Category: Airspy

SDR-Console V3 Latest Update: Signal History & Receiver Panes

SDR-Console is a popular RTL-SDR compatible multi purpose SDR software package which is similar to programs like SDR#, HDSDR and SDRuno. Currently SDR-Console V2 is the stable version and SDR-Console V3 is in a beta state. A few days ago SDR-Console V3 Preview 6 was released. It comes with some very interesting new features including a built in Airspy server, a recording scheduler, a new feature called signal history and a new receivers pane.

Over on his blog Nils Schiffhauer (DK8OK) has been reviewing the new release of SDR-Conosle V3 and writes the following information about some of the new features:

  • “Signal History” takes the signal strength of the given bandwidth each 50 milliseconds, which can be saved in a CSV file. It is also shown in three different speeds on a display.
  • “Receivers’ Pane” shows up to six combos of spectrum/spectrogram of the complete up to 24 parallel demodulators (they additionally can be shown in the Matrix, as in former versions).

“Signal History” offers many applications, to name just three:

  • analyze fading and its structure with an unsurpassed time resolution of 50 ms
  • document fade-in and fade out
  • measure signal-to-noise ratio of signals

In addition Nils has also uploaded a very useful 19 page PDF where he writes step by step instructions and shows numerous examples of the new signal history tool.

DK8OK's SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK’s SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK's screenshot of the signal history toolbox.
DK8OK’s screenshot of the signal history toolbox.

First Renderings of the Airspy HF+ Revealed

Back in February of this year we first heard about the Airspy HF+, which is an upcoming product from the Airspy team that is intended to be a high performance HF receiver at a low price. Over on the Airspy HF+ website the first (rendered) image of the unit has recently been released. We’ve also managed to get some additional renderings from the Airspy team which we show in the image slider below.

The enclosure is CNC carved aluminum with two SMA ports on one side, and a USB port on the rear. Since the HF+ actually has the capability to tune up to 260 MHz it uses two SMA inputs, one for an HF antenna and one for a VHF antenna. Inside the RF circuit is shielded again with a shielding can to protect it from USB noise.

The tweet below also appears to show some grounding improvements made to reduce USB noise.

Other recent tweets from prog (the creator of the Airspy HF+) indicate that the hardware is ready, and show that streaming from with SpyServer from a RPi3 is functional. Hopefully we should be seeing this unit release for sale soon.

SDR-Console V3 Latest Update: Signal History & Receiver Panes

SDR-Console is a popular RTL-SDR compatible multi purpose SDR software package which is similar to programs like SDR#, HDSDR and SDRuno. Currently SDR-Console V2 is the stable version and SDR-Console V3 is in a beta state. A few days ago SDR-Console V3 Preview 6 was released. It comes with some very interesting new features including a built in Airspy server, a recording scheduler, a new feature called signal history and a new receivers pane.

Over on his blog Nils Schiffhauer (DK8OK) has been reviewing the new release of SDR-Conosle V3 and writes the following information about some of the new features:

  • “Signal History” takes the signal strength of the given bandwidth each 50 milliseconds, which can be saved in a CSV file. It is also shown in three different speeds on a display.
  • “Receivers’ Pane” shows up to six combos of spectrum/spectrogram of the complete up to 24 parallel demodulators (they additionally can be shown in the Matrix, as in former versions).

“Signal History” offers many applications, to name just three:

  • analyze fading and its structure with an unsurpassed time resolution of 50 ms
  • document fade-in and fade out
  • measure signal-to-noise ratio of signals

In addition Nils has also uploaded a very useful 19 page PDF where he writes step by step instructions and shows numerous examples of the new signal history tool.

DK8OK's SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK’s SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK's screenshot of the signal history toolbox.
DK8OK’s screenshot of the signal history toolbox.

