Tag Archives: RTL-SDR Dongle

Thomas (N1SPY): How to chase Cubesats with an RTL-SDR dongle and some wire

Many thanks to Ivan (NO2CW) who writes:

Thomas, N1SPY used equipment worth $25 to chase mini satellites. Includes instructions for making a simple circularly polarized antenna. Did it work? Check for yourself!

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thanks, Ivan, for passing along another excellent project by Thomas (N1SPY). I love how simple this project is to put together and the fact that most SWLing Post readers, for example, likely have all of the components already! Great job, Thomas!

Click here to check out other projects by N1SPY.

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Buyer Beware: Insane RTL-SDR pricing

$300 is an absurd price for this RTL-SDR package.

This morning, while browsing eBay, I noticed a high-production retailer selling an RTL-SDR package for $300 US! (To add insult to injury, this isn’t even the latest version of the RTL-SDR dongle!)

I post this warning message to those who are new to the world of the RTL-SDR.

You should never pay more than $30 US shipped for the latest version of the RTL-SDR dongle unless you’re buying custom enclosures, filtering, etc. In fact, the RTL-SDR package above retails for about $25 shipped via Amazon (though currently out of stock). The RTL-SDR stick alone retails for $20.95 shipped. You can find a number of models between $10-20 on Amazon and eBay.

The majority of eBay sellers list the RTL-SDR at the proper market price.

The allure of the RTL-SDR is its affordability–don’t fall for sellers on eBay, Amazon or elsewhere who list these at outrageous prices.  They’re simply trying to rip you off.

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The RTL-SDR V.3 dongle on shortwave: Gary details setup and reviews

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary Wise (W4EEY), for the following review of the RTL-SDR dongle:


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Based on your blog post on the Version 3 release of the RTL-SDR dongle I had to buy one. I ordered mine from Amazon for $25, and it came in two days. I have an earlier version of this unit that was VHF and above only. What intrigued me about the V3 was the possibility of HF reception in the Direct Sampling mode (without an up converter). So I had to try it.

I used the RTL-SDR Quick start guide at RTL-SDR.com/qsg. While I did not see any mention of Version 3, I hoped that the software that was linked would be adequate. As I am using a Windows 7 laptop, I downloaded the Zadig driver installer, along with copies of SDR# and HDSDR.

Getting the dongle going was pretty straightforward. And right away I was receiving VHF and above signals. The I/O driver defaults to Quadrature demodulation and this was what is used to receive VHF. But what about HF?

It took me awhile to figure out that you select Direct Sampling in the setup screen for the driver. In SDR# software this is found by clicking on the gear wheel icon.

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Under sampling mode select Direct Sampling (Q branch).

In HDSDR you select the EXTIO icon.

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Here you select the Q Input under Direct Sampling.

Note that with both you must use the Q input.

With the telescoping antennas included with the dongle, I received very few signals (of very poor quality). But I had read that the unit can only receive HF with a substantial antenna, so I moved the laptop to my hamshack.

I use an ELAD antenna distribution amplifier for my HF receive antennas.

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It was easy to use a spare output from the ELAD ASA15 to drive the antenna input of the RTL-SDR V3.

Wow, what a difference!

First up was international shortwave. Here’s a shot from my Alinco General Coverage receiver on 9955 kHz this morning using my 260′ beverage antenna (pointed toward Europe). S9 on the Alinco S Meter.

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And here’s the same signal on SDR#.

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There was a delay in the audio coming from the PC versus from the receiver, but other than that, reception was identical. Audio quality was very good.

I then moved to the 20M Amateur Radio band. USB audio demodulation.

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The little dongle worked! It is not what I would call my first choice in receivers, but it will demodulate AM and SSB just fine.

I did not try it on CW as I ran out of time.

I also tried the HDSDR software, which worked equally as well (but I think I prefer SDR# for ease of use).

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All in all, if you have or can put up a good antenna for HF, the little $25 dongle is in, my opinion, worth trying out.

