Tagged: digital audio broadcast

Part III of Calibrating your RTL-SDR with QIRX SDR Now Uploaded

Earlier in the month we posted about Clem's three part series on how his QIRX SDR software can be used to accurately calibrate an RTL-SDR using DAB signals. Back then only parts I and II had been released. Now part III has been released, and in the article he explains why it is beneficial to calibrate the frequency error, and also the sampling rate when attempting to decode DAB signals..

Clem begins by explaining how DAB signals work and why it is important to have accurate frequency calibration when receiving DAB. Later he goes on to explain the effect of sampling rate errors due to frequency inaccuracy on received DAB signals. He shows the effect of gradually increasing the sample rate error on the ability of the algorithms to decode DAB signals.

Comparing constellations with sampling rate error correction turned on and off.
Comparing constellations with sampling rate error correction turned on and off.

Using QIRX SDR and DAB Signals to Calibrate RTL-SDR Dongles

Over on his site, Clem the author of the QIRX SDR software package has written up a three part series where he explains an ultra-fast and very accurate method for calibrating the frequency offset of RTL-SDR receivers by using DAB signals. If you are unfamiliar with DAB, it stands for 'Digital Audio Broadcast' and is a type of digital radio station available in multiple countries in the world, especially in Europe. However it is not used in the USA. Clem writes:

I wrote a three-part tutorial about an ultra-fast, generally available (where you have DAB reception) and very accurate method to calibrate RTL-SDR receivers. It is called "Tutorial: Calibrate your RTL-SDR in 15 Seconds", http://softsyst.com/QIRXCalibrate?sequenceNo=0. It is using the frequency of a DAB transmitter as the reference signal, and is coming in three parts:

· Part I: Method and Measurement, describes the method (example) and compares it to two other, well-known methods.

· Part II: Checks, Frequencies, Sampling Rates: Tells how to make plausibility checks on the obtained calibration result, goes into the foundation of different measuring methods, and explains why calibrating a receiver is generally beneficial, not only for DAB purposes (where at least the frequency correction is mandatory).

· Part III: Improving DAB, Tells why it is advantageous for DAB reception not only correcting the frequency, but also the sampling rate (which is often omitted).

Part I and Part II of these are already on our website, Part III will come soon.

QIRX Being used to Calibrate an RTL-SDR dongle on DAB signals
QIRX Being used to Calibrate an RTL-SDR dongle on DAB signals

QIRX SDR Updated: Legacy DAB, DAB Transmitter Identifications and more

Back in May of this year we posted about QIRX SDR, which back then was a brand new multimode SDR program compatible with the RTL-SDR. One of its defining features is that it has a built in DAB+ decoder. Recently QIRX SDR has been updated to version 0.9.1, the new features are quoted below:

General:

  • Updated Documentation
  • Device Frontend: Manual Center Freq. Correction in kHz
  • Waterfall Spectrum
  • Raw Recording: Playback Control, for a timed positioning (“seek”) in “arbitrary” large (GBytes) recorded raw files.

DAB:

  • Legacy DAB, intended for users where DAB+ is not generally available, like in the UK or Spain. As this could only be superficially tested here in Germany (no standard DAB any more, I used some raw samples recorded in Madrid), I would be very interested in feedback of users about it.
  • Synchronization of raw files recorded with central frequency offset
  • Enhanced manual synchronization control, mainly for tests in mobile environments
  • Detection of the Transmitter Identifications (TII). However, as this is a feature only useful for specialized applications, it is not included in the distribution. To my knowledge, qirx is the only DAB SDR having this feature.

Some Bug fixing.

The QIRX team have also added a new Quickstart Guide to help users get set up with their software quickly. In addition QIRX author Clem also writes that the QIRX software will be demonstrated during this weekends Ham-Radio fair in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

QIRX SDR Updated
QIRX SDR Updated

DAB/DAB+ Decoder Software “Welle.io” Now Available on Android

Back in March of this year we posted about “Welle.io”, a DAB/DAB+ decoder that supports the RTL-SDR and other SDRs like the Airspy. It was available for Windows, Linux and Raspberry Pi 2/3.

Albrecht Lohöfener, the author of Welle.io has recently written in to announce that Welle.io is now available for Android as well. The app appears to be free, but is currently marked as beta, so there may still be a few bugs.

The only other app that we’ve seen which is capable of decoding DAB/DAB+ on Android is Wavesink. Wavesink costs $14.90 USD on the Google Play store, but there is a free trial version available with runtime limitations and no DAB+ support.

Albrecht notes that the app is fairly computationally intensive and will require an Android device with at least 4 cores and a clock speed of 1.3 GHz to run the app. He also mentions that they are also looking for any interested developers and translators to help with development of the app.

Welle.io on Android
Welle.io on Android
welle.io on Android (DAB+/DAB software radio, RTL-SDR , RTL2832U)

welle.io: A New RTL-SDR & Airspy DAB/DAB+ Decoder Available for Windows/Linux

Thanks to Albrecht Lohofener for submitting to us his new software package called ‘welle.io’ which is a free DAB and DAB+ decoder and player that supports the RTL-SDR (directly or also via rtl_tcp) and Airspy software defined radios. The software can be run on both Windows and Linux, and also supports Raspberry Pi 2/3 and cheap Chinese Windows 10 tablets.

