Category Archives: New Products

Ivan’s preliminary review of the new RTL-SDR dongle on shortwave/mediumwave

RTL-SDR-RTL2832U-e1471375714199Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov (NO2CW), who shares the following video review of the new RTL-SDR dongle on the shortwave and mediumwave bands.

Ivan notes:

This is daytime reception comparison. Nighttime could be a different picture. [The RTL-SDR dongle] tunes and frequency is 100% on spot.

Using SDR Sharp you have several AGC settings to play with and find the best combination. The best setting seems to vary with band and signal strength.

The [SDR receiver] comes with a short (20 cm) and long (120cm) telescopic antennas. Neither one is usable for HF or Medium wave.

When ordering the radio you have to get a USB extension cord for the dongle. When plugged in directly into a laptop and then antenna coax it can become bulky. You also will most likely need an SMA adapter to BNC and SO 238.

I hope this helps.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks for sharing your video, Ivan! For a $25 SDR, I’m pretty impressed so far! I’m also very curious how it will hold up to stronger nighttime signals and, especially, adjacent signal interference. I imagine it may be prone to overloading as well. Please keep us posted!

Have any other Post readers tested the new RTL-SDR dongle on HF? If so, please comment! 

Icom’s announcement includes two new receivers: the IC-R8600 and IC-R30

The IC-R8600 (Photo source: QRZ Now)

The IC-R8600 (Photo source: QRZ Now)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who shares the following info about Icom’s announcements at the Tokyo Ham Fair:

Well the cat is now really out of the bag now !! Icom announced 2 new RECEIVERS at the Tokyo 2016 JARL Ham Fair.

We can almost say for certain that the new IC-R8600 is a SDR based design.

[…]The new IC-R30 handheld probably is SDR too, but not sure yet. Pretty large bugger (no real good picture as of of me typing this). Will it be able to do at least P25 Phase one?

I’ll admit it: I was a little surprised to hear that Icom had announced new receivers. I’m happy to see that it’s an IC-R8500 replacement/update. I love the touch screen color display.

I also very much like the idea of a handheld wideband–possible SDR–receiver.  I did a little extra digging and found the most concrete details about the new models on Icom UK’s website:

After an online teaser campaign featuring silhouettes of mystery radio models, the secret is out and Icom Inc. has shown the very first samples of the IC-7610, IC-R8600, IC-R30 and ID-51 PLUS2 to the public at the Tokyo Ham Fair 2016 (August 20-21, 2016). Details are relatively scarce but here are the basic details we have so far on these models.

The new IC-7610 (Photo: Icom UK)

The new IC-7610 (Photo: Icom UK)

IC-7610 HF/50MHz Transceiver (Base Station)
The IC-7610 is the successor to the IC-7600 and will be a dual-watch capable HF+50MHz 100W base station with built-in antenna tuner. The LCD will be touch screen and you will be able to connect an external display.

IC-R8600 Wideband Receiver (Base Station)
The IC-R8600 replaces the IC-R8500 wideband receiver and will feature the technology incorporated into Icom’s best selling IC-7300. The IC-R8600 will be able to receive a wide frequency range from 0.01-3000MHz frequency in analogue and various digital modes (D-STAR, P25, NXDN and dPMR). The IC-R8600 will feature a larger 4.3 inch touch screen display which will feature fast moving spectrum scope and waterfall display.

IC-R30 Communications Receiver (Handheld)
The IC-R30 is the successor to the popular IC-R20 compact handheld receiver. The IC-R30 can listen to two signals under certain conditions (analogue + analogue or analogue + digital). The IC-R30 will be able to decode D-STAR, P25, NXDN and dPMR digital (conventional) modes.

ID-51 PLUS2 Dual Band D-STAR Digital Transceiver (Handheld)
The ID-51 PLUS2 handportable is a special edition model which will come in several colours/patterns. The new ‘Terminal Mode’ and ‘Access Point Modes’ enable you to make D-STAR calls through the Internet, even from areas where no D-STAR repeater is accessible.

More details will be available nearer to each product’s launch. There are currently no details about pricing and availability.

Stay tuned to this website and our social media pages for further announcements.

I can’t wait to learn what the price point will be for the IC-R8600. I hope it’s at least in-line with the IC-7300 or (its predecessor) the IC-R8500. I also hope that, perhaps, the new IC-R30 will have full-mode HF capabilities.

We’ll post news about these new rigs as it becomes available–so will Dave Zantow. Stay tuned!

New RTL-SDR dongles feature HF reception

RTL-SDR-RTL2832U-e1471375714199

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who writes:

[T]he newest v3 RTL2832U USB receivers now have HF reception via Direct sampling over the SMA antenna connector directly out of the box with no hardware modding required.

I think this might make it the cheapest, out-of-the-box HF SDR possible at this point.

9:1 balun for longwire puts the whole thing under $50 still

Wow! Now you’re making me wish I would’ve waited a few more months before finally purchasing an RTL-SDR. I like the folks over at the RTL-SDR blog, so I purchased their model.

Amazingly,  the V3 RTL2832U only costs $24.95 on Amazon.com. What a value!  Anyone care to write a review of the HF performance? Please contact us.

Tom Servo reviews the Sangean DT-160

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tom Servo, for sharing the following review of the Sangean DT-160. His review was originally posted on the radio discussions forum:


Sangean-DT-160

Got my Sangean DT-160 today. Thanks, Santa Claus!

Initial impressions are positive, both in the build quality and performance.

It’s a lot bigger than I thought it’d be, though.

