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Author Topic: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?  (Read 1748 times)

Offline jon5500

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KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« on: February 01, 2021, 1842 UTC »
Hello,

First time posting here and I am considering obtaining an SDR.  I am no stranger to SDR's as I owned Softrock Ensemble II receivers (both LF and HF) as well as an RFspace SDR-14.  The Softrocks did ok and I still have them, but not hooked up (was trying to get one working in the latest Ubuntu but a definite no go :)).  My prize was the SDR-14 and I used it for listening to Jupiter back around 2010 or so.  Being able to see and record full HF spectrum helped determine whether a emission was from Jupiter or not.  Unfortunately, that SDR had to be sold due to much needed funding!  I sort of regret that now as it was a wonderful performer. 

So, sort of getting back into the swing of things.  Over the last three years, I came across something that at least on the surface appears much like the SDR-14 and that's KiwiSDR.  I don't know if it has direct sampling or not, but tuning into the many web based stations definitely shows full HF coverage simultaneously.  The price appears to be significantly less than the SDR-14, although I do see one big drawback and it seems to need a web interface to work?  It looks like for at least the board and that little computer it plugs into would run around $250 US or so. 

Well, I'd still like to do better than that price and have the features of the Kiwi, assuming that it is, in fact, much like the SDR-14 was.  I have read some threads at other sites suggesting sales sometimes of the boards, but I don't see that coming up very often.  So, what about any Kiwi clones?  Any comparable to the original or no go?  Options other than Kiwi/ SDR-14 offering same features and quality (and less price)?

Thank you in advance,
Jon 

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2021, 2102 UTC »
The KiwiSDR is direct sampling, with a 14 bit A/D.  The CPU is built in, which is why you access it via a browser. One update is no software/driver issues. Plus you can share it online for others to use. And there's 4 independent receivers.  A downside is no way to record I/Q for entire bands. I have several KiwiSDRs online, there's a list here: https://www.blackcatsystems.com/kiwi.html

You could consider the AirSpyHF+ Discovery, which is a fraction of the original price of the SDR-14, and more capable (I happen to have both).
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
netSDR / AFE822x / AirSpy HF+ / KiwiSDR / 900 ft Horz skyloop / 500 ft NE beverage / 250 ft V Beam / 58 ft T2FD / 120 ft T2FD / 400 ft south beverage / 43m, 20m, 10m  dipoles / Crossed Parallel Loop / Discone in a tree

Offline jon5500

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2021, 2140 UTC »
Thanks, the only issue I see with the Airspy is that it doesn't seem to cover the same bandwidth (768 Khz from what I read) as the Kiwi or SDR-14.  Looking for something covering the entire HF.   

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2021, 2307 UTC »
Thanks, the only issue I see with the Airspy is that it doesn't seem to cover the same bandwidth (768 Khz from what I read) as the Kiwi or SDR-14.  Looking for something covering the entire HF.

The airspy covers all of HF (0-30 MHz) plus some of VHF. 768 kHz is the sampling bandwidth, you can view that much of the spectrum at one time. By comparison the SDR-14 was around 150 kHz.
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
netSDR / AFE822x / AirSpy HF+ / KiwiSDR / 900 ft Horz skyloop / 500 ft NE beverage / 250 ft V Beam / 58 ft T2FD / 120 ft T2FD / 400 ft south beverage / 43m, 20m, 10m  dipoles / Crossed Parallel Loop / Discone in a tree

Offline ~SIGINT~

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2021, 0125 UTC »
I have been using an SDRplay RSPduo for over 2 years now and am very pleased with it. Frequency range is 1 kHz to 2 GHz. The RSPdx would be a good choice. I use the RSPduo all the way down to 20 kHz with the loop antenna. The SDR puts my Collins, Harris, Racal and Watkins-Johnson receivers to shame. I would have a hard time going back to an analogue, rack mounted, receiver. As much as I am not a big fan of the Kiwi user interface I will eventually add one to my collection as a "remote receiver".  --- Richard

Offline jon5500

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2021, 0546 UTC »

The airspy covers all of HF (0-30 MHz) plus some of VHF. 768 kHz is the sampling bandwidth, you can view that much of the spectrum at one time. By comparison the SDR-14 was around 150 kHz.

