Try It, You Might Like It: Software-Defined Radio

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by NW7US, Aug 20, 2020.

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  1. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Software-Defined Radio: Try Before You Buy?

    Sure! You don't need to have a software-defined radio (SDR) before you start learning how to use the technology; there are a few different paths you can take, exploring and learning about SDR.

    One way to gain some experience with SDR without spending a dime is to install a free software package for the very popular, non-Linux, operating system (that starts with 'W'), and give SDR a test drive. If you like it, you might consider getting your own hardware (like the SDRplay RSPdx, for instance), and connecting it up to your computer and running this software, too.

    Why I Dived Into SDR

    I have always loved radio, ever since the early 1970s, when I discovered shortwave radio. In the last couple of years, I've had an increasing interest in the world of SDR. When I am working, but away from home (remember those days, before Covid?), I want to sample news and programming from around the world, but through shortwave. The way to do that, I found, is by using the various SDR options which allow a person to tune a remote receiver, and listen.

    I also find working with the waterfall of a typical SDR-software user interface rewarding because, instead of blindly searching for signals in a subband, I can see all of the received signals on the scrolling time representation of a slice of frequency. Simply select that signal on the waterfall, and the radio tunes right to it.

    I often connect to different SDR radios around the world, to catch all manner of shortwave signals, from maritime, military air, trans-oceanic air, or coast guard radio traffic, or other interesting HF communications including amateur radio CW and SSB signals. Occasionally, I also check out VHF and UHF signals from around the world. All of that, while instead an office building that is not suited for shortwave radio reception.

    I've now decided to give back to the community; I've added my SDR receiver to the collection of receivers located around the world on the SDRSpace network of SDR radios.

    My new SDRplay RSPdx software-defined radio receiver is live, via http://www.sdrspace.com/Version-3, using the SDR Console software (Version 3).

    [​IMG]

    The receivers are online whenever I am not transmitting and when there are no local thunderstorms.

    Antenna Port A is connected to a wire antenna (a horizontal 100-foot wire that runs out from my house's chimney to a tall tree; about 10 feet of that wire is oriented vertically, where the wire passes through a pulley and then is weighted down so it can move with wind-driven tree movement), while Antenna Port B is connected up to a VHF/UHF discone.

    Both antenna systems have an AM Broadcast band notch (reject) filter reducing local AM Broadcast-Band radio station signals by about 30 to 40 dB. I need to use these because the very close KLIN transmitting tower is just miles away and those signals overwhelm the receiver. When I use the signal filters, the local AM Broadcasting signals no longer overwhelm the receiver.

    In the following video, I first explain my SDR setup, and in the second half of the video, I tune around the radio spectrum, using the software to control my SDR receiver.

    [youtube]DHj917E1bKA[/youtube]

    A Couple of Questions

    After watching this video, WO9B wrote an email to me. Michael asked of me two questions, summed up as:

    1. Your SDR window has the IF screen on top. How is that accomplished?

    2. Your AM Broadcast filters; more info, please. I live in the area of mucho broadcast stations and that looks like something I could use.

    In the following video, I demonstrate how I changed my layout of the SDR Console software. And, I mention the AM Broadcast Filter for SDR Receivers (the hardware filter is found here: https://g.nw7us.us/3kU5SJN).

    [youtube]YLBLHi441Zg[/youtube]

    To Use My Receiver

    Download the latest version of SDR-Console from https://www.sdr-radio.com/download - there is a 32-bit and a 64-bit Windows installation package.

    The 64-bit installation package may be downloaded from one of these three sources:

    1. Google: https://g.nw7us.us/3auBq44
    2. DropBox: https://g.nw7us.us/310ooIG
    3. Microsoft: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AovWaZDu7Hrd3U-yqK1bs3wuaFw2?e=o4nKeh

    The 32-bit installation package can be downloaded from one of these three sources:

    1. Google: https://g.nw7us.us/3iLasrZ
    2. DropBox: https://g.nw7us.us/3g4VcVc
    3. Microsoft: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AovWaZDu7Hrd3U4mJiiRtI9lm70s?e=HDG4ZX

    Install the SDR Console package according to the directions given. Once you have the software installed, you will want to add my server. It takes some work to get familiar with the software, but there are online FAQs on how to begin.

    One guide on how to add a server to the list from which you can pick may be found, here:

    https://www.sdrplay.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/SDRConsoleV3-ServerGuide1-1.pdf

    I worked on getting all of the bugs worked out of my installation before making the video. It did take some work, and reading up on things. But, the software is solid and a good contender against SDRuno, and HDSDR, and, this way I can share it online with you.

    My server is known as, '0 NW7US' -- it will be online when I am not using my antenna systems for transmitting. It will be offline during thunderstorms, or during times when I must use the systems for transmitting.

