Category Archives: New Products

Cambridge Consultants design a prototype $10 DRM receiver

DRM broadcast (left) as seen via a KiwiSDR spectrum display.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Bird, who shares the following news via Cambridge Consultants:

Digital launched, ever so long ago, with TV and radio. So what’s the big story? It’s that the last piece of the digital jigsaw is finally in place: a system called Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), designed to deliver FM-radio-like quality using the medium wave and short wave bands.

We’re familiar with AM on medium wave and accustomed to the horrible buzz, splat, fade away and back again. But it does have a great advantage in that it will reach for hundreds of miles from a single transmitter. That’s a lot easier than FM or DAB, which both need transmitters every 30 or 40 miles. No fewer than 443 DAB transmitter sites are needed to cover the UK alone.

So take a modern digital scheme, apply some clever (and low cost) computing power, and you can get good sound for hundreds of miles. You get to choose radio stations by name instead of kilohertz, and you can even receive text and pictures. Emergency warning and information features are also built into DRM.

Great technology. But will it fly? Is it available for everyone?

The new news is that India, through its national broadcaster All India Radio, has invested in and rolled out a national DRM service, live today. Just 35 transmitters cover that large country. New cars in India have DRM radios in them now. Other countries like South Africa, Malaysia and Brazil are likely to follow India’s lead.

But something’s missing. The radios that can receive DRM are still prohibitively expensive, especially for those markets that would benefit most. So vast swathes of the world remain unconnected to the services that DRM can provide. Where’s the cheap portable that you can pick up from a supermarket to listen to the news or sport?

Cambridge Consultants has just held its annual Innovation Day, where we throw open our doors to industry leaders and reveal future technology. One of our highlights was the prototype of a DRM design that will cost ten dollars or less to produce, addressing that vital need for information by the 60-ish per cent of our global population that doesn’t have internet or TV. It’s low power, so can run from solar or wind-up.

This design will be ready in 2020, available for any radio manufacturer to licence and incorporate into its own products. We’re doing our bit to make affordable radios for every corner of the globe!

Click here to read this post at the Cambridge Consultants website.

Michael also shares this piece from Radio World regarding this project.

I must admit: there have been so many proposed low-cost DRM receiver designs that never came to fruition, it’s easy to be skeptical. I assume the $10/9 Euro design will be for the receiver chip only–not the full portable radio, of course. They plan to bring this to fruition in 2020, so we’ll soon know if they succeed.

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DXtreme Monitor Log 12

(Source: DXtreme)

DXtreme Software™ has released a new version of its popular logging program for radio monitoring enthusiasts – DXtreme Monitor Log 12 – which lets listeners and DXers log the stations they’ve heard using features that enhance their monitoring experiences.

User’s Choice of Country Formats

When starting Monitor Log 12 the first time as a new user – or when creating a new secondary database – users can select the country format they want to use: NASWA Countries or ARRL Entities. Country information is fully editable when changes occur.

Finding Broadcast Stations to Monitor

The Schedule Checker lets users import schedules from Aoki, EiBi, and FCC AM web sites and display schedule data according to the filter criteria they specify. A list box lets users switch between schedule types. And users can filter schedule information by band, frequency, station, country, time of day, language, and more.

When the What’s On Now? function is activated, the schedule refreshes automatically at the top of each hour for Aoki and EiBi schedules.

For each schedule item, Schedule Checker queries the Monitor Log 12 database to let users know – through user-defined, foreground and background display colors – whether they need to monitor a station for a brand-new or verified country. Schedule Checker also displays bearing and distance, runs optional Afreet Ham CAP propagation predictions, draws optional Afreet DX Atlas azimuth plots, tunes supported radios to schedule frequencies when users double-click schedule items, and starts log entries for scheduled stations monitored.

Finding Amateur Radio Stations to Monitor

Monitor Log 12 integrates with optional Afreet Band Master to let users see, on its graphical interface, where hams are operating. Monitor Log 12 supplies Band Master with an Entity Needed List based on the user’s Monitor Log database, making it possible for Band Master to indicate the stations whose entities (countries) users need to monitor.

