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Author Topic: Receiver buying advice please  (Read 29234 times)
K0OD
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Posts: 2578




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« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2013, 07:51:36 PM »

Quote
Stay away from any Flex Radio SDR if you are going to use it in the am broadcast band or below.

SWL2002, you are correct. My Flex-5000 is worthless below 530 kHz. i can't even hear local NDBs. So I use mine with an $89 Palomar VLF converter via the handy Flex converter port to hear down to 10 kHz while getting all PSDR features.

Here's a review I did on using a 5000 with a longwave converter:
http://www.eham.net/reviews/review/117564 

As for BCB reception, my 5000 works well. But for some reason it's not fully spec'd for below 1800 KHz. Perhaps it's prone to images from extremely strong local stations but I haven't had a problem. It picks up BCB DX just fine at my location. Nor have I heard complaints from other owners.
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K5TED
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« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2013, 09:53:46 PM »

The Flex family, for whatever reason, is horrendous below BCB. However, Kiwa makes a nice low pass filter to take care of this. That said, the Flex radio family is billed as a HF/6m transceiver. Not a general coverage receiver.
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SWL2002
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Posts: 374




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« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2013, 03:29:33 AM »

Quote
Stay away from any Flex Radio SDR if you are going to use it in the am broadcast band or below.

SWL2002, you are correct. My Flex-5000 is worthless below 530 kHz. i can't even hear local NDBs. So I use mine with an $89 Palomar VLF converter via the handy Flex converter port to hear down to 10 kHz while getting all PSDR features.

Here's a review I did on using a 5000 with a longwave converter:
http://www.eham.net/reviews/review/117564 

As for BCB reception, my 5000 works well. But for some reason it's not fully spec'd for below 1800 KHz. Perhaps it's prone to images from extremely strong local stations but I haven't had a problem. It picks up BCB DX just fine at my location. Nor have I heard complaints from other owners.

Interesting.  However, this would offer me no advantages over what I already have now with the other SDR.  I'll soon be selling the Flex5k since I have a different solution and I don't need the transmitter.  The 5k worked OK above 1.8 MHz for SWL though.

-robert
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SWL2002
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Posts: 374




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« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2013, 03:35:44 AM »

The Flex family, for whatever reason, is horrendous below BCB. However, Kiwa makes a nice low pass filter to take care of this. That said, the Flex radio family is billed as a HF/6m transceiver. Not a general coverage receiver.

The sensitivity of the Flex SDRs drops severely below 1.8 MHz.  If you are serious about MW Dxing, then the Flex radios are bad below 1.8 MHz.  By the time you add an external preamp and addition filtering, or add an external convertor, you have so much additional junk hanging off the Flex that it is just not worth it.

You are correct the Flex does not market their SDRs as general coverage receivers. 

-robert
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K0OD
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Posts: 2578




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« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2013, 09:15:49 AM »

I and others discussed several brands of low pass filters as possible solutions. The Kiwa 500 KHz cut off model is $120. Rejection of low frequency BCB stations is problematic. A broadcaster on 580 KHz is especially strong at my QTH. OTOH the Jackson Harbor converter kit is under $20.

The Palomar converter is available for IF outputs of either 3.5 or 4.0 MHz. I bought the later model which isn't ideal with a Flex due to lack of band pass filtering in that range. Some IF leakage can be heard and seen on the panadaptor.  I listen to longwave with my ham antenna which produces weak longwave signals that occasionally aren't strong enough to override the leakage. But it's NOT a huge problem.

In the 3.5 MHz ham band, where Flex filtering is excellent, IF artifacts are weak. Some can be detected on the panadaptor with the antenna removed but they would never be a problem even with the worst of antennas, such as a few feet of wire.  A VLF converter with output in the 80 meter ham band turns a Flex-5000 into a fabulous longwave receiver, with advanced features including customizable bandwidth, synchronous AM, great noise reduction and tracking notch filtering, and of course the panadaptor.   

I've discovered that a panadaptor is a useful accessory for BCB DXing. I can sometimes see a blip on 1521 KHz which is probably the Saudi powerhouse station. Audio from that station can't be heard in Missouri as I have to contend with 50 KW US broadcasters on 1520 kHz.  Around 170 KHz European AM broadcasters can easily be seen as panadaptor blips even when they can't be heard.       
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K5TED
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« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2013, 06:03:25 PM »

Here's a cheap good radio option...

