Malahit DSP-2 Review Update: Dan recommends holding off until issues resolved

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest post:


UPDATE: Malahit DSP-2 (July 24, 2021)

RECOMMENDATION: Hold Off Until Issues Are Resolved

I thought it important enough to write this update to my earlier extensive review of the Malahit DSP-2, the second version of the Russia-made receiver. Earlier incremental updates can be seen on the main article.

In concluding my main review, I spoke about being on the Malahit “train” and “roller coaster” – and my experiences since have shown that to be true.

As noted in one the updates, further testing confirmed the observations of Malahit users that when voltage of a 18650B battery drops below 3.7 v the receiver did indeed shut down. And the battery icon was still showing 50%.

Georgiy at the Malahit team confirmed this as a software bug, and in a test firmware update, the voltage issue was, according to him, corrected. The result, in a test firmware upgrade (2.10) could be seen with remaining voltage displayed in the battery icon itself. But I was unable to confirm that this actually resolved the issue of inaccurate voltage displayed before yet another problem emerged.

After performing the update from 2.0 to 2.10 Test firmware (more on that a bit later)
I thought things were fine until I noticed that all signals had vanished from the Malahit. This applied to the strongest signals from U.S. religious broadcasters, and down through FM.

In a combination of Telegram and Skype chats, Georgiy was extremely helpful – we went over seemingly every possible cause for this problem and focused on the SMA cable which from observing conversations online appears to be an issue in some units.

We went to the point of disconnecting the SMA from the PCB to test if anything brought back any level of signal, which it did not. With my basic knowledge of electronics, I believe that some problem may have developed on the PCB – whether that is directly related to the firmware upgrade process remains unknown.

On the firmware, the Malahit-recommended PC app is SMT32CubeProgrammer, which is easily downloadable, and instructions for the firmware update are on the Malahit You Tube channel. The process and app look difficult at first.

But things get interesting, as they always do, in using these Bootloader apps as I have found on several occasions in trying to upgrade my AFEDRI LAN-IQ.

Instructions on the Malahit You Tube channel direct you to power off the radio, then plug in a micro-USB cable to the receiver and to your PC. The rough Russian translation says push in and hold both main and smaller encoder knobs, and then press power either once or 3 times, and then watch for the LED to go off. The LED actually doesn’t really go off– in the process of the firmware update, flashes on and off.

I managed to get through the process of upgrading – it was quite smooth. The test 2.10 firmware according to Georgiy is supposed to correct the issue with voltage readings, though again I was unable to test this fully because my DSP-2 quite literally went quiet over its entire range.

As of now, and despite the best efforts of Georgiy which I appreciate, I have a dead DSP-2. Whether signal loss was due to some issue with the SMA connector, or whether the firmware process (I reverted back to 2.0 after noticing the signal loss) itself caused something on the PCB to fail, remains unknown.

Given all of this new information, and though I had made no BUY recommendation on my original review, I would have to advise anyone considering a DSP-2 to hold off for a while until the Malahit team is able to thoroughly iron out all the hiccups with the receiver, whether in firmware or hardware. This includes the question of the SMA connector, and the issue of voltage monitoring.

Based on the conversations that were taking place on Telegram, I would also be urging Malahit team to quickly come up with a clear English translation of the Malahit manual, and to review instructions contained in You Tube videos showing the firmware upgrade process.

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8 thoughts on “Malahit DSP-2 Review Update: Dan recommends holding off until issues resolved

  1. dl1sdz

    John,

    I switched to firmware Fw1.10c and a lot of the problems are gone. I am happy with it. But I don’t use the telescopic antenna. Too much trouble! I use the Youloop antenna from the airspy team and it works perfectly. You only have to change the antenna input to 50 Ohm.

