Category: SDRplay

STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio: A new Android DRM Decoder for RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRPlay

A new RTL-SDR compatible DRM decoding Android app called "STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio" has recently been released on the Google Play store for US$5.49, and on Amazon DE for EUR4.49. The author notes that a Windows version will also be published soon. Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) is a type of digital audio shortwave radio signal that is used by some international shortwave radio broadcasters.

The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio allows you to conveniently enjoy any DRM live radio broadcast on your Android smartphone or tablet. No Internet connection required. All you need is an SDR RF dongle or receiver connected to your device via USB.

DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the global digital radio standard used for all digital international transmissions as well as for national and local services in many countries. To learn more about DRM and its features visit www.drm.org.

The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for ease-of-use and supports all core features of the DRM standard:

  • Listener-centric and easy to navigate app design and user interface
  • Multiple user interface languages. Currently supported: English, German, Simplified Chinese
  • Convenient frequency tuning and DRM Service selection
  • DRM Service labels and graphical service logos
  • Full service metadata: programme/app type, language, country of origin, etc.
  • All standardized DRM audio codecs incl. xHE-AAC with optimized tune-in performance for a quick start of audio playback
  • Journaline, DRM’s advanced text application, allows to interactively browse through latest news, sports and weather updates, programme background information and schedules, distance learning/RadioSchooling text books, travel information, and much more
  • Full Journaline feature set including hot-button interactivity, geo-references and embedded/linked images
  • Convenient and fast Journaline information access with update notifications for page-content (and automatic updates for menus), as well as persistent caching for instant content access when switching between DRM services
  • DRM text messages incl. DL+ support
  • Slideshow images
  • Unicode support for all textual elements: service labels, text messages, Journaline
  • DRM EWF – Emergency Warning Functionality within the DRM transmission: in case of an emergency alarm signal, automatically re-tunes from the current service to the emergency programme; presents the emergency audio along with multi-lingual Journaline content to provide in-depth instructions with interactive access and to serve non-native speakers or hearing impaired users

In addition, STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for maximum tuning flexibility and performance:

  • Free tuning to any DRM broadcast frequency
  • Supports all DRM frequency bands – from the former AM bands (LW/MW/SW) to the VHF bands (including the FM band), depending only on RF dongle functionality
  • Supports all DRM robustness modes (A-E), modulation parameters and on-air signal bandwidths
  • Optimized frequency tuning and re-sync performance
  • Graphical spectrum view to check the signal on the tuned frequency

For live reception, an SDR RF dongle must be connected to the device’s USB port (with USB host functionality). The following SDR RF dongle families are currently supported, along with a range of specifically tested models:

  • Airspy HF+ family: Airspy HF Discovery, Airspy HF+ (Dual Port). (Note: Airspy Mini and R2 are NOT supported.)
  • SDRplay family: SDRPlay RSP1A, SDRPlay RSPdx, SDRPlay RSPduo, SDRPlay RSP1, SDRPlay RSP2, SDRPlay RSP2pro, MSI.SDR Panadapter (Note: SDRPlay family support on Android is currently limited to the 32-bit version of this app.)
  • RTL-SDR family: The experimental support for RTL-SDR based RF dongles requires that you manually start the following separate tool before opening this app (on standard port '14423'): The app 'SDR driver' can be installed from the Google Play Store and other Android app stores.
Starwaves DRM Decoder App Screenshots

Recent Podcasts on Software Defined Radio from Scanner School

Scanner School is an online resource that aims to teach subscribers all about radio scanning. They also run a weekly podcast discussing various topics in the scanning hobby. Recently they've had a bit of a focus on software defined radios, with several of the last podcasts being SDR related.

Episode 170 - SDRplay with Jon Hudson

On today’s episode, host Phil Lichtenberger interviews Jon Hudson, the co-creator of the SDRplay devices. They talk about the evolution of radio scanning software, the advantages of SDRplay and SDRuno, where they think the scanner hobby is headed, and more.

