Roundup of Software Defined Radios

New software defined radio (SDRs) products are popping up every few months these days so we thought we’d compile a big list of available SDRs as there are a few people who were bitten by the RTL-SDR bug and are now looking to upgrade.

For each SDR we compare the cost, frequency range, ADC resolution, maximum instantaneous bandwidth, whether or not it can TX and if it has any pre selectors built in. Here is a quick guide to what some of these metrics mean.

Frequency Range: The range of frequencies the SDR can tune to.
ADC Resolution: Higher is better. More resolution means more dynamic range, less signal imaging, a lower noise floor, more sensitivity when strong signals are present and better ability to discern weak signals. Some SDR’s give their resolution in ENOB which stands for effective number of bits.
Instantaneous Bandwidth: The size of the real time RF chunk available.
RX/TX: Can the radio receive and/or transmit.
Preselectors: Analogue filters on the front end to help reduce out of band interference and imaging.

* – Denotes top choice for high value

General Use Software Defined Radios

We define general use SDRs as ones with a wide frequency range and with no focus on any specific frequency band.

R820T RTL2832U a.k.a RTL-SDR*

RTLSDR_PCB

Cost: $10 – 22 USD
Frequency Range: approx. 24 MHz – 1766 MHz (below 24 MHz available on RTL-SDR.com V3 dongles)
ADC Resolution: 8 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 3.2 MHz / 2.4 or 2.8 MHz max stable.
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Uses tracking RF filters on the R820T2 chip.
Release Date: August 2016

The RTL-SDR is still the best ‘bang for your buck’ software defined radio out there. While it was never designed to be used as a general purpose SDR in the first place, its performance is still surprisingly good. If you’re on a budget or are just starting out with SDR or radio this is the one to get. (Link)

SDRPlay RSP1*

The SDRplay RSP

Cost: $99 USD
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 2 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits (~10.4 ENOB)
Max Bandwidth: 10 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: 8 switched filters
Release Date: Late 2014

The SDRPlay RSP is a SDR that uses the Mirics MSI3101 SDR chip and a MSI001 tuner. It has 8 built in switched preselectors that cover selected ranges over the entire bandwidth. We consider the SDRPlay to be a competitor to the Airspy and perhaps Funcube Dongle Pro+ as well. Though, the difference between the SDRPlay and Airspy seems to be that SDRPlay uses a bank of preselection filters, whereas the Airspy focuses on using the R820T2’s IF tracking filters and naturally higher dynamic range to overcome aliasing. The Funcube also uses similar filters to the SDRPlay but the Funcube also has some extra sharp SAW filters. The SDRPlay also has a much larger bandwidth compared to the FunCube which is a major advantage, but a similar bandwidth to the Airspy. Over time the RSP1 has been reduced in price from $299 to $99 USD. (Link)

SDRPlay RSP2*

The new RSP2

Cost: $169 USD
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 2 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits (~10.4 ENOB)
Max Bandwidth: 10 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: 10 switched filters
Release Date: November 2016

The RSP2 is similar to the RSP1 in that it uses the same core technology and chips. However the RSP2 is an iterative improvement over the RSP1 as it has more preselectors as well as broadcast AM and FM notch filters. It also adds multiple antenna input ports, a Hi-Z HF input for end fed wire antennas and external clock in/out ports. (Link)

Airspy R2*

Cost: $169 USD
Frequency Range: 24 MHz – 1.750 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits (10.4 ENOB)
Max Bandwidth: 10 MHz (9 MHz alias free)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Uses tracking RF filters on the R820T2 chip.
Release Date: Late 2014 (Airspy R1)

This SDR is designed by the Airspy team who are Benjamin Vernoux & Youssef Touil. Youssef is also known as the programmer of SDR#, one of the most popular SDR software programs. Many people see the Airspy as their upgrade to the RTL-SDR, with its wide 10 MHz bandwidth, 12 Bit ADC (10.4 ENOB) and higher precision clock. The Airspy code is open source. It uses the RF tracking filters on board the R820T2 chip which is used in its design and it has a very high claimed (80 dB) dynamic range. (Link) (Store)

