Category: News

New Products from Nooelec: Cheaper E4000 Dongles and a 9:1 Balun

The online store Nooelec has recently started selling two new RTL-SDR related products.

The first product is a lower cost RTL-SDR dongle with the E4000 tuner (ebay). The E4000 tuner was one of the original tuner chips used in RTL-SDR dongles when they were first discovered. Unfortunately Elonics, the company that owned the rights to the chip went under and the production of E4000 chips stopped, making them rare and expensive. The E4000 tuner has a tuning range of approximately 55 MHz – 2300 MHz, compared to the R820T tuner which has a range of around 24 – 1766 MHz. The cheaper R820T is better in most cases, but if you need the higher frequencies the E4000 may be an option. The new E4000 dongle is currently selling for around $50 USD, compared to the other E4000 models which went for around $100 USD.

E4000 Dongle from Nooelec
E4000 Dongle from Nooelec

They have also begun selling a low cost 9:1 balun for about $10 USD (ebay) which can be used with a long wire (or random wire) antenna when receiving HF on the RTL-SDR with an upconverter. The impedance of a long wire antenna is approximately 450 Ohms (very approximate, impedance varies with frequency and length). A 9:1 balun allows a match with a 50 Ohm receiver, which is close enough to the 75 Ohm input of the RTL-SDR.

Nooelec 9:1 Balun
Nooelec 9:1 Balun RTL-SDR Giveaway

The guys at the blog have teamed up with Nooelec to bring everyone a worldwide competition giveaway of 20 RTL-SDR prizes. The top prizes include the rare E4000 chip tuners, ham-it-up upconverters, adapters and aluminium enclosures while the regular prizes include an R820T2 RTL-SDR set.

To enter the competition all you need to do is leave a comment on their competition post. The competition is open for one week from 11 December 2014 to 18 December 2014. The complete list of prizes are quoted below.

Three (3)
Complete NESDR XTR HF SDR packages including:
NESDR XTR SDR Set (E4000 chip)
Ham It Up upconverter
Upconverter Enclosure (silver)
Male MCX to male SMA pigtail (SDR cable)
Male SMA to female BNC adapter (antenna adapter)
Estimated $129.95 value

Five (5)
Complete NESDR Mini 2 HF packages including:
NESDR Mini 2 SDR set
Ham It Up upconverter
NESDR Mini 2 enclosure (silver)
Upconverter enclosure (silver)
Male MCX to male SMA pigtail (SDR cable)
Male SMA to female BNC adapter (antenna adapter)
$111.95 value

Twelve (12)
NESDR Mini 2 SDR sets
$25.95 value and NooElec Giveaway and NooElec Giveaway

Updates to a Month of RTL-SDR by Keenerd

Back in August of this year RTL-SDR code contributer Keenerd aka Kyle Keen ran an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to pay for him to work on upgrading RTL-SDR related code for one month. As Kyle only counts the days he manages to put a good effort in towards the upgrades, the coding is still ongoing. He recently put out an update which we quote below.

Programming Report – Week 3

Hey all, sorry about dropping off the radar there.  There were several large unexpected events in recent months, but nothing bad.  I’ve still been hacking on the project.  An anonymous donor gave me a Lyons DSP textbook, which I’ve been working through for more solid foundations.  But studying doesn’t generate any new code for you to play with, so hasn’t been counted towards the project.

I’ve also been working on a very ambitious ADS-B related side project.  It is something no one has ever done before with the RTL-SDR, but mathematically it is feasible and progress is steady.  Not anywhere near for a release (and might yet be impossible in practice), and thus also hasn’t been counted towards the project.

So what has been completed since the last report?

* Automatic audio gain.  Crucial for AM/SSB listening.

* Audio padding (constant rate audio).  If you are streaming rtl_fm, this will prevent stutters when the tuner is busy hopping.

* Heatmap fixes.  The font is downloaded automatically and image slicing is completed.  Run rtl_power 24×7 but render a heatmap of only the last hour, for example.

* Rtl_power fixes.  Including one tricky corner case that caused crashes.

Also a big thank you to Kacper Michajłow who fixed and fleshed out a couple of Windows issues that were giving me trouble.

25 days remain.  As always, if you have comments or suggestions you can reach me by email or in ##rtlsdr.

The latest feature requests and links to the GitHub repositories and Windows builds can be found at


Airspy Second Batch of Preorders Available

The Airspy software defined radio recently completed its first round of 400 pre-orders. Now the second round of pre-orders has become available over on the manufacturers web store. It is priced at $199 USD and they expect the orders to be shipped around the middle of December.

If you were unaware the Airspy is an RX only SDR developed by the author of the SDR# software. It has a tuning range of 24 MHz to 1.7 GHz, up to 10 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth and a 12-bit ADC. The full list of features is shown below.