Finding Utility Stations to Monitor

A Links menu provides convenient access to user-specified blogs and web sites that can inform users as to where utility and other stations may be operating.

Logging Stations

Monitor Log 12 lets users log all kinds of stations – radio, television, broadcast, Amateur Radio, utility, military, and more! And it lets users log stations across the radio spectrum – from long wave, to medium wave, to short wave, and beyond. Users can also select the display of kHz or MHz frequencies.

The Last Log Entries Grid on the Monitor Log window shows up to 5000 of the most recent log entries added. Its records can be sorted, and double-clicking records displays detailed data on the Monitor Log window. Users can resize the grid columns and scroll horizontally to columns that do not appear initially. Users can also display a larger, resizable Last Log Entries window. A Properties window lets users change the order of columns, the number of log entries to display, and the font and color attributes of grids and other program components, such as: Content Tabs for describing the content monitored, Script Editor for creating and editing scripts, Direct Tune interface for tuning radios, and Comments for typing ad hoc comments.

Reporting Reception

Users can create customized paper and e-mail reception reports for sending to stations plus club report entries for reporting catches to clubs and magazines.

When users add or display a log entry, Monitor Log 12 prepares a post announcing their DX catch and displays it on the Social Media Post tab. From there, users can drag the post to their favorite social media web sites to share their catch with others.

Using the Script Editor window, users can create and edit scripts that format reception reports, eReports, and social media posts to their liking. The software prompts users to select the script they want to use. Dozens of scripts come with Monitor Log 12.

Users can also print SWL and Address labels on industry-standard label stock, and send eQSL requests to hams automatically via the popular https://www.eqsl.cc site.

Imaging

Improv Imaging lets users associate ad hoc images with log entries using Capture,Scan, and Clipboard functions. Captures of stations received on digital applications, waterfall displays, facsimile and Amateur TV pictures are popular. The Improv Imaging tab and Application let users view images anytime, and an Improv Image Explorer lets them peruse their entire collection and display associated log entries. A QSL Imaging facility functions the same as Improv Imaging for associating QSLs.

Other Features

Rig Control – Retrieves the frequency and mode from supported radios and permits tuning from the Schedule Checker and Direct Tune interface. Rig control is provided through integration with Afreet Omni-Rig and SDR applications like HDSDR, SDR Console, and SDRuno.

Audio Archiving – Lets users maintain an audio archive of stations heard.

Reporting and Searching – Produces Performance, Stations, and Log Entry reports that track the performance and progress of the user’s monitoring station in its entirety. The software lets users tailor the appearance of reports plus FTP them to user-provided Web space for remote access and sharing. Reports can integrate with Afreet DX Atlas to create pin maps. Searches allow access to all monitoring data in a variety of formats.

ADIF Import – Lets users import ADIF-formatted log entries into their database.

eQSL.cc Inbox Update – Updates user’s database with eQSL.cc Inbox verifications.

Documentation – Context-sensitive Procedural Help, Field Help, and Microhelp are accessible per window to provide instructions quickly. A web-based Information Center is accessible from the Help menu for late-breaking assistance, and Installation Instructions and a Getting Started Guide are delivered in PDF format with the software.

Operating Systems, Pricing, Contact Information DXtreme Monitor Log 12 runs in 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft® Windows® 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista®, and XP. It retails for $94.99 USD worldwide for electronic distribution.

Pricing for CD versions and upgrading users is available on our Web site. All prices include product support by Internet e-mail. For more information, visit https://www.dxtreme.com or contact Bob Raymond at bobraymond@dxtreme.com.

SWLing Post readers should note that DXtreme was one of our first company supporters. Their ad revenue helps bring the SWLing Post to you daily. Thanks, DXtreme!

Click here to check out DXtreme Monitor Log 12.

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WRTH 2020 now available for order

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Thomas Ally, who writes:

The new World Radio TV Handbook is on Amazon.

