Category Archives: Software Defined Radio

CATSync: Control web SDR tuning from your rig

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rob (PE9PE), who writes:

This is an interesting tool for those hams suffering from lots of local QRM.

https://catsyncsdr.wordpress.com/

Thanks, Rob! CATSync seems to allow control of a web-based SDR from any OMNI Rig-supported radio via CAT control (which is the majority of transceivers). It appears CATSync allows control of tuning and mode changes via your radio and from the web SDR interface back to your rig.

One interesting use of this would be to use a remote SDR for receiving while using your home antenna for transmitting. This could help those inundated with RFI at home. While this might not be an allowed practice for contesting (having your receiver and transmitter in two different locations) it’s certainly permitted if you want to check in with a net or chat with friends. You don’t need CATSync to do this–you can always manually tune a web SDR separately–it would simply facilitate keeping both your RX and TX on the same frequency.

CATSync has a free trial with limited control–you can purchase the full version for 9.95 EUR.

Click here to check out CATSync.

Thanks for the tip, Rob!

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The RX888 SDR – Up Close Photos

I received my new RX888 SDR receiver today, via DHL shipping in only seven days from ordering on Ebay from seller “shenglongsi”. I’ve noticed that some Chinese Ebay sellers use a placeholder shipping number when choosing the DHL carrier, and then some days later they forward the actual shipping number when the product is out the door.  That was the case with the RX888– four days in limbo, and then BINGO!–a real tracking number was sent and the package arrived three days later.

It should be noted right up front, as others have pointed out, the RX666 and RX888 SDRs are commercial implementations of the excellent, open source BBRF103 receiver. The BBRF103 is the creation of talented Italian designer Oscar Steila IK1XPV.

Hopefully tonight I’ll be sorting out files to get the radio operating, and if there are hiccups along the way I have help from some other early adopters around the globe.

The radio arrived with zero documentation or links to support files, but I already have files known to work with the RX666. The receiver should work with HDSDR after the correct additional files are added to the HDSDR folder, as does the similar RX666 model. Cypress USB drivers also need installation on the host computer. One concern is operating the LNA (low noise amplifier) on the RX888, which the RX666 lacks. This may take a different EXTIO .dll file than the one intended for the earlier RX666.

I’m aware of the developer of another popular SDR program who will almost certainly add support for the RX888/RX666 to his software.

I’ve read that the powerful ADC chip inside these two models is a USD ~$60-70 component (or from the same chip series) which is also found in a few commercial grade SDRs plus the newer WinRadio G33DDC & G35DDCi models. Translation? The RX666 & RX888  could turn out to be amazing performers for the price.

Below are up-close pictures of the receiver’s printed circuit board. Construction and soldering look quite good considering the USD $188 price. In my opinion the build quality appears to somewhat exceed that of the RX666, which was the first of these two units on the market.

Note that in the last photo the whitish square on the bottom of the PCB is a thick foam pad, perhaps some thermal transfer material. It is sticky-backed and placed so that it’s wedged between the bottom of the chip (ADC?) with the blue heat sink and the bottom of the case.

In the below photo, note the small LEDs with indications “PWR”, “MODE”, “OVLF”, and “MODE” (again). At the upper-right corner are two pads marked “RST” (reset?).

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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The New RX-888 16 bit ADC Direct Sampling SDR with 32 MHz bandwidth

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, H. Garcia (PU3HAG), who writes:

While doing the daily eBay and AliExpress strolling for new and cool radio stuff, this showed up:

RX888 ADC SDR Receiver radio1.8GHz 16bit direct sampling HF UHF VHF HDSDR

Like the DragonFly RX-666 you posted about recently, it’s based on IK1XPV Oscar’s BBRF103 works. Both share a hefty metal case.

I really like this seller of RX888 on eBay. The person provided quite a bit of technical details. The seller is also up-front about the current challenges regarding thermal issues, software stability and bandwidth available above 32MHz.

(How many manufacturers let you know in advance the negatives? I like this guy!).