  • Continuous 24 – 1750 MHz RX range with no gaps
  • 3.5 dB NF between 42 and 1002 MHz
  • Tracking RF filters
  • 35dBm IIP3 RF front end
  • 12bit ADC @ 20 MSPS (80dB Dynamic Range, 64dB SNR, 10.4 ENOB) – Yeah, size does matter.
  • Up to 80 MSPS for custom applications
  • Cortex M4F @ up to 204MHz with Multi Core support (dual M0)
  • 1.5 ppm high precision, low phase noise clock
  • 1 RTC clock (for packet time-stamping)
  • External clock input (10 MHz to 100 MHz via MCX connector) – Ideal for phase coherent radios
  • 10 MHz panoramic spectrum view with 9MHz alias/image free
  • IQ or Real, 16bit fixed or 32bit float output streams
  • No IQ imbalance, DC offset or 1/F noise at the center of the spectrum that plagues all the other SDRs
  • Extension ports: 16 x SGPIO
  • 1 x RF Input (SMA)
  • 1 x RF Output (Loopthrough, U-FL)
  • 2 x High Speed ADC inputs (up to 80 MSPS, U-FL)
  • 4.5v software switched Bias-Tee to power LNA’s and up/down-converters

The Airspy was recently reviewed in two videos by W9RAN, the second video showing some sensitivity measurements. There are also various other videos of the Airspy in action now on YouTube.

Airspy Software Defined Radio
Airspy Software Defined Radio

HackRF Blue: A Lower Cost HackRF

Earlier in the year the HackRF One was released by Micheal Ossmann. It is a transmit and receive capable software defined radio with a 10 MHz to 6 GHz range which currently sells for around $300 USD. Since the HackRF is open source hardware, anyone can make changes to the design and build and sell their own version.

The HackRF Blue is a HackRF clone that aims to sell at a lower cost. By sourcing lower cost parts that still work well in the HackRF circuit, the team behind the HackRF Blue were able to reduce the price of the HackRF down to $200 USD. They claim that the HackRF Blue has the same performance as the HackRF One and is fully compatible with the HackRF software. They are currently seeking funding through an IndieGoGo campaign.

Their main goal through the funding is to help provide underprivileged hackerspaces with a free HackRF.

The HackRF Blue
The HackRF Blue

Android App RFAnalyzer Now on Google Play with Support for the RTL-SDR

Previously we posted about the new RFAnalyzer Android app for the HackRF which has a RF spectrum and waterfall display. Now RFAnalyzer is available on the Google Play store with experimental support for the RTL-SDR dongle. The app also now supports AM and FM audio demodulation.

The app is fully open source and the code and APK can be downloaded for free from its Git repository. Alternatively, the app can be downloaded from the Google Play store at a small cost of $0.99 USD.

To use the app you’ll need a USB OTG cable to connect your HackRF or RTL-SDR to your Android phone. More information on the app can be found on the authors blog.

An alternative Android app to RFAnalyzer is SDR Touch.

RF Analyzer Android App for the HackRF and RTL-SDR
RF Analyzer Android App for the HackRF and RTL-SDR

Hackaday Prize Finalist: A PortableSDR

The popular Hackaday blog is having a contest where contestants submit homemade prototypes of opensource devices they have created. The prize is a trip to space and the winner will be awarded to the best example of an open, connected device. The finalists were recently announced and a device called the PortableSDR is one of them.

The PortableSDR is a portable rugged standalone software defined radio transceiver with a 0 to 30 MHz tuning range (also 144 MHz). A standalone SDR means that no computer is required to use the radio, and can work in a similar way to a standard handheld hardware radio. Its advantages come from its SDR design, which allow it to have a wide tuning range, be able to easily decode most protocols and to also work as an antenna analyzer or vector network analyzer.

Some people have been calling this radio a Baofeng UV-5R killer, which is very high praise as the Baofeng is one of the most popular low cost hardware radios out there.

Nooelec Now Selling RTL-SDR’s with the R820T2 Tuner

Nooelec have recently begun selling RTL-SDR dongles with the R820T2 tuner chip in them. The R820T2 is a small upgrade over the R820T as it has slightly better overall sensitivity (seems to be around 2-6 dB better). Another advantage to the R820T2 is that Oliver Jowett’s experimental driver for HF reception works much better with this chip. The reason is that the R820T2 has wider IF filter bandwidths which improves the mechanism that the experimental driver uses to obtain HF frequencies.

Previously, we posted about a Japanese RTL-SDR experimenter who replaced the R820T chip in a standard dongle with a R820T2 chip and also saw improved sensitivity.

The recently available for preorder Airspy software defined radio also uses the R820T2 tuner in its design.

Nooelec R820T2 RTL-SDR Dongle
Nooelec R820T2 RTL-SDR Dongle