Search results for: RTL-SDR direct sampling

Testing a YouLoop on an RTL-SDR Blog V3 with Direct Sampling

Thank you to Frugal Radio for submitting a YouTube video where he tests the YouLoop on an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode. The YouLoop is a passive HF loop antenna that requires a highly sensitive SDR like the Airspy HF+ Discovery to work at its full potential. However, in direct sampling mode the RTL-SDR Blog V3 does have enough sensitivity to work with the antenna to some extent thanks to the HF amplifier that is used on the direct sampling circuit. In the video Frugal Radio demonstrates the YouLoop receiving various HF signals.

Will an AirSpy YouLoop work with an RTL-SDR v3 on HF in direct sampling mode? It shouldn't...

We also note a second video by Bartłomiej Marcinkowski which shows an RTL-SDR Blog V3 in direct sampling mode running with a DIY YouLoop and MiniWhip. The MiniWhip does have increased signal strength, but the YouLoop is still usable and may be a better choice in the presence of interference. Later in the video he compares the RTL-SDR Blog V3 with MiniWhip against the Airspy HF+ Discovery with DIY YouLoop. 

RTL-SDR v3 & YouLoop vs RTL-SDR v3 & MiniWhip vs AirSpy HF+ Discovery & YouLoop [80m,40m,20m]

Using an RTL-SDR Blog V3 in Direct Sampling Mode to Receive HF DRM on an Android Phone

Over on the SWLing blog contributor Dan Van Hoy wrote in and shared a report on how he's successfully been able to receive HF DRM 30 digital audio with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle running in direct sampling mode on an Android phone.

To do this he used an Android app called "DRM+SDR Receiver" which is available for US$4.99 on the Play store. The app supports RTL-SDR and HackRF devices. So all you need to do is set the RTL-SDR Android driver to run in Q-branch direct sampling mode, then tune to a DRM signal for it to begin decoding.

A demonstration video uploaded to his Google drive account shows clean decoding of the DRM AAC audio, as well as the app displaying Journaline and live metadata. He notes that his signal was very strong, so he only required a short wire, but DXers would need an appropriate antenna.

DRM Received on an Android phone with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode.
DRM Received on an Android phone with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode.

Decoding FT8 with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 in Direct Sampling Mode

Over on YouTube user ModernHam has uploaded a useful tutorial showing how to use our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongles for FT8 monitoring. The RTL-SDR Blog V3 has a built in direct sampling circuit which allows for reception of HF signals without the need for any upconverter. FT8 is an amateur radio weak signal digital communications mode which can be received all around the world even with low transmit power.

In his setup he uses SDR# and Virtual Audio Cable to pipe audio to the WSJT-X decoder. His video goes through all the steps and settings that need to be set and then shows a demo of some signals being received. ModernHam also has another video uploaded a few days earlier which is a more general introduction to FT8 decoding.

If you're interested we uploaded a tutorial last year that shows how to set up a Raspberry Pi 3 based FT8 decoding station with a V3 dongle.

Decoding FT8 with a RTL-SDR (Software defined Radio)

Testing the RTL-SDR V3 Direct Sampling Mode for use in a 2-FSK RPiTX Modem

Over on his blog, Rowetel has been testing our RTL-SDR Blog V3 in order to possibly use as a cheap FSK receiver for his RPiTX 2-FSK modem project. His post details some measurements that he's done in order to determine the lower HF band performance of the RTL-SDR V3 running in direct sampling mode, and it's viability for use in his 2-FSK modem system.

In the first test he uses RPiTX to generate a 2-FSK signal, which is then received and decoded by a RTL-SDR V3 connected to an attenuator and laptop. The Bit Error Rate (BER) is then measured while the attenuation is increased until the decoder fails. With this test he found a MDS somewhere between -115 dBm and -125 dBm, and a maximum input power of -30 dBm before clipping.

In another test he measures the RTL-SDR's ability to withstand a blocking CW signal. The results show that even with a 65 dB stronger signal just 7 kHz away, the 2-FSK modem system was able to continue working.

Finally he concludes:

So I figure for the lower HF bands this receivers performance is OK – the ADC quantisation noise isn’t likely to impact performance and the strong signal performance is good enough. An overload of -30dBm (S9+40dB) is also acceptable given the use case is remote communications where there is unlikely to be any nearby transmitters in the input filter passband.