Find a Icom PCR-100. Usually these go for about $75 on the internet.

Out of the box, it is a simple to use computer controlled wideband receiver. 10kHz to 1300MHz, AM/FM/WFM only. Outstanding audio quality with an external speaker or headphones. It can be used with the original Icom software, or, with an additional free emulator app, with HRD. Shortwave Log controls it natively just fine, if you can find a copy.

Next...

Buy I5XWW's "DRM Converter" which is a little $25 piece of kit that takes the Icom 455kHz IF down to 12kHz audio. You can also find the same sort of project kit or schematic if you prefer to roll your own. It's relatively easy to install into the PCR-100. If you prefer to roll your own, these sort of downconverter kits are readily available, or you can easily find the schematic to do it from scatch. Either way, install the converter. Buy or make and appropriate patch cable from the converter output to your computer soundcard LINE IN (or pad it down and use the MIC IN)

Download I2PHD's free SDRadio, M0KGK's SDR, HDSDR, Rocky, or other "SDR" software.

Now you have the makings of a very inexpensive but high quality wideband DSP receiver. You will get a nice 12kHz panadaptor display centered on the radio's tuned frequency, plus all the modes available in whichever SDR software you chose.

Download free Sodira or DReaM. (you'll have to find a compiled version of DReaM or compile it yourself) Now you have a DRM receiver.

Mind you, the PCR-100 by itself will do very well without any fancy stuff attached, but the addition of the DSP capability makes it quite nice.

For around $100, you will have a receiver that rivals much more expensive rigs. Add a $35 Griffin USB knob for more traditional feel.

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SWL2002
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Posts: 374




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« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2013, 06:11:22 PM »

Here's a cheap good radio option...

Find a Icom PCR-100. Usually these go for about $75 on the internet.

Out of the box, it is a simple to use computer controlled wideband receiver. 10kHz to 1300MHz, AM/FM/WFM only. Outstanding audio quality with an external speaker or headphones. It can be used with the original Icom software, or, with an additional free emulator app, with HRD. Shortwave Log controls it natively just fine, if you can find a copy.

Next...

Buy I5XWW's "DRM Converter" which is a little $25 piece of kit that takes the Icom 455kHz IF down to 12kHz audio. You can also find the same sort of project kit or schematic if you prefer to roll your own. It's relatively easy to install into the PCR-100. If you prefer to roll your own, these sort of downconverter kits are readily available, or you can easily find the schematic to do it from scatch. Either way, install the converter. Buy or make and appropriate patch cable from the converter output to your computer soundcard LINE IN (or pad it down and use the MIC IN)

Download I2PHD's free SDRadio, M0KGK's SDR, HDSDR, Rocky, or other "SDR" software.

Now you have the makings of a very inexpensive but high quality wideband DSP receiver. You will get a nice 12kHz panadaptor display centered on the radio's tuned frequency, plus all the modes available in whichever SDR software you chose.

Download free Sodira or DReaM. (you'll have to find a compiled version of DReaM or compile it yourself) Now you have a DRM receiver.

Mind you, the PCR-100 by itself will do very well without any fancy stuff attached, but the addition of the DSP capability makes it quite nice.

For around $100, you will have a receiver that rivals much more expensive rigs. Add a $35 Griffin USB knob for more traditional feel.



A 12 kHz panadapter display is about useless.  You might as well just not have it.  Even the lowly flex 1500 can do 40 kHz.  I owned a PCR-100 and it is not a very good receiver at all.  It is horrible on HF in particular.
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K0OD
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Posts: 2578




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« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2013, 08:53:35 PM »

     
Quote
"A 12 kHz panadapter display is about useless."

LOL!  I just fired up my Flex-5000 and the panadaptor was set on the 4X scale and zoomed in to show only about 6 kHz of 40 meter CW. I almost always have it on 4X. But I do a lot of DXing and contesting. What's useless is looking at an entire band... especially during a contest.

Only time I view a wide swath is occasionally on six and ten meters to see whether the band is open.
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SWL2002
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Posts: 374




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« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2013, 03:35:14 AM »

     
Quote
"A 12 kHz panadapter display is about useless."

LOL!  I just fired up my Flex-5000 and the panadaptor was set on the 4X scale and zoomed in to show only about 6 kHz of 40 meter CW. I almost always have it on 4X. But I do a lot of DXing and contesting. What's useless is looking at an entire band... especially during a contest.

