|Professional grade HF receiver
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|I've owned this receiver since early 2011 and use it almost daily for general SWL,Ham Radio and monitoring of HF utility stations. Below are my thoughts and impressions of this little gem.|
Firstly, the Good:
1. Winradio's WR-G31DDC/WR-33DDC software provides a stunning, professional-grade GUI. Best used with two 24" displays, one for the G3xDDC GUI itself and the second to display DF8RY's CSVUserlist Frequency Database Browser. Without sidetracking too much, CSVU is a freely available custom software utility that integrates seamlessly with the Excalibur. CSVU takes most of the guesswork out of 'waterfall hunting'. Besides displaying all of the station parameters, one can also see the actual station location in Google Earth! Before discovering DF8RY's database utility, I made the mistake of ordering Winradio's WaveBase 3 SW database ($100) which was an utter disappointment. A third display setup with HRD's DM780 would be the ultimate 'Houston Control Console' type of setup.
2. A free, 'non-official' dll is available which allows the Excalibur to work with the WR-G33DDR program written for the Excalibur Pro (costing about 2.5x more). Google is your friend :-). Likewise custom 'pallets' and 'skins' can be downloaded from the Yahoo Groups site. My favorite is the Perseus skin with the Linrad palette (check out my QRZ page for screenshots).
3. The Excalibur has a realtime 0-50 MHz spectrum display with a minimum 1.5kHz RBW. Great tool for getting a visual indication of antenna resonance, HF propagation and local noise sources. The receiver can also record up to 2 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth for recording, demodulation and further digital processing.
4. Three separate receivers can run concurrently within the DDC bandwidth. This can be useful for listening to Freq A in one
ear and Freq B in the other. Or, for decoding PSK31 on RX0, JT-65 on RX1 and RTTY (or anything else) on RX2.
5. DRM monitoring works well as long as the signal level is above 15dBm -an optional $50 DRM license is required but well worth the added expense.
6. When used with the WR-G33DDR software, it's easy to schedule recordings automatically which can take place in the background while listening on one of the Excalibur's other two receivers.
7. Small form factor, with an external noise-free wall-wart type PS. Kudos to the WR designers who provided enough heat dissipation so a fan in not necessary. The only hardware control is an ON-OFF button. The receiver can be turned on/off remotely via software.
1. Technical support from WR is virtually non-existent. On several occasions I sent an email to WR support and was responded to by an autobot. I never received any follow up. Unfortunately, there are no active WR insider 'super-users' providing feedback on the Yahoo Groups site, which even without WR participation, is an excellent source for support and information.
2. Unfortunately, the Excalibur cannot be controlled and monitored over the Internet. That's really a pity since most SDRs these days costing much less are networkable. (The Excalibur-Pro version can be controlled over the Internet with an optional
$200 client-server software).
3. A good pre-selector and pre-amplifier would really make a difference on marginal signals. Unfortunately, these features are only available on the Pro version (integrated) or externally, through 3rd party vendors.
Would I buy the Excalibur again?
The short answer is yes, simply because I haven't found a more professional-grade HF SDR receiver/software package at this price point. While there are many other receivers available today that rival the Excalibur, in comparison, they all compromise somewhere - either spec-wise or in the UI/GUI. For example, one can purchase an AFEDRI-SDR ('only' 0-30 MHz, 12 bit DDC
receiver) and a BladeRF x115 (again, 'only' 12 bit resolution) with the optional down-converter (0-3800 MHz xcvr) together for about $860. For experimentation and 'covering everything from DC to ...',perhaps this combo is a better value but
nevertheless a compromise when compared with the Excalibur, at least for HF monitoring.
|A New Way to SWL
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|I've read a few reviews complaining about the G31DDC not being a spectrum analyzer. To those who say this I say go BUY a spectrum analyzer.|
WinRadio was never intended to replace a stand alone SA.
That said; this is a wonderful SDR for the avid SWL'r or utility monitor. Suffice it to say, the ability to (SEE) the entire spectrum or a closeup portion of it is something I never had years ago when I had to spin a VFO and hope I didn't miss adjacent signals of interest.
The filter capability is one of the best I've seen in this price class. I would have liked to see a dual notch however.
On the negative side is the text size. Trying to read the freq when you cursor across the wideband display is a challenge or placing a freq marker. C'mon WinRadio, increase the text size please.
The waterfall display is the way to go when digging out weak signals. I also like the hotkey option to quickly move from mode to mode or filter to filter.
Creating my own memories of interest is best for me as I am not a advocate of the HFCC or EIBI conventions as they seem to change often.
A good antenna is a must for this radio, and once installed, the radio just rocks. Freq drift? What drift?..None that I can hear!
A few have commented about lack of a pre-amp. The G31DDC does not need one; besides, pre-amps are a joke unless you like to see the noise floor come up with the signal.
For a SDR in the $800-$900 I can not think of anything better.
