Category: HF

The SDRSharp ListenInfo Plugin

SDR# is a popular software defined radio program that is compatible with RTL-SDR, Airspy and several other SDR devices. One feature is the ability for third parties to develop plugins for the software.

One recently released plugin that is gaining popularity is the "ListenInfo" plugin. The ListenInfo plugin uses a publicly available database of shortwave stations to display frequency station info for the LW, MW, SW bands within the SDR# spectrum display.

If you've ever been browsing the shortwave bands and wondered where a station is broadcasting from, and what it's transit power, beam direction and transmit schedule are like, then this will be a very useful plugin for you.

SDR# ListenInfo Plugin
SDR# ListenInfo Plugin

Upgrading the Mahahit DSP1 and Malahit Chinese Clones into the Mahahit DSP2

Mahiteam is a Russian company that produces the relatively popular Malahit DSP1/DSP2 and Malahit DDC portable SDR radio which are great for shortwave listening, but can also cover up to 2 GHz. Manuel L. has been following developments and notes that Malahiteam are offering the ability to upgrade their DSP1 (and any DSP1 Chinese clone) into Malahit 2 units by sending the device in for a chip replacement. Manuel writes:

Hi. Recently it is possible to upgrade the Malahit DSP1 (original) and also the China clones (if registered in Russia) of the Malahit with a new CPU and if necessary a new audio codec chip. This upgrade has been officially released by the Malahiteam the developers.

This allows custom DSP2 firmware to run on the DSP1 and clones. This makes the device more powerful and also has the option of installing a Bluetooth board and controlling it via the software, as is the case with the DSP2.

This upgrade can be carried out directly in Russia by the Malahit team.

For Europe this is done by Jochen Köster DC9DD (Malahit Servise Europa) who converted the first DSP1 and China clones outside of Russia.

In the US, the future KD9NXV makes Mark Roy (USA Service Malahit).

I have tested the first conversions outside of Russia and it is a very big upgrade of the devices. They work a lot better now. I have shown this in several YouTube films. More information and contacts to the service teams outside of Russia can be found at Telegram and the Malahit Facebook group

YouTube Video Upgrade Malahit DSP1 and China Clone:

The Malahit DSP2
The Malahit DSP2

Maverick-603: An Affordable FT8 Receiver with an Open Source RF Chip

The Maverick-603 is a US$149 FT8 receiver based on an open source RF chip design which is capable of acquiring signals between 7 MHz and 70 MHz (technically 1 MHz to 100 MHz). It is currently undergoing Crowd Funding on Crowd Supply with 7 days left in the campaign. Shipping is expected to begin in April 2023.

FT8 is a popular weak signal propagation digital mode used by ham radio enthusiasts. FT8 signals can be received and decoded all over the world even with low transmit power and poor propagation conditions thanks to its highly error tolerant encoding. A dedicated FT8 receiver allows enthusiasts to set up a 24/7 FT8 monitor without dedicating more expensive ham radio equipment to the task. Note that a computing device like a PC or possibly a Raspberry Pi 4 will still be required to run the FT8 decoding software as this is a software defined radio.

The Maverick-603 is based on a custom open source RF chip design made possible by the company eFabless. It is now possible to cheaply design and produce custom ASIC chips (at least at the lower end of the technology scale), replacing more costly FPGA designs. The technical specs of the Maverick-603 are:

  • MCU: ATMEGA1608
  • Power Supply: 3.3 V / 10 mA
  • Operating Frequency Range: 1 to 100 MHz
  • Minimum Signal Strength: -25 dBm
  • Input Antenna Impedance: 50 Ohm
  • Data Interface: SPI
  • Board Size: 2" x 1.75"
  • Capable of receiving FT8 signals
  • 7 - 70 MHZ frequency range
  • Low-power operation (1.8 Volts) means no battery or outlet is required
  • USB Connection
  • A compact surface area
The Maverick-603 FT8 Receiver
The Maverick-603 FT8 Receiver

A Broad Overview About HF on the RTL-SDR Blog V3

Over on YouTube, Tom the Dilettante has uploaded a video demonstrating how to receive HF signals with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode. This is something already known to most RTL-SDR fans, but on the RTL-SDR V3 we have built in a direct sampling circuit that enables reception below 24 MHz with a simple settings change in software.

In the past and with other dongle brands, enabling direct sampling required hardware mods involving directly soldering a wire antenna to very small pins or pads. Direct sampling is not a high performance mode for HF, but in many situations it can be good enough for casual listening. 

In his video Tom demonstrates HF reception with the RTL-SDR Blog V3 and an MLA-30 active loop antenna. This is a cheap loop antenna available on Aliexpress that works very well for the price.

Listen Around the World - No Internet Required (HF & Shortwave on RTL SDR)

Video on Receiving HF Signals with the RTL-SDR Blog V3

Over on YouTube TheSmokinApe has uploaded a video showing how to use the direct sampling mode on RTL-SDR Blog V3 devices to receive HF transmissions, such as the ham bands, short wave and AM broadcast. In the video he shows how to activate direct sampling mode in SDR#, and then goes on to show reception of a few HF signals.

We note that an appropriate HF capable antenna is required to receive HF signals. The multipurpose dipole kits we sell are for VHF/UHF reception only. A simple and low cost HF antenna could just be a long wire running through your house.

HF Ham Radio with RTL-SDR Made EASY!

Lon.TV Demonstrates Decoding Various Digital Signals with RTL-SDR

Tech YouTuber Lon.TV has recently uploaded a video demonstrating how to identify and decode various digital transmissions with an RTL-SDR dongle. In the video he explains how to use VB Cable to pipe audio from SDR# into various decoders, and then goes on to show DMR, APRS, POCSAG, L-Band AERO, FT8, and JS8/JS8CALL all being decoded via an RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle.

Software Defined Radio Part 2 - Decoding Digital Transmissions with an RTL-SDR USB Radio

An RTL-SDR Panadapter for the TECSUN PL660 Shortwave Radio

Thank you to Joseph IT9YBG for submitting his article describing how he has made an RTL-SDR based panadapter for his TECSUN PL660 portable shortwave radio. The post is a series of pictures that show how Joseph was able to open the PL660 and connect a coax cable to the IF output, and mount the connector on the plastic cover for easy access. He then connects that IF output to the RTL-SDR via a 10pF capacitor.

The result is that Joseph is able to receive the IF output of the PL660 at 451 kHz in SDRUno with his RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in Q-Branch direct sampling mode. He notes that although the IF bandwidth from the PL660 is small, it is possible to decode digital signals by passing the audio demodulated by SDRUno into decoding software. 

RTL-SDR Blog V3 Panadapter for the Tecsun PL660

Frugal Radio: Testing a Loop on Ground Antenna with an Airspy HF+ Discovery

The KK5JY Loop on Ground (LoG) antenna is a 15 feet per side square loop designed for reception of HF and lower. It simply consists of an isolation transformer and wire that as the name implies is placed somewhere on the ground in a square loop like shape. It is cheap and easy to build and compact in that it does not take up any usable space. 

In his latest video Rob from the Frugal Radio YouTube channel tests out this antenna with his Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR. He uses a bit of wire lying around, and a low cost 9:1 Balun from NooElec as the isolation transformer. With this antenna he was able to pick up signals in the USA and all the way over to Australia from his home in Canada. NDB signals were also receivable.

2022 LoG (Loop on Ground antenna) for SDR radio tested on Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR KK5JY HAM radio