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

Or the WRTH shop: http://www.wrth.com/_shop/

Thanks for the heads-up, Thomas. Also, I see that both Universal Radio and the Book Depository has posted the new addition on their websites.

I can’t wait to check out WRTH 2020!

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Tecsun PL-990 and H-501 may be the last high-end shortwave portables from Tecsun

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor from China, Mei Tao, who writes:

I would like to share the latest news about Tecsun’s New Products: the PL-990 and H-501.

These day I found that several Chinese BCLers who received the PL990 or H501 one after another–they posted many a detailed pictures of these two radios. Lots of my friends asked me when they could buy these two radios on the market.

Then I asked the Tecsun’s boss, Mr Liang.

He replied that they had begun to supply the PL-990 and H-501, but there were only a quantity of 300 in the first batch. These radios were first supplied to the subscribers who pre-ordered PL-990 or H-501 in October. Therefore other customers would have to wait for the second or the third batch. As for the foreign BCLers, I believe the wait time will be longer.

In addition, there is a bit of bad news: Mr Liang told me that PL-990 and H-501 were the last products he led the team to design, and they were his last masterpieces. In other words, the PL-990 and H-501 may be Tecsun’s last high-end portable and desktop radios. What a pity!

Thank you for sharing this, Mei Tao. Yes, that would be a pity indeed if the PL-990 and H-501 end up being the last high-end portables from Tecsun. I suppose it’s not surprising, though, as I’m sure some of the demand for shortwave radios is on the decline at the same time so many inexpensive DSP-based portables are saturating the market.

Two years ago I heard from a reliable source that Tecsun might be pulling the plug on their high-end portables, so I was quite surprised when I saw the PL-990 and H-501 announcements earlier this year. I suppose these models could be a “last hurrah” and certainly a way to mark the PRC’s 70th anniversary (as we’ve seen on some of the radios’ promotional material).

Regardless, I’m looking forward to reviewing both of these radios. Frankly, I’m quite happy a few hundred production models are in the hands of enthusiasts in China. Hopefully early adopters have given critical feedback to Tecsun so that when the first major production run is exported, the units will have been well-vetted and solid performers.


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Sangean DT-140 & SR-32: New Sangean AM/FM radios


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Schuster, who writes:

The Sangean SR-32 from the 2020 catalog.

Attached image [above] is extracted from a PDF of the 2020 catalog, it shows the
upcoming Sangean DT-140 and SR-32.

Wondering if the SR-32 (from the almost-defunct “slide rule” series) uses DSP-as-analog tuning like its larger sibling with speaker.

Thanks for the tip, Mike!  Yes, I’d be willing to bet that the SR-32 is DSP-based. I might have to check these out further.

It’s also nice to see that they also feature both the ATS-909x and ATS-405 shortwave portables in the 2020 catalog!

Click here to download the Sangean 2020 catalog (PDF).

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A review of the SDRplay RSPdx wideband SDR receiver

SDRplay recently announced the latest product in their line of affordable 14 bit wideband SDRs: the SDRplay RSPdx.

For over two weeks now, I’ve had an early production model of the RSPdx here in the shack operating on a beta version of the SDRuno application.

In the spirit of full disclosure, SDRplay is a long-time supporter of the SWLing Post and I have alpha- and beta-tested a number of their products in the past. This early production RSPdx was sent to me at no cost for a frank evaluation, and that’s exactly what I’ll offer here. To be clear, while I am using beta software, this is not a beta SDR, but one from a first limited production run.

And thus far, I must say, I’m impressed with the RSPdx. 

Upgrades

The RSPdx has been introduced as a replacement for the RSP2 and the RSP2pro receivers. It has been updated and upgraded, with a completely new front-end design.

Here are the highlighted improvements and changes:

  • Performance below 30 MHz has been enhanced when compared to the RSP2/RSP2pro.
  • Performance below 2 MHz has been substantially upgraded. Through the use of the new HDR mode, both dynamic range and selectivity have been considerably improved.
  • There is now a BNC antenna connector on antenna C position instead of a HiZ port. Both A and B antenna ports are SMA like other RSP models.

