Using a Transmit/Receive Switch to Protect an SDR from a Transmit Radio

A question that comes up often is how to combine an RTL-SDR, or any other RX only SDR with a transmit capable amateur radio. It's not possible to connect the RX only SDR together with the TX radio via a standard splitter because the TX radio's power will most likely blow up the SDR with it's powerful output. To solve this problem you need either a manual switch that will switch out the SDR when transmitting which requires absolute discipline to not accidentally transmit in the wrong switch position, or an automatic relay switch.

Over on YouTube channel HamRadioConcepts has given a good overview and demonstration of the MFJ-1708SDR Transmit/Receive automatic relay switch, which is a good product that solves this issue. It is also a fairly budget friendly option, coming in at only US$79.95 over on the MFJ website. HamRadioConcepts notes that the switch automatically grounds out the SDR whenever the PTT on the radio is pressed, and also has a fail safe that will automatically detect a transmission and ground the SDR if PTT is disconnected.

MFJ-1708SDR Transmit/Receive Switch For SDR Receivers


  1. Bas - ON5HB

    I crafted a pan-adapter on my TS-590S, works perfectly and costs practically nothing.
    It’s splitted from the RX-TX relay.

    • Dave H

      My guess it’s actually an older T/R switch design that they just re-labeled to say “SDR” for the new century. The SO-239s and the RCA jack for the PTT input are pretty familiar on 1960s-70s gear.

      • John

        The only difference between the old 1708 switch and the new SDR version is that the new one has a jumper to keep the transmit radio connected at all times, so that it’s always receiving. I converted one of mine to the SDR version in about 1 minute (not including heating up the iron).

        UHF and RCA jacks are still in use today on amateur equipment, not just stuff from the 60s-70s.

    • Ebert

      PL-259 and SO-239 are generally rated for one kilowatt which is enough for most people. What do you think would be better ? N type ?

      • KB1YSQ

        My understanding is that PL-259/SO-239 is a bit inconsistent with regards to impedance within the connector, deviating from 50 ohms, perhaps depending on frequency? I think folks prefer the N connector for that reason, and also for waterproof-type-stuff. (Not so much applicable in this situation).

        • Bas - ON5HB

          Nope, in real measurements the connector has hardly any impact on losses. Claims like -3DB are bogus, even on UHF. People pay too much attention to rubbish instead of measure themselves. All too much software simulations that are false and don’t deliver claims.
          Measure yourself people! There is all to much rubbish claims about just everything, still people believe it even proven to be false.

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