Category: Airspy

Simon Brown Compares the Airspy HF+ against the RFSpace NetSDR on SDR-Console V3

Simon Brown who is the author of the popular SDR-Console V2/V3 software has received an early review version of the Airspy HF+ and has uploaded some screenshots comparing it with the RFSpace NetSDR. The NetSDR is a high performance 16-bit DDC SDR with frequency range of 10 KHz – 32 MHz, and a bandwidth of up to 1.6 MHz. The base price of the NetSDR is US $1449.

The Airspy HF+ on the other hand is based on a polyphase harmonic rejection mixer design with 18-bit DDC and has a frequency range of DC – 31 MHz and 60 – 260 MHz, with a maximum bandwidth of up to 660 kHZ. It is not yet released, but is expected to be about US $149 shipped from China.

Simon’s screenshots show that despite its low cost the HF+ seems to perform just as well as the more expensive NetSDR.

If you’re interested in the HF+ we also have our own review available here.

New HF+ photo, with black metal enclosure.
New HF+ photo, with black metal enclosure.

Tuning an HF Antenna with an Airspy, SWR-Bridge and Noise Source

Over on his blog Anders J. Ørts has created a good writeup showing how he used the combination of an Airspy SDR with SpyVerter upconverter, SWR-Bridge and a noise source to tune his HF dipole for the 40 meter and 20 meter bands. If you’re interested we also have a writeup on doing something similar with the RTL-SDR here.

By connecting the output of the noise source to the SWR-bridge input, and the antenna to the DUT port the return loss or SWR of the antenna can be measured with the Airspy. To get a wider than 10 MHz view of the spectrum Anders uses the SpectrumSpy software for the Airspy which is a spectrum analyzer application that allows you to view any bandwidth that you like. With the Airspy, noise source and antenna all connected correct to the SWR-Bridge significantly notches in the spectrum show up in SpectrumSpy. These notches are the resonant points of the antenna. Visually seeing these notches allows you to fine tune the length of the antenna elements for best SWR.

How to connect it all up
How to connect it all up
SpectrumSpy showing the resonant notches at 40m and 20m.
SpectrumSpy showing the resonant notches at 40m and 20m.

SDR on an Android Wristwatch with Airspy HF+ and SpyServer

Over on Twitter @lambdaprog and @mm6dos, developers of SDR# and Airspy SDR products have tweeted videos showing off an Android watch being used as an SDR interface. They use a prototype of their upcoming Airspy HF+ SDR, their SpyServer streaming software and an Android watch. The Android watch receives the streaming FFT and audio data from a server running the SpyServer and Airspy HF+.

They write that this new SpyServer client is mainly for phones and tablets and is efficient enough to run on a watch. It appears that this lightweight version of the SpyServer sends compressed FFT and audio instead of a slice of the IQ data like the current SpyServer, making it very light on the client side CPU and network usage.

If you’re interested in the Airspy HF+ we have an initial review available here.

Our Review of the Airspy HF+: Compared against ColibriNANO, Airspy Mini, RSP2

Over the last few months we’ve been posting and getting excited about the Airspy HF+, an upcoming high dynamic range HF/VHF receiver designed for DXing. The Airspy team were kind enough to supply us with an early pre-production unit for review.

Long story short, the Airspy HF+ is probably one of the best low cost SDRs we’ve seen for DXing or weak signal reception out there. So far few details on the availability of the HF+ have been released, but we’re aware that preorders are due to start soon, and the target price is expected to be $149 USD from iTead Studio in China. 

What follows is the full review and comparisons against other similarly priced SDRs. The Airspy team want us and readers to understand that our review unit is a pre-production model, and apparently already the matching and thus SNR has already been improved by about 2-4 dBs, so the sound samples we provide in the review below should sound even better with the newer revision.

Disclaimer: We received the HF+ for free in exchange for an honest review, but are not affiliated with Airspy. We’ve been in contact with the Airspy team who have helped clarify some points about the architecture and technology used in the design.

