Thank you to Tysonpower who wanted to share his review of a cheap 15€ DAB/DAB+ receiver USB dongle that he found on eBay.de (we also found the same device on eBay.com for US$23.99). The device is not an SDR, but it receives BAND III DAB/DAB+ at 160-240 MHz and generates an MP3 stream which can be played back on any MP3 capable device such as a PC, single board computer or car head unit.
His review notes that the dongle works well. When you plug it in the device shows up as a storage device. You then simply press a button to automatically search for DAB+ channels, and then choose one of the mp3 stream files that will show up to play live DAB+ audio on your device. In his video he also gives a quick tear down, showing that it uses a FCI FC8080 demodulator and a MVSilicon 32-bit Micro with audio FFT accelerator.
While RTL-SDR dongles can also be used to receive DAB+ cheaply with software like SDR-J and welle.io, this may be a simpler method since it can be used on any device that can play MP3s.
Note that Tysonpowers video is narrated in German, with English subtitles. He also has a short blog post with images from the tear down.
[EN subs] DAB+ für nur 15€ Nachrüsten! - Digitalradio für alle MP3 fähigen Geräte mit USB
The main new feature is the integration of Openstreetmap to display the locations of DAB transmitters (please see attached picture of a raw recording from England), together with the own position of the receiver.
In case the transmitter ident code (TII) is detected and the transmitter is contained in the database, it is displayed on the map as an icon, colored according to the TII signal strength.
The "Own Position" is indicated as a red or green dot, either (without GNSS sensor) placed by dragging the red circle with the mouse to its correct position, or by attaching a GNSS (GPS or GLONASS) sensor.
When recording raw I/Q data, the GNSS positions are written into a second file, parallel with the .raw file. On replaying, the current recorded geolocation is displayed synchronously to the recorded transmitters on the map. This might be useful in a mobile environment. The distances are displayed in the TII table.
DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcast and is a digital broadcast radio signal that is available in many countries outside of the USA. The digital signal encodes several radio stations, and it is considered a modern alternative/replacement for standard analog broadcast FM.
The tutorial is split into four parts. The first part simply explains what SDRs are and in particular discusses the LimeSDR and how it can be used with ODR-mmbTools. Part two discusses what hardware you need, and explains what each component of the ODR-mmbTools software does. Part three gets into the actual setup of the software on Linux. Part four finishes with actually transmitting the signal and decoding it with an RTL-SDR and the Welle.io DAB decoder.
The end result is a DAB radio station with three stations being broadcast.
QIRX SDR is a multimode SDR program compatible with the RTL-SDR. One of its defining features is that it has a built in DAB+ decoder. Recently beta version 2.01 of QIRX SDR was released which has some scanner, recording and spectra display improvements. We note that the beta version appears to be a DAB decoder only, with no multi-mode features. The new features and improvements include:
Configurable w/r to the Muxes to be scanned and/or included in the usual set of Muxes being used.
New algo, considerably faster
"Scan forever" feature, interesting for DX-ers wishing to observe Muxes over a longer time, particularly together with TII logging.
Selectable waiting time after recognition of a Mux, for TII logging.
TII Recorder: File structure improved, now directly importable into Excel, with TAB as separator.
Audio Recorder (DAB+ only): Format selectable between WAV (as usual) and pure AAC (with ADTS headers). The latter allows for high-quality recordings compressed by at least a factor of 10 compared to WAV. The popular Foobar2000 app is able to play these files. Not seekable yet though, because embedding in a suitable container is not yet implemented.
CIR with different scales (Samples, Distance, Time)
Indication of the correlation peaks used for the "FFT Window" determination in the CIR spectrum.
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.
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.
Device Frontend: Manual Center Freq. Correction in kHz
Raw Recording: Playback Control, for a timed positioning (“seek”) in “arbitrary” large (GBytes) recorded raw files.
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.
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 (DAB+/DAB software radio, RTL-SDR , RTL2832U)