What You Need To Know

Jon Hudson is a co-creator of the SDRplay device. SDRplay manufactures both hardware and software. Before about 20 years ago, processing the radio chain was done exclusively on the hardware. Now computers are powerful enough to support doing most of this work with software. SDRplay was founded in 2014. The RSPDX has multiple antennae, which allows users to switch from one antenna to another quickly and easily. Because SDRplay makes their own software for Windows, they take a lot of time to make sure it works seamlessly out of the box. SDRplay acquired a company called Studio One that manufactured software about five years ago. SDRplay is releasing a scheduler, which will function as an audio recorder for a specific channel at a specific time. An advantage of the scheduler is that it allows users to tune in to certain frequencies at a specified time and then turn it off or move on to something else. All session notes with links to the items we talked about can be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session170

170 - SDRplay with Jon Hudson

Episode 169 - SDR++ with Alex Rouma

A cross platform, open source, free SDR software!

In this episode, Phil talks to Alex Rouma, author and creator of SDR++. They discuss how Alex got into SDRs, where SDR++ is now and where he hopes it can go, and how you can contribute to this open source software’s development, whether you’re a programmer or not.

What You Need To Know

SDR++ is free, open-source, cross-platform software for your SDR. Alex got into SDRs after watching a video of someone receiving weather satellites, piquing his interest in radio in general. Alex is currently building SDR++ as general purpose SDR receiver software with more modern functionality like multi-VFO and multi-platform support. SDR++ supports anything Alex has or that companies have sent him, including SDR Play, HackRF, RTLTCP, and more. Alex considers the software still in beta, but thinks he’ll have stable code with the features he wants within 3-4 months. He wants to add audio filtering features and more options for the file source. SDR++ is fully modular so you can add plugins as you need them. Alex aims to make the software as automatic as possible. All session notes with links to the items we talked about can be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session169

169 - SDR++ with Alex Rouma

Episode 168 - Using a SDR as Your Scanner

In this episode, Phil talks to listener Greg Weamer about his SDR setup. They get into the history of SDR development, what you can do with an SDR that you can’t do with a hardware-based scanner, and where they think the future of SDRs is heading.

What You Need To Know

Today, Greg does not have a hardware scanner at all, but only a SDR. His area has simulcast problems that the SDR solves. Greg currently uses about 8 RTL-SDR dongles, including 3 on a Raspberry Pi, some on another Raspberry Pi, an old laptop, and more. Greg also uses Trunk Recorder, which is one of the most difficult things he’s ever configured, but he loves that it monitors every voice channel at the same time. RDIO Scanner is a web interface that takes the feeds from the virtual recorders Greg has going and cues up calls on every voice channel so you don’t miss anything. Because it’s a web interface, he can bring it up on his phone or tablet from anywhere. Greg thinks the next major SDR development will eliminate the need for any fully hardware based radios entirely. An SDR can do things that not a single hardware-based scanner out there is capable of. Greg has used his SDR to tune into his utilities smart meters for his water and gas to track his usage. One of Greg’s favorite things about SDR is that you can see the signals and whether they’re strong or not, whether they’re digital or analog, etc. The ability to visualize the signal lets you find a lot more new stuff to listen to. The flexibility of an SDR and ability to do so many things at once with it means you get the equivalent of several premium subscriptions to other services. All session notes with links to the items we talked about an be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session168

168 - Using a SDR as Your Scanner

Episode 165 - This is Why You Need an SDR

In this episode, Phil walks through the basics of what an SDR is, its history, and how you can get set up with one. The perfect introduction to his upcoming SDR webinar and course.

What you will take away from this week's podcast:

An SDR means that anything normally handled by the hardware of the radio is now handled by the computer, and the physical hardware serves as an interface. The only limitation on the SDR hardware you buy is the frequency range and the amount of RF it can digest. SDR receivers have come a long way since they were first hacked into existence. SDRs used to be difficult to set up, but that’s no longer true. You don’t need advanced computer skills to run SDR software. SDR software can run on PC, Linux, Mac, Raspberry PI, and even Android. An SDR is more flexible and less expensive than a traditional radio. You can turn a $30 USB stick into something as powerful as an SDS200 in an afternoon. All you need to get started is an SDR USB stick, a computer, and the free starter software SDR Sharp. Once you get set up with FM broadcast stations, aviation, and other analog systems, Phil’s SDR course will go into how to set up digital reception. If you download DSD+ Fast Lane or Unitrunker you can monitor trunking systems. All session notes with links to the items we talked about an be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session165

165 - This is Why You Need an SDR

Episode 164 - Raspberry PI and SDR w/ Fuzz the Pi Guy

In this episode, Phil talks to "Fuzz the Pi Guy".

