Late last year, Xiegu started shipping their latest portable rig: the Xiegu X6100.
The X6100 is an all-in-one QRP SDR field transceiver. It sports an internal antenna tuner, internal Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack, and even an internal mic for hams who don’t want to carry the supplied mic to the field. For field operators, it’s in the very desirable “shack in a box” category. Just hook up an antenna and you’re on the air.
The X6100 got a lot of attention in the ham radio market because in many ways it resembles the Icom IC-705.
The X6100 sports top-mounted controls, a beautiful high resolution color display, and front-facing speaker. At $630 US, it’s less than half the cost of a new IC-705.
As with pretty much all modern SDR transceivers, the X6100 has variable filters and a general coverage receiver. The X6100’s receiver has gapless coverage from 0.5 MHz to 30MHz and 50MHz to 54MHz, thus covering the mediumwave and shortwave broadcast bands.
Radioddity sent me a loaner X6100 that I took delivery of on December 23, 2021.
Literally, the first thing I did was tune it to the 31 meter broadcast band.
While I’ve spent the bulk of my time with the X6100 in the field testing it as a QRP transceiver, in the shack I’ve done a fair amount of SWLing both in AM mode and (pirate radio stations) in SSB mode.
I’ve received a number of inquiries from SWLing Post readers about the X6100 asking how it stacks up to the IC-705 from an SWL’s perspective, so I thought I’d share my impressions so far to help guide any potential purchase decisions. I’ll provide much more detail in my upcoming review in The Spectrum Monitor magazine (likely in March or April 2022).
In short: I would not buy the Xiegu X6100 specifically for shortwave broadcast listening.
While the frequency coverage is ideal, the variable filters are useful, and the color spectrum display and waterfall (in terms of the interface) are benchmark, the radio has a few cons from an SWL perspective:
I have noticed imaging on the spectrum display as I tune through the broadcast bands (shortwave and mediumwave). I seriously doubt this is something that can be addressed in firmware.
The X6100 does not have a robust front-end. A number of my readers on QRPer.com who live near strong broadcast stations have noted that it’s almost unusable from home.
The audio is typical of Xiegu radios, meaning it’s unrefined and a bit harsh. I find it a bit fatiguing over extended listening sessions both using the internal speaker and headphones.
In fairness, the X6100 wasn’t designed with the SWL in mind.
With the negatives out of the way, the X6100 is very much a usable radio for casual broadcast listening. You might even be able to push it into a little DX action as well. If you plan to purchase the X6100 for ham radio activities anyway, consider broadcast listening as a bit of “icing on the cake.”
X6100 vs. IC-705 from an SWL’s perspective
I’ve been asked specifically about how the X6100 compares with the IC-705 in terms of shortwave and mediumwave listening.
There’s really no competition: the IC-705 is better than the X6100 by orders of magnitude in this regard.
The IC-705 is a high-performance radio with receiver qualities that would please most serious DXers. (Check out some of 13DKA’s reports!). That level of RX performance and filtering comes with a $1,300 US price tag.
The X6100 was designed to be price-competitive and to have ample performance and a tool set to please the low-power ham radio field operator. I feel like it’s a success in this regard. When I’m in the field performing a park or summit activation, I’m typically far removed from urban RFI and blowtorch broadcasters. The field operations I’ve performed so far with the X6100 (mostly in CW/Morse Code) have been quite successful and enjoyable.
For someone, like me, who loves playing radio in the field (Parks On The Air and Summits On The Air) this looks like an ideal rig. It’s one of the only ham radio transceivers I’ve seen that is weatherized to some degree (how much, we don’t know yet).
I don’t see a speaker on the TX-500, so I’m guessing it might require a mic/speaker combo or an external speaker of some sort? I also don’t see a built-in ATU, but at $700, I certainly wouldn’t expect one.
With a power consumption of 110 milliamps at 13.8 VDC, this little transceiver should run for ages on a modest battery pack.