I'm not sure we're talking about the same figure.  I'm referring to the maximum amount of bandwidth that can be viewed at once.  With my SDR-14, this was the entire HF spectrum.  Perhaps I should have said maximum display bandwidth as mentioned here: https://www.scannermaster.com/SDR_14_Receiver_p/43-501311.htm?Click=20907 which is 30 Mhz.  Can the Airspy do this also? All I've found so far is the 768 Khz figure you mentioned.   

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2021, 1245 UTC »

The airspy covers all of HF (0-30 MHz) plus some of VHF. 768 kHz is the sampling bandwidth, you can view that much of the spectrum at one time. By comparison the SDR-14 was around 150 kHz.

I'm not sure we're talking about the same figure.  I'm referring to the maximum amount of bandwidth that can be viewed at once.  With my SDR-14, this was the entire HF spectrum.  Perhaps I should have said maximum display bandwidth as mentioned here: https://www.scannermaster.com/SDR_14_Receiver_p/43-501311.htm?Click=20907 which is 30 Mhz.  Can the Airspy do this also? All I've found so far is the 768 Khz figure you mentioned.   

We're not  ;D  That is a special sampling mode the SDR-14/IQ have, captures of raw A/D samples, so you can generate a waterfall of the entire HF band at once (though you cannot demodulate). Most SDRs don't have that capability, so if it is important to you, your options are limited.

The Chinese RX-888 & related SDRs always send raw A/D samples to the PC for processing, so that would be one option. They run around $200. I have one, they're not bad for the price.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2021, 1248 UTC by ChrisSmolinski »
Chris Smolinski
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eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
netSDR / AFE822x / AirSpy HF+ / KiwiSDR / 900 ft Horz skyloop / 500 ft NE beverage / 250 ft V Beam / 58 ft T2FD / 120 ft T2FD / 400 ft south beverage / 43m, 20m, 10m  dipoles / Crossed Parallel Loop / Discone in a tree

Offline jon5500

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2021, 2041 UTC »
Unfortunately, I have had trouble with Chinese electronics almost every time I've made a purchase, so won't be going with those. 

It looks like one of the earlier Airspy's had a special program written for it that would cover the HF spectrum, but the current unit doesn't support it.  I should have mentioned early on I guess that I desired seeing the entire HF spectrum for crude spectrum analyzer purposes.  I just didn't think the area would still be so specialized/ expensive, especially since the years have passed since the SDR-14 was in production. 

Well, under the circumstances, I think I'll wait until I can at least get a Kiwi board on sale and pick up the Beagle somewhere else.  Budget really is limited so have to watch funds closely..  I don't see the Kiwi coming up for sale used all that often, so the sale looks like the best bet. 

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2021, 2045 UTC »
Well, under the circumstances, I think I'll wait until I can at least get a Kiwi board on sale and pick up the Beagle somewhere else.  Budget really is limited so have to watch funds closely..  I don't see the Kiwi coming up for sale used all that often, so the sale looks like the best bet.

They have not had a sale on the KiwiSDR for some time (years). Demand has been far exceeding supply / Seeed manufacturing, so I would not expect a sale any time soon.
Chris Smolinski
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eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
netSDR / AFE822x / AirSpy HF+ / KiwiSDR / 900 ft Horz skyloop / 500 ft NE beverage / 250 ft V Beam / 58 ft T2FD / 120 ft T2FD / 400 ft south beverage / 43m, 20m, 10m  dipoles / Crossed Parallel Loop / Discone in a tree

Offline jon5500

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2021, 2229 UTC »
Then I'll have to wait or look for a used SDR-14.  I have seen those occasionally show up on the used market.  In fact, the one I had I bought used. 


Offline jon5500

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2021, 1910 UTC »
So, a bit of luck came my way, and it looks like I may be able to afford the Kiwi after all.  I have a few questions:

1)  Since the kit is unavailable, it looks like I will need a Beagle card and a 5V transformer based power supply, is this correct?  Is GPS antenna really needed or can I forego that for now?

