Cloned SDRPlay and Airspy Units Now Appearing on Aliexpress/eBay

Recently we've found that there are now cloned units of SDRplay RSP1 and Airspy R2 units appearing on Aliexpress and eBay. (We won't link them here to avoid improving the Google ranking of the clone listings). This post is just a warning and reminder that these are not official products of SDRplay or Airspy, and as such you would not receive any support if something went wrong with them. The performance and long term software support of the clones also isn't known. Buying clones also damages the original developers abilities to bring out exciting new products like we've seen so far constantly with Airspy and SDRplay.

SDRplay

We've been in contact with SDRplay for a statement and they believe that the unit is a clone of the older and now discontinued RSP1, and not the RSP1A, despite the listings advertising RSP1A features such as additional filtering. SDRplay note from the pictures of the circuit board that the cloned unit's circuit board looks like an RSP1, and that the listing description is probably just blindly copied directly from the official RSP1A description.

Currently given that the price of the cloned RSP1 is $139, which is higher than the $109 cost of an original and newer model RSP1A, we don't see many taking up the offer.

Airspy

The Airspy R2 has also recently been cloned and now appears on Aliexpress with the lowest price being US$139 without any metal enclosure. Given that the price of an original Airspy R2 with metal enclosure is US$169, we again don't see many taking up the offer of the clone with such a small price difference.

HackRF

The HackRF is a different story in respect to clones. The HackRF design and circuits are open source, so unlike the closed source designs of the SDRplay and Airspy, in a way HackRF clones are actually encouraged and are legal. For some time now it's been possible to find cloned HackRF's on Aliexpress for only US$120 at the lowest, and from $150 - $200 including antennas and TCXO upgrades. This is quite a saving on the $299+ cost of the original HackRF. Reports from buyers indicate that the HackRF clones are actually decent and work well. The advantage of buying the original version is that you support Michael Ossmann, the creator of the HackRF, and may potentially get a better performing unit.

We've also seen clones of the HackRF Portapack on Aliexpress, which is an add-on for the HackRF that allows you to go portable. The clones go for $139 vs $220 for the original. No word yet on the quality.

RTL-SDR V3

We also note that recently there have been several green color RTL-SDRs released on the market with some being advertised as "RTL-SDR Blog V3" units. These are not our units, and are not even actual clones of the V3. These green units appear to just be standard RTL-SDRs without any real improvements apart from a TCXO. Some listings even advertise the V3's bias tee and HF features, but they are not implemented. Real V3 units come in a silver enclosure branded with RTL-SDR.COM.

Final Words

If you know how China works, you'll understand that it's highly unlikely that there is any legal recourse for SDRplay and Airspy to remove these products from sale. Once a product is popular it is almost a given that it will be cloned. It's possible that the clones might be able to be gimped via blacklisting official software, but that the companies would implement this is a stretch, and would probably be easy to get around. In the end while not ethical in a business fairness sense, these clones may be good for the consumer as they force the original designers to lower their prices and improve added value services.

If readers are interested in a comparison between the clones and original units, please let us know as we may consider an article on it.

Cloned SDRs Roundup
Cloned SDRs Roundup

15 comments

  1. Steve K2GOG

    Only good thing of this is that by looking at the knock off green RTL-SDR v3 is that I hope the factory spinning up those cases makes something like that for the LimeSDR MINI at a much more decent price than what I think is a totally overpriced one from the Lime SDR Crowd Supply site. I came across another case, but the guy in China has not yet opened his store for sale. So, hoping someone sees this and makes a decent priced case for the LimeSDR Mini soon.

    • Vileer

      Hi Steve, is the store called hackergadgets.com? If the answer is yes, the guy you mentioned is me, sorry for the delay in the store opening date, the store is my side project, I actually have a daily job, so I don’t have much time on it. But if you are following my twitter, you would know that I recently shell two limesdr mini cases to James by the Paypal payment request. If you want them before the store open you can send me an email (vileer.com#gmail.com).

    • Bendail Vam

      It kinda shame they waste time cloning these things, so cheap anyway. If they really want to make $$ they chould clone the Uniden overpriced SDR scanner thing they come out with the SDS100…they would sell millions…1 for the house, 1 for the car, 1 for the chop, 1 for the glovebox, 1 for the pool, 1 for the neighbors house when he no home LOL….etc etc…HINT HINT

  2. Bruce Ferrell

    I was an early purchaser of an SDRPlay unit and found their support, shall we say, less that complete and the lack of open drivers under linux make the unit totally unacceptable.

    If the clones have more open drivers, I for one, welcome them.

    • Timmy

      It would be the exact same firmware and the same drivers. They dump all support on to the original manufacturers. It is a knockoff clone, not a new original design.

      They take an existing board, analyse and reinterpret the design to reduce costs, usually just enough of the original design is left to fool the current firmware that it is the same board. In some cases if you can see and understand what that have done – some of the design changes are funny. Cost wins over quality every time, which does mean that the clone design is always cheaper to manufacturer.

      • Timmy

        With a clone, there is no control over where the components are sourced. The cheapest tantalum capacitors are going to be made from conflict minerals ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_minerals ). So I do not know if I would call the clones ethical. Most original manufacturers have supply chains that by law do not use conflict minerals.

  3. Katiro

    Please provide us a clear comparison of features between closed and original products. In the field of electronics, products are reverse engineered and cloned. US laws are limited to USA. Its the responsibility of the maker to stop the reverse engineering process. If the maker failed, too bad. This is how the world works. Posting this on RTL SDR blog again ang again is not going to help. You are bringing more publicity to them. Copyrights, patents are screwing innorcent people around the world. Perhaps, this might open the eyes of designers and find different marketing approach.

    • admin

      Yes this blog is about all news related to cheap SDR, including news of new clones. This post is mainly about awareness, maybe stopping someone accidentally buying a clone when they really wanted an original, especially since the clone advertising using the official trademark names of the western companies. If it ends up increasing clone sales from those who want clones then so be it, we’re not affiliated with any of the above companies (apart from our own RTL-SDR dongles) so we are neutral. Word is already out on Facebook and forums anyway.

    • Max

      Why would somebody want to buy a clone at about the same price of the original? There is no guarantee that it will be an exact copy, circuits could be semplified and filters not properly tested or components could be also clones with higher tolerance. The more we talk about them the more people is advised to pay attention to what the buy.
      Of course there will always be dumb asses like the ones that keep on buying the obsolete BA5SBA chinese box.

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