This is certainly a fascinating prototype QRP transceiver. If the Discovery TX-500 transceiver can be produced and marketed at $700 with all of the features mentioned so far, it should certainly fly off the shelves. They can certainly take my money!
Of course, I will plan to grab one of these for review. I’m also eager to see how this little SDR transceiver might perform on the broadcast bands.
We will post post TX-500 updates and details as they become available. Bookmark the tag Discovery TX-500 and stay tuned!
CommRadio dispatched this loaner CTX-10 for evaluation and I’m excited to get my hands on it since it’s not everyday I get to evaluate a transceiver designed around field portability (my favorite category of gear).
Yesterday, I took a few shots of the CTX-10 as I unpacked it:
I’ll need to build a fused power cable with the supplied pigtail and also sort out an 8 conductor (Yaesu compatible) modular plug microphone. Of course, I’ll give this radio a thorough review testing it on SSB, CW and digital modes (especially FT8).
Since the CTX-10 is built on the CommRadio CR-1 and CR-1A I anticipate a capable receiver section (in other words, expectations are high). Of course, I’ll test the CTX-10’s ability as a broadcast receiver as well.
Moments ago, I posted a press release from the UK-based software-defined radio manufacturer, SDRplay, announcing their latest product: the RSPduo: a 14-bit Dual Tuner SDR.
I should start with the disclaimer that, not only was I sent an RSPduo to review and evaluate, but SDRplay has been a supporter of the SWLing Post for a few years now. You’ve no doubt seen their ads in the upper right corner of our site. After I reviewed their first SDR (the RSP1) I discovered that SDRplay––all of their staff and supporters––welcome constructive criticism and even invite frank discussions. They’re a company with integrity. No doubt, this is why I agreed to alpha- and beta-test their SDRs. Fortunately, I’ve not been disappointed.
As a company, moreover, SDRplay breaks the mold––and in very good ways:
SDRplay is a small company that employs actual radio enthusiasts. Their designs and software cater to DXers, SWLs, hams, scanner enthusiasts, amateur astronomers, experimenters, and makers, among others.
SDRplay designs and builds their products in the United Kingdom. No doubt they could increase their profit margin by using manufacturing centers in China, but they choose not to do so, to the benefit of their products.
The quality of the company’s products is, at least to date, excellent.
SDRplay’s product pricing is nonetheless quite affordable
That last item, in particular, is a head-scratcher. Considering these facts, how does SDRplay still manage to keep their pricing so competitive? I only wish I knew. When the company released the RSP1A last year, I had already spent a few months with alpha and beta units, mulling over their respective merits (and there were many). So I was simply gobsmacked when they announced that the price would be just $99 US. I rather figured the company was leaving money on the table, although I was pleased to announce this price to my readers here.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago: I received the new RSPduo to review. And the price this time? $279 US. While this is currently the priciest product in the SDRplay line, let’s go over what makes this SDR special…and why I still think SDRplay may be leaving money on the table.
Introducing the SDRplay RSPduo
The RSPduo is unlike any other SDR in the SDRplay product line, and, indeed, unlike most of the budget SDRs currently on the market.
As “duo” implies, this RSP features dual independent tuners, both piped through a single high-speed USB 2.0 interface. With the RSPduo, you can explore two completely separate 2 MHz bands of spectrum anywhere between 1kHz and 2GHz.
SDRplay lays out several use-scenarios in their press release:
The ability to simultaneously receive on two totally independent 2 MHz spectrum windows anywhere between 1 kHz and 2 GHz
Simultaneous processing from 2 antennas enables direction-finding, diversity, and noise-reduction applications
Ideal for cross band full-duplex reception, e.g. HF + VHF, or VHF + UHF
Simultaneous Dump1090 and VHF ATC reception
Simultaneous monitoring and recording of 2 ISM bands
Use SDRuno to seamlessly control and manage the dual tuner in a single environment.
Externally, the RSPduo bears a strong resemblance to the RSP2pro. Internally, however, it’s quite different.