First Renderings of the Airspy HF+ Revealed

Back in February of this year we first heard about the Airspy HF+, which is an upcoming product from the Airspy team that is intended to be a high performance HF receiver at a low price. Over on the Airspy HF+ website the first (rendered) image of the unit has recently been released. We’ve also managed to get some additional renderings from the Airspy team which we show in the image slider below.

The enclosure is CNC carved aluminum with two SMA ports on one side, and a USB port on the rear. Since the HF+ actually has the capability to tune up to 260 MHz it uses two SMA inputs, one for an HF antenna and one for a VHF antenna. Inside the RF circuit is shielded again with a shielding can to protect it from USB noise.

The tweet below also appears to show some grounding improvements made to reduce USB noise.

Other recent tweets from prog (the creator of the Airspy HF+) indicate that the hardware is ready, and show that streaming from with SpyServer from a RPi3 is functional. Hopefully we should be seeing this unit release for sale soon.

A Review of the SpyVerter R2

The SpyVerter is a high performance upconverter that enables HF reception on SDR’s that aren’t able to tune directly to HF frequencies. Like any upconverter it works by converting those lower HF frequencies ‘up’ into a higher frequency range that is actually receivable by the SDR.

Back in December 2015 when the SpyVerter first came out we reviewed the unit and found that it was probably the best and highest value upconverter on the market. It was priced at a similar or cheaper price to competitors, came in a metal enclosure and had excellent performance. The main reason for its high performance is due to the architecture. While most upconverters on the market like the ham-it-up use an ADE-1 double balanced mixer component, the SpyVerter instead uses an H-mode mixer design. This design is harder to engineer, but it provides better dynamic range meaning that strong signals are less likely to overload the upconverter.

The SpyVerter was recently given a refresh, and the SpyVerter R2 is now available. The changes are small and are mostly centered around the clock. The oscillator is now a 24 MHz 0.5 PPM TCXO, run through a SI5351 clock generator to produce the 120 MHz upconversion frequency. A new onboard microcontroller programs the SI5351 on power up.

This change in clock design also now allows you to connect a 10 MHz reference frequency if ultra stable, or phase coherent frequency operation is required. A u.FL connector is provided next to the output SMA connector on the PCB for connecting a 10 MHz reference. Unfortunately there is no breakout hole in the metal enclosure, meaning that you’ll need to drill your own hole in the enclosure to get the u.FL clock cable out. Few people will need this feature however, as thanks to the 0.5 PPM TCXO stock frequency stability is now excellent.

The new design also uses less power, only drawing 10 mA of current compared to 47 mA in the SpyVerter R1. It also has 12 dB lower local oscillator leakage meaning that the gains might be able to be pushed slightly higher without overload. Once again, just like with the SpyVerter R1 the R2 is also powered via the bias tee on the Airspy, and so is compatible with the bias tee on our RTL-SDR V3 dongles.

There’s also an interesting mod that can be performed with the SpyVerter R2. The LO frequency can be modded to run at 58 MHz instead of 120 MHz. 58 MHz is just low enough to avoid the broadcast FM band, and the lower frequency allows the switches used in the H-mode design to run at a lower frequency. This results in an insertion loss better by about 3 dB’s and less LO leakage meaning that the RF gains can be pushed higher. The main disadvantage to this mod is that the lowest input frequency will only be 28 MHz.  The mod details don’t seem to be published yet, but we’ll update this post once they are.

The cost of the SpyVerter R2 remains the same as before at $49 USD. Compared to the Ham-It-Up v1.3 which costs $41.95 USD and does not come with an enclosure or TCXO, the SpyVerter still seems to be the best value. Currently you can buy one internationally from iTead who ship from China, at Airspy.us for US customers, and there are several European distributors linked on the Airspy website.

Disclaimer: The SpyVerter R2 was sent by the Airspy team to us for free in exchange for an honest review.

