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Author Topic: Best HF SDR under $200?  (Read 7587 times)
KF6TIL
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« on: January 09, 2014, 08:31:20 AM »

Long time ham and SWL enthusiast here just coming back from not having a rig for the past 10+ years.  I first learned about SDR's a few weeks ago and the concept sounds almost too good to be true (one of my jobs includes software development).  I've spent the past few weeks studying the topic, searching for products and downloading software.  I'm ready to pull the trigger on my first SDR, but which one should I get?  I'm primarily interested in HF.  Primary uses will be SWL, monitoring the ham nets on 20m, weather fax and maybe marine AIS.  Ultimately I will want a transceiver (for 20m nets and 10m DX), so a SDR transceiver is also a possibility.  Suggestions?  Advice?

Tnx,
Paul
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K2PI
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2014, 09:30:07 AM »

I have both the Funcube Dongle Pro Plus, and the Afedri SDR - both around that price, and both very capable.  Either one would be tremendous for your casual use, and the Afedri has the added benefit of being network capable, while the FCP Pro+ will receive all the way up into the Microwave bands.
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KA4POL
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2014, 10:46:47 AM »

Quality has its price. That is also valid for SDR. You can get an inexpensive solution but there are drawbacks. We had a lengthy discussion about simple DVB-T sticks: http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,82601.0.html
You would need an upconverter though.
The Nooelec http://www.nooelec.com/store/software-defined-radio/sdr-receivers/tv28tv2-sdr-dvb-t-usb-stick-set.html#.Us7uBvvDvYQ makes also a good impression.
Starting with a very low price solution would be a good way to see if you like it and want to invest more money later.
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KF6TIL
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2014, 11:44:05 AM »

Quality has its price. That is also valid for SDR. You can get an inexpensive solution but there are drawbacks. We had a lengthy discussion about simple DVB-T sticks: http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,82601.0.html
You would need an upconverter though.

I skim read that thread already and got some good info.  I guess a related question would be "how good" is the DVB-T plus upconverter as a receiver?  My last rig was an Icom 706 Mk II with DSP, so how would it compare to that?

What about transceivers, any that stand out?
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WS4E
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2014, 12:50:07 PM »

If your mostly interested in HF.  The best choice is probably a Softrock Ensemble II.  It will give quite high performance for the buck at $60 for the full kit, or $90 built. 


http://fivedash.com

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YO9IRF
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2014, 02:17:39 PM »


I skim read that thread already and got some good info.  I guess a related question would be "how good" is the DVB-T plus upconverter as a receiver?  My last rig was an Icom 706 Mk II with DSP, so how would it compare to that?

What about transceivers, any that stand out?

The DVB-T sticks are basically the worst recievers you could get, especially if you want HF. Sensitivity is bad and dynamic range is VERY bad, the only thing good about them is they have wide coverage and show you the spectrum.

If you want to see what SDR is all about, a Softrock kit is a good start; if you don't want to build it, don't have the time or the tools, I'm sure you can find one already-built on the Softrock Yahoo group or from KB9YIG. There are fixed-band kits that go for about US$20 or a general coverage 2-30MHz Ensemble RX model wich is about US$70-80 i think.

There are also different transceiver kits, either Softrock or Genesis etc, but at the moment neither has a good hassle-free full HF coverage product in a good budget. I would say a FLEX-1500 is the best way to go, around US$500 on the used market or 700 from FLEX.
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KA4POL
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2014, 09:48:49 PM »


I guess a related question would be "how good" is the DVB-T plus upconverter as a receiver?  My last rig was an Icom 706 Mk II with DSP, so how would it compare to that?

What about transceivers, any that stand out?

The best solution is definitely a direct conversion SDR, i.e. one that has the ADC as front end. Any converter in front of the ADC will reduce the quality. The number of bits, as you certainly know, limits the dynamic range. A nice commercial solution is the Perseus SDR. That, however, is above your price ceiling. Comparing the DVB-T stick with a commercial rig like the ICOM would make it look bad.
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KF6TIL
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2014, 05:57:02 AM »

Ok, I think I've narrowed my options down to either the Softrock Ensemble II Receiver (about $100 assembled) or the Afedri SDR (about $260).  At the moment I'm leaning towards the Afedri as it looks to be a better made unit and doesn't require a sound card (I plan on connecting this to my i5 laptop).  Anyone use both and can compare?  Any others comparable to the Afedri I should consider?
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N2DTS
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2014, 06:39:39 AM »

Look at the peaberry V2, a very good sdr if you only need 2 bands.
$150.00 and it includes a transmitter (2 watt).

