Budget HackRF: A $150 HackRF Clone

Back in December 2014 the HackRF Blue came out via a crowd funded Indiegogo campaign as a HackRF board that was $100 cheaper than the official version ($199 vs $299 USD). The HackRF is a 8-bit receive and transmit capable SDR with operating range of between 0.1 – 6000 MHz and a bandwidth of up to 20 MHz. As its hardware specifications are released as open source, it is very easy for clones of the official version to be produced. While the HackRF Blue Indiegogo campaign was successful, the product is now out of stock as they seemed to stop production after the campaign.

Now a new budget HackRF is in the works and it is aptly called the “Budget HackRF”. This one aims to be even cheaper than the HackRF Blue coming in at a price of only $150 USD. The people behind the project write:

We are a PCB and SMT assembly factory founded in the year 2001, located in Shenzhen, China. We are a professional EMS/OEM company; provide one-stop contract electronic manufacturing service for PCB&PCBA. Now we want to make small market devices and sell directly to customers.

Some of the part on HackRF is End Of Life and very difficult to find now. We have enough of these part for ~300 HackRF only. You can find some HackRF on Alibaba right now, but they used cheap parts and the manufacture does not test them (they do not install any firmware).

We are trying to find some more of the EOL part first and will make the Kickstarter campaign soon. If we can’t find any more of these part, we will only make ~300pcs. Please register first, when we activate the campaign we will tell you by email. The first 10 people who buy from the Kickstarter will have a heavy discount, only pay $75!

Of note, is that the HackRF Blue also intends to make a comeback in April. Their website contains a registration form to register interest.

hackrf_budget

20 comments

  1. Bob

    I suspect some lies have been made up about an unmentioned EOL component.

    I saw this on IRC today from the creator of the Genuine HackRF One “HackRF One is not EOL. We have 5k units in production right now.”

    • Heshan

      Just curious, why would they lie about that? I was toying with the idea of building one myself last year and couldn’t get hold of some of the parts because they were impossible to find unless you were buying like 5000 of them, maybe they just can’t get small quantities?

      • eas

        Why would they lie about that? To create a false sense of scarcity and urgency in order to discourage critical thinking.

  2. Marty Wittrock

    If there are EOL parts on the HackRF, then it’s REALLY time to shelve it and move onto Red Pitaya…At least that’s a multipurpose test instrument, doubles as an SDR, and has software applications that support the SDR that work as well as an Apache Labs rig could do.

    • Bob

      The problem with 16 bits is that you could run into an ITAR limit, and then your SDR is classified as a Munitions export controlled item. And since all of the high end ADC are from US companies, complying fully with ITAR’s nonproliferation requirements requires documents signed by people who want to buy your SDR before you can sell it to them. Although I think the limits appear to be higher than they were the last time I checked.

      ITAR, CATEGORY 3 covers ADC’s and DAC’s.
      “a.5.a.5. A resolution of more than 14 bit with an output rate greater than 20 million words per second” – September 25, 2015

      • Todor

        Wow I never knew that,but it makes sence,these are so capable that they are dangerous in a way. LZ2ТТТ
        14 bit is the regulation and right now there is 12 bit which is probably held at that level on purpose by manufacturers.
        P.s. But is cool to ve able to see more and more bandwith of the spextrum and to understand it.

        • Mitja

          that got me realy confused why would that be considered dangerous?

          what dangerous activity could you do with 16bits that you cannot do with 8 bits?

          • Bob

            Lets say that you are tracking “objects” in flight, and that you want to hold on to your advantage of having superior abilities to track and intercept. 20 million samples per second would have a duration of 50 nanoseconds between samples. And since light travels about 0.3 meters in a nanosecond (or about 1 foot in a nanosecond). That could correspond to an accuracy of about 15 meters (or about 50 feet). Or 30 meters (about 100 feet) if light needs to travel to the target and back again. And now you are probably thinking well why is the number of bits important, and that would be related to the signal to noise, maintaining a superior signal to noise ratio is really important because that would determine the maximum range of interception.

            The current Bureau of Industry and Security EAR CATEGORY 3 limits for ADC’s (2021-03-29) are:
            “a.5.a.4. A resolution of 14 bit or more, but less than 16 bit, with a “sample rate” greater than 250 MSPS”
            “a.5.a.5. A resolution of 16 bit or more with a “sample rate” greater than 65 MSPS”

            As technology gets better what is allowed to be sold worldwide (without requiring a massive amount of government approval and legally binding documentation) is increased each year, but a superiority margin is always maintained.

              • Mitja

                Thank you very much so its exacly the same as why noone donates new clothes to charity, because at first they want it for themselfs, and after its worn out, and not needed anymore then charity can have it 🙂

                BTW: do bits also matter when listening to AM/FM radio or is there a margin above which, more bits wouldnt mean that you could get more distant adjacent stations?

                • Bob

                  More bits (or a higher sample rate, every time you decimate your sample rate by 4 you can in effect add 1-bit to the ADC, provided there is enough noise to tickle the lowest bit) is a larger dynamic range. Basically if one person is shouting in your ear, you can’t hear the person at the far end of the room who is whispering. More bits (a higher dynamic range) can help you to receive distant stations while being nearly overloaded by local ones.

                  If you do not have any nearby overpowering signals (you are living on an island or in the middle of a desert), then as long as ALL the filtered signals that you are interested in are inside the dynamic range of 8-bits (~48dB), then that is all you need. But if you need to increase your analogue gain to improve the reception of a very weak signal that may cause a stronger signal to exceed the dynamic range and cause receiver overload (the end result would be clipping which would produce harmonics at multiple frequencies and make reception very bad).

    • Alyx McCown

      What i would love to see is a 12 bit 40MSPS USB 3 implementation

      With modern low cost FPGAs and USB 3.0 FIFOs this would be not all that difficult

      i would also like to see some GPIO on the front panel to make creation of switched frontend filters easier (or implement it inside ,,,)

      also a unit with input protection and no transmit would be a nice addition

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