Tagged: ham it up

RadioForEveryone: RTL-SDR Max USB Cable Length, Dongles Image Gallery, Ham-it-up Plus Review

Recently Akos has uploaded three new posts on his RadioForEveryone blog. The first post is a review of the "Ham-It-Up Plus", which is a US$65 upconverter that allows you to listen to HF on RTL-SDR dongles without direct sampling. Compared to the non-plus Ham-It-Up, the plus version includes a TCXO and the noise source circuit is populated. In his post Akos reviews the history of the Ham It Up generations and discusses the connectors and power options. He also reviews the performance and finds that the Plus seems to have better SNR.

In the second post Akos has uploaded his collection of various images of different RTL-SDR dongle brands. The images include circuit board photos so you can easily compare the differences in design between brands.

Finally the third post is an experiment to determine the maximum USB cable length that can be used with RTL-SDRs. His results show that the maximum is 9 meters which is actually more than the USB2.0 spec which states 5m as the maximum. We note that longer than 9m cable runs can also be achieved by using active repeater USB cables or USB hubs.

Testing RTL-SDR max coax length
Testing RTL-SDR max coax length

Leif (SM5BSZ) Compares Several HF Receivers

Over on YouTube well known SDR tester Leif (SM5BSZ) has uploaded a video that compares the performance of several HF receivers with two tone tests and real antennas. He compares a Perseus, Airspy + SpyVerter, BladeRF + B200, BladeRF with direct ADC input, Soft66RTL and finally a ham-it-up + RTLSDR. The Perseus is a $900 USD high end HF receiver, whilst the other receivers are more affordable multi purpose SDRs.

If you are interested in only the discussion and results then you can skip to the following points:

24:06 – Two tone test @ 20 kHz. These test for dynamic range. The ranking from best to worst is Perseus, Airspy + SpyVerter, Ham-it-up + RTLSDR, Soft66RTL, BladeRF ADC, BladeRF + B200. The Perseus is shown to be significantly better than all the other radios in terms of dynamic range. However Leif notes that dynamic range on HF is no longer as important as it once was in the past, as 1) the average noise floor is now about 10dB higher due to many modern electronic interferers, and 2) there has been a reduction in the number of very strong transmitters due to reduced interest in HF. Thus even though the Perseus is significantly better, the other receivers are still not useless as dynamic range requirements have reduced by about 20dB overall.

33:30 – Two tone test @ 200 kHz. Now the ranking is Perseus, Airspy + SpyVerter, Soft66RTL, BladeRF+B200, Ham-it-up + RTLSDR, BladeRF ADC.

38:30 – Two tone test @ 1 MHz. The ranking is Perseus, Airspy + SpyVerter, BladeRF + B200, ham-it-up + RTLSDR, Soft66RTL, bladeRF ADC. 

50:40 – Real antenna night time SNR test @ 14 MHz. Since the Perseus is know to be the best, here Leif uses it as the reference and compares it against the other receivers. The ranking from best to worst is Airspy + SpyVerter, ham-it-up + RTLSDR, BladeRF B200, Soft66RTL, BladeRF ADC. The top three units have similar performance. Leif notes that the upconverter in the Soft66RTL seems to saturate easily in the presence of strong signals.

1:13:30 – Real antenna SNR ranking for Day and Night tests @ 14 MHz. Again with the Perseus as the reference. Ranking is the same as in 3).


In a previous video Leif also uploaded a quick video showing why he has excluded the DX patrol receiver from his comparisons. He writes that the DX patrol suffers from high levels of USB noise.


RTLSDR4Everyone: Review of the Nooelec Ham-It-Up V1.3 and Balun 1:9

Over on his blog rtlsdr4everyone, Akos has posted two new reviews. One post reviews the latest ham-it-up v.13 upconverter and the other reviews the “Balun 1:9” impedance transformer.

An upconverter allows you to receive HF frequencies (0-30 MHz) with an RTL-SDR which has a lower frequency limit of 24 MHz.  The ham-it-up upconverter was one of the first upconverters to go on the market that targeted users of the popular RTL-SDR dongle. Over the years the ham-it-up has slowly been revised and now it is up at version 1.3. The biggest changes in the latest version are a revised design that uses the ADE-1 in reverse (better VLF operation), a presoldered oscillator and it also now includes the previously optional noise source by default. 

In his review Akos compares the ham-it-up v1.3 to the older v1.2 model. His results show that the revised design seems to have better immunity to noise and better FM broadcast filtering. He also tests out the new battery power via connection and shows that using battery power is less noisy.

Previously we posted a review comparing the ham-it-up v1.0, SpyVerter and Nobu’s Japanese upconverter. Although the ham-it-up v1.3 is much improved and we have not tested it, we still believe the SpyVerter is the better upconverter choice at the moment due to its better architectural design and included metal case, though Akos does point out that the ham-it-up is currently about $15 USD cheaper and has a passthrough switch.