No sound card needed, its built in, amazing performance for the price.

For about $250.00, the funcube pro+ dongle looks very good...
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KF6TIL
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2014, 07:08:48 AM »

I did look at the Peaberry, but unfortunately I don't have the time, tools or skills to build a kit with SMD components.
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ZENKI
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« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2014, 09:01:34 PM »

Well why not ask what SDR has the best transmitter and receiver performance?

If any model has lousy receiver or transmitter performance why even bother to spend your money?

I cant see the point of buying something new just because its new and trendy and delivers no real improvement in either RX or TX performance.

While many SDR receivers deliver  excellent RX performance the  typically SDR transceiver and final amplifiers that are sold with these products
are really shockingly poor designs. This is before we start talking about transmitter faults and very noisy transmitters with all sorts of keying spurious products.
I dont buy junk just because its new or at its early stages of development.

The Anan radio or HPSDR radios are good designs. If the pre-distortion  is made available then the Anan will probably be the best performance package on the market.
Best  in my book is the best  achievable transmitter and receiver performance. Who cares if a radio costs 20 dollars and has lousy receiver and transmitter design?
An example is the SDR TV dongles they all have receivers with lousy dynamic range that becomes unusable on busy bands. Its SDR, but who wants to buy a crippled SDR radio.

All these facts can be verified by making repeatable objective tests. Its just  unfortunate that hams are willing to swallow a bitter pills so often just because of price or brand.
The point here is study the specifications. Adam AB4OJ has started to do some objective testing on SDR radios. AB4OJ.com
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KB4QAA
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2014, 05:54:46 PM »

Buy one!   New and Trendy has a quality all its' own.

"No point in getting a radio that doesn't have improved performance"?  Huh?  You mean once someone buys a better radio, they should never buy or build something like a KX-1, or a Tuna Tin2? Or a Boat Anchor?  Wink

Keep it up Zenki!  You put the Crank in Cranky!
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CHRISTOFERO
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« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2014, 10:22:11 PM »

I find that the RTLsdr sticks with either the ham it up or SDRUP100 (which has an LNA built in) work much better with a magnetic loop antenna than with a long wire antenna and ground. There is some kind of noise thing going on around my house that Ive been unable  to track down, which creates a lot of HF noise.

A loop antenna cuts that down a lot and makes the RTLSDR's much more selective. Its like day and night.


Ive heard good things about the afredi net SDR, but I dont own one.

The Hackrf is pretty interesting in that it both transmits and receives. Its also an 8 bit SDR though. With an upconverter, it can receive a 20 MHz slice of spectrum. So you can see 0-20 MHz all at the same time, no problem.

If you want to know the basic technical performance of the RTLSDRs this is a good read:
http://f6fvy.free.fr/rtl_sdr/Some_Measurements_on_E4000_and_R820_Tuners.pdf

They can be a good receiver on the ham bands, but it changes a lot with band conditions. They do seem more vulnerable to noise than some other receivers. They do have a lot of advantages just being an SDR. But for HF, I think the softrock is going to be a lot better. Because its designed for that task, not to be a TV receiver.

Its surprising what you can do with a $6 RTLSDR modified for direct conversion with a loop antenna and an LNA. Even a small loop. The loop, if its designed for high Q and has a design to minimize picking up strong FM signals makes a low pass filter unnecessary)
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KB5JOF
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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2014, 10:06:12 AM »

I have the SoftRock RX/TX.  Receive is fantastic and beats my Yeasu 857D with both running on the same G5RV.  I did find the learning curve for the software to make the SoftRock work has a steep learning curve but that's one of the things that makes it interesting.  I made three contacts this morning in a short period with the 1 watt output and JT65.  I find that I really like low power contacts.  Total cost $150.00 pre-built by Tony, who designed the radio, including with a case and shipping.  Also, I am impressed with the workmanship on this radio.  That's my two cents.  Take it for what its worth.
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