Let’s face it:  those of us interested in low-cost SDRs are spoiled for choice these days. The market is chock-full of sub-$200 SDRs, especially if you include all of the various RTL-SDR-based SDRs and knock-off brands/models one can find on eBay.

Personally, I invest in companies that support radio enthusiasts for the long haul…those that do their own designs, innovations, and production. SDRplay is one of those companies.

SDRplay’s market niche has been providing customers with affordable, high-performance wideband receivers that cover an impressive 1 kHz to 2 GHz.

Wideband coverage can come at a cost. Unless you pay big money for a commercial-grade wideband receiver, you’re going to find there’s a performance compromise somewhere across the spectrum.  On the RSP2 series, those compromises would have been most apparent on frequencies below 30 MHz.

That’s not to say HF, MW, and LW performance was poor on the RSP2 series–indeed, it was quite impressive and well-balanced; it just didn’t stack up to the likes of the similarly-priced AirSpy HF+ and HF+ Discovery, in my humble opinion. Both little Airspy SDRs have wooed DXers with their impressive dynamic range and overall ability to work weak signals in the HF portion of the spectrum.

Neither of the AirSpy HF+ models are wideband receivers, but still offer a generous range:  9 kHz to 31 MHz and from 60 to 260 MHz––about 11.5% of the frequency coverage of RSP models. (Note that the Airspy R2 and Mini do cover 24 – 1700 MHz.) For shortwave radio listeners that also want to venture into the UHF and SHF regions, a wideband SDR is still required.

It’s obvious SDRplay’s goal is to make the wideband RSPdx into a choice receiver for HF and, especially, for MW/LW DXers. But have they succeeded? Let’s dive in…

Performance

As I say in most of my SDR reviews: doing comparisons with receivers that have so many features and adjustments is never easy. In other words, we want an apples-to-apples comparison, but it can be difficult to achieve, especially with new products.

I compared the SDRplay RSPdx with the WinRadio Excalibur and Airspy HF+ Discovery. Here’s how I set up my comparisons:

The RSPdx, Excalibur, and HF+ Discovery all used the same antenna in my tests––a large, horizontal delta loop antenna, via my ELAD ASA15 amplified antenna splitter. I’ve used this antenna splitter for years and can vouch for its equitable, lab-grade distribution of signal.

The RSPdx is not in full production at time of posting, thus application options are limited. Typically, I’d load comparison SDRs in SDR Console or HDSDR and test them with identical settings as well. At present, the RSPdx is only compatible with a beta version of SDRplay’s own application, SDRuno (which will come out of beta rior to the first major production run). The benefit of using SDRuno is that you unlock the full potential of the RSPdx, plus signal and noise numbers are incredibly accurate.

For each SDR in this comparison, I used their native/OEM application to give them the best possible performance.

I also matched filter settings and made an effort to match AGC and volume settings as closely as I could.

Additionally, I resisted the temptation of comparing my RSP2 with the new RSPdx because I didn’t want to run two simultaneous instances of SDRuno on the same computer––especially considering one was in beta.

Is this comparison perfect?  Probably not, but I did the best with the time I had available. I do intend to make further comparisons in the future.

Longwave performance

Via the RSPdx’s new “HDR” mode, both dynamic range and selectivity have been considerably improved with frequencies below 2 MHz. While I’ll fully admit that I’m not much of a longwave DXer, my very first listening session with the RSPdx started in this region of the spectrum.

In fact, the first evening I put the RSPdx on the air and confirmed that I was, indeed, in HDR mode, I noticed a small carrier via the spectrum display on 171 kHz. I clicked on it and quickly discovered it was Medi 1. The signal was faint, but I could clearly ID at least one song. This truly impressed me because I believe this was the first time I had logged Medi 1 on longwave from the shack.

