Over on the SWLing (Short Wave Listening) Post blog Thomas has just uploaded his review of the YouLoop in a post titled "The Airspy Youloop is a freaking brilliant passive loop antenna". If you weren't aware, we are currently selling this loop in our store for US$34.95 incl. free worldwide shipping to most countries. Sales are currently in pre-order as our first batch of units ordered sold out within a day, but we're soon going to receive the second batch in the next few days.
Thomas is a seasoned shortwave listener who has used many antennas, and in the review he notes that he is extremely impressed with the performance. In his review he tests the antenna in a location that is swimming with RFI and places the loop in the middle of a bedroom. Although the situation is not ideal, Thomas was surprised at the number of signals he was able to receive.
To work properly the YouLoop requires a low noise figure radio like the recommended Airspy HF+ discovery, but Thomas notes that he's also had excellent success with the SDRplay RSPdx running in HDR mode.
Librespace, who are the people behind the open hardware/source SatNOGS satellite ground station project have recently released a comprehensive paper (pdf) that compares multiple software defined radios available on the market in a realistic laboratory based signal environment. The testing was performed by Alexandru Csete (@csete) who is the programmer behind GQRX and Gpredict and Sheila Christiansen (@astro_sheila) who is a Space Systems Engineer at Alexandru's company AC Satcom. Their goal was to evaluate multiple SDRs for use in SatNOGS ground stations and other satellite receiving applications.
The SDRs tested include the RTL-SDR Blog V3, Airspy Mini, SDRplay RSPduo, LimeSDR Mini, BladeRF 2.0 Micro, Ettus USRP B210 and the PlutoSDR. In their tests they measure the noise figure, dynamic range, RX/TX spectral purity, TX power output and transmitter modulation error ratio of each SDR in various satellite bands from VHF to C-band.
The paper is an excellent read, however the results are summarized below. In terms of noise figure, the SDRplay RSPduo with it's built in LNA performed the best, with all other SDRs apart from the LimeSDR being similar. The LimeSDR had the worst noise figure by a large margin.
In terms of dynamic range, the graphs below show the maximum input power of a blocking signal that the receivers can tolerate vs. different noise figures at 437 MHz. They write that this gives a good indication of which devices have the highest dynamic range at any given noise figure. The results show that when the blocking signal is at the smallest 5 kHz spacing the RSPduo has poorest dynamic range by a significant margin, but improves significantly at the 100 kHz and 1 MHz spacings. The other SDRs all varied in performance between the different blocking signal separation spacings.
Overall the PlutoSDR seems to perform quite well, with the LimeSDR performing rather poorly in most tests among other problems like the NF being sensitive to touching the enclosure, and the matching network suspected as being broken on both their test units. The owner of Airspy noted that performance may look poor in these tests as the testers used non-optimized Linux drivers, instead of the optimized Windows drivers and software, so there is no oversampling, HDR or IF Filtering enabled. The RSPduo performs very well in most tests, but very poorly in the 5 kHz spacing test.
The rest of the paper covers the TX parameters, and we highly recommend going through and comparing the individual result graphs from each SDR test if you want more information and results from tests at different frequencies. The code and recorded data can also be found on the projects Gitlab page at https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/sdrmakerspace/sdreval.
We have recently been able to obtain a small number of YouLoop HF/VHF portable receive only passive antennas that were produced by the owner of Airspy. The YouLoop is available in our store priced at US$34.95 including free worldwide shipping. It comes with the balun "tee" connector, coax inverter, 2x 1m semi-rigid coax cables for a ~60cm loop, and 1x 2m semi-rigid coax for the feedline. Note that US customers may wish to purchase from airspy.us as they have local US stock. We are focusing on non-US orders for this product and we only have very limited stock at the moment - UPDATE: Now out of stock. We have reordered more and should be back in stock by end of March.
If you don't know what a "YouLoop" is, it is a simple passive magnetic loop antenna design which consists of a ring of coax cable and a low loss 1:1 or 4:1 balun. The design was recently popularized by Youssef (prog) the owner of Airspy, and he has put up a page explaining how the design works here. Many users on Twitter have been reporting good results with HF reception with the design. It appears to be especially useful in urban environments where there is lots of local noise.
Left Discovery with YouLoop Antenna, Rigth Discovery with HF Hoxin Vertical Antenna.
Same configuration in sdr#, both in roof with 25m RG213 cable.
A lot of noise in the vertical antenna, Barcelona noisy city. pic.twitter.com/NNYdpsmNTo
Being passive, it has no amplification and so it works best with a low noise SDR like an Airspy HF+. However we have also found decent results with SDRplay SDRs, and a standard RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode, although RTL AGC mode needs to be turned on for an extra boost. Improved results can be obtained by using a low cost HF amplifier on the front end, and even our wideband LNA which is advertised as working down to 50 MHz still does actually give a decent boost from 5 MHz and up.
