Monthly Archives: September 2014

Guest Post: Anil reviews the FiFi-SDR receiver kit 2.0

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Anil Raj, for sharing his review of the FiFi-SDR receiver kit 2.0:


The perfect radio for business travellers?

I travel regularly, or should I say commute between Europe and Asia, and have been on the lookout for a small receiver with good performance that would be easy to carry with me. I never travel without my laptop so an SDR would be the sensible thing to look for. A few weeks back the tiny FiFi SDR receiver caught my interest as I was browsing the website of Funkamateur the excellent German ham radio magazine. It looked promising as it had an impressive bank of filters covering all the way from LF to HF. Also, the front end is designed to emphasize sensitivity, so that it can work well with short wire antennas. It also had a built in sound card which would make interfacing to my computer a simple job.



The price was certainly right – $ 169. I ordered it, and it showed up in my mailbox a few days later. It is offered as a “kit” though in practice all that needs to be done is to solder a couple of connectors and sockets. All the surface SMD components are pre-soldered, and the rugged extruded case has die cut holes for the connectors and controls making the mechanical assembly very simple. The entire exercise took me about 20 minutes until the receiver was plugged in and powered up.


Since I use a Mac the choice of SDR software is a lot more restricted than that for Windows. I did however find free software called SDR Radio ( developed by DL2SDR which does a great job of partnering with the FiFi and my Mac.

SDR Radio is still in development, so the UI can a bit rough at the edges at times. Also, configuring the Audio and MIDI settings on my Mac took a bit of work, but DL2SDR Sebastian was quick to reply to my mails requesting help when I got stuck.

So how does it all sound? While I am sure that there may be better performing SDR radios out there, what this little matchbox sized receiver does is simply amazing. Users running Windows will have access to much more sophisticated applications than the simple programs available for Mac and will be better able to compare this radio. However, it does an outstanding job of handling both AM broadcast as well as CW and SSB utility and Ham signals. While SDR Radio does not offer a lot of bells and whistles at present, the continuously variable bandwidth which can be dialled in to almost zero, and effective notch filter get the job done very well. In empirical testing and comparisons with the Palstar R30C, the FiFi easily outclassed the older analog radio (and the Palstar is no slouch, especially on the lower frequencies).


In summary, this is going to be the radio that I will be taking with me on all my travels from now on. It is tiny, ruggedly built, and has excellent RF performance, especially at lower frequencies.

Many thanks for your review, Anil!

The FiFi SDR does indeed sound like an ideal SDR for travel. Like you, I am usually limited by the SDR applications available on the Mac OS. While I use a Windows 7 PC at home, on the road, I travel with the MacBook Air (a superb laptop!).

Click here to view details and purchase a FiFi SDR ($169 shipping included).

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Sherwood Engineering ranks the Flex -6700 SDR


Rob Sherwood has now tested and ranked the new FlexRadio Systems 6700 transceiver on his benchmark receiver test data page. Sherwood-RX-data

The ‘6700 tops the list when sorted by third-order dynamic range, narrow spaced. Click here to view the results.

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Bill solves the CRI echo mystery


A few days ago, I posted an article about Bill Meara (producer of the SolderSmoke Podcast) who was hearing audio echoes on his home brew regenerative receiver.

Bill has now solved this mystery (hint: it’s all about the receiver):

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Wartime radio: The secret listeners


After publishing the post about Geoff Hanley and the Radio Security Service last week, I discovered this brilliant 1979 documentary from the BBC which highlights civilian involvement in radio-based intelligence during WWI and WWII.

Here’s a description from the East Anglian Film Archive:

“It was the tireless work of amateur radio enthusiasts during World War I, that initially convinced the Admiralty to establish a radio intercept station at Hunstanton. Playing an integral role during the war, technological advances meant that radio operators could pinpoint signals, thus uncovering the movement of German boats, leading to the decisive Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Wireless espionage was to play an even more important role during World War II, with the Secret Intelligence Service setting up the Radio Security Service, which was staffed by Voluntary Interceptors, a band of amateur radio enthusiasts scattered across Britain. The information they collected was interpreted by some of the brightest minds in the country, who also had a large hand in deceiving German forces by feeding false intelligence.”

Click here to watch the 30 minute film. 

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Reminder: Virtual Radio Challenge II


We’ve received some brilliant, creative entries in the Virtual Radio Challenge II: your opportunity to piece together the best $1200 (US) radio kit you might pack for two years in the remote off-grid village of Laya, Bhutan.

To participate in this challenge, simply comment on our original post with your suggested set-up, any links, and a brief explanation for your choices. You’re also welcome to email me directly with your response on or before Friday, October 3rd, 2014. I plan to post a selection of diverse entries shortly thereafter.

Click here to read about the challenge.

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October 10: Let’s talk shortwave…and astronomy


I’ve been invited to speak at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a non-profit educational radio astronomy observatory (and former NASA tracking station as well as one-time NSA installation), in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I’ll be speaking about shortwave radio, of course–both its technical and cultural aspects–on October 10, 2014, at 7:00 pm EDT.  Afterwards, there will be a tour of the PARI campus, and an opportunity to stargaze with both amateur and professional astronomers.

Many thanks to my buddy, Ken Reitz, who shared this article about my presentation in the area’s local county newspaper; here’s my statement about the presentation:

“Shortwave radio is an international communications medium that has been in existence for nearly one hundred years,” said Witherspoon, “yet this vintage technology supports an ever-evolving multicultural landscape that, remarkably, remains relevant today. The Internet and mobile technologies have made the dissemination of information more readily accessible to many, yet shortwave radio remains viable and dynamic, and in many ways still outstrips the Internet.

“I plan to share some of shortwave radio’s diverse voices and investigate some of the technology used to receive them. So, if you are a shortwave enthusiast, or simply interested in learning more about shortwave, this program is for you and will be suitable for all ages.”

Read the full article here–and if you can make the journey, join us for shortwave and astronomical fun. There is a small charge for the evening; all proceeds go towards PARI’s mission of providing public education in astronomy.

PARI is a stunning radio astronomy campus which will no doubt be accentuated by the mountains’ fall leaf colors on October 10. For PARI’s location, click here.

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The Ozark Patrol regenerative receiver kit

k0awb_ozarkpatrol 3small

Just learned that David Cripe (NM0S) has a new kit for sale: the Ozark Patrol regenerative receiver kit.

The Ozark Patrol is a simple, straightforward kit, designed with beginners in mind. The kit uses through-hole components, which is to say, mounted on pads etched on the opposite side.  All of the component values and reference numbers are silk-screened on the board to indicate each part’s location, making for truly quick and fool-proof assembly.

What’s more, Dave is a talented kit designer; he’s the brains behind the kit for our successful ETOW HumanaLight (originally conceived by engineer Greg Majewski). He’s not only clever like that, he’s also a great pal.

In the past, when Dave has announced new radio kits for sale, he’s sold out within a few days. That’s why I ordered mine the moment I saw the announcement.

And, hey…not only does just $40 plus shipping ($46 in the US) get you a superb regen receiver kit, but proceeds also support the Four State QRP Group. Win-win, in my book.

Here are a few specifications and design features listed on the Four State QRP Group’s website:

  • Frequency Range: 3.5-15 MHz in two bands
  • Sensitivity: Yes!
  • Power Supply: 6 x AA batteries
  • Audio Output: A 2.6” speaker is included, as well as a jack for 1/8” stereo headphones

Want one, too? Click here to order your own Ozark Patrol kit…and enjoy tinkering as well as listening!

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