RTL-SDR Direct Sampling Mode

The RTL-SDR software defined radio can be told to run in a mode called “direct sampling mode”, which with a small hardware mod allows the dongle to tune to the HF frequencies where ham radio and many other interesting signals are found. This means that no upconverter circuit is required.

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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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The BIG List of RTL-SDR Supported Software

There are now dozens of software defined radio packages that support the ultra cheap RTl-SDR. In this post we will attempt to list, categorize and provide a brief overview of each software program.

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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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Cheap AIS Ship Tracking

Large ships and passenger boats are required to broadcast an identification signal containing position, course, speed, destination, and vessel dimension information to help prevent sea collisions. This system is known as the “Automatic Identification System” or AIS for short. AIS can be decoded with an RTL-SDR dongle and right software.

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Receiving NOAA Weather Satellite Images

Everyday multiple NOAA weather satellites pass above you. Each NOAA weather satellite broadcasts an Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) signal, which contains a live weather image of your area. The RTL-SDR dongle combined with a good antenna, SDRSharp and a decoding program can be used to download and display these live images several times a day.

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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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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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Decoding Digital Voice (P25, DMR, NXDN, D-STAR) with DSD+

Learn how to decode digital voice communications like APCO P25, DMR MotoTRBO, NXDN and D-STAR with DSD+ and an RTL-SDR dongle.

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Analyzing GSM with Airprobe/GR-GSM and Wireshark

The RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used to analyze cellular phone GSM signals, using Linux based tools GR-GSM (or Airprobe) and Wireshark.

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Chinese and Russian Custom RTL-SDR Kits

There are now some custom RTL-SDR kits available from Chinese and Russian manufacturers. These kits are essentially the standard RTL-SDR laid out on a custom PCB with extra upconverter (or direct sampling) circuitry on board.

This is a 100 KHz to 1 GHz RTL-SDR kit (~$23 USD), and this is another 100 KHz to 1 GHz pre made custom RTL-SDR in a nice box (~$40 USD) (alternative Chinese seller). The Chinese sellers page shows some examples of the performance on Youku (Chinese YouTube)

Custom RTL-SDR with 100 KHz to 1 GHz range in box
Custom RTL-SDR with 100 KHz to 1 GHz range in box
Custom RTL-SDR Kit with 100 KHz to 1 GHz range
Custom RTL-SDR Kit with 100 KHz to 1 GHz range


  1. Cordes

    Nevermind, Gerhard, I was writing of something else. A blond moment, senior moment, brain fart. My apologies.

  2. Cordes

    I had the same problems with an upconverter, Gerhard. There are good videos by hamradioscience and superphish on YouTube that show installation and use of the particular one I bought with SDR# and HDSDR, but the videos are useful for other brands of upconverter as well. Is the oscillator correctly installed? Are your connections/pigtails good? Are your software settings correct? If all of your connections are good and you have the right settings in your software (you should also try playing with the Tuner AGC and gain levels) and you are still getting nothing then you probably have a dead upconverter just as I and a few other folks that have contacted me did. I have had to send it back for a replacement that I’m still waiting for. Hopefully you won’t have to go that far!

  3. Gerhard

    I have recently purchased such a kit with downconverter, but I feel helpless to play the lower AM frequencies on LW, MW, SW up to 30 Mhz. I think I am doing something wrong.
    Using SDR- Radio, HDSDR and SDR#
    Any ideas


  4. DXerOn

    I think that it must be cleared that Chinese Sellers are selling at least 2 different Receivers: One Built and eady to receive and other one that you have to built to hear Radio (This one is Cheaper than the Built SDR)

  5. Beaker

    I for one have to admit I spent far too long browsing all the off-brand ‘ham’ gear. Sketchy but tempting. Oh China, when will you ever run out of neat cheap gadgets for me to buy?

  6. SDRForMariners

    Russian version requires registration to order.
    Skype me button does not work, as in no one picks up the phone.
    Get on Ebay boys ’cause I’m sure will not share my PayPal or credit card details with an unheard-of online auction website.
    RTL stick costs 10 usd, ham it up is 50, so for 20 extra dollars you got a proven and working solution.
    Khmm, I still want one for testing :-)

  7. Pingback: RTL-SDR : 100 KHz à 1 GHz pour moins de 30 euros ! | Radioamateurs-France

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