SDR On The Cheap

This post is 3 years old, go HERE for the up to the minute developments.

I’ve done a follow up post Pt. 2 HERE

and the latest post Pt.3 HERE

but read this post first.

Please read…

There is a bit of confusion around the web regarding this about licences and SDR#, I would keep an eye on what is happening through this subReddit thread HERE.

The latest SDR# installation info (Windows) HERE ( file link below)

An excellent guide to SDRSharp HERE

Links on main post updated 23rd Aug ’12

……………………..

SDR (Software Defined Radio) (VHF just now) on the cheap.

Update near the bottom of page….

I’d been closely following this after the ongoing discussion of this subject on Reddit and also on the ‘Hack A Day’ blog and was eventually tempted to see if I could set up it myself. I checked the usual sources of information and decided on dealextreme to buy one of these dongles. I chose the EzTV USB 2.0 DVB-T Stick with the Realtek RTL2382U chipset and the Elonics E4000 tuner as this was the recommended chip and tuner. I duly paid and waited on the dongle winging its way to me from the Land with a Great Wall. Tracking indicated it has passed through Shanghai International Airport three days after buying and 7 days later it arrived quicker than I thought as I was expecting a longer delivery time.

EzTV dongle

EzTV dongle

I unboxed and looked but in my reading Reddit the previous night I had noticed that some of these dongles sent out were not the EzTV 668 but a substitute EzTV 645 using another tuner chip the FC 0013, I checked the box and it said on a sticker that it was the 668 but I was to find when I prised apart off the plastic covers it was  a 645…. naughty ! I did think of contacting the supplier pointing this out but if taking the return postage into consideration, would it be worthwhile ? plus I thought if this becomes a more common used tuner then just keep it and see what transpires. I can always revert to using it for its original purpose.

I had already downloaded what software I would need to run this  SDRSharp, I got the SDR.dev version (the file name is sdr-nightly.zip) HERE and the Zadig driver HERE, I was intending to first use this on a laptop which runs Windoze 7. I fired up the laptop and as per instructions HERE I first ran the Zadig file and then placed the dongle in a USB port and then went through the process.

EzTV 645

EzTV 645

Ready to go!

Choose the right one

Choose the right one

I ran SDRSharp then chose my dongle type from the ‘Open’ options, choose WFM and pressed play, typed in a Band 2 Radio frequency and voilà, traces on the waterfall. I spent some time looking at the controls and getting to see how they worked. The antenna supplied is a small but obviously useless one but I’ve plans for an adapter and something more suitable is being worked on. I have only used it initially in the FM radio band and I look forward to exploring other modes as the antenna situation improves but its me isn’t it? I’ll be saying this in six months time.

You may see I have used SDRSharp with an Autotune patch..just to test.

SDRSharp with FM Broadcast radio traces

SDRSharp with FM Broadcast radio traces

Thanks to all the ‘developers’ who incidentally not all hams and Richard WFR for me linking to his set up guide.

Trying ?

Sites to visit

Reddit (subreddit) HERE

RTLSDR Windoze guide HERE

RTLSDR Wiki HERE

GNU Radio HERE

SDRSharp HERE

SDRSharp with pre installed Autotune HERE

Unitrunker HERE

Unitracker ‘How To Guide’ HERE (SDRSharp )

I’m sure there are many other guides and what else is online. If you find any helpful sites , feel free to post in the ‘Comments’ section of the blog.

More to follow…..This post is ongoing and may be updated occasionally. Click on the featured images and they will open up full size…

Gallery images..right click.

Found and bought a Newsky dongle with the elusive 4000 tuner.

Newsky board close up

Newsky board close up

Update..

Finally attached a 2m colinear vertical antenna to the dongle (the Newsky with the E4000 tuner) via a home made adaptor and the results were decent compared to the slightly better signal reception on my Yaesu. I’m sure a bit of tweaking will be in order.

I received at good strength a SOTA activator on 2m SSB, strong and with remarkably good audio plus other stations on 2m FM. Overhead aircraft on the airbands are in clear audio as well. I have installed the SDRSharp with the Autotune patch HERE and have just added the Unitrunker extension but will have to spend more time exploring how to use this add-on.  I use as mentioned before.

