Testing for Spurious Signals on the Airspy HF+ Discovery

Thank you to Nils Schiffhauer (DK8OK) for submitting an article documenting his tests on the Airspy HF+ Discovery (pdf mirror). Spurred on by discussions on the SDR-Console mailing list, Nils went looking for issues with spurious signals generated by the HF+ itself. In the end he finds some minor spurious signals, but notes that they have absolutely no adverse effects once an antenna is connected.

Youssef Touil (developer of the Airspy HF+ line of products) has also noted that the minimum discernible signal (MDS) of the HF+ is so low that it's become normal for very weak spurs to now be visible without an antenna connected. However, once an antenna is connected the natural atmospheric noise floor which is much higher than the MDS hides these spurs, and so the spurs have no consequence on reception.

In Nils' first test he uses a very high end Winradio W65DDC SDR to detect the spurs coming from an Airspy HF+, Airspy HF+ with preselector retrofit, and the Airspy HF+ Discovery. The results are quoted below:

[With the Airspy HF+] you indeed see a very few spurious signals, all well below -140 dBm/Hz.

With the Airspy HF+ Preselector connected, the number of spurious signal is very much reduced, as is their maximum level.

This picture still further improves with the Airspy HF+ Discovery connected: all visible seven spurious signals are measured to well below -150 dBm/Hz.

The first result is clear:

  • Airspy has improved also the spurious signals from model to model, landing at a stunning
    reduction with their matchbox-like Discovery.
  • The spurious signals were significantly reduced in both numbers and level.
  • Together with sensitivity and dynamic range, the performance of these SDRs is exceptionally
    good. If you see their price tag, they are a real bargain.
  • Overall: they deliver professional performance in every important aspect at an incredible low

In the second test Nils tunes to the center of a spur, then tested with a dummy load and then antenna connected. His results showed that all spurs disappeared once an antenna was connected. He summarizes below:

Yes, there are a very few and low-level spurious signals at all Airspy’s receivers – as they are found [much] worse at some competing SDRs.

  • By development, even this has been significantly improved from model to model with the new Discovery leading the gang.
  • All spurious signals disappear with an antenna connected.
  • There has been found no case where, in practice, any spurious signal even remotely touched or even limited reception of the most miniscule signals.To complain about “spurious signals” simply is “Much Ado about Nothing” in an Ivory Tower, far away from any practical application.
Nils also tested 7300 kHz reception and the co-existance of weak amateur radio signals with strong broadcast signals.
Nils also tested 7300 kHz reception and the co-existance of weak amateur radio signals with strong broadcast signals.
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Have been the radio/ham hobby for a long time and my device probably the worst device I have ever acquired. Mine is faulty, but their US distributor just stalled my numerous emailed complaints and supporting data but never replaced my unit. Those spurs are all over the spectrum , many right within the ham bands…


Anon, I noticed that too. If you try to upload a question about spurs with your Airspy HF+ Discovery on the Airspy Groups.IO site it never gets posted. I guess a moderator is blocking it. I have lots of noise spurs, some up to -80 db with mine, with or without an antenna attached. I think I have a defective unit. But anytime a ask for help I get blocked. Even the manufacturer says its my problem. 🙁


Don’t waste your time. If your questions do not fit in his marketing agenda or are bad for sales your posts will not be published resp. blocked.
Whatever you are hear or read about the Airspy HF+ is valid only under certain “laboratory” conditions. You need to recreate this conditions to get some amount of performance out of the box. You can not connect the Airspy HF+ to an Antenna and expect great results. For example.. I used to mount my RTL-Sticks directly on the “remote” Antenna side and let only the data cable (USB) entering the flat. By doing so I successfully avoided EMI travelling along the Antenna cable into the RTL-SDR. The AirSpy HF+ on the other side sucks any EMI directly into the reception path there is no electrical protection, balance or filtering. It will just suck whatever it can find though the USB data cable in to the reception path.
Also you need to consider that the guy who is selling the AirSpys is not a HF-Engineer. The things are produced and developed more or less in China in a typical chinese nearsighted way.


So what radio are you recommending that has better sensitivity and that does not have an extra zero on the price tag ?

I’m looking at this list while I’m asking: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ddrji5c9a1q25ag/Sensitivity%20Figures%20on%20Some%20Receivers.pdf?dl=0


This is utter B/S he is using an ACTIVE ANTENNA! of course using and active antenna will mask self generated spurs!! It is just like having an external preamp. It raises both signals AND the noise floor. I would like to see proof that you cannot see these spurs with a passive antenna in a quiet rural location!


Agreed. What’s more, if you see issues such as this and try to pose a question on the Airspy Groups.IO, in typical Youssef fashion, he blocks the post……..


He states his antenna has 9 dB gain and the atmospheric noise is 16 dB higher than the spurs in the worst case. Still 7 dB margin.


You are missing the key point that the atmospheric noise is not fixed at a given frequency. It can vary considerably depending upon local conditions and other factors. 7 dB of margin certain does not mean that these will not be a problem to some users