Test Setup
Test Setup

New RTL-SDR Drivers and SDR-Console ExtIO Available: Bias Tee Support, Direct Sampling, Tunable IF Filters and Improved Gain Profiles

Recently two branches of RTL-SDR drivers were updated. Over on GitHub racerxdl’s librtlsdr branch adds bias tee support for our V3 RTL-SDR.com dongles to rtl_adsb, rtl_fm, rtl_power and rtl_tcp.

For SDR-Console users jdow’s ExtIO and driver now has an option to enable the direct sampling mode, which is allows the HF mode on our V3 dongles to be activated. The ExtIO module can be downloaded from her Google drive.

To use Joannes drivers download the SDRconsole folder by right clicking it, and selecting download. Then copy files from the x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64 bit) folders into the SDRConsole folder, replacing any files that already exist. Run the RtlSdr Catalog.exe file, then open SDR-Console and from the definitions choose RTL-SDR(Full). Then in the Radio Configuration settings you can choose to use the Q-branch, which will automatically enable the direct sampling mode when tuned below 24 MHz.

SDRConsole with a V3 dongle and HF Direct Sampling.
SDRConsole with a V3 dongle and HF Direct Sampling.

We’ve also discovered that Joanne has been working on RTLSDR++, which is a driver upgrade that includes some pretty interesting enhancements. When running Joanne’s drivers in SDR-Console we also see options to change the IF filter bandwidths of the R820T2 tuner. This is very useful as this allows you to control the preselector on board the R820T2. You can use this to attenuate strong out of band signals. Her driver also has improved gain profiles. One gain profile is optimized to reduce IMD distortion (prevent overload and images), and the other is designed to optimize sensitivity.

RTLSDR++ Driver: New IF bandwidth settings for preselection.
RTLSDR++ Driver: New IF bandwidth settings for preselection.
RTLSDR++ Drivers: New Gain Options
RTLSDR++ Drivers: New Gain Options

In addition Joanne has also created RtlTool.exe which is a GUI replacement for rtl_test.exe and rtl_eeprom.exe. It can be used to test for lost samples on your RTL-SDR and to flash the EEPROM memory. Most RTL-SDR dongles on most PCs are stable up till 2.56 MSPS, but this tool can be used to check. It can also be used to set the dongle serial number, vendor ID and name by flashing the EEPROM which most RTL-SDRs contain.

There’s also the RtlSdr Catalog tool which also helps manage multiple dongles being connected to the PC at once. See the readme file for more information on using this tool.

All these programs can also be downloaded from Google drive. Her RTL++ driver is also open sourced and available on GitHub.

RTLTOOL
RTLTOOL

New Posts From RTLSDR4Everyone: Avoiding RTL-SDR Ripoffs, ADS-B Antenna Reviews, Travel Kits and Direct Sampling vs Upconverter vs SDRPlay

Akos from the rtlsdr4everyone blog has been busy uploading new posts over the past few days. His first post is part three in a series that discusses how to avoid ripoffs when buying RTL-SDR dongles. The RTL-SDR market has recently become quite saturated, and it is now easy to purchase something that most experienced users would consider a ripoff. His post shows some examples of what he considers to be poor value choices available on eBay.

An example of a ripoff price.
An example of a ripoff price.

His second post discusses his methodology for testing dongles on their ADS-B performance. The second post then leads into the third post in which he compares four antennas on ADS-B reception. He compares two telescopic whip antennas, one set to 1/2 wave length, and the other set to 1/4 wave, a NooElec 5dBi whip antenna, and the FlightAware ADS-B antenna. His results show that the FlightAware antenna was the best performer, followed by the 1/2 wave telescopic whip, then the NooElec 5dBi whip and finally the 1/4 wave telescopic whip. The fourth post continues the ADS-B topic, and he reviews the NooElec 5dBi ADS-B antenna. Although the performance is not as good as the FlightAware antenna he mentions that it is much smaller and great for portable use. If  you are interested, we have also a review of the FlightAware antenna, and we also found its performance to be excellent.

The four ADS-B antennas tested in Akos' review.
The four ADS-B antennas tested in Akos’ review.

