Tagged: direct sampling

New Experimental R820T RTL-SDR Driver that Tunes down to 13 MHz or Lower

Over on the Osmocom mailing list, Oliver Jowett an RTL-SDR experimenter has posted about his new experimental driver for the R820T RTL-SDR which extends the tunable range down to around 13 and up to 1864 MHz (previously 24 – 1766 MHz). Oliver writes

You can get these changes from https://github.com/mutability/rtl-sdr/ (you’ll need to build from source yourself). There should be no application changes needed, just tune as normal. (gqrx needs the “no limits” option turned on) These changes work by limiting the tuner to a range of frequencies that it can reliably tune to, then allowing tuning beyond those bounds by making the 2832’s downconverter do the final bit of tuning. This can add up to 14.4MHz to each end of the range. Also, the tuner is switched to low-side mixing at the top of the range which gives a bit more range there. The practical range is limited by the width of the IF filter and aliasing effects at the extreme edges of the downconverter’s range. I’ve been able to pick up broadcast AM and amateur CW/SSB down to around 15.5MHz without too much trouble. I’d be interested to know how this works for others. Also.. these changes are likely to have broken offset tuning, direct sampling mods, and tuners other than the R820T, as it touches all those areas but I only have an unmodified R820T to test against. If you have different hardware and are willing to spend some time testing then please let me know. I expect that the range of the other tuners can be extended in the same way with not much trouble.

Over on the Reddit RTL-SDR discussion board there has been talk about this patch. Most users are reporting that it works well down to around 15 MHz, but some people are reporting that they have been able to receive signals down to around 4 MHz. Testers also report that this modified driver works much better than the no-hardware direct sampling mod patch released a few months ago.

Update: A ready to go Windows binary for SDR#can be downloaded at https://mega.nz/#!K0YwyLDb!jMdJb2DwjMTnyDFZ-mda5mQfcu464gB945eQnOJj82g. Simply copy the file in the zip into the SDR# folder.

Reddit user gat3way was able to take this screenshot showing AM reception at 9.5 MHz
Reddit user gat3way took this screenshot showing AM reception at 9.5 MHz

Assembling the Chinese RTL-SDR Direct Sampling Kit

A few months ago we posted about a Chinese individual (BA5SBA) who had begun selling RTL-SDR dongle kits for receiving HF frequencies. Back then it wasn’t entirely clear what these kits were or where they came from. Now over on Reddit, poster SidJenkins has bought one of these kits and assembled it. He has uploaded images of the construction which can be found here and the Reddit discussion can be found here. The kit is essentially an RTL-SDR extension PCB board that aids in building a direct sampling RTL-SDR with good performance by including filters and impedance matching.

SidJenkins notes that the kit came with no instructions, so he used this thread in Chinese (use Google translate) to help put the kit together.

Chinese RTL-SDR Kit
Chinese RTL-SDR Kit

KN0CK HF Upconverting and Direct Sampling RTL-SDR Receiver Store

In previous posts we have featured Marty KN0CK’s popular modified RTL-SDR dongles which have either a miniature built in high quality HF upconverter with amplifier and filter, or an amplified and filtered direct sampling modification applied to them. With these modified dongles you can receive the HF frequencies from 0.5 MHz to 54 MHz. These kits were previously available for sale on a webstore, however that store has since closed down.

Fortunately, Marty’s modified RTL-SDR dongles are still available at http://www.kn0ck.com/HF_SDR/. The HF upconverting dongle can be bought for $75 and the direct sampling dongle at $60. The store page also shows example videos of the performance you can expect.

KN0CK HF Upconverting RTL-SDR Modification
KN0CK HF Upconverting RTL-SDR Modification
KN0CK HF DIrect Sampling RTL-SDR Modification
KN0CK HF DIrect Sampling RTL-SDR Modification

Direct Sampling Front End Board

Over on this Japanese language blog, ttrftech has been experimenting on a type of direct sampling front end board (Use Google Translate) for a direct sampled RTL-SDR dongle. More info about his direct sampling front end can be found on this post. Translated, it appears his board has the following feautres.

  • Filter x2 up to fifth order
  • RF switch
  • Amplifier
  • Power regulator
  • Input transformer (optional)
  • The RJ-45 (optional) or the SMA input connector
  • Power supply to the antenna
  • Output to U-FL or SMA (ipex) connector

The results seem to show his board does improve reception. Note that the RJ-45 appears to be the antenna. There also appears to be review of the board by “pup” here and a video showing the board filtering out a broadcast FM image in the video below. On Pups blog there are also more posts about the board under this tag.


Direct Sampling Front End
Direct Sampling Front End

Direct Sampling Mode with No Hardware Modifcations

Update: There is now a newer driver that allows HF tuning without hardware mods via a different mechanism. The new mod seems to work better than this one. Read about it at https://www.rtl-sdr.com/new-experimental-r820t-rtl-sdr-driver-tunes-13-mhz-lower/.

Over on the Reddit RTL-SDR forums user Jengal has posted a modified RTLSDR.dll dll file for SDR# which allows the direct sampling mode to be used on the R820T without the need for any hardware modifications. The modified dll is compiled from keenerds experimental branch of the RTL-SDR driver, which uses code for the no hardware mod written by tejeez. The no hardware direct sampling code was inspired by Anonofish’s discovery where he found that the E4000 based RTL-SDR could tune to AM radio without the need for the direct sampling mod (though this appears to be now patched in the newer rtlsdr drivers).

The direct sampling mod is a hardware modification to the RTL-SDR which allows it to receive HF frequencies between 0-14.4 MHz without the need for an upconverter. It works by connecting an antenna directly to the RTL2832U chip, thus bypassing the tuner. Teejez’s modification tells the RTL-SDR to bypass the tuner in software, allowing antennas to be connected to the normal antenna port. HF reception with the experimental driver is very poor in comparison to the direct sampling hardware mod or an upconverter, but even so Jengal was able to receive AM Radio, an SSB ham radio signal and an HF weather report with a simple longwire antenna.

To use the modified dll, simply download it from this link, rename it to rtlsdr.dll, and replace the original rtlsdr.dll in the SDR# folder. Then connect an HF antenna to the normal antenna port and in SDR# tune to a frequency between 0-14.4 MHz. Next turn ON the RTL AGC option in the configure menu. Jengal replaced the function of the RTL AGC option with the direct sampling mod. He found that best reception occurred when he set the gain to 48 dB.

No Hardware Mod Direct Sampling in SDR# Receiving AM Radio
No Hardware Mod Direct Sampling in SDR# Receiving AM Radio

RTL-SDR E4000 Tuner Trick to Get AM Radio without Mods or Upconverter

YouTube user Superphish has posted a video showing the trick mentioned in this Reddit thread by Anonofish that enables the E4000 tuner to receive a small portion of the broadcast AM band without doing the direct sampling solder mod, or using an upconverter.

It simply involves tuning to a frequency between 3686.6 – 3730 MHz, at which point AM signals start showing up on the spectrum. It isn’t that useful as you can only tune to the very lowest AM stations, but it is still interesting.

RTL-SDR E4000 trick to get some of the AM Band