SpyServer 2.0 Released: More Efficient Streaming for Airspy and RTL-SDR

Back in March the team behind the Airspy SDR and SDRSharp software released the SpyServer, a piece of software that allows you to stream radio data from a remote Airspy receiver over a network. Then later in April they added full support for the RTL-SDR dongle as well.

This Easter the Airspy team have released SpyServer 2.0, which improves the streaming efficiency significantly (changelog). Now the full 8 MHz bandwidth of the Airspy should be easily streamable over an internet connection. With SpyServer 1.0 it was difficult to make use of the full bandwidth of the Airspy because the network data usage was very high, since it was streaming the full raw IQ data for the sampling rate/bandwidth selected. In SpyServer 2.0 the server does not stream the full raw data, and instead only streams the wideband FFT data (for displaying the waterfall and FFT graph), and the raw data from the currently selected IF bandwidth. Of course the full IQ data can still be streamed if desired by selecting the ‘Use full IQ’ checkbox.

This new efficiency means that WFM uses only about 1.3 MB/s, and narrow band modes like NFM/AM/SSB only use about 120 kB/s of network data which is easily achievable over a local network and internet. This data usage is almost independent of the sampling rate/bandwidth selected so you can stream the full 8 MHz offered by the Airspy without trouble. Normally streaming the full raw data for 8 MHz would use about 40 MB/s, which is difficult to achieve over a local network, and impossible over the internet.

We tested the new SpyServer over our local network and were able to stream the full 8 MHz of the Airspy with no problems. With the RTL-SDR we were also able to stream 2.4 MHz without issue. WFM and NFM modes worked clearly and no skips or significant lag was noticed over a local WiFi N connection. Hopefully in the future SpyServer will be developed further to enable compressed audio streaming as well for even lower network data usage.

SpyServer WFM Reception. About 1.3 MB/s network usage.
SpyServer WFM Reception. About 1.3 MB/s network usage.
SpyServer NFM Reception. About 120 kB/s network usage.
SpyServer NFM Reception. About 120 kB/s network usage.

Some Operational Notes:

  • To run SpyServer on Windows simply double click on spyserver.exe. On Linux extract “spyserver_linux_x86” and the config file, and then run “sudo chmod +x spyserver_linux_x86”. Then run it with “./spyserver_linux_x86”.
  • Connect to it on the remote PC in SDR# using the servers IP address which can be found by typing “ipconfig /all” in Windows command prompt, or “ifconfig” on Linux.
  • To select between using the Airspy and RTL-SDR for the SpyServer you will need to edit the spyserver.config file with a text editor and edit the “device_type” string.
  • SpyServer runs on Windows/Linux as well as small embedded computers such as Raspberry Pi’s and Odroids. Download the Raspberry Pi and Odroid servers separately from SDR# at http://airspy.com/download.
  • SpyServer is NOT compatible with software that expects an rtl_tcp server such as SDRTouch.

We have also seen Lucas Teske of the OpenSatellite project use the SpyServer for streaming a GOES16 downlink over a network connection with an Odroid C2. He writes that soon the OpenSatellite project software will directly support SpyServer.

DK8OK Review of the Airspy and SpyVerter

Recently DK8OK wrote in to us and wanted to share his latest review of the Airspy and SpyVerter combo (pdf). His review focuses on HF usage and he shows various examples of HF signals that he has received with the Airspy+SV such as the CHU time station, STANAG, DRM, ALE, HFFAX, VOLMET and HFDL. He also shows some tricks for optimizing HF reception, a tutorial on performing multi-channel audio recording and decoding in SDR-Console, a tutorial on playing and analyzing recorded files as well as some examples of weak signal reception.

Overall DK8OK praises the Airspy+SV combo citing it’s excellent dynamic range as one of the reasons it performs so well.

We should note that for prospective buyers, the Airspy team is currently working on a new complimentary solution for HF monitoring called the Airspy HF+. This will have extremely high dynamic range (even higher than the Airspy+SV combo), but it will have a smaller bandwidth. So the Airspy+SV combo will still be the best for monitoring a wide 9 MHz chunk of the HF band, whilst the HF+ will be the best for getting into those very hard to receive signals.

