Category: HF

The SWLing Post Reviews the YouLoop Passive Loop Antenna

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.

YouLoop Portable Passive Magnetic Loop Antenna for HF and VHF
YouLoop Portable Passive Magnetic Loop Antenna for HF and VHF

YouLoop Portable Passive HF/VHF Loop Antenna now Available in our Store

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.

YouLoop Portable Passive Magnetic Loop Antenna for HF and VHF
YouLoop Portable Passive Magnetic Loop Antenna for HF and VHF

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.

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.

In the future we hope to offer a comparison between other loop antennas like the MLA-30 and Wellbrook.

Techminds Reviews the Ham-It-Up Nano Upconverter

A few days ago we posted about the release of the new NooElec Ham-It-Up Nano upconverter which sells for US$49.95 on their store and Amazon. Upconverters enable SDRs that cannot tune in the HF bands to receive HF by shifting the low HF frequencies "up" into a range receivable by most VHF/UHF capable SDRs.

In his latest video Techminds reviews the Nano together with an E4000 tuner based RTL-SDR with built in bias tee. In the video he demonstrates it working with the SDR# software, and shows how to set the Shift parameter to ensure that the correct frequency offset it set. He goes on to demonstrate reception through the various HF bands confirming that the unit works as expected.

Nooelec Ham It Up NANO - HF Upconverter

Building an Underground Earth Probe Antenna for 0 – 14 MHz TX/RX

Thank you to Jean-Marie Polard (F5VLB) for letting us know about his work in creating underground "earth probe" antennas that work for both RX and TX between 0 - 14 MHz, and are especially good at VLF and below. He writes:

Can't install an antenna at home? Madame refuses the masts, taut son? One solution, The Earth probes antenna.

Our group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/earthprobes/) started in January 2019. At first everyone made fun of me, the professionals called me crazy and today with more than seven hundred members, we installed underground antenna systems and the results are there.

Between 0 and 14MHz, in transmission and reception, it works!

This system dates from 1914/1918 but has been brought up to date.

It doesn't take much to get started, just the urge to try.

Mad of vlf - elf - ulf ? come here https://www.facebook.com/groups/VLF.ULF.ELF/ nearly 1000 members are waiting for you.

So when? Welcome everyone.

To access the Earth Probes and VLF.ULF.ELF groups you'll need a Facebook account. The groups contain a number of research papers documenting the concept, and the photos section. From the photos, an earth probe antenna appears to consist of two long grounding rods spread over a distance, or a grounding rod and long buried wire, combined with a balun.

An example of an underground antenna setup from a 1935 shortwave magazine.
An example of an underground antenna setup from a 1935 shortwave magazine.

Techminds Reviews a HF RX SWL Antenna for Small Spaces and Apartments

Over on his YouTube channel TechMinds has uploaded a video reviewing the X1-HF 1 - 50 MHz Trapped Coil Receiving antenna from Moonraker.eu which goes for £69.95. This is a small electrically short antenna for HF reception which is easy to setup and install, requiring no radials. However, like all short HF antennas it is a compromise.

In the review he uses an SDRplay RSP2 SDR to test HF reception with the antenna. Later in the video he also tests it outside the advertised 1 - 50 MHz range. He concludes that the antenna works very well for it's small size.

HF RX SWL Antenna For Small Spaces And Apartments RTL SDR

NooElec Releases the Ham-It-Up Nano HF Upconverter

Today NooElec have released a new product called the "Ham-it-up Nano" for US$49.95 on their store and Amazon. The original Ham-it-up is an HF upconverter that enables reception of the HF bands with SDRs that do not natively support HF. Upconverters work by shifting these low HF frequencies "up" into a range receivable by most VHF/UHF capable SDRs.

The new nano version is much smaller than the original design and about $15 cheaper if you compare against the version with metal case. The nano can also be powered directly via bias tee capable SDRs, so no external power source is required. Compared to the original version the nano misses out on the pass through switch and bonus noise source circuit.

The Ham-it-up Nano probably most directly competes with the SpyVerter from Airspy, which is another small form factor and bias tee powered upconverter for US$49.00. Spec-wise, the SpyVerter appears to remain superior with better LF/VLF support, less conversion loss and it's ability to use a 10 MHz external reference clock for advanced users. But the Ham-It-Up Nano is designed and made in the USA vs designed in France and made in China for the SpyVerter. The nano may also be a little cheaper and faster in terms of shipping to obtain via Amazon.

Below is a table comparing the advertised specifications with specs taken from the Ham-it-up Nano datasheet and SpyVerter sales page. Overall, most HF dabblers probably won't notice a major difference between the two unless you are truly setting up HF DX antennas. And as always our advice is if you are heavily interested in HF and DX, then it may be wiser to spend a little more and get yourself an Airspy HF+ Discovery (US$169) or an SDRplay RSP1A (US$109) or RSPdx (US$199.95) instead of an RTL-SDR + upconverter (US$20 + US$50 = $70).

Spec Ham-It-Up Nano SpyVerter
Frequency Range 100 kHz - 65 MHz 1 kHz - 60 MHz
Conversion Loss 10dB (typ) 5.2 dB (typ)
LO Frequency 125 MHz 120 MHz
IIP3 Not Specified 35 dBm
Max Input Power 1 dBm 10 dBm
Operating Voltage 4 V - 5.5 V 4.2 V - 5.5 V
Current Consumption 65 mA (typ) 10 mA (typ)
Power Methods Bias Tee, microUSB, Pin Header Bias Tee, microUSB
LO Stability 0.5 PPM 0.5 PPM
10 MHz External LO Capable? No Yes
Input Return Loss -10 dB (max) -10 dB (max)
Output Return Loss -10 dB (max) -10 dB (max)
Phase Noise @ 10kHz Not Specified -122 dBc/Hz
Dimensions 2.0" x 1.2" x 0.75" (50 x 30 x 18mm) 2.1" x 1.6" x 1" (53 x 40 x 25 mm)
Weight 45g 108g
Design & Manufacture Country Designed and Made USA & Canada Designed in France, Made in China
Price US$49.95 + shipping (free US shipping on Amazon) US$49.00 + shipping (~US$5 to US, or US$10 via US reseller)
The Ham-it-up Nano
The Ham-it-up Nano

Demonstrating Solar Inverter Noise Cancelling with a Timewave ANC-4 and Airspy HF+

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

Decoding NavTex with an SDRplay RSPDx, SDRUno and YanD

Over on YouTube TechMinds has uploaded a new video explaining NavTex and showing how to decode it with an HF capable SDR like the SDRplay RSPDx. NavTex is a marine digital data radio service designed for transmitting information like navigational and meteorological warnings, weather forecasts and maritime safety information. It is broadcast in either the MW frequency band at 490 kHz and 518 kHz or in the HF band at 4209.5 kHz.

In the video TechMinds uses a guide put out by Mike Ladd from SDRplay (pdf warning). The guide explains how to connect SDRuno to a NavTex decoder called YanD via a virtual audio cable. The rest of the video shows a NavTex message being decoded, some sample messages, and a closer look at YanD. 

Even if you don't use an SDRplay, the guide could be adapted for other SDRs too.

Decoding NavTex with Software Defined Radio - SDRuno RSPdx