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Author Topic: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?  (Read 15364 times)

Offline Pigmeat

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What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« on: January 15, 2013, 1516 UTC »
The coffers of the vast Pigmeat fortune are overflowing. What do you SDR mavens reccomend in the 300-600 dollar range?

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2013, 2111 UTC »
My choice for that price range would be the RF Space SDR-IQ.
Chris Smolinski
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Offline Turbo

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2013, 2206 UTC »
Hi i use the Rfspace SDR-IQ to monitor hf aircraft bands excellent receiver hooked up to a Wellbrook-ALA1530 active loop..

Regards Lino..

Offline jFarley

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2013, 2223 UTC »
Ditto here; the SDR-IQ has exceeded my expectations in all respects.

I would also recommend the following software (free).  I find this to be an extremely productive environment for the SDR-IQ.  A bit of a learning curve with little documentation, but well worth the effort.

http://sdr-radio.com/
Joe Farley, Near Chicago
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Offline Pigmeat

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2013, 2255 UTC »
Thanks for the info.

Now to introduce our moderator to the dark side of radio.

Offline Zane

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2013, 0327 UTC »
Now to introduce our moderator to the dark side of radio.

I was gonna say - we should at least hear his respected opinion on such matters.  ;D

Z
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Offline corq

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2013, 0819 UTC »
SDR-IQ has been a winner here; learning curve initially only with the supplied software which was still pretty easy. Easier yet, as Chris can attest, is the CuteSDR opensource project; once you get ramped up, for windows you'll have SDR-Radio.com's excellent, feature-rich software (development from the author Ham Radio Deluxe).

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Offline Pigmeat

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2013, 1351 UTC »
This is starting to look like a landslide.

Offline Andrew Yoder

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2013, 1415 UTC »
Can the SDR-IQ record chunks of spectrum like the Perseus? When I get an SDR, I want it for recording ranges overnight or when I'm away from home...oh and I think it'd be really handy for hearing the Irish church pirates on the CB band.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2013, 1417 UTC by Andrew Yoder »
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Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2013, 1433 UTC »
Can the SDR-IQ record chunks of spectrum like the Perseus? When I get an SDR, I want it for recording ranges overnight or when I'm away from home...oh and I think it'd be really handy for hearing the Irish church pirates on the CB band.

Yes, you can do that either with the SpectraVue software that comes with it, or with the free program SdrDx, which is for both Windows and Mac OS X.  Sorry Fansome, no QNX port.
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
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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 Token

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2013, 0226 UTC »
Can the SDR-IQ record chunks of spectrum like the Perseus? When I get an SDR, I want it for recording ranges overnight or when I'm away from home...oh and I think it'd be really handy for hearing the Irish church pirates on the CB band.

To the OP, you might want to look at the Afedri SDR, approximately the same performance as the SDR-IQ but half the price.  Not to mention if you opt to communicate via Enet instead of USB it has a wider bandwidth.  With that said, I have couple of SDR-IQs here, and they are very solid performers, and well supported in software.  The Afedri SDR might be as good, but is probably not as plug-and-play as the SDR-IQ.

AY, yes, pretty much every "SDR" on the market can record a chunk of bandwidth.  The width of that chunk varies with the exact model.  Even though the WinRadio G3XX series (not to be confused with the G3XDDC series) is advertised as an SDR and meets the technical description as such I do not consider them "SDRs" as the hobby community has come to know, primarily because of their limited record bandwidth (less than 25 kHz).

Some currently marketed SDRs and widths (not complete list by any stretch of the imagination), the value listed is the maximum spectrum recordable bandwidth, pretty much all of them will record narrower if you want to save hard drive space.  This list is only SDRs with HF coverage, and does not include VHF only and up SDRs, but does include things that do HF and VHF and up. The rough order is low to high price:

SoftRock Ensemble II     Up to 192 kHz, depends on your sound card specs
Various other soundcard SDRs     Up to 192 kHz, depending on soundcard
Afedri SDR     230 kHz (USB connection), 1.2 MHz (network connection)
SDR-IQ     190 kHz
WinRadio G31DDC Excalibur     2 MHz
QS1R     2 MHz
Perseus     1.6 MHz
Net-SDR     2 MHz
WinRdaio G33DDC Excalibur Pro     4 MHz
SDR-IP     2 MHz
AOR AR2300 (with IQ option)     1 MHz
WinRadio G39DDC Excelsior     2 MHz (x2)
AOR AR5001D (with IQ option)     1 MHz
AOR AR Alpha     1 MHz

As a note, sound card SDRs are a very low cost option, the bang for buck is just hard to beat.  However they are not as good a performer as the DDC (pretty much everything not soundcard) SDRs are.


T!
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 0230 UTC by Token »
T!
Mojave Desert, California USA

Offline Andrew Yoder

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2013, 1349 UTC »
Chris & Token: Thanks for the comments! That helps a lot. I was looking at reviews last night & saw a lot of positives on the SDR-IQ, but also saw a number of people who said that it was much noisier than the typical receiver. Do many of these receivers stack up well against the older contingent of top-end hobby-level radios (e.g., R-8, R-5000, ICR-71, NRD-525)?
Thanks again!
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Offline Token

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2013, 1850 UTC »
Chris & Token: Thanks for the comments! That helps a lot. I was looking at reviews last night & saw a lot of positives on the SDR-IQ, but also saw a number of people who said that it was much noisier than the typical receiver. Do many of these receivers stack up well against the older contingent of top-end hobby-level radios (e.g., R-8, R-5000, ICR-71, NRD-525)?
Thanks again!

