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

14 comments

  1. bruce ferrell

    As an early supporter (no longer) I can SDRPlay doesn’t play fair either.

    They advertised Linux support but only with a closed source driver i.e. it only really worked on windows and very particular Linux distros… Oddly NOT RHEL/RHEL based.

    I opened a case with support (we’ll release a new driver soon… slow due to NDAs) and after waiting 18 months, I gave up on it and gave it away.

    This article put a whole new slant on it… The company they have the NDA with IS SDRPlay!

    They’re inherently dishonest.

    • Billy

      That is a downside to all SDRPlay hardware, you only get blobs for the OS’es that they choose to support (which to be fair is currently the top three most popular OS’es/distributions). But say at some future date you wanted to use their hardware on for example a RISC-V architecture, you have to hope that they choose to support it and the OS you choose to use.

    • SDRplay Tech

      Bruce,
      I can find no record of any support ticket from you. Can you please let me know the date of your ticket so that I can investigate what you are talking about. I am perplexed about your comment regarding NDAs. We have always been clear that we cannot open source the driver or API for our hardware is it contains IP from a third party company and the licensing agreement explicitly forbids the release of the source code. This has nothing whatsoever to do with NDA restrictions nor is it “dishonest”. without seeing the ticket you refer to, I cannot know the context of the comment. Please also explain the following comment that you made:
      “The company they have the NDA with IS SDRPlay!”
      Even if such a bizarre statement were true, how on earth would YOU know the details of our NDAs??

  2. Ebayisshite

    Ebay is awash with rip-off chinese shite and chinese sellers posing as other. It is high time massive fines were levied against Ebay for not dealing with it and all the fake sellers too.

    • Trueman

      Absolutely agreed. Ebay and also Amazon are a huge Chinese marketplace. The solution would be easy: Ebay and Amazon must act as importer: Pay taxes, must be made responsible for compliences (like CE/FCC) with high fines. And persecute fake sellers. Those platforms must me made responsible NOW.

  3. Fcuk Chinasfrs

    Filthy Chinese, first they infect the world then rip it off Time to deal with them. Stop buying their world polluting crap for a start.

    • Toolcrafter

      Visit a DIY store in the 90s: good quality American tools and cheap crappy Chinese tools
      Visit a DIY store in the 2000s: cheap crappy Chinese tools, cheap crappy Chinese tools, good quality American tools.
      Visit a DIY store in the 2010s: cheap crappy Chinese tools, cheap crappy Chinese tools , cheap crappy Chinese tools. The American tool company got bankrupt in the meantime.

      People tend to buy cheap crap instead of good quality. Why? Because they can’t or don’t want to afford it. Both so sad…

    • Ivan

      What the hell is wrong with you? Racist elitist piece of shit. We live in a world where it’s possible to buy cool tech for a fraction it would have cost a decade or two ago. You just need discernment is all, but I guess that is a problem for the IQ challenged?

  4. Guy

    Chinese will always copy your products. At a first glance they offer promising prices for PCB manufacturing and assembly. But you will always pay the price: stolen IP, destroyed environment, global warming.
    Manufacture in your own country or even continent! And yes, prices will be higher than 100€ for a SDR, so what? As a hobbyist I would also pay 150€ for a national product!
    Not to mention the Chinese crap that floods our markets: unsafe, EMC is a desaster, unfair BUT cheap. Guys, if you buy cheap, you will buy twice!

  5. Phelps

    Let’s stop acting like a beaten wife and protecting the predator. If you have chips manufactured in China, your design and IP are going to be stolen and used to make competing products.

    China will never do anything about this problem until we stop allowing them to get away with it by shrugging and explaining it away with BS like “it is thought that they were probably desoldered from a batch of old USB TV tuners.”

    That’s not what happened. The factory stole their IP and ran another batch of chips for the counterfeiter.

    • Phillip SST

      There’s absolutely no way this was a new run of chips. That would be WAY too expensive for the couple of thousand clones they sell per year. Chips being recycled from binned goods is common in China. Desoldering is cheap. SDRplay have even commented with the same theory.

      Doesn’t matter if it’s produced in China or not, xraying PCBs and reverse engineering is easy even without the original IP.

  6. Bjarne Mjelde

    I don’t understand why you use the word “clone”. A clone is an exact copy. These devices are anything but. You will observe that SDRPlay does not use “clone”, simply for the reason that they are fakes, or inferior devices with false labelling.

    • Billy

      “clone” is generally considered a derogatory term used to describe a knock-off. Legally the only thin they are in breech of is trademark infringement. Morally is a different matter.

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