73,

Gary
W4EEY

Click here to purchase the new RTL-SDR–$24.95 shipped on Amazon.com.


Thank you, Gary, for not only giving a quick evaluation of the RTL-SDR’s HF performance, but for describing how to setup HF reception via SDR# and HDSDR.

Over the years, I’ve gotten probably hundreds of emails from readers who would like to try their hand at SDRs, but were cautious about investing. For many years, a 3rd generation SDR would set you back at least $300-400. At $25 shipped, the RTL-SDR V.3 is an SDR receiver that is accessible to anyone who can afford a fast food meal or a few cups of Starbucks coffee. My how times have changed!

Once I get a few transceiver reviews off of my table, I might do some side-by-side HF comparisons between the RTL-SDR and a few of my other SDRs. 

Thanks again, Gary!

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Creating a global network of inexpensive remote SDRs

U_Twente_SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who replies to Ivan’s preliminary review of the V3 RTL-SDR dongle:

With Shortwave SDRs (the receiver dongle) now costing less than $20, the time has come for us to set up a global group of receivers that we can all log into at will!

RTL-SDR-RTL2832U-e1471375714199Have a look at SDR.hu – here you can put your SDR dongle on line and share it with anyone and they have full control of the receiver just as if it was in their own shack.

Imagine receivers scatted around the world – South America, Tropical Asia, Africa! The cost is now virtually nothing, all that is needed is the dongle, antenna (doesn’t have to be anything special – even a long wire or whip) and a small low cost CPU (Raspberry Pi for example).

Anyone else interested in this dream? Lets get together, get some receivers setup and then talk about our experience in a kick-ass presentation at the 2017 SWL WinterFest in PA!

Also… I am very soon to receive my KiwiSDR matched to a BeagleBone CPU. It will be online at SDR.hu and four remote listeners will be able to tune the full shortwave bands independently, its like my own Twente setup! Heaps of others are getting receivers online in the next few months with KiwiSDRs, this is going to be totally amazing!

I agree, Mark! While there is already quite a network of remote SDRs and receivers in the world, the barrier of entry keeps getting lower and lower. It’s hard to imagine that $25 can buy an SDR that natively covers the shortwave and mediumwave bands!

There’s only one other requirement for an online SDR that Mark didn’t mention: a decent Internet connection. Sadly, this is the only thing keeping me from hosting a remote SDR here at my home. I considered purchasing a KiwiSDR like Mark, but my upload speed (0.2-0.3 mbps) is so terrible and so unreliable that I could only host one listener at a time at best. You can bet that as soon as my ISP upgrades our service, I’ll launch a web SDR as well.

Of course, I’m willing to bet that most SWLing Post readers have more than enough bandwidth to host a $25 remote receiver! Let’s make Mark’s vision a reality!

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Ivan’s preliminary review of the new RTL-SDR dongle on shortwave/mediumwave

RTL-SDR-RTL2832U-e1471375714199Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov (NO2CW), who shares the following video review of the new RTL-SDR dongle on the shortwave and mediumwave bands.

Ivan notes:

This is daytime reception comparison. Nighttime could be a different picture. [The RTL-SDR dongle] tunes and frequency is 100% on spot.

Using SDR Sharp you have several AGC settings to play with and find the best combination. The best setting seems to vary with band and signal strength.

The [SDR receiver] comes with a short (20 cm) and long (120cm) telescopic antennas. Neither one is usable for HF or Medium wave.

When ordering the radio you have to get a USB extension cord for the dongle. When plugged in directly into a laptop and then antenna coax it can become bulky. You also will most likely need an SMA adapter to BNC and SO 238.

I hope this helps.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks for sharing your video, Ivan! For a $25 SDR, I’m pretty impressed so far! I’m also very curious how it will hold up to stronger nighttime signals and, especially, adjacent signal interference. I imagine it may be prone to overloading as well. Please keep us posted!

Have any other Post readers tested the new RTL-SDR dongle on HF? If so, please comment! 

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