Ham-it-up v1.3 vs ham-it-up v1.2
Ham-it-up v1.3 vs ham-it-up v1.2

In his second post Akos reviews the Balun 1:9 which is a $10 balun that is designed for attaching a long wire antenna to the ham-it-up. The goal of the balun 1:9 is to transform the high impedance long wire antenna down to around 50/75 Ohms for the receiver. In Akos’ results he writes that he mostly see’s identical or better performance with the balun connected.

The Nooelec balun 1:9
The Nooelec balun 1:9

To add to Akos’ review, we want to note that we think that there might be some confusion over baluns and ununs. We wonder if a 9:1 unun (instead of a balun) should be used for a long wire antenna, since a long wire is an unbalanced antenna. We think a balun should be used for a balanced antenna such as a dipole. In his review Akos also found that connecting two longwire antennas to the spring terminals improved reception. This may have possibly been because adding two longwires essentially created a balanced dipole antenna. To implement a longwire antenna unun with a balun, we think that the second terminal and coax shield should be connected to a good ground source like a cold water pipe. If you have knowledge on this topic please comment to confirm or expand on our theory.

Using a Quantum Phaser to Null Out Interfering Signals

Over on YouTube user kugellagers has uploaded several videos showing how he used two vertical antennas together with an RTL-SDR and ham-it-up upconverter to demonstrate the effect of using a Quantum Phaser to null out strong interfering signals that can cause trouble when DXing.

A Quantum Phaser is a device that combines signals from two antennas in order to create a steerable null. Essentially this means that a strong nearby station coming from one direction that is overlapping a weak remote station coming from another direction can be heavily attenuated, allowing the weak station to come through.

In his videos kugellagers demonstrates the Quantum Phasers nulling effect with splatter from an AM station, an overlapping IBOC hash signal (AM HD Radio) and Non-Directional Beacons (NDBs).

Phasing Out Splatter From a 50 kW Local On Adjacent Channel
Phasing Out IBOC Hash From A Strong Local On Adjacent Channel
Phasing out LF/NDBs With Closely Spaced Vertical Antennas

Understanding Filtering in an Upconverter for the RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user w2aew has uploaded a video tutorial explaining how filtering in an upconverter works. In a previous video w2aew explained how a simple upconverter for the RTL-SDR worked and noted that for best performance the upconverter needs three filters, one preselector at the input, one after the local oscillator and one after the mixing stage.

In this video w2aew takes a Nooelec Ham-it-up upconverter which has the three filters mentioned above implemented and scopes the output after each filter to show their effect on an input signal.

#175: Filter functions in an HF Upconverter used with RTL-SDR Dongle Receiver

Receiving Russian Long Range Navigation System with an RTL-SDR, Upconverter and Mini-Whip Antenna

Over on YouTube user Mile Kokotov has uploaded a video showing his reception of the ALPHA Russian Long Range Navigation System on Very Low Frequency (VLF) in Macedonia using an RTL-SDR, Ham-it-up upconverter and a Mini-Whip active antenna.

Mile also uses a band pass filter and notch filter to improve the dynamic range of the RTL-SDR. Additionally, in the video he shows a comparison between a large delta loop antenna and the mini-whip active antenna which shows better performance by the mini-whip.

RTL-SDR on VLF (ALPHA Russian Long Range Navigation System receiving in Macedonia with MiniWhip)

Nooelec Ham It Up Upconverter Metal Case Now For Sale

Nooelec, manufacturer of the popular Ham-It-Up upconverter has now begun selling metal enclosures for the upconverter. The Ham-It-Up is an upconverter which allows the RTL-SDR to receive HF (0-30 MHz) signals.

  • High-quality custom aluminum enclosure for Ham It Up v1.1 & v1.2.
  • Metal case helps to protect PCB from stray EMI, improving sensitivity.
  • Includes all required hardware to mount your PCB!
  • Ample room inside the case to make modifications and even include a dongle inside the case if you are so inclined.
NooElec Ham-It-Up Upconverter Case
NooElec Ham-It-Up Upconverter Case


RTL-SDR + Upconverter vs. Portable Shortwave Receiver

Akos from the SDR for Mariners blog has put together an article doing a comparison between the RTL-SDR + ham-it-up upconverter and a Grunding G8 Traveler II Digital conventional portable hardware shortwave radio.

His results show that the RTL-SDR and portable receiver are comparable in terms of performance, with a slight edge to the RTL-SDR. He adds that software tweaks available in SDR# can improve the voice quality for the RTL-SDR. However his final recommendation for general shortwave listening is that the portable is still the better option due to it’s ease of use.

RTL-SDR + Upconverter vs. Portable Shortwave Radio
RTL-SDR + Upconverter vs. Portable Shortwave Radio