Buying RTL-SDR RTL2832U DVB-T Tuner Dongles
There are several RTL-SDR RTL2832U dongle variants available for purchase due to different tuner chips and packages, with the R820T and E4000 variants being the best choices.
Reputable sources of dongles and related accessories are shown below.
The R820T RTL-SDR is currently the cheapest, most common, and most performing in terms of general sensitivity. The R820T has a frequency range of 24 – 1766 MHz.
A reputable place to buy a R820T RTL-SDR dongle is at the Nooelec Amazon Store. Nooelec is good as they guarantee that their R820T dongles have an ESD protection diode, which some dongles from other sellers can lack. They also provide excellent installation support should you need it including 30 days of free phone tech support. These dongles are usually around $20. Click the link below to check the price.
There is now also the Mini R820T package. These have similar price and performance to the standard sized package shown above, but are known to have slightly poorer frequency stability.
Take note of the uncommon Micro Coax (MCX) plug on these dongles. Check out the most commonly used MCX adapters further down the page.
The E4000 is more expensive as it has become rare since it has gone out of production. It has a frequency range of 52 – 2200 MHz with a gap from 1100 MHz to 1250 MHz.
The E4000 RTL-SDR dongle can still be bought from Nooelec Amazon as well. Due to it’s rareness, the cost of the E4000 is slowly rising. These dongles used to go for $20, but are now going for around $70-$100! Best to get them now before they sell out completely. These use the more common PAL (aka Belling-Lee) TV plug.
Most R820T RTL-SDRs use an MCX connection. To connect to antennas with different connectors you can use an adapter. MCX adapters are fairly cheap and most can be found on Amazon for under $10. Some common ones are listed below.
|MCX->SMA Female||MCX->SMA Male|
|MCX->BNC Female||MCX->BNC Male|
|MCX->UHF(SO239) Female||MCX->F Female|
|MCX->N Female||MCX-> N Male|
Nooelec also sell the Ham-It-Up Upconverter. THe ham-it-up is a quality upconverter that allows the RTL-SDR to receive HF (0-30 MHz) signals. It also works with other SDR’s such as the HackRF. The Ham-It-Up uses SMA Female connectors, so you will need an MCX->SMA Male adapter for the dongle.
The optimal antenna to use is highly dependent on the frequency you want to listen to. However, for general purpose scanning across all frequencies, we recommend using a Discone or Scantenna.
The Scantenna is a general purpose antenna with a frequency range of 30-1300Mhz and excellent reviews on Amazon. Most people find that the Scantenna outperforms a Discone in many situations. Scantennas go for around $50.
The Discone is the ‘classic’ RTL-SDR antenna as it covers a wide range of frequencies like the Scantenna. A decent Discone can go for as little as $50.
You may also want to get an active USB extension cable so that you can put the RTL-SDR dongle as close to the antenna as possible to reduce coaxial feed line losses and decrease RF interference from your PC.
A Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that runs Linux. With it you can connect an RTL-SDR, run a server, and then remotely send a signal or processed data such as ADS-B aircraft locations back via WiFi or Ethernet cable.
A USB on-the-go (OTG) cable is required to use the RTL-SDR on Android phones with software like SDR Touch and Wavesink.
If you have long runs of coaxial cable, a low noise amplifier (LNA) may aid in helping to ‘push’ weak signals through. We recommend the LNA4ALL LNA.