Airspy Mini*

The Airspy Mini SDR Dongle

Cost: $99 USD
Frequency Range: 24 MHz – 1.750 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits (10.4 ENOB)
Max Bandwidth: 6 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Uses tracking RF filters on the R820T2 chip.
Release Date: April 2016

The Airspy Mini is the little brother to the Airspy R2. It is basically the same performance, but in a smaller dongle style package. The Mini has a smaller maximum bandwidth of 6 MHz compared to the 10 MHz on the Airspy R2, and doesn’t have external clock input. or internal expansion headers for electronics experimenters. (Link) (Store)

FunCube Dongle Pro+

fcdpp

Cost: $~210 USD
Frequency Range: 150 kHz – 260 MHz and 410 MHz – 2.05 GHz
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 192 kHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes 11 switched SAW filters
Release Date: Late 2010

The FunCube is one of the original ‘dongle’ based SDRs made for hobbyists. It has certain major advantages over a cheap RTL-SDR like its 16 Bit ADC resolution and 11 discrete hardware filters with two sharp SAW filters. These preselector filters really help to reduce noise and images which can in some cases plague the RTL-SDR and other SDRs without filtering. However, a major disadvantage to the FunCube is that its bandwidth is small at only 192 kHz. (Link)

ADALM PLUTO (PlutoSDR)*

The PlutoSDRCost: $99 USD (Special), $149 USD
Frequency Range: 325 – 3800 MHz (default), 70 – 6000 MHz (with firmware hack)
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 20 MHz (default), 56 MHz (with firmware hack)
TX/RX: TX and RX (Full Duplex)
Preselectors: None
Release Date: Mid 2017

The PlutoSDR is a low cost full duplex TX and RX receiver designed by the big silicon company Analog Devices. It is designed mostly for University students to use for learning about RF and SDR concepts, but it can also find use as a general purpose experimenters SDR.

Performance is not as great as the RX dedicated SDRs like the Airspy and SDRplay, so it is not designed for dedicated high performance listening, but it is still good enough for most experimental and general use purposes. (Link)

PatronX Titus II

The Titus II Portable SDR

Cost: Under $100 USD (Claimed)
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 2 GHz
ADC Resolution: Unkown
Max Bandwidth: Unknown
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Unknown
Release Date: Unreleased

The Titus II is going to be a handheld boom-box style SDR with large LCD screen and built in speakers. It is intended to try and invigorate the DRM market by providing a low cost DRM receiver. But it also has a wideband frequency range, so presumably it could be used for many other purposes as well. It is guessed that it will be using Mirics chips, similar to what is inside the SDRplay RSP1/RSP2.

We first heard about the Titus II in late 2016. Apparently it’s still under development, but no news of its progress is slow and rare. (Link)

HackRF One*

hackrf

Cost: $299 USD
Frequency Range: 1 MHz to 6 GHz
ADC Resolution: 8 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 20 MHz
TX/RX: TX and RX (Half Duplex)
Preselectors: None
Release Date: April 2014

The HackRF is one of the first ‘low cost’ software defined radios that is capable of receiving and transmitting, although only in half duplex mode (cannot TX and RX simultaneously). It has received the most media attention out of any SDR and it seems to be marketed towards hackers and security researchers, but it should be just as capable for general ham or hobbyist users.

The main advantages of the HackRF are its transmit capabilities, its wide bandwidth and its massive frequency range. There are concerns about its small 8 bit resolution, and poor RF design so noise and SNR performance is likely to be similar to the RTL-SDR. It also has an on board Arm Cortex M4 microcontroller and a CPLD.

The HackRF has good community support, an example already being the HackRF Portapack, a portable spectrum analyser designed to fit onto the HackRF. (Link) (Store)

LimeSDR

The LimeSDR Board

Cost: $299 USD
Frequency Range: 100 kHz to 3.8 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 61.44 MHz
TX/RX: TX and RX
Preselectors: None
Release Date: April 2016

The LimeSDR appears to be one of the ‘next generation’ of experimenter focused RX/TX capable SDR devices. It falls into a similar category as the HackRF and BladeRF. It was crowdfunded on Crowdsupply and at the time of writing this (January 2017) is in its initial production stages.

