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Reviews Categories | Digital Multi-mode decoders | SkySweeper Help

Reviews Summary for SkySweeper
SkySweeper Reviews: 6 Average rating: 3.7/5 MSRP: $99 Euros, about 95 US dollars
Description: Full featured, multi-mode decoder
Product is in production.
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ON4SKY Rating: 5/5 Sep 26, 2004 03:27 Send this review to a friend
One of the best !  Time owned: 0 to 3 months

I review below "Sky Sweeper Pro 5.x".

Sky Sweeper series are much more than simple CW decoders... but multi-mode decoders and much more. See by yourself.

This is a spectrum and phase analyzer developed in Finland using an original graphic user interface, and powerful DSP functions.

To not be intimidated by all its windows and functions, as soon as you launch the program, the system suggests you to run the built-in demo. Accept its proposal, because it will show you some 27 scenarios explaining each function of the program and the many decoders able to translate in clear text or image many "strange" sounds that you can hear on HF bands.

The main screen is centered around the "Configuration Editor" window, in which the user selects and set the required functions (Analysis, Generic decoders, DSP filters, RX/TX, etc) which calls new windows that pop up on the screen (IQ Constellation, Signal View, Eye diagram, signal statistics, 2 bit Analyzer, 3D-FFT, Spectrogram, Chat box for mode decoding, etc).
SkySweeper Pro provides a high resolution phase analyzer (HFFT) up to 262144 point FFT with a frequency resolution up to 0.04 Hz able to detect any weak signal lost in noise at the audio. It provides a signal power/amplitude analyzer and different synchronization methods to decode less common modes like DGPS, MPT-1327 or POCSAG.

SkySweeper Pro is able to determine automatically the signal speed, to lock automatically to the signal, to remove RFI or AC hum from a signal, and to translate most codes transmitted on the air.
It decodes CW (speed between 10-80 WPM, tone between 300-2700 Hz), VHF packet (AX.25) or ACARS transmission, SSTV (in Scottie1, 2, DX and Martin M1, M2 modes), SYNOP, etc (this latter weather report is even translated in plain English in option) and all digital modes (Hellschreiber, PACTOR, SITOR-A/B, PSK31, 240 lpm HF Fax, etc) without problem. Fonts are also well readable (Courier 10 or so).

About limitations, I decoded successfully a CW message up to 60 WPM and other modulations when the signal was loud and clear. However a signal slower than 10 WPM is not correctly read and a CQ 30 dB stronger than the noise but associated to "shadow pulses" at about 60% of max amplitude during like during an Aurora or EME traffic cannot be decoded. A DSP helped a little (lowpass, bandpass, modifying pitch, decreasing noise, etc) but didn't permit to get the signal out. But don't worry, many other amateurs products can't extract such a noisy signal either.
Note that in the unregistered version the "save as" option to reinject the modified .WAV file in the CW decoder is disabled, so you cannot test the real performance of the product without buying it, and this is a major drawback. If you want to read audio files stored on disk, SkySweeper does only supports .WAV in mono, 8 or 16 bits/sample and a sampling rate of 11025, 22050 or 44100 samples/s. Knowing that many files are saved in 8192 samples/sec or in stereo, these limitations should be extended, including to other file formats (.MP3, .RA, etc).

Several modes work also in transmission connecting the PC serial port (or parallel) to the radio and using the Chat Box interface to work in CW, SSTV, RTTY, PSK31, Hell, MFSK16, PSK63, PSK125, QPSK31 or 4MFSK16.

Thanks to my insistence that adds to the one of other amateurs, in next release Mikko Huttunen, the publisher, will try to change the minimum CW speed to 1 WPM, support more Robot SSTV modes, and extra audio formats like .MP3, maybe .RA.

Globally, despite its limitations, with so many features gathered in an user-friendly interface it is one of my favorite software to decode common modulations but not under noisy conditions, what happens sometimes. The program provides an online manual describing each field with some screen dumps but I regret that it is not more detailed.

Sky Sweeper Pro runs on all Windows 32-bit plateforms equipped with a sound card.
SkySweeper comes in three versions, Standard 3.x, Standard Plus 4.x and Professional 5.x, this latter providing additional generic decoders (MFSK, MPSK, FSK, QPSK and new tools like speed and phase analyzers).
However, version Pro 5.x is four times more expensive that the Standard version that comes already with many decoders and analyzers, and that should already satisfy most amateurs and listeners. In all cases you can upgrade to higher versions.

