Over on YouTube, Tom the Dilettante has uploaded a video demonstrating how to receive HF signals with an RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode. This is something already known to most RTL-SDR fans, but on the RTL-SDR V3 we have built in a direct sampling circuit that enables reception below 24 MHz with a simple settings change in software.
In the past and with other dongle brands, enabling direct sampling required hardware mods involving directly soldering a wire antenna to very small pins or pads. Direct sampling is not a high performance mode for HF, but in many situations it can be good enough for casual listening.
In his video Tom demonstrates HF reception with the RTL-SDR Blog V3 and an MLA-30 active loop antenna. This is a cheap loop antenna available on Aliexpress that works very well for the price.
Listen Around the World - No Internet Required (HF & Shortwave on RTL SDR)
Over on YouTube TheSmokinApe has uploaded a video showing how to use the direct sampling mode on RTL-SDR Blog V3 devices to receive HF transmissions, such as the ham bands, short wave and AM broadcast. In the video he shows how to activate direct sampling mode in SDR#, and then goes on to show reception of a few HF signals.
We note that an appropriate HF capable antenna is required to receive HF signals. The multipurpose dipole kits we sell are for VHF/UHF reception only. A simple and low cost HF antenna could just be a long wire running through your house.
The KK5JY Loop on Ground (LoG) antenna is a 15 feet per side square loop designed for reception of HF and lower. It simply consists of an isolation transformer and wire that as the name implies is placed somewhere on the ground in a square loop like shape. It is cheap and easy to build and compact in that it does not take up any usable space.
In his latest video Rob from the Frugal Radio YouTube channel tests out this antenna with his Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR. He uses a bit of wire lying around, and a low cost 9:1 Balun from NooElec as the isolation transformer. With this antenna he was able to pick up signals in the USA and all the way over to Australia from his home in Canada. NDB signals were also receivable.
2022 LoG (Loop on Ground antenna) for SDR radio tested on Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR KK5JY HAM radio
Over on the Techminds YouTube channel, Matt has uploaded his latest video which is a review of the GA-450 portable HF active loop antenna. The antenna costs between US$60-$80 + shipping and is available on Chinese market sites like Aliexpress and Banggood. It's advertised as covering 2.3 - 30 MHz, and uses a very portable and sturdy 20cm stainless steel loop. The active base amplifier is powered via a USB-C connector, and it even has a built in lithium battery for portable field use.
In his review Matt shows the antenna in action, noting that it's performance is quite a lot better than expected for it's small size, but it can't compare to his large half-wave end fed antenna. He notes that it appears to work best from 7 - 21 MHz, but not so well below 7 MHz. Overall he recommends it if you're looking for a small sized loop antenna.
For some time now there has been chatter about the possibility of using WSPR logs to help track the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370. WSPR or the "Weak Signal Propagation Reporter" is a protocol typically used on the HF bands by amateur radio operators. The properties of the protocol allow WSPR signals to be received almost globally despite using low transmit power. Amateur radio operators use it for making contacts, or for checking HF radio propagation conditions. MH370 is a flight that infamously vanished without a trace back in 2014.
The theory proposed by aerospace engineer Richard Godfrey is to use logs of sent and received WSPR transmissions that may have intersected the potential flight path of MH370, and to look for potential reflections or 'scatter' in the signal from the metal aircraft hull. From the reflections an approximate track of the aircraft could be calculated much in the same way that bistatic over the horizon radar systems work.
While it is an exciting theory, it is unfortunately considered by most experts as highly unlikely to yield any suitable results with the main problems being WSPR transmission power too weak to detect reflections from an aircraft, and the effect of the ionosphere too difficult to account for.
Time and again, there are news stories in the professional and popular press about the fact that log data from the WSPR data network can help locate aircraft. In particular, the effort is to determine the actual crash site of flight MH370. This effort essentially amounts to detecting "unusual" level jumps and frequency changes ("drift") in the archived WSPR log data and attributing them to reflections from specific aircraft ("aircraft scatter").
In a blog entry, Nils Schiffhauer, DK8OK, for the first time critically evaluates this theory. On the one hand, this is based on years of observation of aircraft scatter on shortwave as well as an investigation of about 30 Doppler tracks. The results of this complex analysis of more than 10,000 data in one example alone are sobering: The effects of aircraft scatter on the overall signal are almost always well below 0.3 dB.