Besides featuring a second independently controlled tuner, the RSPduo also sports 14 bit ADCs and a completely re-designed RF front end, which enhances receiver selectivity and improves dynamic range.
In short, the RSPduo is like having two SDRs in one.
I received the RSPduo during a very busy time of the year: the build up to the Hamvention in Xenia, OH.
One of the first things I noticed about the RSPduo is its weight. When I picked up the package from SDRplay, I could tell it weighed at least twice that of the RSP1A. One reason for the extra heft is that the RSPduo, like the RSP2 Pro, has a metal enclosure. I’m willing to bet the RSPduo also has more shielding––adding even a little extra weight.
I’ve had the RSPduo on the air for more than a week now, and have checked out all of its major functions and begun to learn the nuances of navigating the dual receivers in the latest version of SDRuno.
SDRplay will, I feel sure, post a primer video on using the various dual tuner functions in the coming weeks.
Installation of the software, even in pre-production, was totally a “plug-and-play” experience. Simply install the SDRuno software package with the RSPduo disconnected from the USB port. Plug in the RSPduo, and wait for the USB driver to load, then open SDRuno. That’s it. You’re on the air!
As I’ve indicated, the RSPduo is really like having two RSP1As in a single RSP2 Pro package. One of these dual receivers––the master––can utilize either a standard 50 ohm SMA antenna port, or a Hi-Z port. The second receiver uses one 50 ohm SMA antenna port just like the RSP1A.
I much prefer using the Hi-Z port for everything longwave and mediumwave. I did hook up both antenna ports on the master receiver, however, and switched back and forth between the two. At least in my antenna setup, I feel like the Hi-Z option lends itself to improved sensitivity on these bands. It’s not a dramatic difference––indeed, looking at the spectrum display one barely notices the difference––but my ears told me the noise floor was lower and signal strength slightly better with the Hi-Z port. Above 2 MHz, the Hi-Z port is not prefered since it lacks the same level of RF pre-selection as the 50 ohm ports provide.
Unlike the Hi-Z port with the RSP2, the RSPduo treats the Hi-Z port more like an auxiliary antenna port. When I employed the Hi-Z port in the HF bands, I did notice small spurious noises, but this might have been due to my antenna port configuration here in the shack (my Hi-Z connector is simply attached to the shield and center conductor of my coax).
Again, however, for anything above 2 MHz, SDRplay suggests using the 50 ohm ports.
How to set up dual receivers on one screen/monitor
Listening to the FM broadcast band on the main receiver and Voice of Greece shortwave on the second receiver.
One of the first things I was eager to do was to run the dual receiver functionality on one monitor. Although SDRplay makes this a pretty simple process in the latest version of SDRuno, I still stumbled a bit as I learned to navigate the controls.
Here’s a quick primer to get both receivers on the air on one monitor/screen:
First, open SDRuno in “single receiver mode” (the typical SDRuno default).
Next, click on the “RSPduo mode” button and select one of the modes. In this case, I’m not running the ADS-B application, so I’ll choose “DUAL (NORMAL)”.
Now, to format the “Master” receiver windows so they only use the top half of the monitor, click on the OPT button.
Select “Auto Layouts” and “RSPduo Master.”
If you’ve followed these steps with me, your screen should look something like this:
Now you’ll want to start the second receiver. Do this by opening the SDRuno application again (as if you were opening SDRuno for the first time). Make sure you’ve selected your RSPduo if you have more than one RSP connected.
The new instance of SDRuno will fill the entire screen by default, so you’ll need to format it to occupy the lower half of the screen.
Simply click on the OPT button again, select “Auto Layouts,” and “RSPduo Slave.”
Your full screen should now look something like this:
Now you can start using both receivers, but you’ll have to always start the “Master” receiver first. In fact, the “Master” receiver must always be active in order to operate the “Slave” receiver. You can always close the “Slave” receiver without affecting the “Master” receiver; however, if you close the “Master” receiver, you will effectively close both receivers.