You will find screen dumps on web site.

Hope this helps.

SV3EAL Rating: 5/5 Apr 27, 2004 02:35 Send this review to a friend
Best decoder  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have been a registered Skysweeper for a 1.5 years now. During this period skysweeper software has been developed a lot.
Three are now three different versions (standard, standard plus and Professional).
Currently I am using the standard plus version (I have updgraded from the std version).

I am using skysweeper only for the decoding purposes (it also supports transmitters, but I haven't tested them..).

SkySweeper supports not only the most common HAM modes but MANY military and utility digital modes (just look their demo and web site).
The decoders have worked very well. There were some problems with RTTY decoder in the older versions, but these problem seem to be fixed in the latest version.

It's very easy to use and the graphical outlook is the best I have seen in these softwares.

Currently it doesn't have the mode autodetection function (promised to be there in the near future),
so it limits some times the use of the huge set of decoders.

Skysweeper has it's own yahoo group and the support works excellently there.

For the mainly decoding purposes this software is highly recommended!

K0LTB Rating: 1/5 Jan 30, 2004 11:55 Send this review to a friend
Cannot compete with freeware  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The program has a slick user interface, but the decoders are decidedly inferior to programs that are available for no cost. It is not usable for communications.

A side-by-side test of Skysweeper versus Digipan, Hamscope, and MMTY shows that its error rate is many times as high as all three when decoding PSK31, CW and TTY.

It can decode only an occasional PACTOR character from an S9+ signal from which Digipan's PACTOR decoder gets 100% solid copy.

On CW, Skysweeper often renders clearly-sent text (for example, W1AW's machine-sent bulletins) as a series of T's and E's. This can sometimes be fixed by telling it the sending speed instead of letting it auto-detect (of course, the freeware programs have speed auto-detectors that work fine). When it is told the sending speed, it can read CW, but with about double the error rate of Hamscope.

Similarly, when confronted with 45 baud RTTY, Skysweeper will copy little or nothing in auto-detect mode. If you manually set the baud rate it will copy about 2/3 as many characters as MMTTY, provided the signal is loud and clear. With noise and QRM, its error rate rises faster than MMTTY's.

On PSK31, its error rate is about double that of Digipan or Hamscope, and its tuning window is far less usable. Fading, noise and QRM affect Skysweeper more than they do its freeware competitors.

I haven't used it for SSTV, WeFax, or other modes. Perhaps the decoders for those modes work really well and justify the notion that this is a commercially viable product. Apparently it is popular with some SWL users who decode airline traffic or emergency messages, but it's not a program a ham would want.
DH4AG Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2003 10:57 Send this review to a friend
Superb!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Great Program!

SkySweeper has so wide range of features, that it took some time to learn to use them all.
Luckily there's an excellent user manual which helped this mission a lot.

The basic modes like CW, PSK31 etc are quite easy to use.

Especially I like the flexibility of the user interface.
You can add as many decoders and transmitters (also different modes) as you want at the same!
Also it's possible to use very high end DSP tools like filters,mixers etc.

It also supports use over Internet. I tested also this and it works fine.

It performs very well in common modes like CW, PSK31,HELL,MFSK16, RTTY and SSTV.
SSTV tuning is not very well supported and in many cases the tuning took quite a long time.
In the digital modes there is automatic tuning available, which seem to work quite well in most of cases.

I have also used much ACARS, SITOR, SELCAL, HFDL decoders and I have to say, that they are perhaps the best in the market.

My initial interest actually was ACARS, SELCAL and HFDL, but currently I am using SkySweeper almost in all modes.

Sometimes I have had problems with HFFAX decoder, but most of time it works fine.
TX interface doesn't support flexible typing during the transmission like some other products.

AX.25 packet mode is not supported which might be a drawback to some people.

I contacted recently Skysweep Technologies (the company developing SkySweeper) and they said that the TX interface will
be improved in next SkySweeper version (Aug/2003).