In his fifth post Akos shows what his RTL-SDR travel kit consists of. In this post he recommends both our RTL-SDR V3 dongle as well as the NooElec SMArt. For a portable computer, he takes along a Raspberry Pi 3 and a 20,000 mAh battery bank with solar charger. (Though we’d be interested to hear from Akos how long it takes for that small solar panel to charge the battery bank, probably takes days to charge?) For antennas he prefers to take along our large 1.5m telescopic antenna, the NooElec 5dBi ADS-B antenna, a medium telescopic antenna and a Nagoya knock-off telescopic antenna.

Akos' Mobile ADS-B Station.
Akos’ Mobile ADS-B Station.

Finally in the sixth post he shows a video that compares the differences between a generic dongle modded with direct sampling (without any impedance matching circuitry), an RTL-SDR dongle with ham-it-up upconverter and an SDRplay. Unsurprisingly the upconverter and SDRplay performs best.

Direct sampling vs upconverter vs SDRPlay on shortwave broadcast stations - 16 mins

As a bonus, Akos also has done an interesting stress test on the metal case of our RTL-SDR dongles, where he runs it over with a bus to see if it will survive. The case is mangled afterwards, but the dongle and functionality survives!

Dotcom dongle meets a bus

Three New Reviews of our V3 RTL-SDR using the HF Direct Sampling Mode

Recently this week three new reviews of our RTL-SDR V3 came out, all reviewing its operation on HF frequencies.

In the first review Mike (KD2KOG) reviews the dongle and provides a video of it in action in SDR# receiving AM and SSB signals. (Update: Sorry the video has been removed)

In the second review Gary (W4EEY) posts a review to swling.com and provides various screenshots of the dongle in action in HDSDR.

Finally over on YouTube user Johnny shows the dongle running in CubicSDR and listening to various SSB signals. (Video Removed)

 

New RTL-SDR Blog Units Now Available in Store: HF via Direct Sampling, Software Switchable Bias Tee, Less Noise/Spurs

A few months ago we brought out a poll asking readers of this blog what they might like to see in a revised RTL-SDR dongle. We’ve now taken some of those suggestions and implemented them into a brand new dongle. For now the price of the new dongle will remain the same as before at $24.95 USD for the dongle + antenna kit and $19.95 USD for the dongle only, but we may need to increase the price by $1 – $2 within the next few weeks due to our slightly increased manufacturing costs. Worldwide shipping remains free from the Chinese international warehouse, and US customers can order either from the Chinese international warehouse or from Amazon who will give you free shipping if you are a Prime member, or spend over $49. The Chinese warehouse is currently stocked and ready to ship, and Amazon is now stocked and should be ready to ship by the end of this week.

Please go to our store page at rtl-sdr.com/store for information on purchasing.

RTLSDR_Front

RTLSDR_PCB

Here is the short version of the biggest changes:

1) HF support via direct sampling. Connect an HF antenna directly to the SMA connector and tune from 500 kHz – 24 MHz with the direct sampling mod. (No hardware modding or soldering required)
2) Lower internal noise. Less spurs, lower noise floor etc.
3) Software switchable bias tee. No need to do any soldering to enable the bias tee. Can be turned on and off in software.

We call this version three of our RTL-SDR Blog dongles. The first was version zero and was simply the standard MCX dongles with better antennas. Next came version 1 with the bias tee and SMA connector, and version two introduced the metal case.

Here is the long list of improvements and changes, and why they were made:

1) Improved ESD protection on the radio front end. The BAV99 diode which is used on most dongles is not a true ESD rated diode. We have added a real ESD rated diode for better protection. The BAV99 remains in the circuit as a strong signal clipper, to prevent damage to the R820T2 from overly strong signals. Please remember that not even this will save your radio from a lightning strike, and any permanently outdoor mounted antenna system must have its own lightning protection.

2) Longer SMA connector. One or two customers had problems with the shorter SMA plugs which could not fit some of their antenna connectors. The longer shaft fixes this and also allows us to add a nut to fasten it to the aluminum body which provides a better low impedance connection (although this is not strictly needed as the PCB side ground tracks already provide a good connection).

3) Improved front end circuit. The standard matching circuit on the RTL-SDR was designed for DVB-T use, and tends to attenuate signals above ~1 GHz. The new matching circuit has less attenuation above 1 GHz and similar performance below. We used very high quality, high SRF, high Q inductors in this circuit.