Again, I fully expect SDRplay will soon produce a demonstration video showing how you can navigate SDRuno’s new dual-receiver functionality.
As I’ve mentioned in most previous SDR reviews, I do like to take a considerable amount of time to set up SDR comparisons.
Herein lies the difficulty of reviewing an SDR’s performance. Because the user has so much power to control variables and thus shape the receiver’s function, it’s actually quite hard to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison––insuring that all important filters, gain controls, DSP, etc., are as close to identical as possible.
One tool that helps me do this is SDR Console, since it can control a number of SDRs and receiver parameters can be set up identically. Unfortunately, the RSPduo is so new, SDR Console doesn’t yet support it.
I did use SDRuno to compare the RSPduo with the RSP1A. Fortunately, I could actually run two separate instances of SDRuno simultaneously (and on different monitors, in my case). Both were hooked up to the same antenna via my ELAD ASA15 antenna splitter amplifier.
The RSPduo’s improved dynamic range gives it an advantage in terms of noise floor, sensitivity, and selectivity.
The improved performance is not dramatic––but I understand it might be especially detectable to those who want a receiver with a more robust front end.
In fact, the RSPduo’s 50 ohm coaxial ports have quite an array of automatically configured front end filters:
2 MHz Band Pass
And an array of notch filters
FM Notch Filter:
>30dB 77 – 115MHz
>50dB 85 – 107MHz
>3dB 144 – 148MHz
MW Notch Filter:
>15dB 400 – 1650kHz
>30dB 500 – 1530kHz
>40dB 540 – 1490kHz
DAB Notch Filter:
>20dB 155 – 235MHz
>30dB 160 – 230MHz
The thing is, I live in an RF quiet area, so I can’t fully take advantage of the SDRuno’s more robust front end.
In head-to-head comparisons with the RSP1A, the RSPduo’s performance edge is discernible. Again, I suspect it would be a bit more obvious if I lived in an urban setting with blowtorch stations in the neighborhood. Using the Hi-Z antenna port in the mediumwave portions of the band, the RSPduo has a performance edge over the RSP1A, as well.
Should you grab the RSPduo?
The new SDRplay RSPduo
Anytime a new product hits the market, I ask myself if this is the sort of product that would tempt me to reach for my hard-earned cash.
The short answer? Absolutely! Take my money, please! There is no other sub-$300 SDR on the market currently that has the dual tuner functionality of the RSPduo. Thing is, I’ve only had the RSPdup a couple of weeks–there’s so much yet I want to explore here–especially diversity reception!
But what if you already have an SDRplay SDR? Afterall, the RSP1A was only released a few months ago, and the RSP2 series only a year before that.
Here’s my opinion: If you’re an RSP1A or RSP2 owner who is pleased with this SDR’s performance, I wouldn’t necessarily urge you to purchase the RSPduo simply for the modestly enhanced performance characteristics. SDRplay hasn’t retired the RSP2 and RSP1A designs because each model still holds its own, has a purpose, and obviously enjoys a healthy market.
The RSP1A is the affordable yet high performance entry model in the SDRplay product line. It’s really the best value in the radio world, in my humble opinion, at just $99 US. Som enjoy.
The RSP2 and RSP2pro provide excellent performance, three software-selectable antenna inputs, and clocking features, all of which lend it to amateur radio, industrial, scientific, and educational applications; it is a sweet SDR for $169 or $199 (Pro version). I know of no other SDRs with this set of features at this price point. If I liked the characteristics of the RSPduo, but didn’t really need a dual receiver for my application, I’d probably reach for the RSP2 Pro.
But if you have the original RSP, and like SDRuno and the SDRplay community, then I would certainly consider this an opportunity to upgrade. For $279, you’re getting a dual receiver SDR with excellent performance characteristics that will easily surpass the original RSP––considering that you’re essentially getting two very good SDRs in one.
And if you’re all over the spectrum (aren’t we all a bit––quite literally?) in terms of usage, the RSPduo is a fascinating machine for running, say, an ADS-B receiver while independently using the same SDR box to monitor other parts of the spectrum. Or one can listen for FM DX on one receiver while trying to snag elusive LW DX on the other.