They also said, that the next version (3.0?) will support PSK63, PSK125 as well as GMDSS/DSC and DGPS modes.
KV1E Rating: 1/5 Jun 20, 2003 23:49 Send this review to a friend
Not A Communications Program  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I enjoy SWLing digital modes and have been curious about decoding some of the commercial modes I've read about. SkySweeper's advertisements claimed a myriad of modes in addition to the claim that it is a superior "communications program". At best, this software package appears to be written by beginners in both the software and communications fields. Or, perhaps, the various software modules were cut and pasted from other programs and stitched together in a haphazardly manner. To divert any replies to my review that my computer system may be at fault, I'll say that I had all except the barest minimum of tasks suspended to make sure SkySweeper had the most CPU time. My PC is a P4/1.5gHz with 512 Mb of RAM, which should be enough for SkySweeper. In fact, my 233 MHz PC with 128 Mb of RAM runs SkySweeper fairly well.

I have not tried all modes on transmit, but found that you cannot use it as you would any other communications package. The program has the usual transmit and receive windows displayed. In order to transmit you have to enter the entire message you want to send and then move the mouse pointer to the "START" button and click. The text transmitted will be from the text cursor position to the end of the text displayed in the Transmit window. You have to make sure the text cursor is at the beginning of the text to transmit. I have no desire to even attempt to use it for a QSO. Further, for RTTY, the program offers AFSK only... no FSK at all. For CW, it's also audio keying and there is no provision for cw weight control or dot/dash ratio. Changing CW speed is awkward. That's enough said about transmitting with the program. Those deficiencies alone make the $100 USD price tag very questionable.

Conclusion: Stick with MTTY, MixW, or any other of the excellent freeware and shareware digital mode software packages out there.

Receiving: I've tried all the modes on receive except for the ones that I have not been able to hear yet. Namely, ACARS, MILALE, MFSK16, HELL, QPSK, and SYNOP. The built in filters work well, but you don't need them at all if your receiver already has DSP, SSB and CW filters built in

The modes that SkySweeper receives fairly well are SELCAL, SITOR-A/B, HFDL, and PACTOR.

The modes that SkySweeper receives from poor to horrible are: CW, PSK31, RTTY, SSTV. Any freeware I've used for these modes unquestionably out-performs SkySweeper. I could type a few pages describing what's wrong with SkySweeper's approach to these modes, but only will give a brief description of RTTY.

First off, the program requires that you have the proper RTTY stop bit length chosen. The reasoning for this requirement is beyond me. If a pulse is at least 1.5 bits in length, it's a stop bit and is the end of the character, period. I spent several days trying to figure out why I couldn't copy a 75 Baud commercial station that MTTY and any other program copies flawlessly. SkySweeper would print nothing. Not even garbage. By recording the transmission and looking at the pulses with CoolEdit2000, I found out that the station was transmitting a stop bit that is 2 units in length and I had to let SkySweeper know that. SkySweeper then copied the station ok. There is no reason for any RTTY decoder program to be that tightly synchronized to the stop bit.

SkySweeper support: I'll give a summation of what happened with the RTTY receiving problem I mentioned previously. If anyone wants all the details, I'll be happy to clarify. SkySweeper's support is patronizing and not communications savvy. However, they are quick to respond to Email inquiries even though my impression is they try to appease you just to get you to go away. I inquired about my RTTY problem that is mentioned above and received a very fast reply requesting I send them a screen shot and a sample .WAV file of the station's transmission, which I did. The service rep then informed me that he would give it to their RTTY "guru" for analysis. Two days later the reply was that after "close examination", the station in question was sending an unrecognizable code that was made up of 3 bits plus one stop bit and there was no support for that in SkySweeper. My reply stating MTTY copied it solid was ignored (at least I didn't get a reply). Many Emails back and forth resulted no answer as to the problem. They even suggested that if I wanted to copy that station I should buy the "Pro" version of SkySweeper! Of course, as I mentioned above, the code is indeed 5-bit Baudot with one, 2-unit stop bit as I found out later after analyzing it myself.

I would not recommend this program to anyone.. except, of course, they didn't mind these drawbacks.
K1ZC Rating: 5/5 Jun 11, 2002 17:52 Send this review to a friend
WOW!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
If SkySweeper doesn't do it, you don't need it done. This is a full featured digital analysis tool that comes with 14 decoders, 8 encoders, 5 visual analyzers, and 8 different filter choices. Download the demo from the web site and have some fun. It is remarkably easy to use given its functionality.

The only drawback is that the program eats CPU cycles. If you have a fast machine, say a 1.2GHz processor, it will be no problem. On my old 450Mhz box, it got indigestion at speeds over 35 WPM, but newer machines will have no problem.

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