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Author Topic: Any decent inexpensive SDR shortwave receivers out there ($300 and under)?  (Read 53763 times)

Posts: 245

« on: January 10, 2013, 01:31:17 PM »

I'm a newbie at SDR here. Are there any basic, simple SDR shortwave receivers out there?  I'm thinking of purchasing the Sangean 909X shortwave receiver, but then got to thinking, it would be cool if there were a decent SDR type radio for a couple of hundred dollars I could try instead (just to try my hand at SDR technology).  Thanks.

Posts: 22

« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2013, 04:05:30 PM »

One that's becoming more popular as a 'casual listening' SDR is the RTL-2832 DVB-T USB stick receiver and the 'Ham-it-Up' HF upconverter board, using HDSDR to tune the DVB-T receiver.  The cost for both of those are: DVB-T USB Receiver = $18.00, 'Ham-it-Up' HF Upconverter = $49.00....So together they won't break the bank and can be powered from a USB port.   I started out using one of those purely to see how well it performed and was pleasantly surprised at how well it receives in the HF Ham bands and SWL frequencies.  It's not a high performance radio (doesn't have wide dynamic range like the better SDRs out there), but for what you get it's a pretty nice combo and makes an easy receiver for HF for casual listening and it won't break your wallet.  Does great on the SWL bands because of the strong signals (what's left of 'em).  Compact, too - - my first setup was contained in a 2" x 6" x 4" plastic case from Radio Shack, and my second setup is contained to about the same 'footprint' of the USB DVB-T receiver (0.75" x 2.75" x 1.0")

There's also another thread out here on EHam (,82601.45.html) where I've built my own HF upconverter from common parts you can buy from Digikey and make a little better performance HF upconverter for about the same money as the DVB-T receiver (about $18.00).  The HF upconverter I built I'm redesigning to fit into the DVB-T receiver case, too - you'd never know there's an HF upconverter in it, but will be a totally self-contained HF receiver USB stick.  Check out the thread for more details if you're interested.

TNX & 73 de Marty, KN0CK

Posts: 2409

« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2013, 10:02:07 PM »

SDR is a very interesting area. There are some commercial receivers out on the market. They are higher priced than your tag of $ 300. Looking at short wave it is easier to cover frequency wise.
For your price limit you would have to consider getting a kit to assemble yourself. May be you have the experience. Then this could be great fun.
As Marty mentioned there is another possibility in the thread I started some time ago. But this involves also a tiny bit of homebrewing for shortwave reception. It is also described in the January QST.
Now you mentioned the word 'decent'. The question is what do you regard as decent. Many people are happy with a DVB-T stick some others rather want to play the higher end. I think there is no real mid range of quality to be found for commercial SDR receivers.
Depending upon your capabilities I would give it a try with the simple solution. You don't lose much money.

Posts: 160

« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2013, 09:40:18 PM »

The Lazy Dog LD-1C is in your price range.

My suggestion to you, if you are looking for a good communications grade SDR, is save up another $150 and find a good used Flex 1500. You won't be disappointed.

Posts: 448

« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2013, 08:53:43 AM »

I agree with TED, if you can save up a bit more and pick up a used Flex 1500
you will get a much better receiver(and transmitter too).
I have one of the dongles and Ham It Up converters here to play with and while
it works better than I expected, it is not in the same class as the 1500. (as a receiver)
The dongle/upconverter setups are fun to play with, but, for some serious Shortwave
listening, the 1500 is a better deal.

Posts: 64

« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2013, 05:18:56 AM »

Add a few more dollars and get a Ten Tec RX-320D. I recently purchased (2) used Ten Tec transceivers. The receivers of both are terrific. That led me to purchase a demo RX-320D from Ten-Tec which will arrive today. Reviews give the RX-320D very high marks. The biggest gripe concerns the control software for the radio. Comments indicate better performance can be obtained using other control software, some of which is freeware. The Ten Tec salesman that took my order informed me they usually have demo units on hand at a reduced price. They have the same warranty as a new unit.  Dennis  W0NTS 

Posts: 56

« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2013, 06:59:28 PM »

I'm a newbie at SDR here. Are there any basic, simple SDR shortwave receivers out there?  I'm thinking of purchasing the Sangean 909X shortwave receiver, but then got to thinking, it would be cool if there were a decent SDR type radio for a couple of hundred dollars I could try instead (just to try my hand at SDR technology).  Thanks.

