Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: RIGblaster Advantage vs SignaLink USB  (Read 14503 times)
AK4SK
Member

Posts: 150




Ignore
« on: September 19, 2012, 09:16:25 AM »

I'm looking at getting a sound card interface for the digital modes and I have narrowed down my choices to the RIGblaster Advantage and the SignaLink USB. I'm looking for a device with a built in sound card so that is one reason for choosing between these two. The list below is a condensed version of what I think are the significant differences between the two (from http://www.westmountainradio.com/content.php?page=products). The thing is I don't understand what this stuff means so I don't know if it matters are not. The RIGblaster is more expensive so if I don't need these features then I can just stick to the SignaLink USB.

Fully automatic, no manual bypass switches (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Positive software PTT control (RIGblaster Advanatge yes, SignaLink USB no)
Computer audio system must be disabled to use most ham programs (RIGblaster Advantage no, SignaLink USB yes)
Windows sounds never transmitted by built in VOX (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Auto mic switching (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Computer rig control interface built in (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
True FSK keying (RIGblaster Advanatge yes, SignaLink USB no)
True keyed CW (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)



Any help understanding if these differences are significant or not would be appreciated.

73,
Chris AK4SK
Logged
AA4PB
Member

Posts: 12893




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2012, 09:37:16 AM »

** Fully automatic, no manual bypass switches (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
That depends on how you wire the SignaLink. If, for example, you connect it to the ACC connector on an Icom then it will be fully automatic.

** Positive software PTT control (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
The RIGblaster uses a serial port control pin to allow the software to key the PTT. The SignaLink uses an internal VOX circuit to key the PTT when output tones are available. On some modes the positive control can have an advantage. For normal PSK31 usage this isn't very important.

** Computer audio system must be disabled to use most ham programs (RIGblaster Advantage no, SignaLink USB yes)
This is not true for SignaLink USB either. The SignaLink appears as an alternate sound card which can be selected by the software while Windows continues to use the normal sound card.

**Windows sounds never transmitted by built in VOX (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
This is not true for SignaLink USB either, provided you don't set Windows sounds to use it.

**Auto mic switching (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
This could be an advantage if you have to connect the interface to the mike input. If you have an accessory audio input then the SignaLink won't need auto mic switching.

** Computer rig control interface built in (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)

Definitely an advantage of the RIGblaster.

**True FSK keying (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Definitely and advantage of the RIGblaster if you intend to use direct FSK for modes like RTTY. The SignaLink can run RTTY via AFSK using audio tones.

**True keyed CW (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Definitely and advantage of the RIGblaster if you intend to operate CW.
Logged
AK4SK
Member

Posts: 150




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2012, 10:44:21 AM »

Thank you for all of the info, that narrows down the differences a bit. My radio is a Yaesu FT-897D. It has a Data port and a CAT port. The SignaLink can connect through the Data port so there should be any issues related to connecting through the mic jack.

** Fully automatic, no manual bypass switches (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
That depends on how you wire the SignaLink. If, for example, you connect it to the ACC connector on an Icom then it will be fully automatic.
I'm not sure if there is a way to run it fully automatic from my radio or not, I'll have to look into that. I'm not sure how big of a deal it is either way.

** Computer rig control interface built in (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Definitely an advantage of the RIGblaster.
What is the advantage of rig control through the RIGblaster? With the SignaLink I can connect it via the Data port and then connect my computer via the CAT port for rig control so does this still apply?

**True FSK keying (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Definitely and advantage of the RIGblaster if you intend to use direct FSK for modes like RTTY. The SignaLink can run RTTY via AFSK using audio tones.
I had to do some quick research on this. I guess this just depends on whether I would prefer FSK RTTY to AFSK RTTY, correct?