Better yet, the RSPduo only uses one USB port––an important factor if you’re using a laptop or tablet. Of course, having two receivers on two different antennas, while sharing one data port, means syncing them for diversity reception is especially effective. This alone will sway many SDR experimenters in favor of this rig.
I have yet to compare the RSPduo with the brilliant little AirSpy HF+. The AirSpy HF+ is not a wideband receiver like the SDRplay RSP series; it only covers 9 kHz to 31 MHz and 60 to 260 MHz. But if your primary concern is HF performance, the HF+ and its excellent dynamic range will impress you, if you’re anything like me. It’s also a bargain at $199––very hard to beat!
The RSPduo is a good value, in my opinion––and an inexpensive upgrade to a proper dual receiver SDR––so if that’s the sort of thing you’d like to add to your shack, go ahead and bite the bullet!
In fact, I suspect SDRplay will quickly sell out of all of the units they bring to the 2018 Hamvention (SDRplay: pack some extras!). I’m happy to see the company continue to push the price and performance envelope to such exceptional ends. I’m also looking forward to the many applications SDRplay customers (and our readers) find for the RSPduo.
Stay tuned! I plan to post more comparisons in the future.
And if you acquire an RSPduo and find some new and fun applications for it, please share!
SDRplay announces the RSPduo – A 14-bit Dual Tuner SDR
Today at the Dayton Hamvention, SDRplay Limited is announcing the launch of a new Software Defined Radio product – the RSPduo.
The RSPduo is a radical new addition to the RSP line of SDR receivers from SDRplay. Architecturally, it is different from any previous RSP in that it features dual independent tuners, both piped through a single high-speed USB 2.0 interface.
The SDRplay RSPduo is a dual-tuner wideband full featured 14-bit SDR which covers the entire RF spectrum from 1kHz to 2GHz giving 10MHz of spectrum visibility. Initially using Windows based ‘SDRuno’ supplied by SDRplay, you can simultaneously monitor two completely separate 2MHz bands of spectrum anywhere between 1kHz and 2GHz.
Superficially the RSPduo looks identical to the highly popular RSP2pro and will be able to operate in a very similar way.
However, it also allows a completely new and exciting set of usage scenarios such as:
Simultaneous monitoring of two widely spaced bands – e.g. 40m (HF) and 2m (VHF)
Mixing and matching applications simultaneously – e.g. ADS-B and ATC scanning
Phase and time coherent demodulation of two receivers
Scenario 3 is very difficult to achieve with two separate USB devices because of the uncertainty of USB latency. The RSPduo overcomes this limitation because all traffic goes through a single USB interface, thus enabling the possibility of the development of various types of diversity demodulation such as: spatial, frequency and polarisation which can bring
huge benefits in terms of improved performance.
Jon Hudson, Marketing Director at SDRplay commented:
“As well as adding a second independently controlled tuner, which in itself, offers a whole new set of exciting usage possibilities, the SDRduo features 14bit ADCs and a completely re-designed RF front end. These changes provide better RF selectivity and even more dynamic range, offering outstanding performance under extremely challenging reception conditions. The combination of performance and features makes the RSPduo our highest spec RSP yet and sets a new benchmark in the sub $300 SDR market”
Due to its exceptional combination of performance and price, the RSP family of receivers have become very popular and the RSPduo provides the next level of functionality for both amateur radio enthusiasts as well as the scientific, educational and industrial SDR community.
As well as being demonstrated at Hamvention, the RSPduo is available direct from SDRplay or via SDRplay’s network of channel partners and resellers
The RSPduo is expected to retail at approximately $279 USD (excluding taxes) or £199 GBP (excluding taxes).
About SDRplay: SDRplay limited is a UK company and consists of a small group of engineers with strong connections to the UK Wireless semiconductor industry. SDRplay announced its first product, the RSP1 in August 2014
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