One of the biggest problems with the HackRF is the lack of community and ready to use software. LimeSDR hopes to overcome this problem with an ‘App Store’ type feature on their Ubuntu software. We also think this will be an excellent step up from the HackRF once it releases thanks to its 12-Bit ADC. (Link)

MyriadRF

MyriadRF1

Cost: $299
Frequency Range: 300 MHz – 3.8 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 28 MHz
TX/RX: TX and RX (Full Duplex)
Preselectors: None

Myriad RF is an open source SDR that uses the same transceiver chip as the BladeRF shown below. A modified version is also compatible with the Novena open source laptop. Aimed towards embedded developers as the Myriad RF by itself does not have hardware to connect to a PC. (Link)

BladeRF

bladrf

Cost: $420 USD (x40), $650 USD (x115)
Frequency Range: 300 MHz – 3.8 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 28 MHz
TX/RX: TX and RX (Full Duplex)
Preselectors: None
Release Date: July 2013

Another TX and RX capable SDR is the BladeRF. The BladeRF has a smaller frequency range compared to the HackRF, but has a greater ADC resolution, larger maximum bandwidth and is capable of full duplex transmissions. It also uses USB 3.0 which is required to support the data rates needed for its wide bandwidth and 12 bit ADC. From the specs the BladeRF is a better receiver compared to the HackRF due to its larger ADC resolution, but it misses out on the frequencies below 300 MHz. Frequencies below 300 MHz can be received with a $200 transverter add on board however.

The BladeRF also comes with an on-board ARM9 general purpose processor and an FPGA for some serious digital signal processing work.

The main difference between the x40 and more expensive x115 versions are simply that the x115 version has a larger FPGA (more logic elements). (Link) (Ebay)

USRP B200/B210

usrpb210

Cost: $675 USD (B200), $1100 USD (B210)
Frequency Range: 70 MHz – 6 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 56 MHz
TX/RX: TX and RX (Full Duplex) (B200), 2 x TX and 2 x RX (Full Duplex) (B210)
Preselectors: None

The USRP B200/B210 are advanced software defined radios that seem to be aimed more towards the professional and research market, but are still very usable for hobbyists. The USRP team recently used some of these devices to help contact the lost ISEE-3 spacecraft using the large Arecibo radio dish.

The difference between the B200 and B210 is simply that the B210 can transmit and receive in full duplex with two signals at a time, making the B210 a MIMO system. (Link)

Windy City SDR / HandHeldSDR

Cost: $350
Frequency Range: 33 MHz – 4400 MHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bit
Max Bandwidth: 16 MHz @ 8-Bit, 8 MHz @ 16-Bit
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: ???

Seems to have been recently renamed from Windy City SDR to HandHeldSDR and now back to Windy City SDR again. Not much is known about this SDR other than the creator has advertised it on some blog comments and has been seen at some conferences a few times. Has been in the making for a number of years now, and a prototype seems to be ready, but there is no sales page. (Link)

WinRadio WR-G305e/i

winradio305e

Cost: $749.95 USD
Frequency Range: 9 kHz – 1.8 GHz
ADC Resolution: NA (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: NA (Sound card based)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes, tracking

A general purpose receiver by WinRadio. Has tracking filters on the front end. Comes in an external box with USB connection, or in a PCI 2.2 card. (Link)

Per Vices Noctar

noctar

Cost: $2499 USD
Frequency Range: DC – 4.4 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits (RX) / 16 Bits (TX)
Max Bandwidth: 250 MHz
TX/RX: RX and TX (Full Duplex)
Preselectors: None

A high performance SDR that fits in the PCIe slot in a PC. Because of its PCIe interface it can provide up to a massive 250 MHz worth of bandwidth. Has an on board Altera Cyclone IV FPGA. Can interface with GNU Radio. Marketed more for industrial and research purposes. (Link)

SignalHound BB60C

signalhoundBB60C

Cost: $2879
Frequency Range: 9 kHz to 6 GHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 27 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes, switched

A USB 3.0 device with a very wide frequency range and large bandwidth. Marketed as a Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer and RF Recorder so seems to be targeted towards the industrial and research market. (Link)

AOR AR-2300

AR2300

Cost: $3599.95
Frequency Range: 40 kHz – 3.15 GHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 15 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Unknown. Assumed yes.