Update: The paper is now also available in French.

Multi-channel decoding in SDR-Console with the Airspy+SypVerter
Multi-channel decoding in SDR-Console with the Airspy+SpyVerter

SDRSharp SpyServer Now Supports the RTL-SDR

About a month ago the Airspy and SDRSharp development team released their new ‘SpyServer’ software. SpyServer is a streaming server for Airspy devices, which allows them to be used over a network connection. It is somewhat similar to rtl_tcp which is familiar to RTL-SDR users, although unlike rtl_tcp, SpyServer uses a multiclient architecture which allows several clients to connect to the server at the same time with each being able to choose individual bandwidth settings.

Today SpyServer was updated (changelog), and it now also supports the RTL-SDR dongle. The software can be found in the latest version of SDR# from www.airspy.com. The Airspy download contains the SpyServer for Windows and Linux, and the Raspberry Pi and Odroid server is available here.

To use SpyServer with the RTL-SDR you’ll first need to edit the “spyserver.config” file which is in the SDR# folder. Open this file with a text editor like Notepad, and set the “device_type” to “RTL-SDR”. Now you can run spyserver.exe on your server and it will use your RTL-SDR. Multiple dongles can be used by editing the “device_serial” string in the config file. Next on the client PC run the latest version of SDR#, and choose the Source as “Spy Server”. Here you can enter your networked PC’s IP address to connect to it.

We tested the updated SpyServer with an RTL-SDR dongle and it worked perfectly. On an 802.11n WiFi connection we were able to stream up to 1 MSPS without problems. 2 MSPS was a bit jittery, but on an Ethernet or 802.11ac WiFi connection it should work with no problems. We also tested connecting two PC’s to a single SpyServer and both were able to run at the same time without trouble. The client which connects first gets to keep control of the center frequency and gain, whilst the second client has those options locked.

SpySever Running with an RTL-SDR Dongle.
SpySever Running with an RTL-SDR Dongle.

Airspy HF+ Official Specifications Released

Last month we saw news of the Airspy HF+, which is a yet to be released software defined radio with a focus on high performance reception in the HF bands. Some preliminary specs were unofficially released back then on the Airspy Yahoo forums.

Now over on the Airspy website, the official specifications have been released and they are pasted below. The specs suggest that the Airspy HF+ will have extremely high performance when it comes to strong signal handling. This means that there should be little to no chance of overloading, and thus no intermodulation or spurs.

The goal pricing is to be below $200 USD. If this is true, then it will compete heavily with the $249.95 USD ColibriNANO which is another new HF specialty radio with similar specs.

The Airspy team write:

Airspy HF+ is a paradigm shift in high performance HF radio design. It is a joint effort between Airspy, Itead Studio and some famous chip maker to build a state of the art SDR for HF and VHF bands.

Like most high-end HF receivers, the HF+ uses very high dynamic range ADC’s and front-ends. But unlike the current offerings in the market, it also brings more frequency agility by using high performance passive mixers with an excellent overtone rejection structure.
Both the architecture and level of integration achieved in this design allow us to bring top performance reception at a very affordable price.

HF Tuner

Airspy HF+ achieves excellent HF performance by mean of a low-loss band filter, a high linearity LNA, a high linearity tunable RF filter, an over-tone-rejection (OTR) mixer that rejects up to the 21st harmonic and an IF filter.
The 6 dB-stepped AGC gain is fully controlled by the software running onto the DSP which optimizes the gain distribution in real time for optimal sensitivity and linearity. OTR is a key issue in wide band HF receivers because of the large input signal bandwidth. The output of the IF-filter is then digitalized by the IF ADC for further signal processing.