2)  How reliable is the unit and/or card?  History of failures, etc, welcome.  I still debate whether it or the SDR-14 is the better choice, if I can find the '14 used.  I read that at one point, there were Beagle card failures apparently due to manufacturing problems. 

Anything else I should know? 

Thanks again.   

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2021, 2109 UTC »
So, a bit of luck came my way, and it looks like I may be able to afford the Kiwi after all.  I have a few questions:

1)  Since the kit is unavailable, it looks like I will need a Beagle card and a 5V transformer based power supply, is this correct?  Is GPS antenna really needed or can I forego that for now?

The GPS antenna is not required, but highly encouraged, that's how the KiwiSDR corrects for errors in the ADC clock sampling frequency.


Quote
2)  How reliable is the unit and/or card?  History of failures, etc, welcome.  I still debate whether it or the SDR-14 is the better choice, if I can find the '14 used.  I read that at one point, there were Beagle card failures apparently due to manufacturing problems. 

I've found the KiwiSDR to be highly reliable.  Just don't apply the power backwards, or a higher voltage.  The KiwiSDR online forum does have a few mentions of boards dying, but as there's about 5k of these out there (if serial numbers started at 1 with no gaps) that is not too bad.

While "better" is going to depend on usage, I have both an SDR-14 as well as the KiwiSDR. No comparison in my mind, the KiwiSDR is better overall.

Quote
Anything else I should know? 

Thanks again.   

You'll possibly want an SMA to (whatever) RF adapter for the antenna input, although the SDR-14 is SMA as well, so if you still have your old adapter from that, you're all set. Plus of course an ethernet cable and router/whatever to connect it to, the KiwiSDR does not have WiFi.
Chris Smolinski
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eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
netSDR / AFE822x / AirSpy HF+ / KiwiSDR / 900 ft Horz skyloop / 500 ft NE beverage / 250 ft V Beam / 58 ft T2FD / 120 ft T2FD / 400 ft south beverage / 43m, 20m, 10m  dipoles / Crossed Parallel Loop / Discone in a tree

Offline jon5500

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2021, 2159 UTC »
Thanks, Chris.  I do believe I still do have the SMA adapter around somewhere.  I collected a LOT of adapters over the years.  I also have several unused routers and I'll be using one for the unit.  Would appreciate recommendations of a cheap GPS antenna and power supply.  I assume it is best to not using a 5V switching supply.  I probably have several "walwarts", but of course will have to check DC voltage output as they are often far higher than labelled. 

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2021, 2308 UTC »
Any of the cheap units on Amazon (designed for 3-5 volts) will probably work fine, what they ship with the KiwiSDR itself is not exactly "top of the line" if you get my drift. Again not strictly mandatory for operation, so you can get up and running without one.

And yes, it is best to avoid any switching power supply. Some are not horrible and may work OK in a pinch, but in general most will cause some form of RFI issues.

There's a KiwiSDR document: http://kiwisdr.com/quickstart/#id-power that spec's what you want for the power supply, at least 2A is probably reasonable.

Chris Smolinski
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eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
netSDR / AFE822x / AirSpy HF+ / KiwiSDR / 900 ft Horz skyloop / 500 ft NE beverage / 250 ft V Beam / 58 ft T2FD / 120 ft T2FD / 400 ft south beverage / 43m, 20m, 10m  dipoles / Crossed Parallel Loop / Discone in a tree

Offline kris

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Re: KiwiSDR, SDR-14 and possible cheaper options?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2021, 2224 UTC »
   Hi Jon - However, for the sake of clarity, the RX888 receives a bandwidth of up to 10MHz in the HF range. My Dell (i5-6300U 2core x64, 2,4GHz, 8GB) at 2MHz reception width locks up after short operation.
 I am using Concole V3 which requires a powerful computer.
      I also started the HDSDR program control, which is the least processor-intensive, but I do not remember if the PC was stable at the full 10MHz reception bandwidth.
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