Category Archives: New Products

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:


RTL-SDR-RTL2832U-e1471375714199

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!

Video: Elecraft KX2 daytime shortwave AM performance

ElecraftKX2

After publishing the post this morning regarding the AM mode addition to the Elecraft KX2, SWLing Post contributor Ivan Cholakov (NO2CW) created the following video comparing the KX2’s daytime shortwave reception with that of the Kenwood R-2000:

Click here to view on YouTube.

The Elecraft KX2 now has AM mode!

Elecraft-KX2-6

The Elecraft KX2 at the 2016 Hamvention

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers (including, Eric, Dave, Jim and Greg) who shared the following message from Wayne (N6KR) on the Elecraft message boards:

We added AM mode to the KX2 today, both transmit and receive. Its primary purpose is for SWL (short-wave listening), i.e. copying commercial AM stations. (Remember that the KX2’s sensitivity drops off rapidly below 2 MHz due to protective high-pass filtering, so it wouldn’t be your first choice for AM brodcast-band DXing.)

AM transmit is far less efficient than SSB, so it would typically be used only if the target receiver can’t demodulate SSB, or for special applications. For example, there’s some AM activity and experimentation in the ham bands, notably around 3.870 kHz at night. I’ll have to drop in with 10 watts (carrier + sidebands) and get a report 🙂

While the KX2 was optimized for SSB, AM mode sounds fine, and of course is easier to tune than when using SSB modes with AM. In AM mode, the operator can select 1, 5, 9, or 10 kHz steps for course tuning using the VFO CRS menu entry. (Yes, some countries use 9 kHz intervals between stations.)

If you’re interested in testing AM mode on the KX2, please email me directly.

73,
Wayne
N6KR

On Sunday, I ordered a KX2 (with ATU, rechargeable battery pack, quick charger and paddles)–it should arrive next Monday. First thing I’ll do is upgrade the firmware so it’ll have AM mode.

Many thanks to Wayne (N6KR) for putting this KX2 upgrade at the front of the (long) line of requests.  I’ll be reviewing the KX2 for the November issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine and, as an avid SWL, AM mode adds an important dimension to my evaluation. (Truth is, I know that Wayne has a soft spot for SWLing too.)

Elecraft-KX2-Data-SheetClick here for a previous post with more information and photos of the Elecraft KX2.

Click here to view the KX2 on Elecraft’s website.

Details Emerge: The PantronX Titus II DRM Portable Receiver

TitusII-DRM-Receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Harald Kuhl (DL1ABJ), who shares more details about the new Titus 2 DRM receiver via the DRM Consortium Chairman, Ruxandra Obreja:

NEW DRM RECEIVER UNVEILED at HFCC MEETING IN MIAMI, FLORIDA THIS WEEK!

The HFCC meeting is being held 22-26 August in Miami and on this occasion there was a live DRM transmission form Radio Vaticana received on  the new Titus2 DRM receiver (pls. see attached document with picture and details) http://www.drmna.info/.

Here is also a little testimony of how this prototype to be sold “at under 100 dollars” performed from Ray Robinson, Operations Manager at KVOH (Voice of Hope / Voz de Esperanza):

I’m currently at the HFCC conference in Miami, and reception of the DRM broadcast here this afternoon was very successful.  Reception was made outside the hotel on two receivers – a  NewStar DR-111 and a brand new pre-production receiver from Pantronix called the Titus 2, with a cluster of attendees gathered round taking photos and videos.  The latter receiver is based on an Android tablet in a stereo radio format with one speaker each side of the central horizontal tablet.  Reception on both radios was solid throughout, on a day when analog reception on 16m was plagued with a lot of atmospheric noise.  We haven’t done detailed calculations, but figure there were probably at least three hops from Italy to Miami, and for a daylight path, the reception quality was nothing short of astounding.

Click here to download the Titus II PDF brochure.

TitusII-DRM-Receiver-Specifications