Introduction

The Airspy HF+ is designed to be a HF/VHF specialist receiver with a frequency range of DC to 31 MHz, and then 60 to 260 MHz. It has a maximum bandwidth of 768 kHz. So the question is then, why would you consider buying this over something like the regular Airspy R2/Mini or an SDRplay RSP2 which both have larger frequency ranges and bandwidths? You would buy the Airspy HF+ because has been designed with DXing and weak signal reception in mind. Basically the main idea behind the HF+ is to design it so that it will never overload when in the presence of really strong signals. Combined with it’s high sensitivity, weak or DX signals should come in much clearer than on the other radios especially if you have strong blocking signals like broadcast AM/FM around.

Aside: What is overloading, intermodulation and dynamic range?

Basically strong signals can cause weak signals to be drowned out, making them not receivable, even though they’re there at your antenna. This is called overloading or saturation. Intermodulation occurs when the SDR overloads and results in images of unwanted signals showing up all over the spectrum.

A simple analogy is to think about what happens when you are trying to drive, but there is sunstrike. The road is very hard to see because the sun is so bright and right in your eyes. The human eye does not have enough “dynamic range” to handle the situation of sunstrike. Dynamic range is a measure of how well a radio (eye) can handle strong (bright) and weak (dark) signals at the same time. The same analogy applies to radios which can struggle to ‘see’ weak signals if there is a very strong signal nearby on the frequency spectrum. There are a few ways to solve this:

  • Filtering: Block the strong signals that you don’t want using LC filters.
    • Eye analogy: using your sun visor to block the sun.
  • Attenuation: Reduce the strength of all signals.
    • Eye analogy: using sunglasses or squint.
  • Increase dynamic range: Get a better SDR with better design/technology and more bits in the ADC.
    • Eye analogy: upgrade your eyes.

Technology and Architecture

The HF+ uses a typical Filter->Tuner ->ADC architecture. So it is not a direct sampling receiver like most of the more expensive SDRs. Direct sampling receivers directly sample the analogue spectrum, without the need for a tuner so they avoid losses and the intermodulation problems that usually come from the mixing stages. But there are some major cutting edge technology differences in the HF+ architecture that should make its performance even better than direct sampling receivers.

Tuner: The tuner on the HF+ is one of the first to use a “Polyphase Harmonic Rejection” architecture. Essentially this means that harmonics produced in the mixing stages are naturally rejected, making the front end filtering requirements much more relaxed. So unlike the tuners used in other SDRs, this one is extremely unlikely overload in the mixing stage.

An additional benefit to this architecture is that the mixer is very low loss, so the LNA in the tuner only needs to use low gain, giving it a very high IIP3 value. So the first LNA which is typically another point of saturation and imermodulation, is very unlikely to saturate in the HF+ design. Most of the amplification only occurs after the mixing stage with the filtered narrowband output of the tuner.

Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC): The ADC is 16-bits and uses a “Sigma Delta” (ΣΔ) design. Basically a Sigma Delta ADC has a natural filtering ability due to its narrowband nature. Instead of seeing say a 30 MHz signal, it only sees 1 – 2 MHz, thus increasing dynamic range and reducing the likelihood of out of band overload.

Digital Down-Converter (DDC): Then after the ADC is a DDC which decimates the output from the ADC, increasing the effective number of bits. The more bits the larger the resolution of the digitized RF signal, so weak signals are less likely to be lost when converted from analogue to digital.

The HF+ Block Diagram
The HF+ Block Diagram

So the block diagram flow goes like this:

A weakly filtered signal enters the tuner, is weakly amplified by the tuner LNA, mixed down to baseband and filtered to 1-2 MHz. It is then amplified and sampled with the sigma delta ADC into 16-bits. The DDC decimates the output into 18-bits which is then sent to the microcontroller and PC via USB.

The Airspy team also compiled this comparison chart for us to understand the differences in architecture between the current SDRs on the market (click to enlarge). This shows that the HF+ is a different type of design compared to other SDRs. Generally the best SDRs out the market right now are direct sampling receivers with many filter banks. The HF+ approaches the problem in a different way, and according to the specs seems to match or better the performance of heavily filtered direct sampling receivers.