I was picturing in my mind something closer to the SRF-M37 but it’s bigger than a pack of cigarettes — taller and wider.

Some of the performance issues others have noted, I’ve noticed as well. The FM reception is superb and outperforms the Insignia HD portable that’s my benchmark FM radio. It can hold its own with the Grundig G8 in that regard.

The sound quality is weird, though. It sounds “crunchy” or watery. Like everything is being played via a low bit rate mp3. Granted, most my local stations ARE playing low bit rate mp3s and sound terrible (which is why I don’t listen to local radio much anymore) but the few stations that aren’t still sound “weird”. Crispy. It could be the DSP or just some odd EQ’ing on Sangean’s part. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch but when side-by-side with a different radio the audio differences were stark. The Insignia sounds truly “flat” while the Sangean sounds treble boosted. And crispy. Did I mention that?

[At first] the wide-narrow setting [seemed to make little] difference on FM. The only station that narrow mode improved was while listening to WTGF out of Milton, FL. It’s a mono station and I’m on the fringe, and the narrow cleared up a bit of static. It makes a much more noticeable different on AM, though. Not as much as a well calibrated “wide/narrow” filter might but enough to help some talk radio stand out from the noise.

[I did eventually] figured out where the wide-narrow setting makes the most difference on FM. It’s when you have two signals on adjacent channels, the narrow really does help cut out adjacent channel splatter. Not that there’s much of a problem to begin with, but it is a little extra added oomph.

With the narrow activated, I was able to pull in 93.1 WGDQ and 94.3 WKZW from the Hattiesburg, MS market. Two stations I haven’t heard in probably a year or better, and both are first-adjacent to local 100 kW sticks that are less than 15 miles from me.

Selectivity even in wide mode is fine. Definitely better than the Insignia and on par with the Grundig. We have a crowded dial here on the Gulf coast and sometimes you need a selective radio to pull out all the stations side by side. Here’s an example of what is possible to hear on a decent night:

98.1 – WHWY – Fort Walton Beach
98.3 – WLVM – Mobile
98.5 – WYLD – New Orleans
98.7 – WYCT – Pensacola

Sangean-DT-160I was surprised to hear WYLD coming in this afternoon. In fact, at first I thought it was an image of local 99.9 WMXC, because it was the same song/DJ. But the IDs were different. That’s a good pull and something neither the Grundig nor Insignia could pull off.

The dynamic bass boost is a horrible sounding gimmick, though. It makes everything sound muddy on my “real” headphones. I didn’t try the ones that came with it. I hate it that it lacks RDS, since so many Sangean radios have that and it makes DXing more interesting. The AM has a weird squelch like damping when it’s on an empty channel. If there’s a weak signal there (like my semi-local but hard to hear WABF out of Fairhope) it just sits there, perfectly quiet. It’s not until I used the Tecsun loop with it that reasonably clear audio came out of nowhere. I strongly suspect it’s “muting” weak signals on purpose on AM.

WWL is a moderate but noisy target here; the signal strength is usually good enough for even basic radios to pick it up… Not this Sangean. It took careful alignment before I heard anything. The slightest bit of movement and it went almost completely deaf again. Very odd.

It’s a shame that conditions for FM DX have been so poor on the coast this year, I think this would be a killer DX machine on FM. My friend in Florence has heard Mexico and Wyoming this year. I’ve barely made anything further west than New Orleans, which is pitiful.

Another plus is it drives my large Sennheiser headphones louder than any other “pocket” radio in my collection.


Thanks for sharing your review, Tom! 

I sounds like the DT-160’s AGC or soft mute on the AM broadcast band is causing otherwise intelligible signals to drop out.

At time of posting, I’m still running the battery endurance test of the Sangean DT-160CL vs. Sony SRF-39FP, so I haven’t really given the DT-160CL (the correctional version of the DT-160) a proper receiver performance test. I will soon enough, though!

 

Update 2: Sangean DT-160CL v Sony SRF-39FP

Sangean-DT160CL and Sony SRF-39FP

It’s been eighty seven (!!!) hours since I started the Sangean DT-160CL versus Sony SRF-39FP endurance test and both radio are still going strong.

My iPhone stopwatch has been tracking the test.

My iPhone stopwatch has been tracking the test.

I’ve tuned both radios to my SSTran AMT3000 AM transmitter which is currently re-broadcasting the UK 1940s Radio Station on 1570 kHz.

The Sangean DT-160CL still shows two of three segments on the battery indicator (see above).

The Sony SRF-39FP seems to have no indication of quitting anytime soon–it’s still sensitive and audio sounds great.

I believe the Sony SRF-39FP is rated for 80 hours of playtime, and I’m sure if I had turned it on and off numerous times during the test, it might have had an impact on battery performance. It’s still going strong, though.

I am using advanced alkaline (CVS Brand) batteries in both radios. These should give each radio better battery life than standard alkaline or rechargeables.

Regardless which radio wins this test: both have already proved themselves “Holy Grail” battery misers!

I’ll be monitoring the radios very closely today as we pass the 90 and 100 hour mark!

Sangean-DT160CL-BatteryIndicator

UPDATE: Shortly after making this post–at almost exactly 88 hours and 30 minutes into the test–the Sangean DT160CL’s battery indicator lost a battery indicator segment. It’s now only showing one of three battery segments. Could the end be near for our DT-160CL? Stay tuned!

Follow this review thread by bookmarking the following tag: Sangean DT-160CL v Sony SRF-39FP.