**True keyed CW (RIGblaster Advantage yes, SignaLink USB no)
Definitely and advantage of the RIGblaster if you intend to operate CW.
I don't understand this one either. I'm not yet CW literate so I don't really understand straight key vs. electronic key vs. direct key(ing). I looked at the SignaLink site (http://www.tigertronics.com/slusbts.htm#How do I operate "direct keyed" CW with the SignaLink) and this is what it says about direct keyed CW:
"How do I operate "direct keyed" CW with the SignaLink - This is done by simply connecting the SignaLink's PTT and Ground lines to the "Key" and "Ground" lines of your radio's Key jack.  One of our un-terminated radio cables can be used to make these connections.  You will need to attach the appropriate plug for your radio's Key jack to this cable.  Using our SLCABNC cable, we suggest attaching the white/orange wire to the tip of the plug, and the orange wire to the plug's body/sleeve.  You will then need to install the SignaLink jumpers as follows; PTT to 1, and G (ground) to 2.  Note that direct keyed CW is limited to about 25 WPM on Transmit (there is no limit on Receive), so if you need to transmit faster than this, you'll want to run AFSK CW."

So it looks like direct keyed CW is possible with SignaLink but RIGblaster says "true keyed CW" so I'm not sure if there is a difference or not. I guess this might be important because of the 25 WPM transmit limitation?
Logged
W8JX
Member

Posts: 6060




Ignore
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2012, 01:23:00 PM »

So it looks like direct keyed CW is possible with SignaLink but RIGblaster says "true keyed CW" so I'm not sure if there is a difference or not. I guess this might be important because of the 25 WPM transmit limitation?[/i]

Direct keyed CW is not possible with Signal link unless you have/use a external keyer because the keying with Signal Link is only VOX via its internal sound card. It has no software PTT support
Logged

--------------------------------------
All posted wireless using Win 8.1 RT, a Android tablet using 4G/LTE/WiFi or Sprint Note 3.
STAYVERTICAL
Member

Posts: 875




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2012, 01:41:53 PM »

Hi Chris,

It all depends what you want to do with your station.

I am not familiar with the rigblaster advantage, but have had a look at the web page about the product.
From my reading it appears to have a lot of good features, and if it works as advertised should be versatile.
Basically, you need to decide if you want an interface for each function, or have one box which does a few.

For example, if you were a digimodes only operator, and would not use CW much or rig control, the USB signalink would be a good choice.
You could always add USB adaptors later for positive CW control, or make your own cheaply.

With CAT control, you could also buy the CT62 cable (or hong kong equivalent for a few dollars), and use that as well with FT897/857/817 radios.
This may even be more desirable, since you may find if you use rig control with the FT897 that you get some interference from the interface.
This is a common problem, and if the rigblaster does not have opto-isolated rig control, it will break your ground loop free status on the digimodes interface.
In my case, I used a cheap $5 cat62 clone and an optoisolator dongle to eliminate ground loops on that interface as well.
The point I am making is that you have to be careful with a multifunction box, that it does not undo good work on one interface with connections on another.

Also, in a multifunction box, it will be more complex to setup the virtual devices, because you have multiple ones needed for different purposes (CW, Rig-control, external-soundcard).
So, although it is all well achievable these days, if you have problems installing drivers or migrating to other versions of the OS, then you will be fighting a multi-front battle, not just one.

I don't want to make the issues seem larger than they may be, but since you are asking for advice, I am playing devil's advocate.

The way I decided to go was separate interfaces (all usb) for each function - because that is my personal preference.
This way, if something goes wrong, I am not looking at multiple interacting effects.
I like to use hounds for hunting and cats for catching mice.

But if you are the "all in one box" type of guy, from the specs, the rigblaster would appear to fill that niche.

Now some caveats:

I know the USB signalink very well, and two of them have worked flawlessly for me for many years - they are basically foolproof.
If you buy one, you have an extremely good chance it will work out of the box and you will be on digimodes in less than an hour.
This is a safe option in my opinion.

With the rigblaster, I have no idea of how reliable it is, or whether you have to go through windows drivers hell to get it working.
I would assume it is a well made and debugged unit, but I have no idea, since I do not own one, nor have any experience with it.
I would look up reviews and exercise due diligence before putting my money on the table.