Only time I view a wide swath is occasionally on six and ten meters to see whether the band is open.


 Roll Eyes Roll Eyes Roll Eyes Go back and read what the original poster wanted a receiver for: SWL on the AM Broadcast band.  A narrow panadapter is useless for MW Dxing. 

We are not talking about you using your Flex5k (which can see up to 180 kHz) on the CW portion of the Ham band!

-robert
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W1JKA
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Posts: 1814




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« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2013, 06:44:54 AM »

Re:N4WVE

Four years ago I had the same problem,I was looking for a good SW rcvr. to replace my aging FRG 7700 at a price point similar to yours.After much research I bought an IC-7200,it does everything better than my FRG 7700 plus easy computer interface and as an added bonus it came with a xtmr.circuit if I should ever find a need to use it.
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K5TED
Member

Posts: 780




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« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2013, 09:38:34 AM »

MW DXing is a lot of fun. Over the years, I've used a number of radios for this, including vintage Hammarlund, Hallicrafters, etc., Drake R series, Kenwood/Trio, Lowe, Panasonic, Sony, etc. None of these radios had any panadapter at all, but that didn't stop me from MW DXing, nor did it seem to hinder the process at the time. Generally, I either knew which station I was looking for, or would hunt for stations in the quiet slots.

Either way, in the U.S., spacing is 10kHz, bandwidth is 10.2kHz per the NRSC. Other ITU regions may use different spacing.

In the instance of the modified analog radio with 12kHz panadapter, the window is sufficient to observe the tuned station full bandwidth, identify and null any other interfering carriers in the passband or in the event the desired station is on a different spacing, shift the passband to avoid adjacent interference, and adjust the filter bandwidth from 0 to 12kHz. Additionally, some SDR software includes noise reduction and additional modes such as USB/LSB/CW/ECSS. All of these fit in the 12kHz panadapter model, all are useful for MW DXing.

A wide panadapter is great for looking at wide swaths of the MW band for spikes. No good for drilling down into the signal for processing and interference mitigation.

Using a point 'n click logging system with integrated EIBI, HFCC, etc. (I personally use Shortwave Log), clicking on a spike, whether in a 192kHz wide display, or a 12kHz display, will give you at most a list of stations that are supposed to be transmitting there. No more. Therefore, the only advantage of a wide panadapter vs narrow panadapter for MW use is the ability to watch lots of spikes go up and down. Handy if you are keeping tabs on many slots at once. Useless if you are actually listening for a particular station.


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K0OD
Member

Posts: 2578




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« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2013, 09:47:25 AM »

Some SWL says:
Quote
Go back and read what the original poster wanted a receiver for: SWL on the AM Broadcast band.  A narrow panadapter is useless for MW Dxing. 

What the heck is "SWL on THE AM Broadcast band?"

    N4WVE said:
 Hello all,
I am looking for opinions on the best short wave receiver in the 700 to 900 dollar  range.  I need computer interface capability for use with ERGO, etc. any ideas?
Greg N4WVE



   And then N4WVE adds:
Thanks for all the input guys! I am primarily interested in AM broadcast and am leaning towards sdr, but which one?
Greg N4WVE


----------------
So his wishes aren't precisely stated. I certainly wouldn't spend $700-$900 just to listen to AM, whether in the AM BCB or shortwave or wherever.

I usually keep my Flex panadaptor in 4X on the AM BCB (or medium wave or 530-1710 kHz) to watch all the hidden stuff piggybacked onto AM signals. Useful too to spot weak stations on non-USA frequencies, such as Euro 9 kHz channel separations.
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SWL2002
Member

Posts: 374




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« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2013, 10:35:25 AM »

Some SWL says:
Quote
Go back and read what the original poster wanted a receiver for: SWL on the AM Broadcast band.  A narrow panadapter is useless for MW Dxing.  

What the heck is "SWL on THE AM Broadcast band?"

    N4WVE said:
 Hello all,
I am looking for opinions on the best short wave receiver in the 700 to 900 dollar  range.  I need computer interface capability for use with ERGO, etc. any ideas?
Greg N4WVE



   And then N4WVE adds:
Thanks for all the input guys! I am primarily interested in AM broadcast and am leaning towards sdr, but which one?
Greg N4WVE


----------------
So his wishes aren't precisely stated. I certainly wouldn't spend $700-$900 just to listen to AM, whether in the AM BCB or shortwave or wherever.