The noise floor level using the EzTV 645 is slightly higher but I still received the same stations as the Nevsky dongle but with tweaking the noise levels lower, there seems no noticeable reduction in audio/signal received. Easiest thing is just hook onto a strong station on a known frequency and try using the ‘Shift’ option, I find around 100 – 150 mhz that the Nevsky needed a minus 18,000 but the 645 is more accurate ( I haven’t worked the exact ‘shift’ needed).

I have got the Unitrucker program linked in with the SDRSharp and have found a sound conflict which I must fix. Unfortunately too much going on elsewhere in the hobby, I must find time 🙂

Unitracker ‘How To Guide’ HERE (SDRsharp )

I have found what seems to be a lack of sensitivity in the Newsky,I can see  no obvious problem but I am just experimenting with the 645 for the present, the higher noise floor is a slight disadvantage but still pulls out the signal as good. More to follow

If you can pass any hints on, please post in the ‘Comments’ section.

Enjoy

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6 Comments

  1. The FC0013 is NOWHERE near as good as the E4000. The E4000 has much better S/N ratio and pulls in signals that the FC0013 looses in the static. Also the E4000 has much wider range of front end gain adjustment.

  2. Anonymous..

    No one is pushing the point that the FC 0013 is a better tuner than the E4000 and if you notice the bottom of the post that I have now sourced one with a E4000 chip..
    I trawled your Comment from the ‘Spam’ box due to your use of ‘Anon’, I would like to say thanks for your input but note that I was going through the process as a learner as most peeps who have read will be. Funnily initial tests with the FC 0013 are encouraging as I’m trying this one first. I hope at some point to publish results from the use of each tuner. I may be a radio ham but am a newbie at this game like many.
    Let’s come in as who you are as your input is most welcome and our readers would be thankful for your obviously superior intellect.

    Bobby

  3. Thanks for the encouraging post. Like you I ended up with what is regarded as the inferior extv645 device and thought it pointless to return it. But having first installed the supplied DAB software I have had no luck getting it to work with either HDSDR or SDR#.

    I was about to give up and wait for someone with more kn knowledge of the “software” part of SDR than me to figure it out. Then it seems that you have got it to work. So I’m going to start again on my workshop PC, following your links and order of installation. I still want to get it on my laptop as my idea was to use it to show students in class just how many signals there are out there, but first I want to get just something to work.. Thanks for the post, G3something

  4. Since the devices are so very cheap, I have been buying 4 different ones until today to find the best … until now the Hama Nano stick (E4000) is my favourite in terms of intermodulation/front end overload. The most sensitive seems to be the Terratec Noxxon DAB stick, which has the same frond end problems as the EZTV-645, which I also ordered as a EZTV-668 (via GoodLuckBuy). Best example to the front-end issues you get when you tune in on the ATIS of a local airport … all the really big AM signals saturate the front end so much that it causes their modulation be on top of the actual station. Disabling the AGC of the unit does not help it either.
    Until now the Hama Nano is the only one that does not do that at all, while on the other hand, listening to the Brazilian satellite pirates on 255.555, where there is no big signal around, the brutal sensitivity of the Noxxon give you a better signal to noise over most others.
    This is just my first impression so far, I will soon do some real side-by-side tests over the entire frequency band and see which stick excels in which receiving situation.
    Am also considering building a narrow tracking front end filter and a low-noise&gain pre-amplifier to put right down to my discone antenna, including a 500MHz low pass filter, since the extremely strong signals from the GSM towers in visible range will not exactly help the units font end to stay clean. They are so strong that you can actually still hear them when you unplug the antenna!!!
    Thanks for the blog and best regards from DL8something

  5. One more thing … not every DVB-T USB dongle called “Nano” equals the Hama Nano, the LogiLink Nano for example looks exactly the same but does not even haven an RTL2832U on board … that one you can dedicate to your Media Center to really use for boring TV 🙂
    But maybe some day some developer find that this chip set can also be user in raw I/Q mode and the fun continues.

  6. DL8something,

    Thanks for your valuable comments and input.
    It has become a minefield with various other’dongles’flooding the market and this in turn has forced prices up.
    I’ve a newer post at HERE.
    An interesting topic to follow.
    I’m sure there will be more developments in the near future.

    Bobby

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