A very high performance wideband SDR receiver that has good performance over the entire frequency range. Can purchase add on boards such as a P25 decoder. Seems to be targeted at Government users. (Link) (Purchasing Link)

Matchstiq

matchstiq_small

Cost: $4500 USD
Frequency Range: 300 MHz – 3.8 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 28 MHz
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: Yes

A very advanced SDR and high priced SDR. Seems to be mainly intended for industrial applications. Has a built in Linux microcomputer and also has a dedicated GPS receiver. Eqiq Solutions the company behind the Matchstiq also sell the Sidekiq – a 70MHz – 6GHz MiniPCIe SDR card and the Maveriq – another advanced 2×2 MIMO RF transceiver. (Link)

Bitshark Express RX

bitshark-express_small

Cost: $4300 USD / $6300 USD
Frequency Range: 400 MHz – 4 GHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 50 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: No

Another SDR by Epiq Solutions. This one is PCIe based and can have up to 50 MHz of bandwidth. Marketed more towards industrial usage. (Link)

Per Vices Crimson

crimson_front

Cost: $6750 USD
Frequency Range: DC – 6 GHz
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 1200 MHz
TX/RX: 4 x RX and 4 x TX (Full Duplex)
Preselectors: None

A step up from the Per Vices Noctar is the more expensive Crimson SDR. It has a frequency range of up to 6 GHz and a huge 1200 MHz worth of bandwidth through four independent receive and transmit chains. The huge bandwidths available can be processed on the onboard Altera Arria V ST (SoC). Data is sent through a 20 Gbps SFP+ data link and the SDR comes with a very accurate +/- 5 ppb OXCO oscillator. Marketed more for industrial and research purposes. (Link)

Red Pitya

pic_redpitaya

Cost: $470
Frequency Range: 0 – 60 MHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bit
Max Bandwidth: 50 MHz (Probably not instantaneous)
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: None

The Red Pitya is a little different to the above SDRs in that it is marketed and designed as a type of digital Oscilloscope. It connects to your mobile phone or PC and can be used as an oscilloscope, spectrum analyser or signal generator. Of course with the right apps it could also be used as a radio. (Link)

Modified RTL-SDRs

There are several individuals who are selling modified RTL-SDR dongles that utilize the direct sampling mod or a built in upconverter to receive HF frequencies.

RTL-SDR.com V3*

RTLSDR_PCB

Cost: $19.95 USD
Frequency Range: 500 kHz – 1.75 GHz
Preselectors: Tracking filters on the R820T2 and HF LPF.

Our modded RTL-SDR V3 has the direct sampling mode diplexed out from the input SMA. Performance is good, but you may need additional HF filtering espeically if you have strong broadcast AM stations nearby. It comes with an onboard HF amp, as well as good low pass filtering to remove interference from the broadcast FM band. We also added many other improvements like a TCXO, metal case, thermal pad cooling, USB line filtering, better LDO, expansion ports, 4.5V bias tee and a redesigned PCB that removes most of the spurs. We think our V3 is the greatest value low cost SDR available. (Link)

BA5SBA Direct Sampling Receiver

Chinese RTL-SDR Kit

Cost: $60 USD
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 1.7 GHz
Preselectors: Low pass filter

A prebuilt direct sampling receiver by BA5SBA from China. Also available in much cheaper kit versions. Adds extra USB filtering, a 5V bias tee, and the direct sampling mod. Appears to be decent, and fairly popular, but you probably won’t get any support for it if something goes wrong. (Link) (Ebay)

DX Patrol Receiver

dxpatrol

Cost: $105 USD
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 2 GHz
Preselectors: Yes

This modified dongle is designed by CT1FFU, designer and manufacturer of some HF upconverters popular with the RTL-SDR. (Link)

Janielectronics Receiver

Cost: $129.99 USD
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 1.5 GHz
Preselectors: Unknown. Assumed to have a low pass filter.

This is an RTL-SDR R820T built on a custom made PCB that fits into an original dongle casing. This is different to most other modified dongles that simply retrofit an existing RTL-SDR dongle. (Link) (Ebay)

Soft66Q

soft66rtl2

Cost: $43 USD
Frequency Range: 3 kHz – 30 MHz and 50 MHz – 1.7 GHz
Preselectors: Unknown.