The bandwidth limit above 32MHz is a curious one. Apparently, coverage above VHF and UHF coverage relies on Rafael Micro’s R820T2 tuner chip (also used on RTL dongles and AirSpy R2 and AirSpy Mini). However, R820T2 can only push a slice of 8 to 10MHz of the spectrum into RX888’s ADC. So, FM broadcast DXers, be warned. You may need to use a downconverter that brings the 88-108MHz to 8-28MHz. Perseus SDR uses this approach.

Another interesting tidbit. As we know, TaoBao is a huge marketplace, but their sellers focus exclusively on the China market (very few also deliver to South East Asia). There are LOTS of cool, never-seen-before products on TaoBao that don’t have visibility to us here in the Western hemisphere. The RX888 was one of them, I recalled seeing it about a month ago and thinking “Hey, this is so cool, why are they not selling it on AliExpress yet?”

Thank you so much for the tip! I agree with you: it’s refreshing to read not only a thorough eBay description but also frank comments from the seller.

I must admit, the receiver world is going through a dynamic change and its champion is the SDR. It’s hard to keep up with the innovations and technology is pushing limits I could not have imagined even a decade ago.

I’m looking forward to checking out these super wideband SDRs like the RX-666, RX-888, and the ELAD FDM-S3.

Click here to check out the RX-888 on eBay (partner link supports the SWLing Post)


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New Dragonfly wide band SDR with 32 MHz bandwidth

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Franco (K4VZ), who writes:

Last night I came across a new SDR receiver from China called ‘RX-666’. On paper its specs are interesting: 16bit ADC, max sample rate 32MHz (in theory one could sample the whole LW+MW+SW bands at the same time), USB 3 interface, and tunable from 1kHz to 1.8GHz.

Its design seems to be a “derivative” of Oscar Steila’s (IK1XPV) BBRF103 SDR – see this post from Oscar – it looks like they upgraded the ADC, made use of a better voltage regulator, and moved to a 4-layer PCB (the original was a 2-layer PCB).

Unfortunately (for Linux people like me) they only have proprietary drivers running on Windows.

Besides the AliExpress store, I saw it is also available on eBay – the AliExpress vendor has two versions, a cheaper one with a ‘standard crystal’, and a more expensive one with an ‘upgraded crystal’; I messaged them earlier to find out what is the difference between the two, but I haven’t heard back yet.

I thought some of those readers of the Post who are interested in capturing large parts of the radio spectrum to decode later might want to look into this SDR receiver.

Thanks for the info on this SDR, Franco. I was not familiar with it. A 16 bit wide band SDR with a 32 MHz working bandwidth is most impressive–I’m sure FM DXers will be following this closely. I’m glad they’re using a USB 3.0 port but am very curious if it can even handle the amount of data should a user initiate a really wide spectrum recording. Perhaps recordings have capped bandwidths?

As a side note, someone should tell the manufacturer that their model number “RX-666” is…well…a culturally sensitive number!

Post Readers: Please comment if you’re familiar with this SDR.

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Radio Waves: FCC Fines Drone Retailer, High School WSPR Buoy, Flashing Radio Firmware, and “Radio Recliner” Powered by Senior Resident DJs

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron, Pete Eaton, Paul Evans, and Jennifer Gulley for the following tips:


FCC Fines HobbyKing Nearly $3 Million for Marketing Unauthorized Drone Transmitters (ARRL News)

The FCC has issued a Forfeiture Order (FO) calling for HobbyKing to pay a fine of $2,861,128 for marketing drone transmitters that do not comply with FCC rules. An FCC Enforcement Bureau investigation stemmed in part from a 2017 ARRL complaint that HobbyKing was selling drone transmitters that operated on amateur and non-amateur frequencies, in some instances marketing them as amateur radio equipment. The fine affirms the monetary penalty sought in a June 2018 FCC Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL). The FCC said its investigation found that dozens of devices marketed by the company transmitted in unauthorized radio frequency bands and, in some cases, operated at excessive power levels. “Such unlawful transmissions could interfere with key government and public safety services, like aviation systems,” the FCC said.“We have fully considered HobbyKing’s response to the NAL, which does not contest any facts and includes only a variety of legal arguments, none of which we find persuasive,” the FCC said in the FO. “We therefore adopt the $2,861,128 forfeiture penalty proposed in the NAL.”[]

