Review: Airspy vs. SDRplay RSP vs. HackRF

When people consider upgrading from the RTL-SDR, there are three mid priced software defined radios that come to most peoples minds: The Airspy, the SDRplay RSP and the HackRF.  These three are all in the price range of $150 to $300 USD. In this post we will review the three units and compare them against each other on various tests.

 

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Receiving Meteor-M N2 LRPT Weather Satellite Images

The Meteor-M N2 is a polar orbiting Russian weather satellite. With an RTL-SDR an appropriate antenna, you can receive and decode its image downlink and download LRPT weather satellite images.

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RTL-SDR for Budget Radio Astronomy

With the right additional hardware, the RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used as a super cheap radio telescope for radio astronomy experiments such as observing the Hydrogen Line and meteor detection.

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Decoding Inmarsat STD-C EGC Messages

With an RTL-SDR dongle, a cheap $10 modified GPS antenna or 1-2 LNA’s and a patch, dish or helix antenna you can listen to Inmarsat satellite signals, and decode the STD-C NCS channel which contains information such as search and rescue (SAR) and coast guard messages as well as news, weather and incident reports.

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Decoding Meteor-M2 Weather Satellite Images in Real-Time

It is now possible to decode the Meteor M2 weather satellite images in real time on Windows using an RTL-SDR and a plugin for SDR#.

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List of SDRSharp Plugins

There are a number of SDRSharp plugins that extend its functionality. Here is a collection of all the plugins and download links that we know of.

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JAERO: A RTL-SDR compatible decoder for Inmarsat AERO signals

AERO is a system that provides a L-Band satellite based version of VHF ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System). ACARS is typically used by ground control and pilots to send short messages and is also sometimes used for telemetry. With JAERO and an RTL-SDR these signals can be decoded.

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POCSAG Pager Decoding

Decode POCSAG pager messages with an RTL-SDR. Even in the modern day pagers are still popular with doctors, some fire and ambulance agencies and various service companies, as they tend to be more reliable and have greater coverage.

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Decoding DRM Radio

Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) radio is a type of digital shortwave radio signal that is used by international shortwave radio broadcasters. It provides superior audio quality compared to AM signals by using digital audio encoding. With an upconverter, good antenna, and decoding software the RTL-SDR software defined radio can receive and decode DRM signals.

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Receiving ACARS Airplane Data

ACARS is an acronym for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System and is a digital communications system that aircraft use to send and receive short messages to and from ground stations. With an RTL-SDR these messages can be decoded.

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Analogue TV with RTL-SDR

A user on the SDR# Google Groups forum has posted a program based on ADSB# called TVSharp, which can be used to watch analogue PAL and NTSC TV using the rtl-sdr dongle. Download TVSharp directly here (Mirror 1) (Old Version Mirror 2 (with source)).

The rtl-sdr as a software defined radio actually does not have enough bandwidth to receive a PAL or NTSC signal properly. PAL and NTSC signals require more than double the 2MHz typical bandwidth of the rtl-sdr. But, a decent black and white signal can still be obtained by using some of the luminance part of the signal.  As only part of the signal is sampled, resolution will be lost. Also, as sound is broadcast on a separate frequency, a second rtl-sdr dongle will be required to receive the matching audio.

On YouTube, users Superphish and ek6rc have posted videos showing TVSharp in action.

13 comments

  1. m0odv

    TVsharp-Same here error.
    “unable to load DLL rtlsdr the specified module could not be found>exception from HRESULT: 0x8007007e.
    Any suggestions?

  2. Pingback: Hacks all the way down | Dolske's blog

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