out for myself–I love the fact that this little SDR has bandpass filters.

Post Readers: I suspect Mike will monitor the comments in this post, so feel free to ask questions. Make sure to check out Mike’s website, where you’ll find more articles about software defined radios.

A $38.99 RTL-SDR with 100 Khz – 1.7 GHz coverage

RTL-SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill, who recently shared a link to this very affordable RTL-SDR with wideband coverage.

I am not at all familiar with this model, but I do like the enclosure and the fact it has both an HF and UV antenna jack. This must be one of the least expensive SDRs on the market with HF coverage.

Here are a few details per Radioddity.com:

Features:

  • 100% Brand New And High Quality
  • Using the RTL2832 idle channel, broadband connection impedance isolation transformer provides the signal to the signal receiver HF HF bands.
  • Increased input low-pass filter to improve noise performance of the machine. At the same time, it retains the original V / UHF band reception, creative use of studded way to achieve RTL2832 + R820t circuit board assembly and connecting circuits increases
  • Further improve the overall performance of the circuit.
  • In the homemade circuit board also surrounded, surrounded reserved some help to further develop the pads. The entire circuit is loaded inside a small aluminum to further improve the performance of the overall circuit interference by aluminum shielding.

Package Contents:

  • 1 x 100KHz-1.7GHz full band UV HF RTL-SDR USB Tuner Receiver/ R820T+8232 Ham Radio
  • 1 x USB cable
  • 1 x antenna

Post Readers: If you have experience with this little SDR, please comment!

LRN Precision introduces two new QRP transceivers: the LD-11 and MTR5B

LNR-MountainTopper-LD11-Announcement

LNR Precision announced two new QRP transceivers this weekend: the MTR5B and LD-11. Below, you can find details I pulled from LNR’s press release and website for both units:

LNR-Precision-LD-11

The LD-11

The LD-11 is a new 11-band QRP transceiver based on the LNR’s LD-5 transceiver. The LD-11 covers from the 6 meter band down to the 160 meter band. A new feature on this model is a built-in panadapter. AM/FM/SSB and CW modes are all included.

Here is the description from LNR’s website:

The new LD-11 is Digital Direct Conversion, SDR type, build-in CPU (SM32a) DSP radio in which RF signals are directly converted to a digital data via differential and balanced A/D converters. This enables direct sampling with extremely low phase and floor noise.

The DSP is unique and features two independent channels. It also employs a unique differential algorithm within the software which is applied for IQ processing of the channels with phase suppression of the unwanted side-band channel.

The balanced ADC and DAC gives additional noise floor reduction and the receiver can handle interfering signals that are 100 dB stronger than the desired signal at a frequency separation of 10 kHz, and is about 130 dB stronger at 50 kHz separation. As the receiver and transmitter are using the same DSP channel, there is no gap between the receiver performance and the transmitter performance. Thus, there is a clean neighborhood on the bands. At the development stage, our intentions were motivated by the TX side-band noise of existing SDR manufacturers, so our aim was to fully equalize our transmitter to have noise performance that is compatible with the best modern receivers, or even better. After a arduous year of development , we think we achieved it!

This 11+ band radio is based on the LD-5, which has proven to be one of the most exciting QRP transceivers introduced in the last few years. Quite frankly, the performance rivals high end units offered by other manufactures at a much lower price point. Our motto is that we make QRP transceivers that you will want to take out in the field (without fear of breaking the bank).

Price is $774.99 US

LNR-Precision-LD-11-L-Side LNR-Precision-LD-11-R-Side

Note: Larry Draughn (AE4LD), President of LNR Precision, will be issuing an LD-11 transceiver to me on loan for review. I’m looking forward to putting it on the air.

What fascinates me about the LD-11 is that, although it’s designed as a ham band-only transceiver, the band edges of the 30 meter ham band can be expanded to include the full 31 meter broadcast band. There are, perhaps, other ham bands that can include nearby broadcast bands as well.  I will plan to experiment with the band edges.

MTR5B

The MTR5B

The new MTR5B 5-Band Mountain Topper is a fully-assembled 5-band CW transceiver KD1JV designs “Steve Weber” kit. The following are specifications/features from the LNR website:

40M, 30M, 20M, 17M, 15M
Size: 4.337″L x 3.153″W x 1.008″T
Weight: approx 6.4 OZ.