    [​IMG]

    Software-defined radio is a great way to hear all sorts of communications, from local AM broadcast stations, FM stations, VHF Air Traffic, to shortwave radio stations including amateur radio HF communications.

    Thank you for watching, commenting, and most of all, for subscribing; please subscribe to my YouTube Channel: https://YouTube.com/NW7US Also, please click on the bell, to enable alerts so that when I post a new video, you will be notified. By subscribing, you will be kept in the loop for new videos and more.

    73 de NW7US

    [​IMG]
     
    K0UO, N2RIC, KD7TWW and 4 others like this.
  2. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    That was a slip of the hand. It should read, "All of that, while inside an office building..."
     
    KD7TWW and WE4B like this.
  3. N1IPU

    N1IPU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Big learning curve using SDR Uno for me at least. Couple of decent videos series out there so always welcome more. I just updated this morning to 1.4 and had some issues with it. Seems it doesn't like being on another drive from primary so took a couple of tries. Using a 20mtr delta loop and a discone through RSPdx and Its pretty comparable to most modern receivers.
     
    N7BWB and K0SAV like this.
  4. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yeah, I am not running SDRuno as it is a fairly steep learning curve. Mostly to remember HOW to accomplish a task.

    I chose SDR Console (part of the SDR-Radio package - https://www.sdr-radio.com/ - because, 1) I can share the radio, 2) the learning curve is lower.
     
    K0SAV likes this.
  5. N1IPU

    N1IPU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I thought about going back but once you get the hang of it there is so much open to you. It is mind boggling for sure.
     
    KD9PYC and K0SAV like this.
  6. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'll likely get another RSPdx, to dedicate to the panadapter use with my Icom IC-7610. Once I do that, I will dig deeper into SDRuno. It does look like a VERY powerful tool.

    I also want to try deploying a new computer with a number of KiwiSDR units, for a true web-based offering. Now that I have the bug, it is hard to resist.
     
  7. NB4R

    NB4R Ham Member QRZ Page

    Speaking of SDRuno. SDRplay has recently released version 1.4. They are really great at providing learning paths for their products. This Saturday 8/22 they will be having a Webinar introducing the new version 1.4 of SDRuno. It will start at 1700 UTC and if you can't make that it will be available for later viewing in their YouTube channel. [​IMG]

    SDR has a learning curve , but what doesn't. It is great fun! My first SDR receiver was an SDRplay RSP1a. I now have the RSPdx. I have the receiver interconnected with my Yaesu transceiver so I can transmit on the Yaesu while using the RSPdx for reception.
     
    N7BWB and NW7US like this.
  8. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, they do provide excellent video and other support. I'm quite impressed.

    The RSPdx rocks. Are you using any buffer/protective measures to keep transmitted RF from blowing out the RSPdx? That is what I am most concerned about as I am putting all of this together. The next step in my journey is the panadapter role of my RSPdx with the Icom IC-7610 -- and being able to transmit with it hooked up to my receive antenna is obviously important. How are you protecting the RSPdx?
     
  9. K7LZR

    K7LZR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very good!

    I honestly don't understand why many people, and especially experienced SWLs and amateur radio operators have so much trouble and make so much fuss about learning to use a typical SDR radio after installing the software. The SDR has the exact same basic features as most analog radios do. Regardless of software there are usually controls for Mode, Tuning of frequency, Filtering, and Audio Level. Nothing complicated there that I can see. Just "Soft" controls instead of hardware switches etc. which is good because they will never wear out. And remember that spectrum scopes are certainly nothing new - in times past they were considered an exotic feature. One could buy a Hallicrafters SP-44, and later from Heathkit the HO-13 & SB-620. At one time I owned each of those and thought they were magnificent at the time.

    Memories? Most analog radios have those too. And some can be a b*tch to program.

    So if you already have experience with most any type of communications equipment then you should be able to operate the basic functions of the SDR rig without much trouble.....
     
    KD9PYC likes this.
  10. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    True. Some software has more of a steep learning curve only because of the manner in which they present the user interface. For instance, right out of the box, SDR Console allows you to easily tune a radio by using the scroll wheel of a mouse, if the mouse is pointing in several possible locations (like, on the waterfall, or over the digit of a frequency, in the tuning control). Other software, such as SDRuno, might do that differently. At first, I could not intuit how to make the tuning work outside of the range where the lo frequency is set. That part was odd. I'm still not fully understanding the best way to deal with that. I'm sure there's a reason but I have not taken the time to dive into that to find out why I seem to bang my head against that particular oddity. Maybe this weekend, I'll discipline myself enough to not get carried away with just playing around with the already familiar things.
     
    KB8DRK likes this.

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