Afedri for under $300 delivered.

Posts: 135

« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2013, 07:46:26 AM »

Softrock Receive Ensemble II, HF or LF. $67 kit, $109 assembled on Ebay. Also a 2M version out there. Need USB, sound card with stereo input, 12VDC supply, and antenna. If used near a transmitter, a front end protector of some sort highly recommended, even with an ext T/R relay. Works with SDR#, SD-Radio software, more.

Installing the USB driver for SDR's can be a bit tricky. Some look like a HID to Win OS, so may have to get PC running, install driver with Softrock disconnected, then disconnect all other USB, connect Softrock. Lots more info on Softrock Yahoo group.

Posts: 6

« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2013, 04:52:04 AM »

I've been looking at SDR options for a little over a year and considered a few dedicated SDRs (Ensemble II, FiFi SDR) along with some of the more expensive radios (Ten-Tec RX-320D), but after reading the article in last month's QST I decided to test the waters with the DVB-T Dongle + Ham It Up converter, and it has been a lot of fun.

One option that hasn't been mentioned to you yet, and is the least expensive at free, is It is a network of SDR receivers connected to the internet. You download the software, connect to a receiver, and then you can do just about anything you could with your own SDR receiver. It's pretty cool and there are receivers located all over the world.

Good luck and have fun!


Posts: 156

« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2013, 10:09:34 AM »

Another poster mentioned SoftRock SDR.

The cheapest is the SoftRock Lite II Combined Kit for US$21, but you have to build it yourself.  I do have a question about this.  Are there any surface mounted parts I must solder myself?  If yes, then this kit is a no-go for me.    Once built, does it need test equipment to align it? I do not have any test equipment.

There is the Built SoftRock Ensemble II HF Receiver for $92. 

If you go to and go to w4ax, they use the SoftRock SDR receivers.  So, I am impressed how well they work.  Then again, I am no ham radio expert.  Most likely the antennas are good.

Posts: 31

« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2013, 11:14:46 PM »

Besides the digital TV dongle approach, with an upconverter to get you HF bands, google the Funcube Dongle Pro+. It's just under $200 delivered in the U.S. Needs no upconverter because it covers LF, MW, HF and all the way up to 1.9 or 2 GHz, with a gap of about 200 MHz above about 240 MHz. The original Funcube Dongle was designed to receive only the Funcube ham satellites, for school kids. Then came the Funcube Dongle Pro, which covered a much wider frequency spread, but not including HF and below. The Pro+ came out a few months ago. I've had one delivered to my U.S. address and will begin fooling with it shortly. Plan to run it on Windows-equipped Macs with free SDR# software. The Funcube Dongle Pro+ sells out as fast as more become available. Best way to get one  is to put yourself on the waiting list for the next batch. Designed and manufactured in the UK. Also sold in limited quantities by a few UK ham stores, occasionally used on eBay and elsewhere.

Posts: 461

« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2013, 10:11:44 AM »

Check out the SWL topic on this forum.

Posts: 10

« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2013, 10:19:16 AM »

The little FiFi SDR will set you back about $175 by the time it lands on your
doorstep. There is a free GUI from Bonito just for the FiFi.


White Rock, BC Canada

Posts: 54

« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2013, 01:48:53 PM »

SoftRock Ensemble II

I build one up last month and it is a nice little radio


Posts: 3

« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2013, 01:47:49 AM »

I have the Afedri SDR Net receiver. 1.25MHz of bandwidth can be received at any point in the range from 100kHz to 30MHz. It works with Linrad, Winrad, HDSDR, Studio1, SDR#, SDR Console, SDR-radio, and CuteSDR as well as others with a bit of work. It can work independently connected via Ethernet or directly connected via USB (only 250KHz of receive bandwidth).

It's well built, the designer is actively supporting it, and there's a good community on a Yahoo Group.

Cost: $250 with a case, $200 without.
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