Fuzz has a large YouTube channel and has a ton of SDR and Raspberry Pi Videos.

Fuzz and I discuss how he uses his Software Defined Radios and how he keeps costs down by using a Raspberry Pi as as his computer for many of these projects.

What you will take away from this week's podcast:

SDR stands for Software Defined Radio, where you plug your hardware into power on one end and your computer on the other end so the computer software can interpret the signal. The Raspberry Pi is essentially a low-cost computer to help teach computer science in schools, and is now used for things like hosting Minecraft servers, learning Linux, and running SDR programs. Fuzz has a YouTube channel where he primarily demonstrates Raspberry Pi projects and tips, as well as a wide variety of small electronics content. He’s using a new setup that involves a Raspberry Pi 3 with an RTL-SDR dongle, connected to a 2m 70cm homemade antenna to receive his local Phase 2 frequencies, uploaded to Broadcastify using the new free software OP25. Using this setup, Fuzz essentially created a Phase 2 scanner for under $100. The FlightAware website gives a good introduction to using the Raspberry Pi with an SDR that can get you set up in under 15 minutes. The Raspberry Pi has the best support system out there for any Pi hardware, but Fuzz has been working with the Atomic Pi lately. This setup provides an inexpensive alternative to buying a pricey scanner if you don’t mind troubleshooting and problem solving to get going. All session notes with links to the items we talked about an be found on our website at www.scannerschool.com/session164

164 - Raspberry PI and SDR w/ Fuzz the Pi Guy

Frugal Radio: Monitoring VHF Airband Aviation Frequencies at the Airport

Rob from Frugal Radio has recently uploaded the next video in his airband monitoring series. In this video Rob explains various airband communications that can be received from the airport, and explains about needing to be in the line of sight of an airport in order to receive them.

He goes on to explain signals and airport radio communications channels such as ATIS, Clearance Delivery, Tower, Arrivals (Approach), Departures, Radar and Terminal communications. The video provides various examples of these communications being received with an SDRplay software defined radio.

Monitoring VHF Airband Aviation Frequencies at the Airport

TechMinds: Testing a DC-160 MHz Panadapter Switch

Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds has uploaded a video where he tests out a cheap US$90 automatic antenna switch with DC-160 MHz range that he purchased from Chinese goods retailer Banggood. An automatic antenna switch like this is required when wanting to use an SDR such as an RTL-SDR as a panadapter with a transmit capable radio. The switch will automatically switch the SDR to ground when transmitting, so that high power does not enter the SDR via the shared antenna and destroy it.

In the video Tech Minds shows how to set the switch connections up and then demonstrates the switch in action with a Yaesu FT-991A and SDRplay SDR. He notes that this cheap Chinese version is actually built better than the MFJ-1708 antenna switch which until recently was the only commercial option available. It is also half the price.

PANADAPTER For Any Radio DC - 160 MHz SDR Antenna Switch

Playing Fair with SDRplay: Discussion on Fake SDRplay Clones

SDRplay have recently released a blog post warning potential customers to be wary of the proliferation of fake and imitation SDRplay devices on various online marketplaces. SDRplay warn that these clones may not function with the latest SDRplay software such as SDRUno, and that no technical support for the clones is provided.

Over on his blog K4FMH has also uploaded a blog post titled "Ah Geez. Play Fair with SDRPlay. And If Some Don’t, Here’s What Can Be Done….". His post also discusses the clones and includes notes on how SDRplay fans can help take down clone listings on eBay by reporting them.

Of note is that ICQ Podcast Episode 344 released on Feb 14 also discusses this issue starting at 30:50 in the episode. They note that ethically these clones are problematic as they are ripping off a small company who have sunk a lot of costs into R&D and software development.