I've pulled signals out of the basement that my older Kenwoods and Icoms never could.
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|I own the WR-G31DCC since 2 years ago and globaly, i'm an happy user. |
I use it often as a remote receiver, when i am not in the shack. Note: you need to find you own remoting solution, because nothing is available from Winradio.
I really like the "0 to 50 MHz general spectrum view" to find strong signals and opened bands with ionospheric strobes. (0 - 45 MHz bandwidth will be more realistic, because sensitivity on the upper 5 MHz is pretty bad.)
Of course, i would be happy to monitor the 6 meter band too, but it's not the subject.
I really like the audio record: After some squelch configurations to find (a lot of SQL options are available), you can record audio of a frequency, and the record begin only if the squelch level is triggered: No long & useless blank records.
I have connected the Excalibur to the RX output on my old FT-980: so, it always uses the same antenna than my rig. It works fine, but as already said before by someone else, a "mute facility" will be really great.
If SSB is good, i don't like the AM demodulation and FM is just awefull. Other owners don't mention that ? Only mine is FM disgusting ?
I agree with other pro/con remarks below: not a professional tool, but a great HF SDR. I find it relatively sensitive, with the appropriate antenna.
I would be very happy to compare it with same other similar SDR...
|Not for hams
||Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
|Its nice receiver for MW and SW listeners. For ham use on SSB the tuning and general ergonomics leave a lot to be desired.|
How ham friendly?
This receiver is not ham friendly. Its not widely supported by the many ham radio software vendors. This is just a poor reflection on the poor marketing and promotion by Winradio.
There is very little information on how you can integrate this receiver for automatic tuning with a ham transceiver. There is not one mention of this in the manual. The receiver does not support external tuning knob pads like the Perseus. Hams need an external tuning knob otherwise tuning the bands is just very tiring using the keyboard.
There is no external 10mhz reference input, in this day and age this is a must have feature and costs very little adding this feature to any radio.
Poor sensitivity on the higher bands, it really needs something like a 10 or 15 db pre-amp. I use a norton pre-amp and it brings the radio alive on the ham bands, especially the higher bands.
The G31ddc has no mute facilities to use with a transmitter. You have to spend a lot of money buying a 3rd party switch box or do a lot of messy engineering.
The G31DDC software has a great layout.
What I dont like:
The S-meter is very poor especially on SSB. The S-meter would be much better with a DbUV meter rather than a microvolt meter. The S-meter does not appear to be quasi peak in nature, its very jerky and jumpy making reading signal trends very hard. Its reminds me a lot of a VU meter on a stereo amp, fast and peaky.
There is no waterfall for the demodulation bandwidth.
Audio spectrum analyzer is useless compared to many free sound card spectrum analyzers.
The attenuator has odd ball values. Why not 10db or 3db or 6db steps. This is just weird and awkward when you want to use the unit as a spectrum analyzer
There are no delta markers like the Perseus or any decent spectrum analyzer. Marker performance is very poor you can barely read the values since it jumps around so much. The color choice on the markers are also very poor and they dont stand out very well.
The software as used for a spectrum analyzer is also very poor. Because of the accuracy of the S-meter you could use this receiver as a accurate level receiver. However the features in the software is rather lacking.
Things you need in a good spectrum analyzer software at least as a minimum:
Decent peak and delta markers
Ability to rescale the signal level scale to any onscreen value you desire. The Elecraft P3 for example has many scaling option which are all great. The P3's screen is just too small. The G31DDC if it had decent re-scaling would be great.
When you see the great Spectrum analyzer software delivered with the Signal Hound, you see how lousy the winradio software really is. The G31DDC has a great potential to be a decent test instrument, its just the software that lets it down. I bought a Signal hound before the Winradio and its excellent. I would never buy the PRO version of the G31DDC the G33 DDC since
the measurement suite and spectrum analyzer features are just token toys rather than a serious tools. Mickey Mouse is the best way to describe the G31DDC software for use as a
serious RF tool
The Winradio is a great radio for AM RADIO MW or shortwave listening where you use it like a cheap transistor radio, tune your station and it sits there. If you active and need to tune around its awkward and its features let it down. The ability to see the whole 30mhz RF spectrum is its best feature and its better than say buying a crap spectrum analyzer from
China. However the crap spectrum analyzer would have better measurement features that kill the G31DDC. You would think that adding features is easier in software than hardware engineering features?
Things like the Flexradios would make a better option as a receiver because its more ham friendly. The Winradio is poorly supported towards ham radio needs. Its primarily a good
MW and SWL'er receiver.
If in the future the software was upgraded to make the G31DDC a useful spectrum analyzer tool and make it more ham friendly I will consider purchasing it again. The software
as it stands and the price makes buying something like Flex1500 a better option.
Things they could improve in software:
If the software could have ham band only tuning this would help.
Automatic mode selection on the ham bands.