Japanese modified RTL-SDR that uses direct sampling and comes in an aluminium box. Includes an RF amp and several built in switched filters as well. (Link)

HF + SWLing Targeted Software Defined Radios

These SDRs are designed or optimized for the HF bands only, either for listening to the ham bands, or for listening to shortwave radio (SWLing).

 

3dB SDR

hf3dbsdr

Cost: $100 USD
Frequency Range: 1.8 Mhz-30 MHz
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes switched

A small fully assembled HF SDR. (Link)

Hunter SDR

Hunter

Cost: ~$130USD
Frequency Range: 1 MHz – 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes, 6 Swtiched

A kit based SDR made by a UK based manufacturer. (Link)

Airspy HF+*

Cost: Expected $149 USD 
Frequency Range: DC – 31 MHz, 60 – 260 MHz
ADC Resolution: 16 bits -> decimated 18 bits
Max Bandwidth: 768 kHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes, LPF + VHF filters
Release Date: Unreleased

The Airspy HF+ is touted as the next big thing in low cost high performance SDRs for HF reception. It uses some interesting new technology including polyphase harmonic mixers and sigma delta ADCs which should naturally improve the dynamic range and performance of the SDR, without the need for excessive filtering. Currently unreleased, but expected to be on sale before the end of 2019. We have a review here. (Link)

FiFi SDR

FiFiSDR

Cost: $169 USD (Kit with preselector)
Frequency Range: 200 kHz – 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: 24 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 192 kHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes low pass

Originally intended as a construction project for a youth camp, this SDR is now for sale as a low cost software defined radio. (Link) (Purchasing Link)

PMSDR V2.2

pmsdr

Cost: ~$240 USD (Kit Version)
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 72 MHz
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes, 3 switched

A SDR that looks to be German made. Some info on the older V2.1 model can be found here. (Link)

AFEDRI SDR-Net

afedri

Cost: $259 USD
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 36 MHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 1.85 MHz (Using network connection), 230 kHz (Using USB connection)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Low pass filter

An SDR targeted at the budget ham market is this AFEDRI SDR-Net receiver. Has a LAN interface so it can be accessed remotely through a network – a feature rarely seen on cheaper ham radio SDRs. AFEDRI also sell the new AFE822x dual channel SDR which has two receive channels and costs $359. (Link)

Cross Country Wireless SDR Receiver 

crosscountrywireless

Cost: $295 USD
Frequency Range: 850 kHz – 70.5 MHz
ADC Resolution: Sound card based
Max Bandwidth: 48 kHz (internal sound card), 192 kHz (external sound card)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes band pass filters

Another low cost sound card based SDR. (Link)

KiwiSDR*

The latest KiwiSDR Board

Cost: $299 USD
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: ???
Max Bandwidth: 30 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: ???

The KiwiSDR is designed as a cape (addon) for the BeagleBone Black single board computing platform. It combines together with the OpenWebRX software to provide multiple online users anywhere in the world an interface to listen to any HF frequency between 10 kHz – 30 MHz. Some examples can be seen at sdr.hu.

It also comes with a GPS receiver, which can be used to collaborate with multiple KiwiSDRs placed around the world for projects like finding the source of a signal, or mapping reception quality of the ionosphere. (Link) (Amazon Store) (Seeed Store)

ColibiriNANO*

Cost: €299.95 EUR -> ~$360 USD
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 55 MHz, 100 kHz – 500 MHz (undersampling)
ADC Resolution: 14
Max Bandwidth: 3 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: HF LPF
Release Date: 2017

The ColibiriNANO is a high performance dongle form factor radio that uses direct sampling technology. The HF performance is excellent, but performance in undersampling mode at 55 MHz+ is poor due to a lack of filtering. To use undersampling external filters are required. (Link)

Elad FDM-S1/S2

fdms1

Cost: $379 USD / $580 USD
Frequency Range: 80 kHz – 30 MHz, 30MHz – 200 MHz (Under sampled) / 9 kHz – 52 MHz, 74 MHz – 108 MHz, 135 MHz – 160 MHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bits / 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 6 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: 30 MHz Low Pass Filter

A high performance SDR. The FDM-S2 is a newer version of the S1 with improved ADC resolution. This is an SDR used very commonly by SWLers as it has very good dynamic range. (Link S1) (Link S2)

Elad FDM-S3*

Cost: ???
Frequency Range: ???
ADC Resolution: ???
Max Bandwidth: 24.576 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: ???