Performance from the Airspy HF+ product page is stated as:

  • -141.0 dBm (0.02 µV / 50 ohms) MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in HF
  • -141.5 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in FM Broadcast Band (60 – 108 MHz)
  • -139.5 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in VHF Aviation Band (118 – 136 MHz)
  • -139 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in VHF Commercial Band (136 – 174 MHz)
  • -138 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in the upper VHF Band (> 174 MHz)
  • +26 dBm IIP3 on HF at maximum gain
  • +13 dBm IIP3 on VHF at maximum gain
  • 110 dB blocking dynamic range in HF
  • 95 dB blocking dynamic range in VHF

Continue reading

New Airspy HF+ Pics and Sensitivity Test

The Airspy HF+ is an upcoming product from the Airspy team that is intended to be a high performance HF/VHF receiver at a low price. Its frequency range will be DC to 31 MHz, and 60 to 260 MHz and the bandwidth will be about 660 kHz. So why choose the HF+ over the Airspy R2, Mini or SDRplay which all have larger frequency ranges and bandwidths? It seems the focus of the HF+ is to be an extremely high dynamic range receiver. This means that strong signals should almost never overload the receiver making it very good for DXing weak signals (listening to weak signals from very far away). On other receivers once you turn the gain up strong signals can block reception of the weaker ones.

Recently we saw the release of some of the first 3D renderings of the product. Now finally we have a photo of the actual PCB which is shown below. The RF sensitive innards are hidden away within a shielding can, but we know from the product page that inside are the switches, filters, tuner, ADC and 18-bit DDC.

The Airspy HF+ PCB
The Airspy HF+ PCB

Also, over on Twitter, @lambdaprog, lead creator of SDR# and of the Airspy HF+ has uploaded some sensitivity tests. It seems that sensitivity will be at least -136 dBM at 20 meters, as a -136 dBm signal still comes in with 21 dB of SNR. Similar sensitivity results are obtained on the FM Band.


The Airspy team have sent us a sample unit from an early manufacturing test and we hope to have a full review available a few weeks after we receive it.

SDR-Console V3 Latest Update: Signal History & Receiver Panes

SDR-Console is a popular RTL-SDR compatible multi purpose SDR software package which is similar to programs like SDR#, HDSDR and SDRuno. Currently SDR-Console V2 is the stable version and SDR-Console V3 is in a beta state. A few days ago SDR-Console V3 Preview 6 was released. It comes with some very interesting new features including a built in Airspy server, a recording scheduler, a new feature called signal history and a new receivers pane.

Over on his blog Nils Schiffhauer (DK8OK) has been reviewing the new release of SDR-Conosle V3 and writes the following information about some of the new features:

  • “Signal History” takes the signal strength of the given bandwidth each 50 milliseconds, which can be saved in a CSV file. It is also shown in three different speeds on a display.
  • “Receivers’ Pane” shows up to six combos of spectrum/spectrogram of the complete up to 24 parallel demodulators (they additionally can be shown in the Matrix, as in former versions).

“Signal History” offers many applications, to name just three:

  • analyze fading and its structure with an unsurpassed time resolution of 50 ms
  • document fade-in and fade out
  • measure signal-to-noise ratio of signals

In addition Nils has also uploaded a very useful 19 page PDF where he writes step by step instructions and shows numerous examples of the new signal history tool.

DK8OK's SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK’s SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK's screenshot of the signal history toolbox.
DK8OK’s screenshot of the signal history toolbox.

First Renderings of the Airspy HF+ Revealed

Back in February of this year we first heard about the Airspy HF+, which is an upcoming product from the Airspy team that is intended to be a high performance HF receiver at a low price. Over on the Airspy HF+ website the first (rendered) image of the unit has recently been released. We’ve also managed to get some additional renderings from the Airspy team which we show in the image slider below.