Good luck with your choice,

73 - Rob

« Last Edit: September 19, 2012, 01:54:12 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
W8JX
Member

Posts: 6060




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2012, 06:19:07 PM »

With the rigblaster, I have no idea of how reliable it is, or whether you have to go through windows drivers hell to get it working. I would assume it is a well made and debugged unit, but I have no idea, since I do not own one, nor have any experience with it.I would look up reviews and exercise due diligence before putting my money on the table.

I have used a Rig Blaster PnP for over 3 years now and when I bought it it came with 64 bit Vista drivers even then that worked flawlessly. You can get it up and running in less than 10 minutes.
Logged

--------------------------------------
All posted wireless using Win 8.1 RT, a Android tablet using 4G/LTE/WiFi or Sprint Note 3.
AK4SK
Member

Posts: 150




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2012, 07:39:52 PM »

Rob,
Thanks for all of the insight and the thoughts on the drivers. I have a CT62 cable that came with the programing software I bought so I'm good there.

W8JX,
Thanks for the clarification on direct keyed CW. I still don't understand what direct keyed CW means (I'll google it) but I do see that the SignaLink is not "true" direct keyed CW as West mountain Radio has stated.
Logged
STAYVERTICAL
Member

Posts: 875




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2012, 05:25:44 AM »

Hi Chris,

You probably already have it figured out, but just in case, here is my explanation of direct keying CW.

If you key the transmitter in CW mode by closing a couple of contacts, normally with the rig in CW mode, that is direct keying.

If you use the transmitter in SSB mode, and insert a pure audio sine wave into the transmitter audio input, that is indirect CW.

If you modulate an SSB transmitter with a pure sine wave, the audio frequency is added to the carrier frequency (in USB mode).
This will result in a single RF frequency just like is produced in direct CW keying.
There are potential problems, such as watching your modulation to ensure distortion does not occur otherwise other frequency components are produced.
But with care, it will be indistinguishable from a keyed CW signal.

Many RTTY signals for example which are two alternating RF signals are produced this way.
Another way is direct FSK keying in which an RF oscillator is slightly shifted in frequency.
With care both methods will produce good FSK for RTTY.

The same is true for CW.
For example FLdigi, a digimode program will only produce CW with audio tones, and does not support direct CW keying.
Many other digimodes programs, and CW specific programs will however support both.

The advantage of direct keying in CW mode is that filters which are specific to CW operation are invoked in CW mode,
but may not be available in USB/LSB mode when using audio produced CW.

In my case, I used a USB to serial port adaptor and then made a simple opto-isolator based CW keyer.
This used 4 components and cost less than ten dollars, although the USB to serial adaptor was 20 dollars.
So it all adds up.

I hope this clarifies the situation a little bit.

73 - Rob
Logged
K5TED
Member

Posts: 747




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2012, 10:09:44 AM »

With the exception of the CW and FSK keying points, the rest of the "Rigblaster Advantages" listed are mostly used car salesman speak, and irrelevant to operation with the FT-897 and a computer that is less than 10 years old.

Ham Radio Deluxe with DM-780 will blow away any proprietary rig control that comes with RB, and is still free. OmniRig and Commander work well, and are free.

RB is certainly a very good device by all accounts, and the difference in price is not much between it and the Signalink.

I have used two Signalinks, A Griffin iMic(sampling the IF from a PCR-100), a Soundblaster Audigy external(connected to an FT-857D with isolation transformer and USB control), a couple of Icom PCR-1500's and a Flex 1500 all at the same time on the same PC with no problems, while watching Netflix. I only state this to dispell any notion that somehow Windows can't be easily configured to route audio I/O to and from whereever it needs to go with no issues.
Logged
W8JX
Member

Posts: 6060




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2012, 10:19:57 AM »

With the exception of the CW and FSK keying points, the rest of the "Rigblaster Advantages" listed are mostly used car salesman speak, and irrelevant to operation with the FT-897 and a computer that is less than 10 years old.