To prove a correlation between level changes of the overall signal and aircraft scatter seems hardly possible on the basis of the WSPR data material. The reasons are manifold, but lie mainly in shortwave propagation, where level changes of 30 dB within a few seconds are the rule rather than the exception.
However, since the local and temporal state of the ionosphere is not known in previous investigations on the WSPR data material - it is recorded in parallel in professional OTH radar systems and calculated out of the received signal - level jumps can hardly be clearly assigned from the sum signal alone. This finding is supported by further arguments in the blog: https://t1p.de/t5kr
Black Cat Systems have recently released two new programs that may be of interest to HF monitoring enthusiasts. The first is a multichannel capable ALE decoder and the second is a multichannel GMDSS-DSC decoder. Both programs are not free, with an (introductory) price tag of $29.99 each for three parallel input channels, and $99 for up to 24 parallel input channels.
With an appropriate HF capable SDR, like a SDRplay, Airspy HF+ Discovery, or even an RTL-SDR V3 in direct sampling mode, these programs allow you to set up a home monitoring station.
ALE or Automatic Link Establishment is a digital RF protocol that enables users to initiate a reliable call over HF frequencies, by automatically choosing the best frequency based on propagation conditions, allowing for telephone like calling operation, and enabling short text messages.
GMDSS or Global Maritime Distress and Safety System is a set of radio protocols that enables digital text communications between ship to ship and the shore, as well as weather broadcasts, and distress beacons.
Over on his blog Nils Schiffhauer (DK8OK) has been testing these two programs out. In his first post about the ALE decoder, Nils explains ALE in more depth, and demonstrates how he uses the multi-channel capable SDR-Console with Virtual Audio Cable to feed 16 ALE channels into the decoder. He goes on to show how to filter by callsign and provides some tips for best reception. He notes that with ALE you might receive messages from:
... forces, diplomatic services, emergency agencies, police, militia, UN missions, drug enforcement, border control and even amateur radio. It is used from aircraft like AWACS, as from aircraft carriers, from mobile units to fixed stations.
In his second post Nils tests out the GMDSS decoder noting that it is an "extraordinary sensitive decoder" and "it also includes smart processing of the data – from looking up vessel’s complete data from ITU’s Ship Station List (internet connection needed) to saving all data to a fully-fledged database". His post goes on to explain the GMDSS format in more detail and demonstrate multichannel decoding.
Thank you to Mitsonobu Saitou for writing in and sharing with us a product that he has created which improves reception on of the Malachite DSP software defined radio and other shortwave radios by up to 20dB by improving the grounding. It appears to work by using the negative USB line as a ground via a modified USB cable with grounding clip on the other end. The product is available via Amazon Japan with international shipping.
The Malachite DSP is a portable battery powered software defined radio with built in screen. It is popular amongst shortwave listeners.
Saitou writes the following summary, and full details about the product are available on his blog (link uses Google Translate to translate from Japanese to English):
Today's item is "Dokodemo Earth KUN". This is an item to pull the ground wire from the charging connector of DCL radios and Mlachite DSPs.
The sensitivity of the receiver will be improved by strengthening the grounding. This is how I applied it.
It is easy to connect by pulling out the ground wire from the charging connector instead of the antenna jack.
It can also be used as a loop antenna by connecting the ground to the antenna.
We have confirmed the effectiveness of this product outdoors. Users who have used this item have experienced a significant increase in sensitivity.
The RadioBerry is a HF transceiver board designed to be used as an add on 'hat' for the Raspberry Pi. It uses the same AD9866 chip as the Hermes Lite 2 SDR which gives it a 12-bit ADC with one RX and one TX channel, a maximum bandwidth of up to 384 kHz, and an operating frequency range of 0 to 30 MHz.
In the video TechMinds shows how to connect and setup the Radioberry software on the Pi and how to stream from the Pi to SDR-Console V3 on a PC. He goes on to demonstrate the Radioberry receiving HF signals, noting that the performance is good, although he uses an Ethernet connection and Pi 4 for best performance.
TechMinds notes that he will test the transmit functionality in a future video, once he receives a preamp designed to be used with the Radioberry.