High School Marine Buoy Transmitter Now Active on 20-Meter WSPR (ARRL News)

Phil Karn, KA9Q; Randy Standke, KQ6RS, and members of the Mount Carmel High School Amateur Radio Club (MCHSARC) in San Diego have constructed and deployed an amateur radio marine buoy in the Pacific. The buoy, which transmits WSPR on 14.0956 MHz USB, has already been heard around the continental US, Brazil, Hawaii, Japan, Costa Rica, Australia, and South Africa.

“Over the past year, Randy and I have mentored the MCHSARC in designing and constructing a simple marine buoy that was deployed from the RV Sally Ride [on July 16], about 700 kilometers off the coast of southern California,” Karn said in a post on the AMSAT Bulletin Board. “It is up and transmitting WSPR on 20 meters using the call sign KQ6RS, and is being received all over the US and into Canada and Brazil.” Karn is blogging about the project with updates.

The electronics are the 20-meter WSPR version of the WB8ELK “pico tracker” that has been flown on long-duration balloons. “We removed the solar panels and substituted 21 ordinary alkaline D cells, wired to supply 4.5 V,” Karn explained. “We estimate battery lifetime will be 6 months.”

[…]The first reception report was on July 16 at 12:52:30 UTC from grid square CL89eu, although the current carried the buoy east into CL89fu at 20:32:30 UTC. The buoy (KQ6RS-1) can be tracked on the APRS and WSPRnet sites.[]

Stop Bad Laws Before They Start (Hackaday)

With everything else going on this summer, you might be forgiven for not keeping abreast of new proposed regulatory frameworks, but if you’re interested in software-defined radio (SDR) or even reflashing your WiFi router, you should. Right now, there’s a proposal to essentially prevent you from flashing your own firmware/software to any product with a radio in it before the European Commission. This obviously matters to Europeans, but because manufacturers often build hardware to the strictest global requirements, it may impact everyone. What counts as radio equipment? Everything from WiFi routers to wearables, SDR dongles to shortwave radios.

The idea is to prevent rogue reconfigurable radios from talking over each other, and prevent consumers from bricking their routers and radios. Before SDR was the norm, and firmware was king, it was easy for regulators to test some hardware and make sure that it’s compliant, but now that anyone can re-flash firmware, how can they be sure that a radio is conformant? Prevent the user from running their own firmware, naturally. It’s pretty hard for Hackaday to get behind that approach.[]

New Internet Radio Station Helps Seniors Share Their Favorite Music (NPR)

A new internet radio station called Radio Recliner has started during the coronavirus pandemic. It gives residents in senior living facilities a chance to share some of their favorite music.

Click here to check out the Radio Recliner website.


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Silphase R1 videos and information about power and antenna ports

We’re starting to get a little more info about the recently posted Silphase R1 SDR receiver. At this point, the radio isn’t in production and is obviously only in a prototype stage so there are a lot of question marks–including if it’ll ever come to fruition. The pandemic is obviously not an ideal time to launch and produce a new high-end radio. I, for one, certainly hope they do!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst asked Silphase about R1 external antenna support and power options. A Silphase representative replied:

“We are constantly redesigning the rear panel receiver Silphase R1, so we
can say for sure that there are 4 connectors – antenna F-type connector,
12.6 V power/charging, RJ-45 and USB”

And thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul, who received the following info from Silphase:

You can watch real videos on our YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQN8YbKULHlkA4KBFt76Hhg

Sample videos:

Click here to view all of the videos on the Silphase YouTube channel.

As we learn more about the Siplase R1, we’ll publish it on the Post with the tag: R1.

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