This really applies more to Signal link because they never plainly tell you that that it lack direct PTT control when they promote it.

Ham Radio Deluxe with DM-780 will blow away any proprietary rig control that comes with RB, and is still free. OmniRig and Commander work well, and are free.

DM-780 is one of the worst bloat ware and resource hungry ham programs out there!

RB is certainly a very good device by all accounts, and the difference in price is not much between it and the Signalink.

It is not about price here but rather abilities.
Logged

--------------------------------------
All posted wireless using Win 8.1 RT, a Android tablet using 4G/LTE/WiFi or Sprint Note 3.
AK4SK
Member

Posts: 150




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2012, 11:33:36 AM »

Hi Chris,

You probably already have it figured out, but just in case, here is my explanation of direct keying CW.

If you key the transmitter in CW mode by closing a couple of contacts, normally with the rig in CW mode, that is direct keying.

If you use the transmitter in SSB mode, and insert a pure audio sine wave into the transmitter audio input, that is indirect CW.

If you modulate an SSB transmitter with a pure sine wave, the audio frequency is added to the carrier frequency (in USB mode).
This will result in a single RF frequency just like is produced in direct CW keying.
There are potential problems, such as watching your modulation to ensure distortion does not occur otherwise other frequency components are produced.
But with care, it will be indistinguishable from a keyed CW signal.

Many RTTY signals for example which are two alternating RF signals are produced this way.
Another way is direct FSK keying in which an RF oscillator is slightly shifted in frequency.
With care both methods will produce good FSK for RTTY.

The same is true for CW.
For example FLdigi, a digimode program will only produce CW with audio tones, and does not support direct CW keying.
Many other digimodes programs, and CW specific programs will however support both.

The advantage of direct keying in CW mode is that filters which are specific to CW operation are invoked in CW mode,
but may not be available in USB/LSB mode when using audio produced CW.

In my case, I used a USB to serial port adaptor and then made a simple opto-isolator based CW keyer.
This used 4 components and cost less than ten dollars, although the USB to serial adaptor was 20 dollars.
So it all adds up.

I hope this clarifies the situation a little bit.

73 - Rob

Rob,
I don't quite see the difference between the two different SSB explanations, but I think I get the big picture.

Thanks and 73,
Chris
Logged
STAYVERTICAL
Member

Posts: 875




Ignore
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2012, 03:59:40 PM »

Hi Chris,

Yes, I probably over-complicated the SSB part a bit.

In a nutshell:

1.
In direct CW mode, many rigs use some method of inserting a carrier wave into the transmitter chain to produce an RF wave for CW.
Manufacturers use many methods, one being to have a dedicated RF oscillator, another being to unbalance the balanced modulator and disable audio.
Both these methods produce a signal at RF frequencies which is amplified and keyed on and off by closing key contacts.

2.
In indirect CW mode,using SSB, if you have no audio modulation then ideally you would have no RF output.
(Imagine someone having the button pressed in SSB but saying nothing).
Assuming your transmitter is set to 14.010 Mhz and is in USB mode what happens if you insert audio?
Lets insert pure audio of 1Khz into the microphone connector.

The result is that you will produce an RF signal 1Khz higher than your center frequency of 14.010Mhz, that is 14.011Mhz.
If you were set to LSB mode the frequency produced would be 1Khz lower, on 14.009Mhz.

Thats all there is to it.

73 - Rob
Logged
K5TED
Member

Posts: 747




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2012, 10:03:23 PM »

With the exception of the CW and FSK keying points, the rest of the "Rigblaster Advantages" listed are mostly used car salesman speak, and irrelevant to operation with the FT-897 and a computer that is less than 10 years old.

This really applies more to Signal link because they never plainly tell you that that it lack direct PTT control when they promote it.

Ham Radio Deluxe with DM-780 will blow away any proprietary rig control that comes with RB, and is still free. OmniRig and Commander work well, and are free.

DM-780 is one of the worst bloat ware and resource hungry ham programs out there!