The enclosure is CNC carved aluminum with two SMA ports on one side, and a USB port on the rear. Since the HF+ actually has the capability to tune up to 260 MHz it uses two SMA inputs, one for an HF antenna and one for a VHF antenna. Inside the RF circuit is shielded again with a shielding can to protect it from USB noise.

airspyhfplus_render
airspy_hf_2
airspy_hf_4
airspy_hf_3

The tweet below also appears to show some grounding improvements made to reduce USB noise.

Other recent tweets from prog (the creator of the Airspy HF+) indicate that the hardware is ready, and show that streaming from with SpyServer from a RPi3 is functional. Hopefully we should be seeing this unit release for sale soon.

Simon Brown Compares the Airspy HF+ against the RFSpace NetSDR on SDR-Console V3

Simon Brown who is the author of the popular SDR-Console V2/V3 software has received an early review version of the Airspy HF+ and has uploaded some screenshots comparing it with the RFSpace NetSDR. The NetSDR is a high performance 16-bit DDC SDR with frequency range of 10 KHz – 32 MHz, and a bandwidth of up to 1.6 MHz. The base price of the NetSDR is US $1449.

The Airspy HF+ on the other hand is based on a polyphase harmonic rejection mixer design with 18-bit DDC and has a frequency range of DC – 31 MHz and 60 – 260 MHz, with a maximum bandwidth of up to 660 kHZ. It is not yet released, but is expected to be about US $149 shipped from China.

Simon’s screenshots show that despite its low cost the HF+ seems to perform just as well as the more expensive NetSDR.

If you’re interested in the HF+ we also have our own review available here.

New HF+ photo, with black metal enclosure.
New HF+ photo, with black metal enclosure.

Tuning an HF Antenna with an Airspy, SWR-Bridge and Noise Source

Over on his blog Anders J. Ørts has created a good writeup showing how he used the combination of an Airspy SDR with SpyVerter upconverter, SWR-Bridge and a noise source to tune his HF dipole for the 40 meter and 20 meter bands. If you’re interested we also have a writeup on doing something similar with the RTL-SDR here.

By connecting the output of the noise source to the SWR-bridge input, and the antenna to the DUT port the return loss or SWR of the antenna can be measured with the Airspy. To get a wider than 10 MHz view of the spectrum Anders uses the SpectrumSpy software for the Airspy which is a spectrum analyzer application that allows you to view any bandwidth that you like. With the Airspy, noise source and antenna all connected correct to the SWR-Bridge significantly notches in the spectrum show up in SpectrumSpy. These notches are the resonant points of the antenna. Visually seeing these notches allows you to fine tune the length of the antenna elements for best SWR.

How to connect it all up
How to connect it all up
SpectrumSpy showing the resonant notches at 40m and 20m.
SpectrumSpy showing the resonant notches at 40m and 20m.

SDR on an Android Wristwatch with Airspy HF+ and SpyServer

Over on Twitter @lambdaprog and @mm6dos, developers of SDR# and Airspy SDR products have tweeted videos showing off an Android watch being used as an SDR interface. They use a prototype of their upcoming Airspy HF+ SDR, their SpyServer streaming software and an Android watch. The Android watch receives the streaming FFT and audio data from a server running the SpyServer and Airspy HF+.

They write that this new SpyServer client is mainly for phones and tablets and is efficient enough to run on a watch. It appears that this lightweight version of the SpyServer sends compressed FFT and audio instead of a slice of the IQ data like the current SpyServer, making it very light on the client side CPU and network usage.

If you’re interested in the Airspy HF+ we have an initial review available here.

Our Review of the Airspy HF+: Compared against ColibriNANO, Airspy Mini, RSP2

Over the last few months we’ve been posting and getting excited about the Airspy HF+, an upcoming high dynamic range HF/VHF receiver designed for DXing. The Airspy team were kind enough to supply us with an early pre-production unit for review.

Long story short, the Airspy HF+ is probably one of the best low cost SDRs we’ve seen for DXing or weak signal reception out there. So far few details on the availability of the HF+ have been released, but we’re aware that preorders are due to start soon, and the target price is expected to be $149 USD from iTead Studio in China. 

