Over on GitHub user mcogoni (Marco/IS0KYB) has recently released a new program called Pepyscope. Pepyscope is a simple and fast panadapter application that is designed to be used with direct sampling capable RTL-SDR's such as our RTL-SDR Blog V3 units. Like other panadapters you simply connect the IF output from the hardware HF radio into the input of the RTL-SDR. Then Pepyscope gives you a waterfall display that helps users to easily visualize the spectrum.
Pepyscope is open source and runs on Linux PCs. So far Marco has tested Pepyscope with a KENWOOD TS-180S (single conversion with IF at 8.83 MHz) and an RTL-SDR v3. He has also uploaded a demonstration video on YouTube.
PEPYSCOPE: a simple panadapter for Linux and the RTL-SDR in direct sampling mode
So, antenna itself represents as handmade on-PCB winding made of two-side-foiled fiberglass size of 30x40 cm. Both 'windings' connected in the middle and thus winded to 'continue' each other.
Preamp located in metal box attached to antenna and connected via 1.5m S/FTP cable to another box with RTL stick. Note that some transistors soldered on PCB in upside-down - dot on layout means base.
Electrically preamp made as 3-stages balanced signal amplifier with low-input impedance and low-pass filter before input with cut-off at 15MHz. Such complications were required to reduce interferences and intermodulations. Antenna itself is more effective on long-medium waves, so preamp has higher gain on short waves (gain varies from 45db at 200KHz to 68 db at 10MHz - see attached freq responce pic). Getting more flat responce at lower frequencies is possible by increasing C10/C11/C12 to 22nF.
My implementation has some additional elements to make possible to adjust preamp's gain in few db's. But seems its quite useless so that details not included in this post. Anyway, its possible to reduce gain by increasing R6 to 500K.
Box with RTL SDR: I put both signal wires as 3 windings via ferrite ring with high permeability just before RTL chip. This noticeable reduced stray interference, that induced in that cable but doesn't affect differential signal.
SDR#'s SpyServer streaming server now supports the direct sampling mode on RTL-SDR dongles and it's probably the cheapest way to set up a HF streaming server. SpyServer is a streaming server for SDR# and Airspy products. Although it's designed for Airspy products it also works well with RTL-SDR dongles.
On RTL-SDR dongles the direct sampling mode allows you to receive HF frequencies by bypassing the tuner. The dynamic range is not quite as good as using an upconverter and there are Nyquist images from sampling at 28.8 MHz centered around 14.4 MHz, but in most cases it is good enough to give people decent HF results especially if filtering is used. Normally a hardware hack is required to enable direct sampling, but our RTL-SDR Blog V3 units have direct sampling built in and ready to go just by connecting an HF antenna to the SMA port, and enabling the Q-branch direct sampling mode.
There is a sample server set up at sdr://18.104.22.168:5555.
Direct Sampling for #RTLSDR was added to Spy Server. This must be the most affordable networked HF radio ever.
Over on the Reddit RTL-SDR discussion board user pksato has posted an image of his direct sampling modified RTL-SDR dongle. His mod includes a simple common base amplifier with 9dB gain, an impedance transformer with calculated output impedance of 50 Ohms and a 5V power filter.
The direct sampling mod allows you to modify your RTL-SDR to receive HF frequencies, without the need for an upconverter. It requires a hardware mod that can be as simple as soldering a wire to one of the RTL2832U pins, but for improved results you will need filters, impedance transformers and amplifiers. There is more information about direct sampling here.
We also note that amateur radio hobbyist KN0CK (aka Marty Wittrock) sells direct sampling modified dongles that are modified in a similar way to pskato’s mod (circuit placed on top of the RTL-SDR PCB). His products can be found at http://www.kn0ck.com/HF_SDR/.
Another product Nobu is working on is an isolation transformer (aka Galvanic Isolator) which can be used together with an upconverter to help reduce noise generated from common ground sources such as the PC. The isolation transformer is inserted between an upconverter and antenna.
In the image below Nobu shows the effect of inserting the LPF . An interfering FM broadcast band signal is removed after inserting the LPF.
The image below shows the effect of the isolation transformer showing a clear decrease in noise floor and increase in signal strength.
YouTube user opilarczyk has posted a video comparing HF performance of the rtl-sdr with the direct sampling mod at 7MHz with WebSDR, an online SDR streaming site. The comparison shows how the direct sampling mod is extremely susceptible to broadcast FM interference.
RTL-SDR gqrx direct sampling vs WebSDR on rtl2832u
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.
However, the difficulty with direct sampling is that a hardware modification to the dongle is required. Also, the performance can not be expected to be as good as an upconverter without the addition of extra filtering circuits. RTL-SDR Blog V3 Note: Note that our RTL-SDR Blog V3 already has the direct samping mod done and built in, so no hardware modifications are required for those units! Just see the V3 users guide for information on activating direct sampling mode.