I didn’t connect the Excalibur at that point to see if it could also receive the faint Medi 1 signal, but I imagine it could have. I’m pretty sure this would have been outside the reach of the RSP2, however.

I tried to explore more of the longwave band, but due to local RFI (I suspect an appliance in my home), most of the LW band was inundated with noise. With that said, I did grab three of my benchmark non-directional beacons.

Obviously, the RSPdx is a capable LW receiver.  I would like to spend more time on this band once I’ve tracked down the source of my local RFI.

Mediumwave/AM performance

In the past two weeks, I’ve spent many hours with the RSPdx on mediumwave.

We’re heading into the winter months in the northern hemisphere, and that’s normally when my listening habits head south on the bands.

In short: I find the RSPdx to be quite sensitive and selective on the mediumwave bands while the HDR mode is engaged. A major improvement over its predecessor.

I primarily compared the RSPdx with my WinRadio Excalibur on mediumwave since I consider the Excalibur to be a benchmark MW receiver. And, as you’ll hear in the screencasts below, the RSPdx truly gives the Excalibur a run for its money:

740 AM – RSPdx vs. Excalibur:

860 AM – RSPdx vs. Excalibur:

Note that my horizontal delta loop antenna is omni-directional, hence the tug-of-war you hear between stations in the clips above.

In truth, I could have done more to stabilize the signal on both of these fine SDRs, but I wanted to keep the comparison as fair as possible.

You might have noticed that both were running AM sync mode. It seems the sync lock on the RSPdx may have also improved––though I would need to do a direct comparison with the RSP2 to know for sure––but in terms of stability, I still found that the WinRadio Excalibur was superior. Mind you, the Excalibur is a $900 – $1,000 receiver and has the strongest synchronous detector of any radio I’ve ever owned.

Shortwave/HF

SDRplay notes on the preliminary specifications sheet that the RSPdx has been “enhanced” when compared with the RSP2 series.

And, after having spent two weeks with the RSPdx on the shortwave bands, I would say this is a bit of an understatement. For although I haven’t compared the RSPdx directly with the RSP2 yet, I do feel HF performance is substantially better than its predecessor. Indeed, in my comparisons, I often found it gave the Excalibur some serious competition. Overall, the Excalibur had an edge on the RSPdx, but the gap has closed substantially. That’s saying something.

For the comparison videos below, I also included the excellent AirSpy HF+ Discovery.

40M LSB – RSPdx vs. HF+ Discovery:

80M USB – RSPdx vs. Excalibur:

31M Broadcast – RSPdx vs. HF+ Discovery:

As you can see and hear, the RSPdx is now in the league of some of the finest HF receivers in my arsenal.

But I’m curious to know what you think after listening to these comparisons. Please comment!

Notch Filters

For those of you living in areas with DAB/DAB+ broadcasters nearby, you’ll be happy to note that the RSPdx has a DAB filter to help mitigate any potential overloading.

Also, if you live near a blowtorch mediumwave station, you’ll be quite pleased with the MW notch filter. It’s so effective at filtering out the mediumwave band, my local blowtorch on 1010 kHz is barely visible on the spectrum once the notch filter is engaged. (Note: I should add that neither the DAB nor the mediumwave notch filter was engaged during any of my previous comparisons above.) Check out the screen shots below showing the mediumwave band before and after the MW notch filter is engaged:

Before:

After:

Summary

For those of you looking for a budget wideband SDR with solid performance below 30MHz, look no further.

For $199 US, you’re getting a quality UK-designed and manufactured SDR in a proper metal housing.  The OEM application, SDRuno, is one of my favorite SDR applications and can fully take advantage of the RSPdx’s new HDR mode. No doubt, with a little more time, most third-party SDR applications will also support the RSPdx.

Frankly, I was expecting classy mediumwave and longwave performance as this was the most touted upgrade of the RSPdx. SDRplay certainly delivered.

