HFU HF Underground

Technical Topics => SDR - Software Defined Radio => Topic started by: zackers on February 04, 2013, 1744 UTC

Title: New to SDR
Post by: zackers on February 04, 2013, 1744 UTC
I recently got a Softrock Ensemble II kit, built it for HF and am using it with HDSDR. I also use a Creative X-FI Soundblaster USB card, model SB1095. There are a couple mods for the SB1095 linked on the WB5RVZ site that involve adding a couple capacitors to the unit which greatly improve its performance as an SDR soundcard.

I've been having a blast with it; I've found some NDB's, numbers stations and other things pretty easily using the 50 kHz window displayed in HDSDR. For the money, the Softrock is a great deal. Although the bandpass filters in the Softrock are supposed to cut off at 1.5 MHz, I've been able to tune to AM stations as low as 800 kHz with it.

I'm going to order another one and build it with the LF option. People have said that the LF filters that mount on the Softrock board are not optimum, especially for the lowest frequency range, so I designed a set of 7th order Chebyshev bandpass filters that I hope work better. They will have to be on an additional board external to the Softrock. That's not a problem for me.
Title: Re: New to SDR
Post by: Token on February 04, 2013, 2319 UTC
While the SoftRock Ensemble II has performance issues (as do all sound card based SDRs) it is probably, dollar for dollar, the best HF SDR on the market.  For less than the cost of a low end portable you get really decent performance.

The problem I have with the Ensemble, and similar, SDRs is that they are often not plug and play, it sometimes takes a little tinkering to get them working optimally.  I seldom recommend them as a “first” SDR unless the person using is fairly techy.  Particularly a while back, before SDR-Radio and some of the later software, I saw a few people run off of the hobby in frustration.  Today it is a little more straight forward.

I have a couple of them here, and often loan them out to local newbies.  I help them get the SDR set up on their machine and also get them introduced to HF monitoring, they use the Ensemble II for a while and then decide if they want to invest time/money into the hobby.  I think my 2 radios have been through 5 or 6 people so far, and I gave my first one away to a severely budget limited newb a couple years ago, he still uses it as his primary listening rig today.

Title: Re: New to SDR
Post by: zackers on February 05, 2013, 0427 UTC
I don't know if I'd recommend the Softrock kit to someone who hasn't done any surface-mount construction. I'm not a newcomer to SMT; all my projects that I design and build these days are almost 100% surface-mount.

Tony does make fully assembled units available now. And for less than $70, the kit is the cheapest entry-level SDR radio of its caliber I know of. And I'm impressed by its performance.

I followed all the setup instructions exactly as they were listed and had no problems getting it going. I started out with Rocky as the software but it was easy to progress to HDSDR and I'm happy with it.
Title: Re: New to SDR
Post by: ChrisSmolinski on February 05, 2013, 1316 UTC
Has anyone considered (or tried) feeding the softrock I/Q output into the I/Q input of an RTL dongle? That is, bypassing the tuner chip on the RTL dongle. You'd only have 8 bit sampling, but I suspect with a wider frequency range than most sound cards.