Tagged: VLF

Comparing the RSP1 and RSP2 on VLF, LF and AM BC Reception

Over on YouTube user Mile Kokotov has uploaded two new videos that show both the SDRplay RSP1 and RSP2 receiving VLF, LF and AM BC signals. The SDRplay RSP1 is a 12-bit SDR that can receive from about 10 kHz – 2 GHz. Recently the RSP2 was released which is an upgrade over the RSP1 with additional filters and features. On this blog we did an initial review of the RSP2 and found mostly improved performance over the RSP1.

Mile writes about the signals he receives:

Antenna on RSP2 is connected to its Hi-Z port.

Here are some information about signals in this video:

60 kHz Time signal from NPL is a radio signal broadcast from the Anthorn Radio Station near Anthorn, UK.
The signal, also known as the MSF signal is broadcast at a highly accurate frequency of 60 kHz and can be received throughout the UK, and in much of northern and western Europe. (But I am receiving it in Macedonia) The signal’s carrier frequency is maintained at 60 kHz controlled by caesium atomic clocks at the radio station.

77.5 kHz Time signal is German DCF77 longwave time signal and standard-frequency radio station. The highly accurate 77.5 kHz carrier signal is generated from local atomic clocks that are linked with the German master clocks.

On 295 kHz there is NDB (Non directional Beacon) from Alexander The Great Airport near Skopje (about 80 km from my home)

On AM Broadcast Band (530 kHz – 1620 kHz) you can see how many AM stations are on the spectrum display (with 9 kHz raster) receiving here at my home with Mini-Whip antenna which is only 10 cm long!

More information you can find on my web-page: http://www.qsl.net/z33t

The first video shows reception with a Mini-Whip, and the second with a Delta Loop. We don’t see much difference in reception between the RSP1 and RSP2 in these videos but viewers with more sensitive ears may be able to tell us if they notice any differences.


Receiving the SAQ VLF Signal with an Airspy + Spyverter and SDRplay RSP

Over on YouTube user Mile Kokotov has uploaded a video showing his reception of the SAQ very low frequency (VLF) signal. The SAQ transmitter is based in Grimeton, Sweden and transmits at 17.2 kHz, which is well below the frequency of most radio communications. SAQ only transmits its beacon on certain days, and last Sunday July 3rd 2016 the SAQ beacon activated to celebrate Alexanderson day, which is named after Swedish radio pioneer Ernst Frederick Werner Alexanderson.

In the video both the Airspy + Spyverter and the SDRplay RSP appear to receive the SAQ VLF signal equally well. In the video description Mile writes:

“SAQ”- Radio Station at Grimeton is a VLF transmission facility at Grimeton, Sweden. It has the only working Alexanderson alternator rotating armature radio transmitter in the world and is classified as a World Heritage Site.

The transmitter was built in 1922 to 1924 to operate at 17.2 kHz. The antenna is a 1.9 km wire aerial consisting of eight horizontal wires suspended on six 127-metre high freestanding steel pylons in a line, that function as a capacitive top-load to feed energy to six grounded vertical wire radiating elements.

Until the 1950s, the Grimeton VLF transmitter was used for transatlantic radio telegraphy to Radio Central in Long Island, New York, USA. From the 1960s until 1996 it transmitted orders to submarines in the Swedish Navy.

The Alexanderson transmitter became obsolete in 1996 and went out of service. However, because it was still in good condition it was declared a national monument and can be visited during the summer.

On July 2, 2004, the Grimeton VLF transmitter was declared a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. It continues to be used on special occasions such as Alexanderson Day to transmit Morse messages on 17.2 kHz. Its call sign is SAQ.

Recent transmissions from SAQ on 17.2 kHz with Alexaderson 200 kW alternator, was on Alexanderson day (Sunday, July 3rd 2016) at 09:00 UTC.

Distance between SAQ transmitter in Grimeton, Sweeden and Macedonia where the signal was received is about 1850 km.

Receiving with:
1. AIRSPY R2 – SDR + Spyverter and SDRsharp software.
2. SDRplay RSP1 and SDRuno software.

Both SDR receivers settings were previously set for maximum S/N ratio.

Antenna is Mini-Whip 10cm homemade active antenna on 6.5 meter plastic pole.

The LPF filter (fc=535 kHz) is used also.


Optimizing Reception of VLF frequencies on an RTL-SDR Dongle

Over on his web site, Martin (G8JNJ) has uploaded a new article discussing how to optimize reception of VLF (<10 kHz) signals on a direct sampling modified RTL-SDR. He writes that the main problem with the RTL-SDR receiving VLF frequencies is that there is significant overloading caused by broadcast stations operating on the LF and MF bands.

