Frank’s advice for dealing with SDR clones

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Frank Howell (K4FMH), who shares the following post published on

Many of us hams, SWLs, and makers buy inexpensive electronics from China. It’s become a bonanza for small, cheap and surprisingly good radio-related gadgets and parts on eBay and other vendors. I buy a fair amount, most recently a recommended project box for a set of HF bandpass filters I purchased from a small company in Australia. It finally arrived and is superb for a very cheap price!

But there’s a dark side. I love a bargain more than most. But when it’s an illegitimate clone of another genuine manufacturer’s product, that’s no fair. Yep, there’s ways to legitimately copy another design with various hardware licenses and beaucoup software licenses (if that’s relevant to the product). One of the ongoing issues in the Pacific Rim to the rest of the world has been the taking of the intellectual property from others, making a cheaper product offered for sale, and using the trade naming and hardware/software designs of the originating manufacturer. In short, stealing for profit.

So be careful. The fake copies may not work with the latest SDRplay software including SDRuno. There will be no technical support even if you get some limited functionality using out of date software.

Jon Hudson

For those in or interested in the SDR receivers available, there are a number of prominent names. I’ve had an Italian Perseus SDR for over a decade. Paid the asking price (a lot by today’s standards). It’s a terrific product although aging in the technology of the design. The SDRPlay company in England has risen to the top in terms of performance, continued innovation and the software they purchased for a free download to their legitimate customers. SDRUno is a terrific software package which they continue to update. They have an API so other software makers (like Simon Brown with SDR Console) can drive the SDR car, too. Their price points are very good and appropriate for the various receiver models they have on the market. A third-party individual has written code for a continually updated package that implements a Spectrum Analyser for most of the SDRPlay receivers. I’ve used an old (no longer in production) RSP1 with it and it’s very cool! And don’t get me started on their tech support and education. Mike Ladd KD2KOG is the Dude on social media for SDRPlay and related products. Mike creates new markets for SDRPlay products by educating hams and listeners on creative new ways to use them.

Individual preferences for one SDR product or another aside, SDRPlay is a legitimate company that plays more than fair in the marketplace. They do a lot to support the various elements of the radio hobby that we all enjoy. We should return that favor so that they can continue without the eroding effects of illegal clones undercutting their market, n’est-ce pas?

Continue reading Frank’s article at where he describes how to report a clone to eBay…

Thank you for sharing this, Frank.

I’m with you. While I love saving money, I also enjoy supporting companies who innovate and invest in our radio world. SDRplay is a top-shelf company and, along with Airspy, have made high-performance SDRs affordable for everyone. When you buy from SDRplay and Airspy or one of their authorized distributors, you’re investing in the company and their ability to fund research and development. When you buy a clone, you’re lining the pockets of a manufacturer who copies from industry leaders and has no interest in innovating or even supporting radio enthusiasts over the long haul. It’s merely a profit opportunity for them built on the hard work of others.

Plus, SDRplay and Airspy SDRs are so affordable, how much are you really saving by buying a clone? $25-50? That savings will disappear when SDRuno and SDR# develop new app tools that leave a clone behind.

I know of a number of readers who have purchased SDRs without realizing they were buying clones. Don’t be too frustrated–it happens because the market is so saturated with clones. Next time you purchase, however, go straight to the source!

I have no respect for clones and that’s why I don’t actively link to clone products like the Malahit/Malachite variants or MSI.SDR.  Believe it or not, some of these are actually clones of clones!

Consider purchasing from companies and retailers who invest and innovate in our radio space. Skip the clones.

Click here to purchase from SDRplay.

Click here to purchase from Airspy authorized distributors.

Spread the radio love

3 thoughts on “Frank’s advice for dealing with SDR clones

  1. Andrew (grayhat)

    Maybe I was unclear, while the kiwisdr is a very good unit, I won’t classify it as a cheap, entry level SDR, and if you look for cheap SDR units which a newbie could choose to get his feet wet w/o investing too much, all you’ll find are the RTL based “dongles”, now while those cheap ADC would be a bad choice for higher priced units, I can’t understand why, being available for some years now, they aren’t used to offer a bit better performance for low price SDR units, not perfect, sure, but would at least give to some people a way to get started with pretty decent performances, also since, as I wrote the “big names” don’t offer affordable, low price “no frills” SDR units

    hope to have been clear now


  2. Andrew (grayhat)

    I agree, cloning something means cutting the R&D costs, and the far east economy seems to be based on the principle of totally ignoring/discarding whatever right, including intellectual property, more often than not, small brand use far east facilities to manufacture stuff, and the result is that the design details are copied and the product is cloned and, even if low quality, sold as if it is the original but at a fraction of the price

    In the other hand, someone willing to start with SDR and not willing to invest much money is limited to the RTL based receivers, not that they’re bad, but their dynamic range is limited, plus, willing to get to HF or MW one has to either buy a converter or switch to direct sampling which isn’t exactly a way to have good performances

    So, I believe that the market needs some cheap entry level SDR from “official brands”; some no-frills yet good performance units would probably convince people to go for trusted and true brands, instead of seeking for clones

    Then, for “regular” highly priced models, I can’t still understand why, given that 24 bits ADC chips have been available (and CHEAP) for years now, SDR manufacturers are stll using 16 bits (or less) units; just as an example, this design

    shows a CHEAP SDR using an IC which implements 24 bits ADC … and we’re paying a bunch of bucks for 12 bits ones or, willing to buy a cheap unit, we’re doomed to 8 bits and direct sampling ?

    Come on !

    1. KiwiSDR

      Yeah, so there is some confusion here.

      For sure, that Circuit Salad SDR is the coolest thing ever. But the 24-bit ADC inside that DSP chip is a garden variety 48 or 192 kHz audio sigma-delta converter that costs pennies. Not a 16-bit 170 MHz RF pipelined converter that goes for $100 USD*. Those two ADC architectures are light years apart. And for good reason.

      The Circuit Salad SDR can use a wide/slow ADC because it is sampling a zero-IF baseband signal a few 10’s of kHz wide. Not the 0-30 MHz from your antenna that you can pump straight into your RF ADC. The cost/performance tradeoffs are huge and the links below show why (use to get part prices).

      For example, the KiwiSDR uses a 14-bit 65 MHz ADC to hit a very specific cost/performance target (i.e. we can’t put a $100 ADC in a $299 product and unlike the unscrupulous “clone” manufactures we’re not going to sell you a product that uses less expensive but sub-standard parts).

      Wide/slow (precision) ADCs:

      RF ADCs:

      * Less if you’re willing to use a desoldered/recycled/counterfeit/NOS part from China.


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