VHF Tuners

Excellent VHF performance is also achieved by using optimized signal paths composed by band filters, high linearity LNAs with a stepped AGC and an over-tone-rejection mixer and IF filters optimized for their respective bands.
The amplifier gain is switchable in 3 dB-steps and is fully controlled by the AGC processing running onto the DSP. The RF signal is converted to baseband by a high linearity passive mixer with overtone-rejection structure. The low-IF signal is then converted into the digital domain by the IF ADC for further digital signal processing.

IF Digitalization

The IF digital to analog converter has a 4th order multi-bit topology; it features very high dynamic range and linearity. The IF-ADC sampling frequency is determined by a control algorithm running on the DSP. This advanced technique changes the sampling frequency depending on the tuning frequency with the goal of avoiding the disturbances generated by the switching discrete-time sections of the IF-ADC.

Digital Down Converter

Once the IF signal is digitalized, the high sample rate I/Q stream is then frequency translated and processed with cascaded CIC and FIR decimation stages. After every stage, the sample rate is reduced and more the resolution is increased. The final signal at the output has 18bit resolution and the alias rejection performance is 108 dBc. The data is then scaled to 16bit and sent to the Micro-Controller for streaming over USB.

Use it over the network!

Connect as many SDR applications as needed to the HF+, over the Internet or in your own local network with near zero latency thanks to the new SPY Server software.
This setup basically brings all the flexibility of Web based SDRs while still benefiting from the full power of desktop applications. The IQ data is processed in the server with state of the art DSP and only the required chunk of spectrum is sent over the network. What is sent is the actual IQ signal, not compressed audio. This means you can use all your favorite plugins to process the IF, eliminate noise and perform heavy lifting of the signals as you are used to do with locally connected SDR’s.
We have a tradition of building multi-tools, so we made sure the SPY Server runs on 32/64bit Windows and Linux on Intel and ARM processors without any compromises. Low cost Raspberry Pi 3 and Odroid boards are in the party.

Technical specifications

  • HF coverage between DC .. 31 MHz
  • VHF coverage between 60 .. 260 MHz
  • -138 dBm MDS at 500Hz bandwidth in HF
  • -142 dBm MDS at 500Hz bandwidth in VHF
  • +26 dBm IIP3 on HF at maximum gain
  • +13 dBm IIP3 on VHF at maximum gain
  • 110 dB dynamic range in HF
  • 95 dB dynamic range in VHF
  • 120 dB Image Rejection
  • Very low phase noise PLL (-110 dBc/Hz @ 1kHz separation @ 100 MHz)
  • +10 dBm Maximum RF input
  • No Silicon RF switch to introduce IMD in the HF path
  • Routable RF inputs
  • Wide Band RF filter bank
  • Tracking RF filters
  • Sharp IF filters
  • Smart AGC with real time optimization of the gain distribution
  • All RF inputs are matched to 50 ohms
  • 2 x High Dynamic Range Sigma Delta ADCs @ up to 36 MSPS
  • 600 kHz alias and image free output
  • 18 bit Digital Down Converter (DDC)
  • 0.5 ppm high precision, low phase noise clock
  • 4 x Programmable GPIO’s
  • No drivers required! 100% Plug-and-play on Windows Vista, Seven, 8, 8.1 and 10
  • Industrial Operating Temperature: -45°C to 85°C

Typical Applications

  • High Performance Networked HF Radio
  • Ham Radio (HF + 2m)
  • Short Wave Listening (SWL)
  • AM DX
  • FM DX
  • VHF-L TV DX
  • Remote Telemetry Radio Receiver
  • Low Bands IoT

Supported platforms

  • Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 (For Windows XP, please contact us)
  • Linux
  • *BSD
  • OSX

Minimum hardware requirements

  • 1GHz Pentium or ARM
  • 1GB of RAM (to run your own OS, HF+ barely needs 1MB of memory)
  • High speed USB 2.0 controller
The Airspy HF+ Architecture
The Airspy HF+ Architecture