Unreleased as of yet, but probably one of the best reasonably priced SDRs for this frequency range out there. Can monitor almost the entire HF band, and will even reach up to broadcast FM.

Satrian MK1.5 Andrus

satrian

Cost: $480
Frequency Range: 5 kHz – 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: ???
Max Bandwidth: 400 kHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: ???

An openly designed SDR with full schematics and software code available.Can buy an add on downconverter daughtercard for operation up to 2.2 GHz. (Link)

SDR-IQ

sdriq

Cost: $525 USD
Frequency Range: 100 Hz to 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 190 kHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes

An SDR made in the USA by RFSpace. Appears to be high quality with good performance. The same company also sells the SDR-IP and NetSDR which are networked SDR products. (Link)

SRL QuickSilver QS1R

Minolta DSC

Cost: $899.99 USD
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 300 MHz
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 4 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes

Another high performance SDR competing in the same price range as the Perseus. (Link)

WinRadio WR-G31DDC Excalibur

winradiopro

Cost: $949.95
Frequency Range: 9 kHz – 49.995 MHz
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 2 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: MW Filter

Another high performance SDR. WinRadio also sell more SDRs with higher performance and ones that can plug directly into a PCI-e card slot. (Link)

Perseus SDR

perseus

Cost: $1,100 USD
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 40 MHz
ADC Resolution: 14 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 1.6 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes 10 switched

Many owners of this SDR claim that it is one of the lowest noise SDRs available and that it is great for DXing. (Link)

NETSDR

netsdr

Cost: $1449 USD (Basic Package)
Frequency Range: 100 Hz to 32 MHz
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 1.6 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes 10

Another SDR by RFSpace, this one connects to the computer via a network connection, making it easy to be placed in remote locations. RFSpace also sell the SDR-IP which is a similar SDR but with TCP/IP networking. (Link)

HF Ham Radio Software Defined Radios

Radio amateurs and shortwave listening (SWLing) hobbyists have had high performance SDRs for some time now. These receivers will usually significantly outperform the more general purpose receivers shown above in terms of sensitivity, but they usually concentrate only on the HF or amateur bands. Some of these SDRs are transceivers with transmit capabilities and these are for hams, whereas some only receive and may be more useful for shortwave listening.

Softrock Ensemble SDR

softrockCost: $69 (RX Only Kit), $89 USD (TX/RX Kit), $92 USD (RX Built), $124 USD (TX/RX Built)
Frequency Range: Choice of either 160m, 80m/40m, 40m/30m/20m, 30m/20m/17m, 15m/12m/10m
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: TX and RX (if option chosen)
Preselectors: Yes for the chosen band

The Softrock SDR is one of the original sound card based SDRs, meaning that the ADC conversion is done by a computer sound card. The bandwidth will be dependant on the maximum sampling rate of your sound card. The Softrock is a HF only SDR and you must choose which band you are interested in listening to when buying the kit or preassembled board.

The Softrock has good HF performance due to its preselector circuits. The kit is a great project for someone wanting to learn the components of an SDR. (Link)

 

 

PeaBerry SDR V2

peaberryV2

Cost: $149 USD (Kit) / $249 USD (Assembled)
Frequency Range:
ADC Resolution: 24 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 96 kHz
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: Yes

The PeaBerry SDR is similar to the SoftRock SDR, but this SDR has a built in soundcard ADC meaning that no external sound card is required. (Link)

mcHF QRP Transceiver

mcHF

Cost: $~40USD (All PCBs) + Parts
Frequency Range: 3 – 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: ???
Max Bandwidth:  48 kHz
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: Yes

This SDR is a standalone DIY tranceiver kit. With this the only thing you can buy is the PCB boards and you must source your own components. (Link)

 

Genesis G59

genesis_)sdr

Cost: $399 USD (Kit)
Frequency Range: ~1.8 MHz – ~50 MHz
ADC Resolution: ???
Max Bandwidth: ???
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: ???