What follows is the full review and comparisons against other similarly priced SDRs. The Airspy team want us and readers to understand that our review unit is a pre-production model, and apparently already the matching and thus SNR has already been improved by about 2-4 dBs, so the sound samples we provide in the review below should sound even better with the newer revision.

Disclaimer: We received the HF+ for free in exchange for an honest review, but are not affiliated with Airspy. We’ve been in contact with the Airspy team who have helped clarify some points about the architecture and technology used in the design.

Introduction

The Airspy HF+ is designed to be a HF/VHF specialist receiver with a frequency range of DC to 31 MHz, and then 60 to 260 MHz. It has a maximum bandwidth of 768 kHz. So the question is then, why would you consider buying this over something like the regular Airspy R2/Mini or an SDRplay RSP2 which both have larger frequency ranges and bandwidths? You would buy the Airspy HF+ because has been designed with DXing and weak signal reception in mind. Basically the main idea behind the HF+ is to design it so that it will never overload when in the presence of really strong signals. Combined with it’s high sensitivity, weak or DX signals should come in much clearer than on the other radios especially if you have strong blocking signals like broadcast AM/FM around.

Aside: What is overloading, intermodulation and dynamic range?

Basically strong signals can cause weak signals to be drowned out, making them not receivable, even though they’re there at your antenna. This is called overloading or saturation. Intermodulation occurs when the SDR overloads and results in images of unwanted signals showing up all over the spectrum.

A simple analogy is to think about what happens when you are trying to drive, but there is sunstrike. The road is very hard to see because the sun is so bright and right in your eyes. The human eye does not have enough “dynamic range” to handle the situation of sunstrike. Dynamic range is a measure of how well a radio (eye) can handle strong (bright) and weak (dark) signals at the same time. The same analogy applies to radios which can struggle to ‘see’ weak signals if there is a very strong signal nearby on the frequency spectrum. There are a few ways to solve this:

  • Filtering: Block the strong signals that you don’t want using LC filters.
    • Eye analogy: using your sun visor to block the sun.
  • Attenuation: Reduce the strength of all signals.
    • Eye analogy: using sunglasses or squint.
  • Increase dynamic range: Get a better SDR with better design/technology and more bits in the ADC.
    • Eye analogy: upgrade your eyes.

Technology and Architecture

The HF+ uses a typical Filter->Tuner ->ADC architecture. So it is not a direct sampling receiver like most of the more expensive SDRs. Direct sampling receivers directly sample the analogue spectrum, without the need for a tuner so they avoid losses and the intermodulation problems that usually come from the mixing stages. But there are some major cutting edge technology differences in the HF+ architecture that should make its performance even better than direct sampling receivers.

Tuner: The tuner on the HF+ is one of the first to use a “Polyphase Harmonic Rejection” architecture. Essentially this means that harmonics produced in the mixing stages are naturally rejected, making the front end filtering requirements much more relaxed. So unlike the tuners used in other SDRs, this one is extremely unlikely overload in the mixing stage.

An additional benefit to this architecture is that the mixer is very low loss, so the LNA in the tuner only needs to use low gain, giving it a very high IIP3 value. So the first LNA which is typically another point of saturation and imermodulation, is very unlikely to saturate in the HF+ design. Most of the amplification only occurs after the mixing stage with the filtered narrowband output of the tuner.

Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC): The ADC is 16-bits and uses a “Sigma Delta” (ΣΔ) design. Basically a Sigma Delta ADC has a natural filtering ability due to its narrowband nature. Instead of seeing say a 30 MHz signal, it only sees 1 – 2 MHz, thus increasing dynamic range and reducing the likelihood of out of band overload.

Digital Down-Converter (DDC): Then after the ADC is a DDC which decimates the output from the ADC, increasing the effective number of bits. The more bits the larger the resolution of the digitized RF signal, so weak signals are less likely to be lost when converted from analogue to digital.

The HF+ Block Diagram
The HF+ Block Diagram

So the block diagram flow goes like this:

A weakly filtered signal enters the tuner, is weakly amplified by the tuner LNA, mixed down to baseband and filtered to 1-2 MHz. It is then amplified and sampled with the sigma delta ADC into 16-bits. The DDC decimates the output into 18-bits which is then sent to the microcontroller and PC via USB.