RB is certainly a very good device by all accounts, and the difference in price is not much between it and the Signalink.

It is not about price here but rather abilities.

The reality is that the simple product description and review indicates that it does not include rig control, which would be a prerequisite for direct PTT.

The reality is that DM-780, hands down, makes most all other digi software look amateurish in comparison. You will, of course, need a relatively modern PC, say, something less than 10 years old. No other free digi software offers the level of integration with a top shelf logging program, rig control and reporting interface available as is with HRD. I'm not shilling for HRD, just stating the obvious.

The reality is, excess disposable radio funds don't take the place of cogent evaluation based upon clearly published product information and understanding the concepts of the principle at hand.



Logged
AK4SK
Member

Posts: 150




Ignore
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2012, 07:23:23 AM »

Hi Chris,

Yes, I probably over-complicated the SSB part a bit.

In a nutshell:

1.
In direct CW mode, many rigs use some method of inserting a carrier wave into the transmitter chain to produce an RF wave for CW.
Manufacturers use many methods, one being to have a dedicated RF oscillator, another being to unbalance the balanced modulator and disable audio.
Both these methods produce a signal at RF frequencies which is amplified and keyed on and off by closing key contacts.

2.
In indirect CW mode,using SSB, if you have no audio modulation then ideally you would have no RF output.
(Imagine someone having the button pressed in SSB but saying nothing).
Assuming your transmitter is set to 14.010 Mhz and is in USB mode what happens if you insert audio?
Lets insert pure audio of 1Khz into the microphone connector.

The result is that you will produce an RF signal 1Khz higher than your center frequency of 14.010Mhz, that is 14.011Mhz.
If you were set to LSB mode the frequency produced would be 1Khz lower, on 14.009Mhz.

Thats all there is to it.

73 - Rob

Thanks Rob. I should have been more specific. What I don't understand is the difference between inserting a pure audio tone into the transmitter output in SSB mode (which is indirect) vs. modulating a SSB transmitter with a pure sine wave (which is direct). I only have an elementary understand of the internal works of transceivers. I can sort of grasp the difference between CW and SSB (and AM and FM) but I didn't quite get what you were differentiating between two different ways to create CW in SSB mode. Anyhow, I think I need a better conceptual understanding of the internal signal paths to get it. I'll catch up on that stuff some day.

Thanks again,
Chris
Logged
K0JEG
Member

Posts: 669




Ignore
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2012, 07:33:13 PM »

Hi Chris,

Yes, I probably over-complicated the SSB part a bit.

In a nutshell:

1.
In direct CW mode, many rigs use some method of inserting a carrier wave into the transmitter chain to produce an RF wave for CW.
Manufacturers use many methods, one being to have a dedicated RF oscillator, another being to unbalance the balanced modulator and disable audio.
Both these methods produce a signal at RF frequencies which is amplified and keyed on and off by closing key contacts.

2.
In indirect CW mode,using SSB, if you have no audio modulation then ideally you would have no RF output.
(Imagine someone having the button pressed in SSB but saying nothing).
Assuming your transmitter is set to 14.010 Mhz and is in USB mode what happens if you insert audio?
Lets insert pure audio of 1Khz into the microphone connector.

The result is that you will produce an RF signal 1Khz higher than your center frequency of 14.010Mhz, that is 14.011Mhz.
If you were set to LSB mode the frequency produced would be 1Khz lower, on 14.009Mhz.

Thats all there is to it.

73 - Rob

Also the Rigblasters have a CW out port that is connected to the KEY input (where you would install a code key). When the PC sends a DTR or CTS (depending on software and interface) it is the same as closing the key. You change the mode of the radio to CW in order to make it work.

If you're using software that doesn't support direct keying, your PC sends out a tone similar to digi modes. You would then put your radio in USB/LSB mode (actually for the FT897, Digi mode). The downside is you can't take advantage of QSK and someone told me it doesn't sound as clean as a directly keyed transmitter (anyone want to chime in? I'd like to know).
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!