A transceiver kit which has 10mW of output power. Can be boosted by purchasing an optional 10W amplifier. (Link)

 

FlexRadio FLEX-1500 SDR

flex1500

Cost: $699
Frequency Range: 490 kHz – 54 MHz 
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 20 kHz
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: Yes

The Flex series are capable of RX and TX. FlexRadio also have higher end SDRs with 24 bit ADCs and ones with up to 14 MHz of bandwidth available on their website. (Link)

Alinco DX-SR9T

alincodxsr9

Cost: $749
Frequency Range: 135 kHz – 30 MHz 
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: ???

This is a hybrid HF radio which acts as a normal HF transceiver, but also has a built in SDR that can connect to a PC sound card for SDR operation. (Link)

HPSDR Hermes Transceiver Card

hpsdr

Cost: $895
Frequency Range: 10 kHz – 55 MHz
ADC Resolution: 12 bits
Max Bandwidth: 192 kHz
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: Yes low pass

An open source SDR project. (Link)

 

Elecraft KX3

elecraftKX3

Cost: $899.95 USD (Kit) / 999.95 USD (Assembled)
Frequency Range: 1.8 KHz – 50 MHz 
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: ???

This is an SDR radio which can act as a standalone receiver and transmitter just like a normal HF radio, but it can also connect to a PC soundcard via its IQ output port to act as a computer based SDR. (Link)

 

Apache Labs ANAN-10

anan10

Cost: $1679 USD
Frequency Range: 10kHz – 55 MHz
ADC Resolution: 16 Bits
Max Bandwidth:  ??? MHz
TX/RX: RX and TX (Full Duplex)
Preselectors: Yes

Apache Labs sell high performance TX capable SDRs. They also sell more expensive versions of the ANAN series with more transmit power and also ones with built in FPGAs. (Link)

Portable SDR

portableSDR

Cost: ??? USD
Frequency Range: 0 MHz – 30 MHz
ADC Resolution: ??? Bits
Max Bandwidth:  ??? MHz
TX/RX: RX and TX
Preselectors: ???

One of the Hackaday prize finalists. Still under development and unreleased. A stand-alone (no computer needed), compact, Portable SDR Uses a a 168 Mhz ARM processor, color display, and an innovative interface.
(Link)

Did we miss any popular SDR receivers or are there any mistakes? Let us know in the comments.

More Lists:

Here is a wiki listing several SDR radios. It may be more up to date than this list.

http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Software_Defined_Radios

Previously Listed Vaporware/Dead SDR’s (History)

XiOne

xione

Cost: Unreleased. Expected cost $199 USD.
Frequency Range: 100 kHz – 1.750 GHz
ADC Resolution: 8 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 3.2 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: None

The XiOne is a SDR that is claimed as ‘The first software defined radio easy to use with smartphones and fully open to the maker community’. In August they fundraised on Indiegogo. Unfortunately the fundraiser was not successful and we have not heard any word on whether this SDR will ever be released now.

The main advantage of the XiOne is that it is battery powered and connects to smartphones via a WiFi connection. The developers are also creating a wide array of smartphone apps for the device. It also has a built in general purpose microprocessor.

The main concerns with this SDR are that it uses the RTL2832U chip – the same one used in the RTL-SDR. This means that there is only 8-bits of ADC resolution and 3.2 MHz of bandwidth, though this is probably acceptable due to its mobile application priority as any larger sample rates or resolutions could have trouble with WiFi data rates. (Link)

ASRP3/ASRP1

asrp3

Cost: $300 USD, $600 USD
Frequency Range: 400 MHz – 4.4 GHz
ADC Resolution: 12 Bits
Max Bandwidth: 8 MHz
TX/RX: RX Only (ASRP3), 2 x RX and 2 x TX (Full Duplex) (ASRP1)
Preselectors: None

We don’t know much about these SDRs but the ASRP3 seems to occupy a similar space as the Airspy and the ASRP1 seems to be similar to the HackRF/BladeRF/USRP B210. Is possible vaporware as the ordering website appears non functional. (Link)

Marty KN0CK Upconverting Receiver

KN0CK

Cost: $75 USD
Frequency Range: 500 kHz – 54 MHz
Preselectors: Low pass filter

This modded RTL-SDR receiver uses a miniature upconverter that is small enough to fit inside the dongle casing. Also has a MAR-8 preamp and 5-pole low pass filter. (Link)

Marty KN0CK Direct Sampling Receiver

kn0ckdirect

Cost: $60 USD
Frequency Range: 500 kHz – 54 MHz
Preselectors: Low pass filter

This second version from Marty KN0CK uses the direct sampling mod for HF reception instead. Also has the built in MAR-8 preamp and 5-pole low pass filter. (Link)

Brazilian HF – UHF Receiver

receptor

Cost: $100 USD
Frequency Range: 0 kHz – 14.4 MHz and 24 MHz to 1.7 Ghz
Preselectors: ???

