Tag Archives: Product Announcements

A review of the SDRplay RSPduo 14-bit dual tuner SDR

The new SDRplay RSPduo

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.

Performance

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.

Comparisons

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:

Low Pass

  • 2 MHz Band Pass
  • 2-12 MHz
  • 12-30 MHz
  • 30-60 MHz
  • 60-120 MHz
  • 120-250 MHz
  • 250-300 MHz
  • 300-380 MHz
  • 380-420 MHz
  • 420-1000 MHz

High Pass

  • 1000 MHz

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!

Click here to check out the RSPduo at SDRplay.com.

SDRplay announces the RSPduo: A 14-bit Dual Tuner SDR

(Source: SDRplay Press Release)

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:

  1. Simultaneous monitoring of two widely spaced bands – e.g. 40m (HF) and 2m (VHF)
  2. Mixing and matching applications simultaneously – e.g. ADS-B and ATC scanning
  3. 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).

For more information visit the SDRplay website on www.sdrplay.com

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

Review of the SDRplay RSP2 software defined radio

The SDRplay RSP2

The SDRplay RSP2

This morning, SDRplay Limited announced the release––and availability––of their second generation software defined radio, the RSP2.

Regular SWLing Post readers will note that I’m a pretty big fan of SDRplay’s first SDR, the RSP, or “RSP1,” as I’ll now call it (I published a review of the RSP1 in July 2015). To me, the $129 RSP1 has been the best wideband receiver you can buy under $200 US. Its HF performance, in particular, is sincerely impressive at this price point.

Introducing the RSP2

sdrplay-rsp2-top

So what’s the RSP2, and how does it differ from the original RSP?

In a nutshell, here’s how SDRplay describes the difference between the two:

“The RSP2 delivers a significant number of additional features which result in a higher spec for specialist amateur radio users as well as benefits for additional scientific, educational and industrial SDR applications.”

In a sense, the RSP2 gives the enthusiast and experimenter access to more receiver parameters and control, opening it to a wider array of possible applications. The RSP2 will also cover a broader range, from as low as 1 kHz to as high as to 2 GHz, and is designed with better selectivity across the spectrum. Enhanced selectivity will certainly benefit amateur radio operators and SWL DXers who might seek weak signals in crowded portions of the band.

sdrplay-rsp2-usb-in-out

The following list outlines the primary additional features of the RSP2 (via SDRplay’s press release):

  • 10 built-in, front-end pre-selection filters, with substantially enhanced selectivity
  • Frequency coverage extended down to 1 KHz
  • Software selectable variable gain Low Noise Preamplifier
  • 2 x SMA Software Selectable 50? RF ports (1.5 MHz – 2 GHz)
  • 1 x High Impedance RF port (1 kHz – 30 MHz)
  • Built-in software selectable MW /FM notch filters
  • Highly stable 0.5PPM TCXO trimmable to 0.01PPM
  • 24MHz Reference clock input / output connections
  • 4.7V Bias-T option (on one of the software selectable antenna inputs)
  • RF screening within a strong plastic case for the standard RSP2
  • A Rugged metal box version –  the ‘RSP2pro’
The RSP2 has a total of three antenna ports: two SMA and one Hi Z for optimal LW/MW/SW performance

The RSP2 has a total of three antenna ports: two SMA and one Hi Z for optimal LW/MW/SW performance

For the moment, the RSP2 only works with SDRplay’s own application, SDRuno. But SDRplay is already working with developers to make the RSP2 compatible with HDSDR, Gnu Radio, CubicSDR, and SDR Console. I appreciate that although the RSP series has an excellent free proprietary application (SDRuno), it was nonetheless developed with many open-source applications, also free, as well. This level of compatibility and support makes SDRplay rather unique among SDR manufacturers.

SDRuno running the RSP2.

SDRuno running the RSP2 (click to enlarge).

Of course, SDRuno is a great application in its own right, and pairing it with the RSP2 will provide you with out-of-the-box calibrated RF and S meters. So far I’m very pleased with native SDRuno features like virtual receivers, embedded time code, spectrum display options, and streamlined design.

Current SDRuno users will note the different antenna and filter options with the RSP2 which works natively with the latest versions of SDRuno

Current SDRuno users will note the different antenna and filter options with the RSP2 which works natively with the latest versions of SDRuno (click to enlarge).

SDRuno installs very easily and provides a plug-and-play experience. It does have a modest learning curve, but SDRplay has an excellent owner’s manual and “cookbook” available to help you set everything up the first time.

Preliminary impressions of the RSP2

SDRplay sent me a pre-release RSP2 (the base model, not the metal box “Pro” version) to evaluate and provide the company with feedback.

I installed SDRuno and put it on the air only this past week. In truth, as I’ve been traveling and must be on the road again this coming week, I prefer not to comment, at least in depth, on the SDRplay’s performance as I’ve had comparatively little dedicated time with the unit.