The Airspy team also compiled this comparison chart for us to understand the differences in architecture between the current SDRs on the market (click to enlarge). This shows that the HF+ is a different type of design compared to other SDRs. Generally the best SDRs out the market right now are direct sampling receivers with many filter banks. The HF+ approaches the problem in a different way, and according to the specs seems to match or better the performance of heavily filtered direct sampling receivers.

Performance from the Airspy HF+ product page is stated as:

  • -141.0 dBm (0.02 µV / 50 ohms) MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in HF
  • -141.5 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in FM Broadcast Band (60 – 108 MHz)
  • -139.5 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in VHF Aviation Band (118 – 136 MHz)
  • -139 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in VHF Commercial Band (136 – 174 MHz)
  • -138 dBm MDS Typ. at 500Hz bandwidth in the upper VHF Band (> 174 MHz)
  • +26 dBm IIP3 on HF at maximum gain
  • +13 dBm IIP3 on VHF at maximum gain
  • 110 dB blocking dynamic range in HF
  • 95 dB blocking dynamic range in VHF

Continue reading

New Airspy HF+ Pics and Sensitivity Test

The Airspy HF+ is an upcoming product from the Airspy team that is intended to be a high performance HF/VHF receiver at a low price. Its frequency range will be DC to 31 MHz, and 60 to 260 MHz and the bandwidth will be about 660 kHz. So why choose the HF+ over the Airspy R2, Mini or SDRplay which all have larger frequency ranges and bandwidths? It seems the focus of the HF+ is to be an extremely high dynamic range receiver. This means that strong signals should almost never overload the receiver making it very good for DXing weak signals (listening to weak signals from very far away). On other receivers once you turn the gain up strong signals can block reception of the weaker ones.

Recently we saw the release of some of the first 3D renderings of the product. Now finally we have a photo of the actual PCB which is shown below. The RF sensitive innards are hidden away within a shielding can, but we know from the product page that inside are the switches, filters, tuner, ADC and 18-bit DDC.

The Airspy HF+ PCB
The Airspy HF+ PCB

Also, over on Twitter, @lambdaprog, lead creator of SDR# and of the Airspy HF+ has uploaded some sensitivity tests. It seems that sensitivity will be at least -136 dBM at 20 meters, as a -136 dBm signal still comes in with 21 dB of SNR. Similar sensitivity results are obtained on the FM Band.


The Airspy team have sent us a sample unit from an early manufacturing test and we hope to have a full review available a few weeks after we receive it.

SDR-Console V3 Latest Update: Signal History & Receiver Panes

SDR-Console is a popular RTL-SDR compatible multi purpose SDR software package which is similar to programs like SDR#, HDSDR and SDRuno. Currently SDR-Console V2 is the stable version and SDR-Console V3 is in a beta state. A few days ago SDR-Console V3 Preview 6 was released. It comes with some very interesting new features including a built in Airspy server, a recording scheduler, a new feature called signal history and a new receivers pane.

Over on his blog Nils Schiffhauer (DK8OK) has been reviewing the new release of SDR-Conosle V3 and writes the following information about some of the new features:

  • “Signal History” takes the signal strength of the given bandwidth each 50 milliseconds, which can be saved in a CSV file. It is also shown in three different speeds on a display.
  • “Receivers’ Pane” shows up to six combos of spectrum/spectrogram of the complete up to 24 parallel demodulators (they additionally can be shown in the Matrix, as in former versions).

“Signal History” offers many applications, to name just three:

  • analyze fading and its structure with an unsurpassed time resolution of 50 ms
  • document fade-in and fade out
  • measure signal-to-noise ratio of signals

In addition Nils has also uploaded a very useful 19 page PDF where he writes step by step instructions and shows numerous examples of the new signal history tool.

DK8OK's SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK’s SDR-Console V3 P6 Screenshot. Showing multiple receiver panes and the new signal history feature.
DK8OK's screenshot of the signal history toolbox.
DK8OK’s screenshot of the signal history toolbox.