Also the design has some advantages in that it has very low electrical interference pickup, and has no electronics that can overload from signals that are too strong. Overloading from strong signals is something that can easily affect cheap magnetic loop antennas like the MLA-30, and even higher end loop antennas too. Being a magnetic loop, it also naturally filters out electric field interference which is extremely common in urban environments, and is the reason why e-field antennas like miniwhips often perform poorly.
The antenna is designed to be extremely portable, being lightweight and easy to assemble/disassemble. As such it is not designed to be weatherproof, so if you do decide to mount it permanently please make use of weatherproofing tape.
Unlike fixed magnetic loops, the YouLoop design is also easy to experiment with. By using longer coax cables you can easily create a larger loop which can result in stronger signals. We found that replacing the 1m loop cables with 2m lengths gave quite nice results for us. If you have the space you could try even larger loops too.
The design also doubles as a great VHF antenna with reception up to 300 MHz possible when used in a folded dipole configuration. To do that, simply flatten the loop into a dipole shape.
Finally, if you prefer the YouLoop can also be constructed by yourself. The Twitter post below shows the basic design. Search Twitter for "YouLoop antenna" for more discussion on the design too.
At his house W1VLF found that his solar inverter was causing huge amounts of interference on the HF bands, essentially making any hope at receiving shortwave or amateur radio signals impossible on his Airspy HF+ Discovery . However, over on his YouTube channel he's demonstrated a solution that allows him to almost completely cancel the noise.
The solution involves using a Timewave ANC-4 noise canceler, which is as analog noise cancelling device available from the manufacturer for US$209.95. To use the device you also need a noise probe which can be a small loop antenna. The noise probe is connected to the ANC-4 and placed near the source of the noise, which in W1VLF's case was just on the solar inverter enclosure mounted on the outside of his house. Then by tuning the gain and phase knobs on the ANC-4 the noise can be cancelled out of the signals received by the main antenna.
In the video W1VLF demonstrates how effective noise cancelling with the ANC-4 can be by showing the before and after results with his Airspy HF+ Discovery.
Kicking Solar inverter noise in the A$$ with noise cancelling
Over on YouTube SignalsEverywhere has just uploaded his latest video about using a HackRF and Airspy R2/Mini to explore the signals coming out of an internet cable modem's coax cable. In the video he performs a wideband scan with his Airspy R2 and the SpectrumSpy software which shows not only his, but the downstream signals from other users in his neighborhood on the cable network too.
Next using his HackRF with Spectrum Analyzer and the hackrf_sweep fast sweeping software, he was able to determine the uplink portion of his cable modem. By running an internet speed test in the background he was also able to visualize the increased cable data activity on the spectrum waterfall display.
The Secret Signals Hiding In Your Cable Modem | SDR Used to Sniff Cable Internet Modem Coax
The World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) is a directory book (or CD) of world radio stations on LW, MW, SW and VHF broadcast FM which is released yearly. Along with the directory, the WRTH authors often review the latest shortwave listening hardware including SDRs and give out awards to the best units.
Last year the Airspy HF+ won the WRTH 2019 award for best value HF SDR, and this year the Airspy HF+ Discovery wins the 2020 award. The award comes with a glowing review in the magazine (the review is freely accessible) noting the HF+ Discoveries' "spectacular combination of performance and versatility" as well as it's affordable price point.
PiSDR is a Raspberry Pi distribution that is pre-loaded with multiple programs for various software defined radios. It currently supports RTL-SDR, LimeSDR, PlutoSDR, Airspy, and as of the most recent update the Airspy HF+. The currently pre-installed software packages include SDR Angel, Soapy Remote, GQRX, GNURadio, LimeUtil, and LimeVNA.
Recently version 3.0 was released, and this new version adds a few new features like Desktop shortcuts, Raspberry Pi 4 support, Airspy HF+ support and documentation.
The latest image can be downloaded from the PiSDR website at https://pisdr.luigifreitas.me. It can be burned to an SD card in the same way that you would with a standard Raspbian installation. This is a great image to start from if you're experimenting with RTL-SDRs on a Raspberry Pi, as it means that you don't need to go through all the steps of installing the drivers and software like GQRX and GNU Radio which can take a long time to install.
Over on YouTube Tech Minds has uploaded a video of him demonstrating Iridium Live plotting Iridium satellite tracks in real time. We just posted about Iridium Live yesterday. It is a new program by microp11, who is also the author of Scytale-C, a useful Inmarsat STD-C decoder. The software works with gr-iridium to visualize Iridium satellite tracks as they pass overhead.
In the video Tech Minds runs the software on a Raspberry Pi with an Airspy. The current video is only a demonstration, but in the near future he promises to upload a full tutorial
IridiumLIVE - Real Time Visualization Of Iridium Satellites - Raspberry Pi