Yet I have had the RSP2 on the air a few hours of casual listening, and find that it performs as I would expect: low noise characteristics and sensitivity that seems to be at least as good as the RSP1, if not a bit better.  I’m looking forward to a side-by-side with the RSP1 running an install of SDRuno on my laptop!

I must say that I’m very pleased with the RSP2’s Mediumwave/FM notch filter. It happens that a local daytime 45kW AM broadcaster in our area is having transmitter issues which send wideband spurs across the entire HF spectrum; but at night, when the station lowers its power levels, the RSP2’s MW notch filter effectively mitigates the noisy signal. I imagine this filter will be a welcome addition for listeners living in RF-dense environments.

When the RSP1 was first introduced, it retailed for $149. As the economies of scale worked in their favor, SDRplay lowered the price to $129. The new RSP2, meanwhile, is expected to retail at approximately £130 (excluding taxes), or $169 US (excluding taxes). Quite a value, in my opinion: at $169, you’re getting a lot of SDR for the price––and an effective SDR application, to boot.

But if you already own an RSP1, I wouldn’t necessarily rush out and grab the RSP2 just yet.  Of course, if you like the added features mentioned above, or if you’d like an inexpensive SDR with no less than three switchable antenna ports and a MW/FM notch filter, $169 is a bargain and about the same level of investment as a good modern shortwave portable.

As for myself, I’m happy to see a mom-and-pop community-supported company like SDRplay continuing to innovate for our hobby. I’m pleased to support them, and am truly appreciative that they also support our SWLing Post. This is a win-win, in my view; I’d be pleased to support more such companies.

Again, check back here as I plan to compare the RSP2 with the RSP1 and several of my other SDRs.

sdrplay-rsp2-antennaports-2

Click here to read SDRplay’s full announcement and press release.

I plan to take the RSP2 with me on my travels this week. Time permitting, I might even pair it with my recently acquired PK magnetic loop antenna for some spectrum gathering and testing.

In the coming weeks, as my schedule permits, I’ll post updates here on the SWLing Post, including audio comparisons with some of my SDRs. If interested, bookmark the tag RSP2.

For more information about RSP2 pricing and availability, check out SDRplay.com.

Update: Check out RTL-SDR.com’s assessment of the RSP2.

SDRplay has also posted the following video:

AOR introduces the AR6000: the 40 kHz to 6 GHz receiver

The AOR AR6000

The AOR AR6000

AOR has announced their latest (very) wide band receiver, the AR6000 last month at the 2013 Dayton Hamvention.

As with most AOR equipment, the AR6000 comes at a premium price–$6,500 US–but this receiver is quite unique in that it covers most of the radio spectrum 40 kHz to 6 GHz. I imagine AOR sells most of these to commercial and government entities; indeed it’s only available for export or government purchase here within the US.

Details below:

(Source: AOR USA)

The AR6000 delivers continuous tuning from 40 kilohertz to 6 gigahertz in a wide variety of modes for professional monitoring performance that’s nothing short of amazing in terms of accuracy, sensitivity and speed. Standard modes include AM, FM, WFM, FM Stereo, USB, LSB and CW. An optional module can add the capability to receive APCO25 digital communications plus an optional I/Q output can be added to capture up to one megahertz of bandwidth onto a storage device for later listening or signal analysis.

Designed for the monitoring or technical service professional, there are no interruptions in the AR6000’s tuning range. With exceptional tuning accuracy and sensitivity throughout its tuning range, the AR6000 begins at the floor of the radio spectrum and continues up through microwave frequencies so it can be used for land-based or satellite communications. It works as a measuring receiver for those seeking a reliable frequency and signal strength standard. To support its broad spectrum, the AR6000 has two antenna ports, with the added capability of an optional remote antenna selector from the front panel of the receiver.

With its popular analog signal strength meter and large easy-to-read digital spectrum display, the AR6000 is destined to become the new choice of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the military, emergency managers, diplomatic service, lab technicians, news-gathering operations and security professionals

Click here to view the spec sheet and brochure (PDF).

New large portable shortwave radio in the works?

(Source: bbs.tecsun.com.cn)

(Source: bbs.tecsun.com.cn)

Gary writes:

It looks like a new, large portable radio — along the lines of the Redsun RP2100 — is on the way. At least this one includes a direct-entry keypad and SSB, like the RP3100 is supposed to.

http://herculodge.typepad.com/herculodge/2013/04/another-large-portable-all-band-radio-to-be-released.html

I hope they can do good QC, and keep the sample to sample variation low.

Thanks, Gary. It does look like a variation of the of the RP3100. Sounds like it’s not a Redsun product, but may have been ported from one of their engineers for JiDian. It certainly has the trademark look. If this is true, there’s a possibility that C.Crane could bring this to North America. Perhaps it’s the next radio in line to succeed the CCRadio SW?  Though a great radio, the CCRadio-SW is getting a little long in the tooth.