First Renderings of the Airspy HF+ Revealed

Back in February of this year we first heard about the Airspy HF+, which is an upcoming product from the Airspy team that is intended to be a high performance HF receiver at a low price. Over on the Airspy HF+ website the first (rendered) image of the unit has recently been released. We’ve also managed to get some additional renderings from the Airspy team which we show in the image slider below.

The enclosure is CNC carved aluminum with two SMA ports on one side, and a USB port on the rear. Since the HF+ actually has the capability to tune up to 260 MHz it uses two SMA inputs, one for an HF antenna and one for a VHF antenna. Inside the RF circuit is shielded again with a shielding can to protect it from USB noise.

airspyhfplus_render
airspy_hf_2
airspy_hf_4
airspy_hf_3

The tweet below also appears to show some grounding improvements made to reduce USB noise.

Other recent tweets from prog (the creator of the Airspy HF+) indicate that the hardware is ready, and show that streaming from with SpyServer from a RPi3 is functional. Hopefully we should be seeing this unit release for sale soon.

A Review of the SpyVerter R2

The SpyVerter is a high performance upconverter that enables HF reception on SDR’s that aren’t able to tune directly to HF frequencies. Like any upconverter it works by converting those lower HF frequencies ‘up’ into a higher frequency range that is actually receivable by the SDR.

Back in December 2015 when the SpyVerter first came out we reviewed the unit and found that it was probably the best and highest value upconverter on the market. It was priced at a similar or cheaper price to competitors, came in a metal enclosure and had excellent performance. The main reason for its high performance is due to the architecture. While most upconverters on the market like the ham-it-up use an ADE-1 double balanced mixer component, the SpyVerter instead uses an H-mode mixer design. This design is harder to engineer, but it provides better dynamic range meaning that strong signals are less likely to overload the upconverter.

The SpyVerter was recently given a refresh, and the SpyVerter R2 is now available. The changes are small and are mostly centered around the clock. The oscillator is now a 24 MHz 0.5 PPM TCXO, run through a SI5351 clock generator to produce the 120 MHz upconversion frequency. A new onboard microcontroller programs the SI5351 on power up.

This change in clock design also now allows you to connect a 10 MHz reference frequency if ultra stable, or phase coherent frequency operation is required. A u.FL connector is provided next to the output SMA connector on the PCB for connecting a 10 MHz reference. Unfortunately there is no breakout hole in the metal enclosure, meaning that you’ll need to drill your own hole in the enclosure to get the u.FL clock cable out. Few people will need this feature however, as thanks to the 0.5 PPM TCXO stock frequency stability is now excellent.

The new design also uses less power, only drawing 10 mA of current compared to 47 mA in the SpyVerter R1. It also has 12 dB lower local oscillator leakage meaning that the gains might be able to be pushed slightly higher without overload. Once again, just like with the SpyVerter R1 the R2 is also powered via the bias tee on the Airspy, and so is compatible with the bias tee on our RTL-SDR V3 dongles.

svr2_1
svr2_2

There’s also an interesting mod that can be performed with the SpyVerter R2. The LO frequency can be modded to run at 58 MHz instead of 120 MHz. 58 MHz is just low enough to avoid the broadcast FM band, and the lower frequency allows the switches used in the H-mode design to run at a lower frequency. This results in an insertion loss better by about 3 dB’s and less LO leakage meaning that the RF gains can be pushed higher. The main disadvantage to this mod is that the lowest input frequency will only be 28 MHz.  The mod details don’t seem to be published yet, but we’ll update this post once they are.

The cost of the SpyVerter R2 remains the same as before at $49 USD. Compared to the Ham-It-Up v1.3 which costs $41.95 USD and does not come with an enclosure or TCXO, the SpyVerter still seems to be the best value. Currently you can buy one internationally from iTead who ship from China, at Airspy.us for US customers, and there are several European distributors linked on the Airspy website.

Disclaimer: The SpyVerter R2 was sent by the Airspy team to us for free in exchange for an honest review.