The Perseus and especially the Excalibur will compete favorably with any of the older top end hobby level radios, indeed any hobby level radio from any time period.  Since getting my Excalibur I only turn on the R71, R75, or the NRD-525 when I need another freq watched, in fact the R71 and -525 are not even on my primary listening bench anymore, being back in the radio room instead (my primary listening area is in the living room).  I have used the Net-SDR also and find it very good, but have no idea how it technically compares, I did not use it on my own bench next to my other equipment.

In my opinion I think the Excalibur is better than the Perseus, and yes I do have both of them.  They are side-by side here but I use the Excalibur daily, and I just leave the Perseus on my remote node for other people to use.  I use the SDR-IQ's for watching spot freqs and doing scheduled recordings,a nd one of them stays online 24/7 for other people to use as a remote.  The Excalibur Pro (G33DDC) is even better than the Excalibur (G31DDC), but is almost twice the price.  Again my opinion, but unless you need remote control operation the Excalibur or the Excalibur Pro is the best hobby RX, SDR or traditional, on the market today.  If you need or want remote operation then the Perseus or the Net-SDR / SDR-IP might be the best choice, possibly not quite as good as the Excalibur (that could be argued in either direction), but the Excal cannot be remoted.  The Excalibur Pro can be remoted, but that is a $200 option.

If you want to see how the numbers stack up (for RX performance) a good resource is the Sherwood Engineering table of measurements:
http://www.sherweng.com/table.html

Note that not everything is on there, and the table is sorted on 3rd order narrow spaced dynamic range, a good indicator but not the only thing that makes a receiver good.  The list is long and well done, but naturally not complete, every radio just cannot be on it.  Note that the Excalibur is not on the list, and neither are any of the RFSpace pieces of hardware, they have not been tested.  But, the Perseus is on the list, and you can see that it compares well.  And, as I said, the Excalibur is even better, in my opinion as well as in several measurable specifications.

As for the SDR-IQ and noise, it is a low cost option so it is not a top performer.  It still performs well but one of the areas it is a little lacking is a higher noise floor than the more expensive units.  This is not bad at all, just not as “good”.  If you are talking about noise in the audio that is going to depend a bit on your computers sound setup.  I have seen people complain about the audio not sounding good, maybe being sharp and harsh, but then hearing another SDR-IQ and saying that one sounds good.  The speakers and sound card in your computer will shape the sound, so not every installation will sound the same.  A good set of speakers / headphones will make it sound better, and a low end sound card can kill it.

I would have to say that in general I find the SDRs to NOT have as good sound as a good traditional RX.  If sound quality is your driving criteria you might not be as happy with an SDR.

If noise floor is the driver for you then the SDR-IQ is not going to be great, while the better SDR units will be good.  The Excalibur has a noise floor of about –131 dBm, the Excalibur Pro about –135 dBm (both from my own measurements, but in line with WinRadios published performance figures).  The Perseus is a bit worse than this, at about –125 to –127 dBm.  The R5000 has a noise floor of about –131 dBm (Sherwood list), the R-71A has a noise floor of about –135 dBm (Sherwood list), the Drake R8 is about –131 dBm (Sherwood list), and the NRD-525 is about –132 dBm (Sherwood list).  All of these radios will show a noise floor that is below the average ambient noise at almost any listening location.

The Excalibur (G31DDC) sensitivity is also in line with most of those radios, and the Excalibur Pro (G33DDC) is more sensitive than the G31DDC, equaling or beating the best of the traditional radios above.  The Perseus will have the worst sensitivity of the bunch listed, but not bad.  The SDR-IQ will be worse than the Perseus in pretty much every category, but it is also about half the price.

In performance the upper end SDRs are great, better than any hobby grade RX on the market today and probably as good as hobby grade RX’s have ever been, but SDR operation is not for everyone.  Some people do not want to be tied to a computer or an operating system that might not be usable in 15 years.  Speaking of computers, they can be noise sources.  Some users do have to track down and eliminate noise sources, including sometimes hard to isolate computer noise.  I am fortunate, this has not been a real issue for me, I have had to do very little, almost nothing, to deal with it, but I have seen people frustrated by it.

T!
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 1853 UTC by Token »
T!
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Offline Sealord

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2013, 1940 UTC »
Man, what a great thread!

I'll eventually have to go the SDR route when my TT gives up the ghost, but this is good info for when that day comes.
Indoors: WR-G33DDC & TT RX-340_DX Eng. 4-Square Array / Outdoors: Belka-DX_Whip / Poolside: SMC HF-150_MMD-40 (D.O.G.) / Off Air/Studio Recordings

Offline BDM

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Re: What's a decent mid priced SDR for LW/MW/HF?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2013, 2127 UTC »
I agree with Token. Sometimes I think he leaves the Perseus up for me since I log into his sever daily and for long periods (thanks T)...lol... Anyhow I do not own the Excalibur, but own the Perseus which I find to be an excellent receiver. I find Token is an excellent source of SDR info given what he owns and experience. As far as received audio I guess that more or less depends and after tailoring my sound system audio from the Perseus is excellent! Lets just say I have absolutely no regrets going the way of an SDR and especially the higher end versions. I could never look back unless forced. My HAM and alternate knobed receiver gear sit unused except when I feel like creating some of my own RF. Took me some time to understand and try an SDR but in the end Kilokat convinced me with his experiences and videos. Getting over a high end knob radio was tough I admit. But hell now I'm thinking "what was I waiting for" :)

Using equipment in the field is another story, but for arm-chair listening it's SDR or bust...............
« Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 2130 UTC by BDM »
Radios -- Perseus SDR // SDRPlay RSPdx // Icom IC-7300 // Tecsun PL-660 // Panasonic RF-5000A --Antennas-- Pixel Pro 1B loop - 82' fan-dipole at 40' - tuned MW/BCB 40" loop and 100' receive only dipole
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