Features:

  • Switch selected 40/30/20/17/15 meter bands (no band modules to lose or change out)
  • Wide operating voltage range, 6 to 12 volts 15 ma Rx current at 12V supply
  • Efficient transmitter. Low current with 4W output
  • LCD display
  • Push button or Optional rotary tuning
  • 24 hour clock built in, with battery back up
  • Three 63 character programmable message memories
  • Message beacon mode with adjustable pause time

MTR5B-1

Price is $379.99 US

Steve Weber’s QRP transceivers are amazing and incredibly portable. His MTR-3B trail radio has received very favorable reviews over the past year; I expect the same from the new MTR-5B.

If you were lucky enough to grab a first production unit of either of these radios, I would love to post your overview/review! I’m looking forward to checking out the LD-11 soon. I’ll post updates with the tag: LD-11

The KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit

KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit1

Tony Westbrook recently contacted me about a regenerative receiver kit he has designed and produced in the UK.  It’s called the KRC-2.  Here’s the product description:

1 – 30 MHz with band spread tuning.

Regeneration with a difference. The regeneration setting on the KRC-2 is unaffected by the receiver tuning or the antenna coupling. How do we achieve this? The regenerative stage is fixed at 10.7MHz and used as an IF amplifier. The main receiver board is extremely simple to construct using only one FET and an audio IC. Like all the KRC kits it comes with a comprehensive construction manual which brings this project well within the grasp of the keen constructor. It was referred to as “a very sensitive little receiver” by Rob Mannion of Practical Wireless. Its unconventional design and simplicity should amaze even the experienced constructor. Case size 7 x 4 x 3 inches. 6 x AA batteries supplied.

According to Tony, the kit comes with everything; UK orders are even supplied with batteries. Tony stated, “the only thing the customer needs is a soldering iron, solder cutters, etc.”

By request, Tony sent a few construction photos and three videos of the radio in operation:

Photos

KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit4KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit11 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit10 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit8 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit7 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit3 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit2 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit9 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit6 KRC-2 shortwave regenerative receiver kit5

Videos

Video 1

5.505mHz Shannon Volmet

Video 2

17.650mHz CRI

Video 3

21.505mHz Radio Saudi

Click here to view the KRC-2 and Tony’s other kits. 

Let’s talk Raspberry Pi 3 radio projects…

RaspberryPi3-Box

I just received the recently released Raspberry Pi 3 that I ordered from MCM a couple weeks ago.

RaspberryPi3

Now I’m plotting a few potential radio projects!

Recommendations anyone?

I’d love some input from SWLing Post readers as I’d like to feature a few Raspberry Pi projects here (and I’d certainly welcome your guest posts!).

RTL-SDR

I’d love to run my RTL-SDR or (better yet)  SDRplay RSP with the Pi 3, but I’m sure there are a number of other projects I’ve never considered. I also have the original Raspberry Pi, but what I love about the Pi 3 is built-in wireless connectivity–of course, it’s faster than the original Pi, so I’m sure that’ll help with many radio applications.

Please comment with your suggestions and Raspberry Pi experience! I’m all ears!

Raspberry Pi 3 Available

RaspberryPi3“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .” From the Raspberrypi.org Blog blog comes news of a new board with greater processing speed and integrated hardware.

“In celebration of our fourth birthday, we thought it would be fun to release something new. Accordingly, Raspberry Pi 3 is now on sale for $35 (the same price as the existing Raspberry Pi 2), featuring:

  • A 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU (~10x the performance of Raspberry Pi 1)
  • Integrated 802.11n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Complete compatibility with Raspberry Pi 1 and 2

“The 900MHz 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU complex has been replaced by a custom-hardened 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53. Combining a 33% increase in clock speed with various architectural enhancements, this provides a 50-60% increase in performance in 32-bit mode versus Raspberry Pi 2, or roughly a factor of ten over the original Raspberry Pi.

“Raspberry Pi 3 is available to buy today from our partners element14 and RS Components, and other resellers. You’ll need a recent NOOBS or Raspbian image from our downloads page. At launch, we are using the same 32-bit Raspbian userland that we use on other Raspberry Pi devices; over the next few months we will investigate whether there is value in moving to 64-bit mode.”

At $35 these computers are a steal, and now with Bluetooth and Wireless built in, they are even more affordable. I have a Raspberry Pi 2 already, but I have a feeling one of these will end up in my shack before too long!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.