4) Added a software switchable 4.5v bias tee. In previous versions of our units the 4.5v bias tee needed to be activated manually, by soldering a bridge between two pads on the PCB. However we found that many customers who want to use the bias tee do not have the skills or tools to be able to perform this mod. The new unit makes use of a low noise LDO and one of the GPIO pins on the RTL2832U to activate the bias tee in software. This of course requires a modification to the drivers, but we will shortly upload a program called rtl_biast and batch files (available now) to turn the bias tee on and off in Windows and Linux.

This bias tee is great for powering a remote LNA (like Adams PSA5043+ based LNA4ALL) or something like the SpyVerter upconverter. We’ve tested it with both and found them to be running just fine. 

Warning: The bias tee LDO can be damaged if you short circuit it. Before turning on the bias tee, ensure the circuit to be powered is not shorted, or that the RTL-SDR is not connected to a DC shorted antenna!

5) Added several access pads on the PCB. Access pads for the unused GPIO pins, CLK in/out, 3.3V, GND and I2C pins have been added. The CLK input/output is disconnected by default (see change 6). Access pads for the I branch have also been added as some users and industrial customers are using these in special projects. These pads are only for advanced users who need them for special projects. Take care as these pins are not ESD protected.

6) Added a clock selector jumper. By soldering in a 4 pin 1.27mm pitch jumper header and removing the default 0 Ohm resistor, one can now easily select between the onboard clock, an external clock, or having the on board clock be the output for another dongle. This is for advanced users only who want to experiment with things like passive radar, and coherent receivers.

7) Reduced noise with a modified PCB design. This significantly reduces spurs and noise pickup due much lower impedance grounding and blocking of interference. Also added a USB common mode choke to reduce USB noise, several ferrite chokes on the PCB, and a lower noise LDO. A larger ground plane also improves on heat dissipation. 

8) Added an experimental HF direct sampling circuit, which is diplexed out from the SMA connector. This has little to no effect on VHF/UHF operation, but allows us to make use of the Q branch on the RTL2832U chip for direct sampling, which allows us to receive from about 500 kHz to about 24 MHz. (Below 500 kHz is unavailable due to attenuation from the bias tee circuit). We used a ~10dB 50 Ohm preamp as a buffer and to overcome losses in the transformer and filter. We also added a strong 24 MHz low pass filter, and added an impedance matching transformer coil to ensure good direct sampling performance.

Of course direct sampling can never be as good as using an upconverter. It can overload easily if you have strong signals since there is no gain control. And you will see aliasing of signals above 14.4 MHz due to Nyquist. But this should at least give the majority of users a decent taste of what’s on HF. If you then find HF interesting, then you can consider upgrading to an upconverter like the SpyVerter (and the SpyVerter is of course compatible with our bias tee for easy operation).

We’re still classing this mode as experimental (and will be interested to hear any feedback on results), but we have had good results in our testing of this mode when receiving signals that are not too strong, getting sensitivity as good as an upconverter. We found that very good reception was obtainable with a long wire antenna and 9:1 unun combination.

9) Antenna bases now come with a stronger magnet and a conductive copper sticker on the bottom. The stronger magnet adds very good stability when using our large 1.5m antenna and the copper sticker ensures that good electrical contact can be made between the base and whatever piece of metal you use underneath as the ground plane. This significantly improves the antenna’s performance as a quarter wave ground plane.

Ant_base_copper

10) Added corner mounting holes for those who want to stack PCBs. Some customers have been building devices that require multiple RTL-SDR dongles, and these standoff holes should aid in stacking.

As from the previous innovations the units still come with:

1) SMA connector – The most common connector in the radio world. Easy to adapt to other connectors and low loss over a wide range of frequencies.
2) Thermal pad – A thin thermal pad allows heat to transfer from the PCB to the metal case easily. The metal case then cools off to the surrounding air. This helps to solve L-band insensitivity problems.
3) Metal case – Helps block out interference and provides cooling.

We now have a V3 users guide available which explains how to use the new features such as the bias tee, HF mode and CLK jumpers.

What’s coming next?

We think that our unit is now pretty much at the peak of how good a cheap R820T2 RTL-SDR can be, so apart from minor tweaks this is likely to be our last major revision of this model of the RTL-SDR. In a 1-2 months we hope to bring out a FM bandstop filter with metal enclosure and SMA plugs with a target cost of $14.95 shipped. Further into the future we also hope to bring out supporting products like a wideband bias tee powered LNA and wideband antennas. These supporting products will of course be compatible with other SDR’s like the Airspy or SDRplay, or other RTL-SDR dongles.


RTLSDR_Profile