So in order to optimize VLF reception, Martin built an external frequency equalisation network which has the following components and functions:

  • 2MHz Low pass Filter – to minimise alias signals originating at 30MHz
  • 20dB Variable attenuator – to set the overall signal level fed into the dongle
  • Switched LF roll-off – to optimise the performance at frequencies around 10KHz in the presence of strong lightning surges
  • -10dB notch at 198KHz – to reduce level of BBC R4 broadcast station in the LF band
  • -10dB notch at 800KHz – to reduce level of local broadcast stations in the MF band

His screenshot results show that his filters work well and significantly reduce the effect of lightning pulse noise at 9 kHz. With the filters in place and properly optimized with the attenuator and various switches, he is able to receive Russian Alpha navigation signals at frequencies around 12 and 14 kHz and the 300 to 500 kHz aeronautical and maritime navigation bands.

G8JNJ's LF Band Equalizer Circuit
G8JNJ’s LF Band Equalizer Circuit

Comparing the Ham-It-Up Upconverter with the SV1AFN Upconverter

Over on YouTube user Mile Kokotov has uploaded a video showing a comparison between the ham-it-up and SV1AFN upconverters. An upconverter allows reception of VLF to HF signals with SDR dongles such as the Airpsy and RTL-SDR.

Mile shows that both the ham-it-up and SV1AFN upconverters use the same core component, a double balanced mixer ADE-1. However, the ham-it-up comes with the option for a noise circuit to be populated. A noise circuit is useful if you want to measure the response of a filter or antenna for example. With the ham-it-up the noise source components are sold seperately and need to be carefully soldered on.

On the other hand the SV1AFN upconverter comes with a built in selectable LNA and better filtering circuitry. The SV1AFN upconverter also uses the ADE-1 in a slightly different design compared to the ham-it-up which allows for much improved performance at VLF frequencies.

In the results Mile uses his Airspy and shows that the SV1AFN upconverter is significantly better at receiving VLF frequencies, and also better at receiving a 28.205 MHz beacon. The results are summarized in the table captured from the video shown in the image below. In the second video Mile also compares the local oscillator drift of each upconverter.

Upconverter comparison results.
Upconverter comparison results screencap.

Receiving VLF with a PC sound card, Miniwhip Antenna and SAQrx

Over on YouTube user Mile Kokotov has uploaded a video showing how he is able to receive Very Low Frequency (VLF) signals between 300 Hz to 30 kHz using just his PC, a Miniwhip antenna connected to his sound card input port and a program called SAQrx Panoramic VLF Receiver. This allows reception of signals between 0-48 kHz with a sound card that can sample at 96 kHz.

Using this set up he is able to receive the Alpha navigation system beacons which are at around 10-12 kHz and some other Navy navigation system beacons between 18 and 48 kHz from his home in Macedonia.


Receiving VLF with an Upconverter and Direct Sampling RTL-SDR

Recently amateur radio hobbyist DE8MSH wrote in to let us know about how he was able to receive VLF (Very Low Frequency) signals using a very rare Refcom FC-VLF upconverter and his direct sampling modified RTL-SDR.

His antenna is the PA0RDT mini whip which requires 12v of power that is delivered directly by the Refcom FC-VLF. He writes that the Refcom upconverter is used to upconvert the 9 to 50 kHz range into the 14.009 to 14.050 MHz range which is receivable by a direct sampling modified RTL-SDR. Using this set up he was able to receive several VLF stations as shown on the waterfall image below.

15 - 70 kHz VLF Received with an Upconverter and Direct Sampling RTL-SDR
15 – 70 kHz VLF Received with an Upconverter and Direct Sampling RTL-SDR

DE8MSH also writes

Note that I’m not living in a quiet area. As you can see there is a lot of men made noise like from tv sets, lights bulbs etc. pp. Some signals are not very strong becaus I switched the Refcom to 9-50kHz filter. So some stations above 50kHz could be stronger.

Below are some close up shots of VLF signals being received.

17 to 27 kHz
17 to 27 kHz
37 to 47 kHz
37 to 47 kHz
47 to 57 kHz
47 to 57 kHz
67 to 77 kHz
67 to 77 kHz
77 to 87 kHz
77 to 87 kHz

Receiving Russian Long Range Navigation System with an RTL-SDR, Upconverter and Mini-Whip Antenna

Over on YouTube user Mile Kokotov has uploaded a video showing his reception of the ALPHA Russian Long Range Navigation System on Very Low Frequency (VLF) in Macedonia using an RTL-SDR, Ham-it-up upconverter and a Mini-Whip active antenna.

Mile also uses a band pass filter and notch filter to improve the dynamic range of the RTL-SDR. Additionally, in the video he shows a comparison between a large delta loop antenna and the mini-whip active antenna which shows better performance by the mini-whip.


Receiving a VLF Transmission using a PC Soundcard

Over on YouTube user Alex swl has uploaded a video showing his reception of a Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio signal using a laptop running SDRSharp and a Chirio Mini Whip antenna connected directly to the laptop’s sound card input.

Every year on Alexanderson Day (this year on 29/06/2014) and some other days the Varberg VLF Radio Station in Sweden transmits a morse code message using a 1.9 km (1.2 mile) horizontal wire antenna at 17.2 kHz with callsign SAQ. Because the transmission frequency is so low, a standard PC soundcard can be used to directly receive the signal.

Alex swl was able to receive this signal in Italy.