Albrecht writes that his software is a fork of the qt-dab codebase, with the development goal being to create an easy to use DAB/DAB+ software receiver. The software is still under heavy development, and Albrecht mentions that he is looking for fellow developers and testers to help improve the software and report any bugs. Albrecht writes:

I’m proud to introduce a new open source DAB/DAB+ reception application welle.io https://www.welle.io. welle.io is a fork of qt-dab http://github.com/JvanKatwijk/qt-dab (old dab-rpi and sdr-j-dab) with the goal to develop an easy to use DAB/DAB+ reception application. It supports high DPI and touch displays and it runs even on cheap computers like Raspberry Pi 2/3 and 100€ China Windows 10 tablets. As input devices welle.io supports rtlsdr and airspy.

Currently daily Windows binary builds are available over on the projects GitHub. For Linux and Raspberry Pi users you’ll need to compile the code from source, but in the future he plans to provide Ubuntu snaps.

We gave the welle.io software a brief test and it ran as expected. There is an automatic channel scan feature which scans through all the possible DAB channels and an advanced mode for seeing technical information such as the frequency, SNR and error rates. The software also has a nice touchscreen friendly GUI which automatically downloads and displays the DAB/DAB+ program guide information.

Welle.io DAB/DAB+ decoder for the RTL-SDR and Airspy.
Welle.io DAB/DAB+ decoder for the RTL-SDR and Airspy.

Decoding DAB with an RTL-SDR and SDR-J On an Odroid C2

The Odroid C2 is a $40 USD single board computer with a 1.5 GHz ARM-A53 quad core CPU and 2 GB of RAM. Compared to a Raspberry Pi 3 it is more powerful and costs almost the same. YouTube uploader radio innovation recently wrote into us and wanted to share his video showing SDR-J decoding DAB+ smoothly on his Odroid C2. It seems that SDR-J works perfectly and only uses a small amount of CPU.

DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcast and is a replacement/alternative to standard broadcast FM stations. SDR-J is a software suite that includes a DAB decoder for the RTL-SDR. It is compatible with Windows, Linux and the Raspberry Pi (and evidently also the Odroid C2). Over on their website they also provide a ready to go Raspberry Pi 2 image, and they write that it should perform well on the Rpi2 platform as well.

We’ve also seen that there is a new variant of SDR-J for the Raspberry Pi (and potentially other similar devices) available on GitHub. This one has a nice touch screen friendly GUI, which should be useful for creating a cheap portable DAB device.

Alternative SDR-J Raspberry Pi GUI
New SDR-J Variant for the Raspberry Pi with nice GUI
DAB+ reception with Odroid C2 RTL-SDR Ubuntu 16.04 (armV8)

Receiving DAB with a Raspberry Pi 3 and RTL-SDR

Over on his blog Michael Carden has produced a tutorial showing us how to use SDR-J on the Raspberry Pi 3 for receiving Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) radio. DAB is a type of digital broadcast radio used in several countries outside of the USA for general broadcast radio programs. It usually provides clearer digital audio compared to FM broadcast.

His post starts from scratch, showing how to create a Raspberry Pi image file and configure the Pi, then shows how to install and use SDR-J.

SDR-J is also available for Windows and is compatible with the RTL-SDR and other radios such as the Airspy and SDRplay.

SDR-J Running on Windows.
SDR-J Running on Windows.

SDR-J Now Compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2

The popular software DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) decoder SDR-J has recently been updated and can now run on the Raspberry Pi 2. In addition the author has also added experimental DRM decoding capabilities to his shortwave receiving software. The author writes about the Raspberry Pi 2:

The Raspberry PI 2 has a processor chip with 4 computing cores. By carefully spreading the computational load of the handling of DAB over these cores it is possible to run the DAB software on the Raspberry PI 2.

In my home situation the – headless – Raspberry PI 2 is located on the attic and remotely controlled through an SSH connection using the home WiFi on my laptop in my “lazy chair”. To accomodate listening remotely, the DAB software on the Raspberry PI 2 sends – if so configured – the generated PCI samples (rate 48000) also to an internet port (port 100240). On the laptop then runs a very simple piece of program reading the stream and sending it to the soundcard

DAB is a digital audio protocol that is used in some countries as a digital alternative to broadcast FM (music stations). SDR-J is a suite of programs that includes the ability to decode DAB, FM, and several shortwave modes such as AM, USB, LSB, PSK, RTTY, WeatherFax, SSTV, BPSK, QPSK, CW, NavTex (Amtor-B), MFSK, Domino, Olivia, Hell, Throb and now DRM. It can directly connect to RTL-SDR receivers as well as other hardware such as the Airspy and SDRplay.

Screenshot of SDR-J running on the Raspberry Pi 2.
Screenshot of SDR-J running on the Raspberry Pi 2.