SDRplay is a UK based company that designs and manufactures low cost software defined radios which start from $109 + shipping. In the past we've posted a few times about SDRplay clones like the MSI.SDR, and about more elaborate clones of the RSP1A as well as Airspy and RTL-SDR V3 clones. As Mirics, the company manufacturing the main silicon chips used in SDRplay products is owned by most of the same people behind SDRplay it is unclear as to how their chips made it onto the Chinese markets. However, as these Mirics chips were originally used in mass market TV tuners, it is thought that they were probably desoldered from a batch of old USB TV tuners.

Reporting a fake SDRplay device

DragonOS: Decoding FT8 on Linux with WSJT-X

DragonOS is a ready to use Ubuntu Linux image that comes preinstalled with multiple SDR program. The creator of DragonOS, Aaron, uploads various YouTube tutorials showing how to use some of the preinstalled software. This month one of his tutorials covers how to use a SDRplay RSP1A or a HackRF to receive and decode FT8 with the preinstalled software WSJT-X or JS8Call. Aaron also notes that an RTL-SDR could also be used as the SDR.

In the video he covers how to set up a virtual audio cable sink in Linux for getting audio from GQRX into WSJT-X, setting up rigctld to allow WSJT-X to control GQRX, configuring GQRX, CubicSDR and WSJT-X, and finally downloading and using GridTracker.

DragonOS Focal Receive FT8 w/ WSJT-X (RSP1A, HackRF One, GQRX, CubicSDR, GridTracker)

New SDRUno Plugin Video Demos: Frequency Annotation, WEFAX, SSTV, DXToolbox

Earlier this year SDRplay updated their SDRuno software to have plugin functionality. This allows third party programmers to implement their own decoders and software which interfaces with SDRuno directly. Recently we've seen some new plugins become public, and in one of their recent blog posts, SDRplay highlights a few new ones.

SDRplay writes the following about three demonstration videos:

The first shows the latest version of FRAN – a FRequency ANnotation programme, developed by Eric Cottrell – it can read SWSKEDS or .s1b memory bank files and display the active stations from the files on the main spectrum window. This is an example of a Community Plugin

Quick Look at the FRAN Plugin (VID558)

FRAN complements the DX Cluster demo plugin provided by SDRplay. This programme displays DX cluster callsigns on the SDRuno spectrum display. A DX cluster is a network of computers, each running a software package dedicated to gathering, and disseminating, information on amateur radio DX activities. With this plugin you can overlay the DX cluster callsigns as they pop up. There’s a choice of how long you let them display and you can control the way in which they appear. Here we show it successfully tuning in to a US station flagged by the cluster. (The receiver was in the UK):

Quick Look at the DXcluster Plugin (VID560)

Finally there’s this new video showing the new plugin for interfacing the software suite from Black Cat Systems to SDRuno enabling DXToolbox, HF WEFAX and Slow Scan TV decodes:

Quick Look at the Black Cat Systems plugin

Black Cat Systems has a range of software available – more information can be found at: https://blackcatsystems.com/ For more about the SDRuno plugin system for both users and potential developers, go to https://www.sdrplay.com/plugins/

Tech Minds: SDRplay Interviews, Design Lab and Manufacturing Tour

In this week's Tech Minds video Matthew interviews the SDRplay team and also takes a tour of their design lab and PCB manufacturing facility. SDRplay is a manufacturer of low cost wideband software defined radios, with the cheapest starting at US$109.

The video starts with an interview with Jon Hudson from the SDRplay sales team who gives an overview of the entire SDRplay product line up, also explaining how the products have been iterated on over time. Jon also talks about the SDRuno software and team members in the company.

The next interview is with Andy Carpenter who is the head of SDRplay software development. Andy talks about SDRuno and how it came to be acquired and improved by SDRplay. They go on to discuss some recently added SDRuno features such as the plugin environment as well as the upcoming feature roadmap.

The final part of the video is a tour of the equipment used at the SDRplay design lab, and a tour of the UK based PCB manufacturing facility contracted by SDRplay. 

How It's Made - Software Defined Radio - SDRPlay