ColibriNANO: A New 10 kHz to 500 MHz Direct Sampling Receiver

The ColibriNANO is a new software defined radio that is currently available for pre-order and is expected to be ready for delivery by the end of April 2017. The specs show that it is a direct sampling receiver (no tuner), which can receive from 10 kHz to 500 MHz in oversampling mode, and from 10 kHz to 55 MHz in standard mode. It uses a 14 Bit ADC which provides up to 110 dB’s of blocking dynamic range, and can run with a sampling rate of up to 3 MHz. The press release given to us reads:

New ColibriNANO SDR USB Receiver with a 14-bit ADC .01-500MHz

Kirkland, WA, USA —March 27 th , 2017 –

Vasily Vasiliev, Chief Hardware Engineer of Expert Electronics is pleased to announce availability of new ColibriNANO 0.01-500 MHz receiver in late April, 2017.

Notable features include the blocking dynamic range (BDR) ~110dB, native .01-55 MHz coverage with up to 500 MHz in oversampling mode, low pass filter (LPF) <60 MHz, full compatibility with HDSDR, legacy SDR#, and ExpertSDR2 software.

Supported platforms are Windows® XP-10, Linux and Web-client for HTML5 browsers.

No existing USB SDR receivers combine high sensitivity and broad dynamic range. Remote operation (TCP/IP) interface is built-in and offers plug-and- play solutions for Amateur, Commercial and Government applications.

For further information call (800)977-0448 or email [email protected]

https://www.nsiradio.com

Currently we see that the ColibriNANO is selling for $249.95 USD on the nsiradio.com website. We’ve also seen the following description on the sunsdr.eu website:

With the new ColibriNANO you will be able to enjoy LF, MW and Shortwave listening in many different ways. For example you can record the entire medium wave band using 1.5 MHz sampling rate, decode CW using CW skimmer, remote control the ColibriNANO by plugging it into our RPI server. There are an endless range of applications for this small SDR. All this in a tiny USB stick!

The ColibriNANO features a Texas Instruments ADS4145 14 bit direct sampling ADC and a built in low 55 MHz pass filter that can be bypassed to receive signals up to 500 MHz (external filters  like the our 2m filtered preamp recommended).

CW skimmer and Skimmer With the external ExtIO library the ColibriNANO can be used with third party software like HDSDR etc.

This is not a cheap USB dongle found on Ebay, this high quality SDR receiver is developed by Expert Electronics and features a sturdy aluminium chassis, ESD protection, USB 2.0 interface and a quality SMA antenna connector.

Best of all, the ColibriNANO travels in your pocket and only needs your computer and an antenna! Its the ultimate portable SDR receiver!

Software support

  • ExpertSDR2
  • CW Skimmer
  • Skimmer Server
  • Third party software using ExtIO library

Specifications

  • Receiving bandwidth: 0.1 – 55 MHz
  • Oversampling receiving: 0.1 – 500 MHz
  • Blocking Dynamic Range (BDR): 110 dB
  • Sensitivity: 0.05 uV at 20M band, preamp = 0
  • IMD3 Dynamic Range: 95 dB
  • ADC resolution: 14-bit @ 122.88 MHz
  • Sample rate: 48, 96, 192, 384, 768 kHz and 1.5, 3.0 MHz
  • IQ resolution: 24 bit (16 bit at 1.5 and 3 MHz sample rates)
  • RF Input: (SMA connector, up to 15kV ESD protection)
  • Preamp range: from 31.5 up to +6 dB with 0.5 dB steps
  • Operating temperature: -10°C to 60°C
  • Dimensions: 90х25х17mm
  • Weight: 0.043kg

It looks like that this receiver may compete somewhat with the also upcoming Airspy HF+. The Airspy HF+ claims similar specs including a frequency range of 0 – 270 MHz, 14 Bit ADC and 108 dB blocking dynamic range. But the target price for the HF+ is below $200 USD.