Over on YouTube user w2aew has uploaded a tutorial video that clearly explains the theory behind upconverters. Upconverters are commonly used with the RTL-SDR to receive the HF (0 – 30 MHz) bands. In the video he shows how to make a simple homemade double-balanced diode ring mixer for the RTL-SDR and shows its performance in HDSDR.
#174: Using a mixer to listen to HF, shortwave, ham, etc. on RTL-SDR dongle