One year with the TitanSDR

TitanSDR-VOG

Last year, I reviewed the TitanSDR Pro by the Italian manufacturer, Enablia,. I was very impressed with not only this receiver’s performance, but also its accompanying application’s user interface. I also noted in the review that the TitanSDR is pricier than many other benchmark SDRs on the market ($1380-1970 EUR) but it is, after all, essentially a military-grade SDR that has been ported to the enthusiast/ham radio market.

I’ve been using and testing updates to theTitanSDR Pro for a year now, and I continue to be just as impressed with this receiver––and, especially, with the company who manufactures it, Enablia.

TitanSDRPro-3

I wondered at the time of my initial review how supportive Enablia might turn out to be; I knew time would tell.  Since my original review last year, Enablia has been regularly updating the TitanSDR application, adding many features requested by its users.  This shows a remarkable degree of responsiveness, and I now feel safe to say that that Enablia is an exceptional manufacturer with an exceptional product.

Only recently, I received an update which added two notch filters per narrowband channel, memories that retain AGC and notch filters settings, and sessions that retain AGC settings. I understand Enablia is also preparing updates that improve upon memory management, user interface, audio defaults, as well as offering a few tweaks to the existing feature set.

Overall, Enablia developers are certainly making this signal intelligence SDR cater to the ham radio and enthusiast market even better than before.

Though I use a number of SDRs, I reach for the TitanSDR any time there are multiple-band openings since it can record spectrum and audio across the entire LW/MW/SW landscape. Unlike my other SDRs, it’s not limited to an (already generous)  2-6 MHz recording/listening window.

For example, on Thursday night I had a lot on my listening/recording plate as there were a number of band openings. I had the TitanSDR tuned to:

  • the 31 meter band,
  • the 20 meter ham radio band,
  • the 49 meter band (specifically monitoring South American stations), and even
  • the mediumwave band.

The TitanSDR was recording spectrum on the 49 meter band while I made this AF recording of the Voice of Greece on the 31 meter band (9420 kHz, starting around 00:26 UTC on April 8, 2016):

Surprisingly, all of this recording wasn’t taxing my PC, nor the TitanSDR.

The TitanSDR application is highly stable and uses resources efficiently. Indeed, in the past year, to my knowledge the TitanSDR application hasn’t crashed even once, despite my rigorous demands of it. Since it runs nearly 24/7 in my shack, on a four-year old PC (third generation i5 Win 7), that’s saying a lot.

SWLing Post reader, Tony Roper, is also a heavy TitanSDR user and recently posted this 30+ minute video demonstrating some of the TitanSDR’s new features. Note that his screen capture software produced fairly low audio, so you’ll need to turn up the volume to hear his commentary:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In short, I stand by my conclusions drawn last year in my TitanSDR review:  although pricey compared to the competition, for those who can afford the price tag, the TitanSDR is a worthy hard-core DX machine that is especially useful to need a receiver with a bullet-proof front end, to weak-signal DXers, and to radio archivists like yours truly.

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!

Video: 1936 Crosley WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver

WLW Model  Super-Power Radio Receiver-2

In response to our recent thread of posts about the Crosley WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver, I’d like to thank both Jonathan Marks and Mike Barraclough for sharing the following video by TNT Amusements on YouTube:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Ken’s E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light console radio

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light Open 2

In response to an inquiry in our post about the Crosley WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver, SWLing Post contributor, Ken Carr, writes:

I’m not sure if my radio is a ‘benchmark’ but it sure is close to it.
It is the E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light console radio.

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light Outside Closed

Mine appears to have been built in 1939 or early 1940. It has 30 tubes, most of which are covered by chrome-plated shields. The power supply/amplifier (4 6L6’s in the output stage), receiver, 15″ speaker and cabinet easily weigh over 150 pounds.

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light inside

It took me two years of occasional work (I am retired so I don’t rush) to get it going and working reasonably well. I had to replace over 100 capacitors and correct some B+ voltage problems left by a previous repair person. 

None of the knobs are correct (mine came without them … 9 required) and replacements are difficult to come by (and quite expensive when they do appear).

When receiving a strong station the volume is such that it would easily drown out anything within 100 yards (and with no distortion).

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of LightDial

Some day I will post some details and photos on my WordPress site (idlenot.com). I’ll be sure to let you know, Thomas. [Note: Yes, Ken, please do!]

Oh, the first time I powered it up and received a station they were playing Light My Fire (The Doors, I think). Appropriate. I put a video of it on YouTube. The radio is all apart as I was still working on it at the time.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Now that is serendipity, Ken–I mean, the first music you hear after restoring this beauty is Light My Fire? Brilliant!

The E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light is a benchmark console by any standard. I first learned about this radio through a local classified ad–the owner was selling the internal components (and original knobs) but had no cabinet. I believe he was asking $1200. The chrome plating is such eye candy, I can see why some owner in the past removed it from the cabinet to save space. Still, it was a shame the cabinet had been discarded–as one can see from your photos, the craftsmanship is simply stunning.

