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Author Topic: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?  (Read 16134 times)

Offline moof

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What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« on: January 18, 2016, 2240 UTC »
I live in a real high noise environment.  I have had a Drake R8 and a couple Icoms that were great.  In OTHER locations.  Not here.  Sold a few and am now down to a portable and an Icom.  I would like to try SDR but don't want to drop a lot of cash since I am betting listening will be no better.  There was a thread here on a nice 3dbsdr item that now has links not found.  Since I can't get that, what is left?  Wait on the kickstarter one reported here a year ago http://www.hfunderground.com/board/index.php/topic,20309.0.html or go with the nooelec deal with HamItUp converter?  Or something else?  I know I just need to move to solve everything but that will not happen any time soon.  The noise is related to household electrical supply and is everywhere in the entire subdivision and noise cancelling products do not work-have tried several.  Tried tracking the source etc etc...
Thanks everyone

Offline JCMaxwell

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Offline Fred Smith

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2016, 2341 UTC »
Hard to beat for the price. If you get one try using it with sdr console.
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Offline moof

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2016, 0023 UTC »
Done deal.  Thanks.

Offline curious george

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2016, 0102 UTC »
I received an SDRplay RSP for Christmas, and have been using it with the HDSDR software.  One cool thing about HDSDR is that it has two different buttons for noise reduction, "NR" and "NB".  Recently a local noise source has cropped up in the evenings, and a press of one of these buttons magically makes the noise go away.  You can hear the algorithm at work, slowly the noise gets reduced until it disappears completely. 

My main rig has been a Drake R8B for the past 17 years.  It's got a noise blanker with only two positions (narrow and wide).  I've never found the wide position useful, but I usually keep the narrow position always engaged and it will reduce some local noise.  The R8B can't deal with this latest noise source, but the SDRplay can.

The SDRplay has some limitations, such as overloading by nearby MW stations, or even some high powered SW broadcasters, but there are ways to deal with this so it's not an issue.

Thomas Witherspoon's review (http://swling.com/blog/2015/07/a-review-of-the-sdrplay-rsp-software-defined-receiver/) convinced me that the SDRplay was the "best bang for the buck".  The $150 price puts it in the range of a good portable, but it's performance blows away any portable at that price.  I didn't think I would ever get an SDR, especially since there are fewer and fewer DX targets out there and I couldn't justify spending $1,000 on one.  The SDRplay is a great intro to SDR technology for the price.

Your local noise issues may be a bit too overwhelming for any rig on it's own however.  Techniques such as using a coax lead-in with RF chokes and an isolation/matching transformer at the antenna will help.  Bruce Conti has a good DIY article here: http://www.bamlog.com/diyxfmr.htm  I've built several of them using the Rubbermaid baby food container and everyone that uses them swear by them.

Offline JCMaxwell

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Offline moof

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2016, 0446 UTC »
Mine arrived quickly. I had to cobble together some cables and adapters to get it hooked up to a Wellbrook indoor loop. Pretty easy installation of software. I had an hour messing around and will have to do some tutorials. It is cool!but has massive overload from the am antenna tower less than ten miles away. Not very sensitive either but maybe fixable. I made out a signal on 6770 but couldn't really hear. I didnt hear crap on the portable but heard 6770 decently on the icom. We'll see if it is definitely better than a 150 buck Sony 7600 portable. Better be. I'll have it figured out in a few days.

Offline JCMaxwell

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2016, 1602 UTC »
I'd be interested in your findings moof, thinking about buying one myself.  Your preliminary review is making me rethink that.

A couple of people on #pirateradio IRC chat have them, you may be able to get some advice there, if you need it.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2016, 1606 UTC by JCMaxwell »
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Offline curious george

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2016, 1825 UTC »
You're going to need a BCB filter to knockout that 10 kW station near you.  I've got a 5 kW station about a mile from me, and I need a BCB filter even with my Drake R8B.

There's a Facebook group dedicated to the SDRplay, and a lot of questions gets answered there:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/sdrplay/

Two of the group members have created guides on getting started with the SDRplay using HDSDR and SDR-Console:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7434avup8mrkzti/AACIY6Bq0UwZKQGCALpu76cka/RSPHDSDR.pdf?dl=0

http://www.nn4f.com/SDR-Console-SDRPlay-RSP_QuickGuideTips.pdf

 

Offline moof

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2016, 0107 UTC »
I am very impressed with this SDRPlay.  I learned it makes a big difference comparing it at ground level of the house vs an Icom upstairs using same antenna.  10 feet of elevation can make a big difference in the loop antenna.  I have also become more familiar with front end gain and volume vs ExtIO settings.   There is a learning curve there definitely with all the different places you control gain and volume.
I just compared 15 or so weak to strong AM/SSB stations mostly 1600 khz-ish and 6-7 Mhz.  The $150 SDR was overall superior.  The stronger stations were absolutely clear as a bell through the SDR.  On the weaker signals, there were a few where the Icom was superior, but the cheap SDR held its own and was equal on some and won a few more tests than the Icom.
Now I just have to wait for Friday and Saturday night to see what happens with those certain usually weak signals.
If you are debating getting this $150 laptop connection or a 10 lb real radio that needs a 10 lb power supply and you don't mind learning some new stuff there is no real choice.
One thing I did find--HDSDR runs great on a couple year old i5 laptop.  I tried to run SDR-Console on an older Vista laptop and it just couldn't do it very well at all.  I really wanted to try that program as well because I like the idea of filter bandwidth, which HDSDR doesn't have but it seems to sound fine on HDSDR without screwing around with filter width.  HDSDR seems much more user friendly to me too.

Offline JCMaxwell

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2016, 0138 UTC »
Thanks for the review and info, moof!
IC-R9000L, FDM-S2, Belka DX, HF+ Discovery, RSPdx, IC-R30, BC125AT, PL-880 <- W6LVP Loop

Offline Labviewguru

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2016, 0137 UTC »
Moof:

If you check the "Extreme Shortwave" group on facebook over the last few weeks, there was a write-up for a BCB filter. People sang praises for this box. You could purchase it was a complete kit, PCB, parts or whatever in a cast box about 4 X 6 inches. If you can't find it, let me know and I'll see if I can locate it again.

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Offline NN4F

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2016, 1850 UTC »
I'm beta testing Simon's SDR-Console V3 with the SDRPlay, it blows away v2.3 in performance and works with less CPU, someone linked to my guide for the setup and tips, I'm working on one now for V3 to be out the same time at the V3 Preview which is due out March 25th...

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Offline dingo31

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2016, 1100 UTC »
I'd be interested in your findings moof, thinking about buying one myself.  Your preliminary review is making me rethink that.

A couple of people on #pirateradio IRC chat have them, you may be able to get some advice there, if you need it.

I'm thinking to try AirSpy 2 but without the optional upconverter.
Some opinions from other users are very helpfully - thanks

Offline Josh

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Re: What el cheapo $100 SDR to get nowadays just to try SDR?
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2016, 0332 UTC »
I'm afraid the cheaper sdr dongles are going to turn off a lot of prospective enthusiasts due to setup and then performance issues. Good thing better rigs like the sdriq are getting cheaper and cheaper on the used market.
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