Better spectrum analyzer software features like the Signal Hound and others making it have real spectrum analyzer features(I dont mind paying)
Things like Adjacent Channel Power, Occupied bandwidth and having the ability to define pass fail masks all would help.
Delta markers are a must on any piece of equipment wanting to make a claim that it is a spectrum analyzer.
Audio level buttons such as LOW MEDIUM and HIGH
DbUV S-meter scale
Quasi Peak detection
More sensible attenuator values like 1,3, 5, 6, 10 and 20 db steps not the odd values they have now.
Amplitude scale change and amplitude references like Volts/M,mw cn squared etc etc
Set Db per division
Linear log scales
Max hold hold trace
Better still would be multiples peak hold traces like in Linrad
Phase noise measuring utility
Anyway the Winradio cant make claim to be a spectrum analyzer when you cant even carry out the basic operations of a crude spectrum analyzer.
The summary is the Winradio has lots of potential however its performance potential is squandered because the software cant deliver on its potential.
Its poor ham friendly features and poor spectrum analyzer features makes it a general purpose receiver whose novelty wears off quickly.
Not recommended for hams however a good SWL and medium wave receiver.
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|Got the receiver last night, software installed in a snap, it came right up. I stayed up to the small hours playing with it. |
So: it's a direct digital conversion design, and that entails adjustments that are not "standard" with analog or mixed analog/digital radios. It also needs a good antenna. With a good antenna and some playing with the "knobs", it works as well as my R75 or TS-2000 receivers (compared on the same antenna). It's not as good as the Icom R75 on a lower performance antenna but then neither is my TS-2000 (R75 has two stages of pre-amplification).
The spectrum / waterfall display makes finding stations very easy. It's great to see at a glance if the bands are open. A nice bonus is the synchronous AM demodulator for SWL'ing.
The final "tweaks" were due to occasional "crackling" noise in the audio which turned out to be due to an overloaded PC; backing off on the resolution of the displays cleaned it up.
This radio will be a solid tool for my shack.
|New vision of the spectrum
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|Ok, it's my first SDR.|
I have not had a lot of different receptors. Currently I have an ICOM IC-R71; obviously I do not use anymore since I have the excalibur. Yes, you need QRO computer for a good expérience. Here, the sensitivity and selectivity associated with the above filter settings allows you to hear stations, impossible to listen with ICOM.
A little problem I heard sometimes below 100 khz I have heard of the harmonics of a powerful or near broadcast emitting in the low bands.
Also I can not give a score rating of 5 due to lack of physical control knob. Why not open the system to simple standard MIDI control ? (it would be great).
Eric - F8RFL
|Why The Hype?
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|I live 25 miles from the coast. I have a 400ft Beverage for LW/MW. I also use a G5RV for SW. I hooked up my Excalibur to the Beverage and below 1mhz, there is no comparison between it and my Drake R8. I can hear 182khz (France) every night as well as 12 or so LW aircraft beacons on the Drake in the worst conditions. The Excalibur picked up my local beacon weakly and that was about it. 640khz from Newfoundland was clear on the Drake and noisy on the Winradio. I contacted the factory and they suggested I buy a preamplifier and a bandpass tuner!|
I can only use the scope to click on a station if it is really strong. I can tell if a SW station is DRM with the scope but I cannot see the sidebands (even on a strong station) of a US AM IBOC station. I did not think the scope was all that useful. I have seen better pan-adapters, but maybe I am not doing something correctly. You must manually start and stop the DDC recording. You cannot even select a length of recording time. I woke up the next morning and my hard drive was full!
What is all the hype about? I thought this was supposed to be a hot receiver. Read the magazines reviews. I notice Winradio does not mention the Pop Comm review which basically says what I am saying. The Excalibur is a novelty. I'm sure that someday these SDR radios will be as great as some people say they are, but not yet. I was disappointed
|Best Radio I've Used
||Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
|This is the first SDR I have ever used so while I can't compare it with the Perseus I can state it is a better DX performer than my conventional rigs.|
My shack also has a JRC NRD535D and a Drake R8 and weak signal readability is simply much better on the Excalibur than either of those two high quality conventional radios.
The sensitivity of the Excalibur is equal to or better than those two and its selectivity is far superior. Signals surrounded by adjacent channel splatter or noise are just much more readable on the Excalibur. The bandwidth flexibility (infinitely adjustable on all modes) really aids in weak signal capture especially in the AMS mode. The real-time spectrum analyzer points out DX I would have other wised missed. Running through a high quality sound card and a decent Pioneer receiver the audio is very enjoyable and easy on the ears.
Is this the perfect radio? Of course not. I really miss the knob turning of a conventional rx although the keyboard shortcuts do reduce how much you have to use the mouse (which can be tiring). Having never tried some conventional rigs like the super expensive ICOM or the WJ offerings I can't unequivocally state that this is the best DX radio on the market. At $850 though I think its absolutely the best bang for the buck.