Ken, thank you for taking the time to share the Beam of Light console with us!

Post readers: you should check out Ken’s blog, Idlenot.com, where you’ll find more vintage radio and classic cars!

New old stock (NOS) Grundig G3s available on eBay

GrundigG3

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Steve Lebkuecher, who writes:

Hi Thomas

I was a little surprised to see a batch of new Grundig G3s selling for $79.99 on eBay. Given the quality issues with the G3 it may be a bit of a risk but what a great deal if you could get one that works. I have enjoy mine but ended up having to return the first one I bought due to issues with the sync.

Thanks for all you do, I always appreciate your website!

Steve

Click here to view on eBay.

Many thanks for the tip, Steve! You’re right, if this batch of new, un-opened radios is from the last production run of G3s, there could be inconsistency in quality control. The seller, hileydealshas a 99.6% positive rating and offers, “14 days money back or item exchange, buyer pays return shipping.”  So, if you purchase a G3 and feel it’s not performing up to spec, then you could return for a full refund within 14 days, but you’ll be out your return shipping.

g3keypad

The rubberized coating on the G3 is also prone to develop a sticky residue with time. We’ve posted a number of cleaning solutions–click here to read.

I’ve owned a total of three Grundig G3s over the years and have never been displeased with one. I may have simply been lucky. In fact, the G3 was my go-to travel portable for quite a few years. I gave two G3s away and still have one here in my collection. It’s a sensitive little radio and certainly worth the $79.99 price (if not one of the faulty units).

If you have any questions about this offer, and are considering biting the bullet, you should contact the seller prior to purchasing. It appears they have a number of units in stock. 

The Crosley Radio Corporation’s 1936 “WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver”

Crosley

(Image: AntiqueRadios.com)

(Source: Nuts and Volts)

In 1935, the Zenith Radio Corporation produced a stunning radio receiver called the Stratosphere model 1000Z. The set used 25 tubes and three loudspeakers — more than any other radio to date. An amazing (for the time) 50 watts drove its three speakers — one 6 inch dynamic high-frequency and two 12 inch dynamic low-frequency speakers.

Standing 50-1/2 inches tall, the Stratosphere sold for $750.00 — more than many automobiles; in comparison, a new Ford cost $652.00. At that price, it’s no wonder that only about 350 sets were produced during the four years that the Stratosphere was offered.

This achievement impressed Powel Crosley, Jr. — the President of the Crosley Radio Corporation — who praised it as a fine example of quality in radio construction, but it used “only” 25 tubes and three speakers! Crosley — who also owned the 500,000 watt powerhouse radio station, WLW — was inspired to surpass Zenith by bringing the world the largest and most powerful radio receiver yet known.

[…]Out of the numerous [engineering conferences were held throughout the winter months] and Crosley’s imagination came the basic specifications: the radio would be a superheterodyne receiver with no fewer than 30 tubes, six loudspeakers, four chassis; a suitably impressive cabinet would house it. More intricate than any set ever built, it would naturally have the highest possible quality and richness of tone.

[…]In its completed form, the WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver indeed surpassed the Zenith Stratosphere model. It had 37 tubes, six speakers, and 75 watts of power. The cabinet stood 58 inches tall, 42 inches wide, and 22 inches deep. Everything inside the cabinet that could be was chromium-plated. The transformer coils, tubes, and speaker frames were finished in black and each chassis had its own serial number plate.

Continue reading the full article at Nuts and Volts…

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a bit of a vintage radio nut, so I thought I’d do a little digging to see if any WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receivers had been sold or auctioned recently.  I was curious what sort of price they’d fetch.

Let’s just say, some owners demand a high price…Crosley-WLW-Receiver-eBay

This unit was put up for sale on eBay for $160,000 US last year! While I know the Crosley WLW receiver is rare, that price was obviously over the top as is wasn’t sold. Still, the seller included some great photos of this near-mint model:

Crosley-WLW-RX

WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver-1 WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver-2 WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver-3 WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver-4

Around the time of the Zenith Stratosphere and the Crosley WLW–the mid to late 30s–radio manufacturers must have either believed there was a market for these high-end, high-fidelity receivers, or they simply enjoyed designing and manufacturing them as a company benchmark or showpiece.

While not as feature-packed as the Crosley WLW receiver, at the National Capital Radio and Television museum last year, I was completely enamored with this gorgeous powerhouse console: the E.H. Scott All-Wave 23 console.

Scott-ConsoleRadio

The docent told me that the E.H. Scott All-Wave 23 console could easily fill a banquet hall with hi-fi audio. It sported 23 tubes and a very large speaker. If memory serves, it originally sold for $750–easily three or four times the price of most console radios.Scott-Console-Radio-Dial

Post readers: Do you know of any other benchmark console radios?  Do you own one of these amazing receivers?  Please comment!