I usually keep my Flex panadaptor in 4X on the AM BCB (or medium wave or 530-1710 kHz) to watch all the hidden stuff piggybacked onto AM signals. Useful too to spot weak stations on non-USA frequencies, such as Euro 9 kHz channel separations.


Since you seem to have poor reading comprehension, I was trying to put it in very simple terms for you.  He seems to be into MW DXing.   Most MW DXers use SDRs that are capable of recording the ENTIRE AM broadcast band to hard disk, usually on the top of each hour, so the recording can be played back to look for new DX stations.  The Flex5k can only record and playback 180 kHz of the band, which is only marginally useful over a radio without a panadapter at all.

The reason why you think being able to look at an entire Ham band is useless is because you use the Flex5k.  It has very limited ability and a clunky interface to be able to display the whole bandwidth in a high resolution manner and to allow zooming and panning of that bandwidth.  Other more sophisticated SDRs are not limited like the poor software (PowerSDR) that is used with your Flex5k.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 10:50:09 AM by SWL2002 » Logged
SWL2002
Member

Posts: 374




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« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2013, 10:43:28 AM »

MW DXing is a lot of fun. Over the years, I've used a number of radios for this, including vintage Hammarlund, Hallicrafters, etc., Drake R series, Kenwood/Trio, Lowe, Panasonic, Sony, etc. None of these radios had any panadapter at all, but that didn't stop me from MW DXing, nor did it seem to hinder the process at the time. Generally, I either knew which station I was looking for, or would hunt for stations in the quiet slots.

Either way, in the U.S., spacing is 10kHz, bandwidth is 10.2kHz per the NRSC. Other ITU regions may use different spacing.

In the instance of the modified analog radio with 12kHz panadapter, the window is sufficient to observe the tuned station full bandwidth, identify and null any other interfering carriers in the passband or in the event the desired station is on a different spacing, shift the passband to avoid adjacent interference, and adjust the filter bandwidth from 0 to 12kHz. Additionally, some SDR software includes noise reduction and additional modes such as USB/LSB/CW/ECSS. All of these fit in the 12kHz panadapter model, all are useful for MW DXing.

A wide panadapter is great for looking at wide swaths of the MW band for spikes. No good for drilling down into the signal for processing and interference mitigation.

Using a point 'n click logging system with integrated EIBI, HFCC, etc. (I personally use Shortwave Log), clicking on a spike, whether in a 192kHz wide display, or a 12kHz display, will give you at most a list of stations that are supposed to be transmitting there. No more. Therefore, the only advantage of a wide panadapter vs narrow panadapter for MW use is the ability to watch lots of spikes go up and down. Handy if you are keeping tabs on many slots at once. Useless if you are actually listening for a particular station.


All your minimally useful system would be able to do is to record one station on the AM broadcast band (a 12 kHz swath at most).  Most AM broadcast DXers have SDRs that record the ENTIRE AM broadcast band at once to hard disk, usually on a timed basis on the top of each hour, every hour, so the recordings can be reviewed later to spot new stations.  Two SDRs that can do this are the Perseus and the QS1R.  The Perseus can record 1600 kHz of bandwidth and the QS1R can record 2000 kHz of bandwidth, both enough to cover the entire AM broadcast band.  The wide panadapter view (> 1.5 MHz) is indeed very useful for spotting new stations that you would miss without the panadapter or with a very narrow panadapter view.  AM Broadcast DXers (and MW DXers) want to spot new DX stations, NOT listen to one AM radio station.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 10:45:47 AM by SWL2002 » Logged
N0YXB
Member

Posts: 328




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« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2013, 10:47:00 AM »

Using a point 'n click logging system with integrated EIBI, HFCC, etc. (I personally use Shortwave Log), clicking on a spike, whether in a 192kHz wide display, or a 12kHz display, will give you at most a list of stations that are supposed to be transmitting there. No more. Therefore, the only advantage of a wide panadapter vs narrow panadapter for MW use is the ability to watch lots of spikes go up and down. Handy if you are keeping tabs on many slots at once. Useless if you are actually listening for a particular station.


Wow, that's neat.  And thanks for sharing the PCR-100 ideas. 
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