A new SDR# driver for the RTL-SDR that comes with manual settings for the LNA/Mixer and VGA gain stages as well as software decimation (in Russian use Google Translate) has been released on rtl-sdr.ru. The three seperate gain stages offer much greater control over optimization of signal SNR and interference management. The decimation feature allows you to sacrifice some bandwidth for increased ADC bit resolution. This means that using the decimation feature can significantly improve the SNR of a signal. Update: It turns out that decimation is already used in the existing SDR# code, so using decimation in the new driver won’t improve the real SNR, only the visible SNR – so there will be no audible improvement. It will however allow you to effectively zoom in on the spectrum without loosing visible resolution. Also it allows you to use a higher sample rate (2.8 MSPS) which will improve SNR, whilst maintaining a reasonably sized (small enough) visible bandwidth for narrowband signals.
As seen in this previous post, the R820T tuner chip used on most RTL-SDR’s has a built in hardware tunable IF filter. Leif, the programmer of the Linrad SDR software has been experimenting with this filter and has uploaded a video of his experiments to YouTube.
In the video he shows how the R820T IF filter can be set to be as narrow as 300 kHz. Using a narrow IF filter can help to reduce the interference from strong nearby stations by up to 30 dB. Leif uses a modified RTL-SDR driver that comes with Linrad which allows the IF filter to be manually modified.
Over on YouTube user mm6dos has uploaded a video showing a new driver he helped develop for the R820T tuner which is used in the most commonly purchased RTL-SDR dongles. He writes:
A short demonstration of a new non-gpl RTL2832U / R820T driver specifically written for SDR#. The R820T tuner actually contains a configurable IF filter and 3 separate gain stages. Unfortunately Osmocom’s implementation has fixed this filter and one of the gain stages. Aliasing and overloading is significantly reduced using this driver.
Currently we don’t have a source for the download of this driver, but we assume that it will be released soon. The videos below show the driver in action, with the first video showing the IF filter adjustments and the second video showing the software decimation feature.