    The article was great, but I wouldn’t follow the advice. If you know the problems and they bother you, try to find a way around. Most of the problems are software dependent, so you can get the radio and wait for an update (but beware of the clones 😉

    73 de Hajo dl1sdz

    Reply
  2. TomL

    Thanks Dan for the detailed reports. I am watching this one closely. I wish they would fix the internal noise issues, an easier firmware update procedure, and include a way to record a band-sized slice of spectrum to a removable microSD card (so I can leave my computer at home).

    Reply
  3. Robert Richmond

    Admittedly I have plenty of devices with SMA connectors, but the reality is SMA is a horrid choice for a regularly-used connector. Even the latest *high-quality* connectors are rated for what, like 500 uses? Consumer-grade connectors are probably more like 200 uses. SMA is a highly reliable connection by design, and it is great for conenct it and forget it situations. It is just not a repeatedly reliable connection.

    Generic SMA female solder connectors are ~$0.30 or less in bulk, versus quality SMA female connectors from Amphenol, Pasternack, and similar can be more like $10+ a piece. o.0 Pricing for commericial SMA connectors rated to 40GHz+ can be outright ridiculous, at least for my casual radio hobby budget. 😉

    Reply
    1. Ron F

      > “Consumer-grade connectors are probably more like 200 uses.”

      And that’s **if** it’s a good quality one, properly aligned and torqued, matched to a good mate, and not subject to too much / too frequent lateral loading.

      As you say, it’s a great little connector for permanent / semi-permanent fixed connections. Unfortunately, portable radio use – where it’s frequently connected/disconnected to random other SMA mates of varying quality, not likely to be tightened correctly (how many people own SMA torque spanners in the correct variety of ranges?), and subjected to varying degrees of torsion and side-loading – is not that.

      Reply
  4. Peter

    There is an issue with the SMA connector with my DSP2 without having updated the software. If I screw down the SMA connector there is no signal. Turning the nut of the SMA connector half a turn CCW the signal reappears. Looks like a mechanical problem.

    Reply
    1. Manuel Maliszewski

      If had the same problem. I tested some U.FL to SMA converters, but only one of them was working. I got only signals, if i bent the antenna to one site or turning it a little bit stronger or weaker.

      I thought, that the U.FL socket on the board is the problem and i was shot before to exchange the socket. But in the moment, I use the U.FL to SMA converter, which is working.

      In the moment i´m working on a mod. I want to add a BNC socket one the left of the case.

      Reply
  5. Chris

    I had this yesterday. Working fine on the whip then dead on it and an external antenna. I think the problem is with the link cable from the antenna socket to the PCB connector. I took the lead out and refitted it. Worked ok.
    I think the bend in the cable puts strain on the PCB plug and it works loose.
    Next time I will change reorientation to bend inwards rather than butt up against the end plate.

    Reply
  6. John

    Dan I think you did an excellent appraisal of the DSP2,I have the DSP1 with firmware 1.1b. I can’t seem to get a straight answer nor read if it’s worth the time to update to a newer version of Firmware. As the receiver on HF amateur bands is excellent…. (When propagation is working in my favour).
    In Australia it’s a large block of land so reception during winter can be difficult.
    Yes the DSP1 is fraught with the similar faults in the DSP2. I have a few work arounds to get by. The interference generated by the internal workings there is some workarounds like switch the waterfall display off. Or strangely have the visual GUI on, calms the interference. We all know when your hand is near the display the interference is present a minimum interruption to our listening pleasure. A pointer pen will solve the screen noise problem. All in all when you think about the price versus a communications receiver for $1500 plus….it’s a bargain… But I agree with Dan the Malahit needs a lot of fine tuning by the developers, this is not a dig but a challenge for 4 Russian geniuses (3 Amateur radio operators and 1 marketing person).
    I commend their design on the near current state of the art components, and given the world Covid crisis I think they did an excellent job. Sadly the Chinese clones have put a dent in the Russian sales. Had this been not an open source project….the design and build team would have hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a R&D Team to make the worlds best Russian made receiver…

    Reply

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