One of the first modified RTL-SDRs that went on sale. Is probably outdated now. (Link)

 Soft66LC4

Soft66LC4_2

Cost: $98 USD
Frequency Range: 500 kHz – 70 MHz
ADC Resolution: N/A (sound card based)
Max Bandwidth: N/A (sound card based)
TX/RX: RX Only
Preselectors: Yes band pass filter

Low cost sound card based receiver. Similar to the SoftRock but no TX option. (Link)


If you enjoyed this tutorial you may like our ebook available on Amazon.

The Hobbyist’s Guide to the RTL-SDR: Really Cheap Software Defined radio.

70 comments

  1. Anonymous

    KiwiSDR uses LTC2248 14-bit 65 MHz ADC chip. There is Chebyshev 30MHz Low pass filter on antenna line before LTC6401-20 ADC driver which feeds LTC2248 ADC.

    KiwiSDR section could be updated:
    – KiwiSDR ADC resolution is 14 bits.
    – There are no preselectors

  2. Golan Klinger

    Might I suggest adding a “Last Updated” field somewhere because this article/list is from 2014 but there are products that are newer than that listed. It’s a little confusing is all.

  3. Gene Stanley

    I had my Nooelec R820T2 SDR working several months ago but now I get the error “no device found”. The dongle is also called NESDR Mini 2. I tried selecting all devices form the list but nothing works.
    Any suggestions??
    thanks, Gene

  4. Scott Hammer

    BE CAREFUL, investigate the company thoroughly. There are a lot of websites ($20) with pictures of all their uber technicians and executives at major technology events and the reality is they are a total scam and rip-off. They scream “were going into production” and the truth is they cant find their ass with a search warrant! Lime SDR looked awesome, started researching it and HAM operators all over were screaming we got ripped off, awesome pictures of them conquering the world though. Windy city SDR, ton of great pics on the sight, wouldn’t know a SDR if it belted them right in their pie hole. Do the research people, ton of rip-offs on here.

  5. Lee Pingel

    Omnia Multus is renamed Proficio I believe. Proficio uses separate switched band pass filters for each ham band. Covers 160M to 10M bands. Basic is limited to roughly 3 adjacent ham bands. It is being phased out. Web site is omnia-sdr.com.

    • jaakko

      1. They are called Discone antennas.
      2. Many makes those. Diamond is good on. D130J Super Discone Antenna.
      found at: diamondantenna.net

    • pax

      IIRC, YARD Stick won’t provide you a direct access to the I-Q data. It indeed is a “radio dongle” (as the name suggests), but I wouldn’t count it as a SDR.

  6. Kees Talen

    I still like the standalone SDR units which don’t require an external computer. How about the preassembled, 5W 80m-10m RS-HFIQ (US$239) for the RF frontend and one of the STM32F7xx Discovery boards (US$50) for the ARM processing, high quality CODEC and large TFT display ? What it does require is some really good programming skills like the mcHF Transceiver (US$350) has.

  7. natevw AF7TB

    Also, the Peaberry SDR has been discontinued. The Omnia SDR Basic (http://www.omnia-sdr.com/) is based on its designs and produced by a different group. I built one and have been quite happy with it. The Omnia Multus is looking even more promising but not yet released. Both have an amateur radio focus.

  8. JT

    Missing the FlexRadio 6000 series. These all use hardware FPGA. Range from DC to 6/2m. Server based, so the old soundcard/PC DSP requirement is no more. Clients ranges from android, iPad, to a knob based touch screen. FreeDV/DStar support, XVTR support. Lowest model supports 4 RX/1 TX. Top model SO2R with 8RX, 2TX. Software is supported by professionals with a Austin TX tech support line and all of it works. If you must roll your own, there is an open API.

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