Over on his blog Michael Carden has produced a tutorial showing us how to use SDR-J on the Raspberry Pi 3 for receiving Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) radio. DAB is a type of digital broadcast radio used in several countries outside of the USA for general broadcast radio programs. It usually provides clearer digital audio compared to FM broadcast.
His post starts from scratch, showing how to create a Raspberry Pi image file and configure the Pi, then shows how to install and use SDR-J.
SDR-J is also available for Windows and is compatible with the RTL-SDR and other radios such as the Airspy and SDRplay.
The Raspberry PI 2 has a processor chip with 4 computing cores. By carefully spreading the computational load of the handling of DAB over these cores it is possible to run the DAB software on the Raspberry PI 2.
In my home situation the – headless – Raspberry PI 2 is located on the attic and remotely controlled through an SSH connection using the home WiFi on my laptop in my “lazy chair”. To accomodate listening remotely, the DAB software on the Raspberry PI 2 sends – if so configured – the generated PCI samples (rate 48000) also to an internet port (port 100240). On the laptop then runs a very simple piece of program reading the stream and sending it to the soundcard
DAB is a digital audio protocol that is used in some countries as a digital alternative to broadcast FM (music stations). SDR-J is a suite of programs that includes the ability to decode DAB, FM, and several shortwave modes such as AM, USB, LSB, PSK, RTTY, WeatherFax, SSTV, BPSK, QPSK, CW, NavTex (Amtor-B), MFSK, Domino, Olivia, Hell, Throb and now DRM. It can directly connect to RTL-SDR receivers as well as other hardware such as the Airspy and SDRplay.
The new versions fixes some minor errors, brings back their ‘spectrum viewer’ software and also comes with a ‘DAB mini’ receiver which is simply a smaller windowed version of the regular DAB receiver. The new version also now supports the sdrplay and Airspy software defined radios.
There are now dozens of software defined radio packages that support the ultra cheap RTL-SDR. On this page we will attempt to list, categorize and provide a brief overview of each software program. We categorize the programs into general purpose software, single purpose software, research software and software compatible with audio piping.
If you know of a program that is missing please leave a comment in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
SDR# (pronounced “SDR Sharp”) is the most popular free RTL-SDR compatible software in use at the moment. It is relatively simple to use compared to other SDR software and has a simple set up procedure. We have a full overview of the installation procedure on our Quick Start Page. SDR# is designed to be use with the $199 Airspy SDR, but works just fine with the RTL-SDR.
SDR# is a simple to use program that also has some advanced features. It has a useful modular plugin type architecture, and many plugins have already been developed by third party developers. The basic SDR# download without any third party plugins includes a standard FFT display and waterfall, a frequency manager, recording plugin and a digital noise reduction plugin. SDR# also decodes RDS signals from broadcast FM.
HDSDR is based on the old WinRAD SDR program. HDSDR supports the RTL-SDR through use of an ExtIO.dll module. To install HDSDR, download the program from the link on the main HDSDR page, then to use the RTL-SDR you will need to download the ExtIO_RTL2832.dll file an place it into the HDSDR folder. When opening HDSDR, select the newly copied ExtIO_RTL2832.dll. The other dlls that come with HDSDR will not work with the RTL-SDR, even though they have RTL-SDR in their filename. The official installation instructions can be found here.
Along with a FFT display and waterfall, HDSDR has some extra advanced features. Users will also find an Audio FFT and waterfall display on the bottom of the screen. The output audio can also be bandpass filtered by dragging the filter borders on the display. Bandpass filtering the audio can really help clean up a noisy signal. The audio processing also supports placing of notch filters either manually or automatically. There are also noise reduction and noise blanker features and an automatic frequency centering algorithm which will automatically center the signal, so you don’t need to click exactly in the center of a signal. Traditional ham radio users will also enjoy the S-units signal strength meter and the built in frequency manager.
SDR-RADIO.COM V2 is a popular SDR program with many advanced features. As such is it a fair amount more difficult to learn and use compared to SDR# and HDSDR. Be sure you install version 2 and not V1.5 as only V2 has RTL-SDR support.
Once sdr-radio is installed, to get it working with the RTL-SDR you will need to compile or download three .dll files (SDRSourceRTL2832U.dll, rtlsdr.dll and libusb-1.0.dll) and place them into the sdr-radio folder. To compile your own dlls see the instructions here, otherwise download the dlls directly from the bottom of this link. If the dlls were placed in the correct folder you will be able to add your RTL-SDR as a receiver by clicking on the +Definitions button, and then finding and adding the RTL SDR (USB) option under the search drop down menu.
Like HDSDR, not only does sdr-radio have a RF FFT signal and waterfall display, but also an optional audio spectrum FFT and waterfall display. Built in are also several DSP features like a noise blanker, noise reduction filter, notch filter and squelch options. The EMNS noise reduction filter is particularly good at automatically cleaning up and clarifying voice signals.
To add to the feature list, sdr-radio also has built in PSK, RTTY and RDS decoders, and also comes with a satellite tracker. Furthermore, sdr-radio has an excellent remote server which will allow you to easily set up and connect to a remote RTL-SDR server over a network or the internet. Finally, sdr-radio is capable of listening to up to 6 signals in the same chunk of visible spectrum at a time.
Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is a digital method for broadcasting radio stations. The rtl dongles official driver has DAB decoding capabilities. But when the rtl dongle is used as a software radio, this capability from the original drivers can not used.
SDR-J is a SDR package for Windows and Linux which is capable of receiving FM radio and decoding DAB radio completely in software. YouTube user Superphish shows a video of SDR-J decoding and playing DAB music with a rtl-sdr dongle.