In my experience, SDRplay doesn’t oversell their products. Their preliminary product sheet mentioned improved performance on HF, but their press release didn’t even mention the HF upgrades. And this is where I, in particular, noticed significant improvement. Perhaps this is because I am primarily an SWLer, thus spend a larger portion of my time in the HF region.

SDRplay products also have a mature, robust SDR application via SDRuno. Day to day, I tend to use Simon Brown’s SDR Console as my primary SDR application, since it’s compatible with so many of my SDRs and also offers some of the best recording functionality for those of us who do audio and spectrum archiving. Each time I beta test or review an SDRplay SDR, however, I’m more and more impressed with SDRuno. It’s evolved from being a rather cluttered application to one with a thoughtful, cohesive user interface that’s a joy to use––a product of true iterative agility.

Indeed, after having used SDRuno exclusively these past two weeks, I believe I would consider it as my primary SDR application…if only it had audio recording in addition to spectrum recording, and could run multiple instances with multiple SDRs. Again, given a little time, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this functionality is eventually integrated.

Questions?

Since many SWLing Post readers already own an SDR, I’m sure some of you will have questions. Let’s address a few of those right now.

Question: “I have an RSP2/RSP2pro. Should I upgrade to the RSPdx?”

My recommendation: If you are a shortwave, mediumwave, or longwave DXer, I would indeed recommend upgrading to the RSPdx. If you primarily use your RSP2 series SDR on frequencies above 30 MHz and only occasionally venture below for casual listening, then I’d keep the RSP2.

Question: “I have an RSP1a. Should I upgrade to the RSPdx?”

My recommendation: If you’ve been enjoying your RSP1a and would like to take your listening/monitoring to the next level, then, yes, I would upgrade. Not only can you take advantage of the RSPdx’s enhanced performance, but the RSPdx affords you three antenna ports, and has a more robust front end.

Question: “I have an RSPduo. Should I buy the RSPdx?”

My recommendation: I’m a big fan of the RSPduo. Unless you’re a dedicated mediumwave/longwave DXer, or you’d just like to add another separate SDR to your radio arsenal, I wouldn’t rush out to buy the RSPdx.

And while I’m offering advice, I’d like to offer my standard two cents on the subject of performance optimization: a radio is only as good as its antenna! If you have a compromised antenna, invest in your antenna before upgrading your radio. You’ll be glad you did.

Conclusion

Happily, I can  recommend the SDRplay RSPdx without hesitation. This latest iteration of the RSP series SDR is a proper step forward in terms of performance and functionality––obviously implementing years of customer feedback.

SDRplay also has a proven track record of innovation and customer support. Their documentation, video tutorials, and community are among the best in the industry. Purchase with confidence.

Click here to check out the RSPdx at SDRplay.


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The new HanRongDa K-603 portable radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mei Tao, who writes:

Yesterday, I received a new radio: the HanRongDa K-603, which was sent to me by the manufacture.They want me to test this prototype machine in order to find any bugs. If there is nothing to fix, I believe this radio will hit the market in this or next month.

K-603 is a small portable radio which also has some great functions. Its major features include:

  • FM, AM, and SW bands
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connection
  • TF Card Player
  • Recording function
  • Line in
  • LCD can display three different languages,English?Chinese and another foreign language.
  • Powered by the BL-5C Li battery
  • MW channnel space can be switched between 9KHz adn 10KHz.
  • Tuning methods: Scan, ATS, and direct key entry

The designer told me that this K-603’s fm coverage is from 87MHz to 108MHz, but they will extend it to 64MHz in the next version. That’s really good news.

In a few days, I will test it carefully. If necessary, I will make side-by-side comparisons with my own Tecsun, Sangean, Radiwow, and Degen radios. Then i will present some text and video reviews.

I would like to share some pictures of this new radio with you and other BCLers

Best wishes to you!

Photos

Thank you, Mei Tao! We look forward to your review of the HanRongDa K-603. Yes, please let us know how it compares to your other receivers. We also look forward to any update regarding price and availability. Thanks for sharing those photos!

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