Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

A place to discuss the HF and Shortwave listening side of the radio hobby. Discuss equipment, frequencies and antenna systems etc. Anything HF!
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crusty
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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by crusty » 02 Aug 2013, 23:19

Everyone should at least try SDR to see if it excites them. Some people won't entertain the idea, which didn't make any sense to me at first - until you consider the following:

SDR's are largely not serviceable (or their workings understandable) for most enthusiasts.
A homebrewer who enjoys traditional receiver construction will find them infuriating, yet love them as a bench spectrum analyser.
Anyone who loathes PC's/Macs will never enjoy using SDR, unless they want to get over the hurdle of making computers part of the shack. Or opt for a standalone SDR like those linked above.
For some people the aesthetics of radio operation (or being known as a traditionalist) is more important than results.
Adopting SDR might make their existing hardware receivers/transceivers redundant, or relegate them to background tasks. This can be painful.

I introduced SDR as a panadapter to a hardened CW operator, a traditionalist in every sense. After using it for a week he was sold. Its sparked sideline projects, and his hobby is all the richer for it. Hams sometimes overlook that SDR's work well as panadapters for existing transceivers with an RX/TX switch, or IF tap for the more adventurous (taking advantage of existing filters). Its complimentary to existing kit used this way. Flex isn't always the way to go if you've already invested heavily in hardware transceivers.

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by kr0ne » 03 Aug 2013, 12:11

Completely agree with you crusty.

I have an FT-897D that I have fitted an internal I/Q adaptor based on the Finningley SDR kit, which I converted to 455kHz and connected via one of the IF filter slots. The I/Q adaptor is in turn connected to a 24bit USB SoundBlaster, all mounted inside the battery compartment of the radio with a USB socket mounted in one of the holes for the battery power cables.

I thought this was an excellent solution... until I started playing with those ten quid RTL2832 dongles and messing around with front end filtering. Now the 897 is fast becoming obsolete - for receive at least.

It's not for everyone though. As you say, some people just don't like computers and for others the thought of soldering surface mount components sends a shiver down their spine.

Fair enough, I say - there is room enough for everyone. But it always puzzles me when I see somebody completely rule something out for incongruous reasons.

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by crusty » 04 Aug 2013, 08:20

Nice work with the Finningley kr0ne. How did you knock it down from 80m to 455kHz? Did you bother rebuilding the input filter?

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by kr0ne » 05 Aug 2013, 20:15

I don't think I did in the end... I remember looking at it for ages but in the end, after altering the frequency of the local oscillator and giving it a quick test I don't think it was necessary.

Will see if I can dig out some photos and schematics for you from somewhere if you are interested.

The one thing I do remember clearly is that I ended up slightly off 455kHz due to the availability of crystals with a decent accuracy, but it still works well. I think the crystal must be at 4x the desired frequency, which makes it harder to find something appropriate. :(

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by neil-c » 06 Aug 2013, 19:48

crusty wrote:Everyone should at least try SDR to see if it excites them. Some people won't entertain the idea, which didn't make any sense to me at first - until you consider the following:

SDR's are largely not serviceable (or their workings understandable) for most enthusiasts.
A homebrewer who enjoys traditional receiver construction will find them infuriating, yet love them as a bench spectrum analyser.
Anyone who loathes PC's/Macs will never enjoy using SDR, unless they want to get over the hurdle of making computers part of the shack. Or opt for a standalone SDR like those linked above.
For some people the aesthetics of radio operation (or being known as a traditionalist) is more important than results.
Adopting SDR might make their existing hardware receivers/transceivers redundant, or relegate them to background tasks. This can be painful.

I introduced SDR as a panadapter to a hardened CW operator, a traditionalist in every sense. After using it for a week he was sold. Its sparked sideline projects, and his hobby is all the richer for it. Hams sometimes overlook that SDR's work well as panadapters for existing transceivers with an RX/TX switch, or IF tap for the more adventurous (taking advantage of existing filters). Its complimentary to existing kit used this way. Flex isn't always the way to go if you've already invested heavily in hardware transceivers.
SDR has completely changed the way I monitor sw/hf. I used to use my Yupi 7100, it was not a bad receiver on these bands for a wideband scanner but was crap to use for general searching through. As a result it tended to be left on my fave monitoring freqs such as Kinloss Sar.
Since I have got the Pro+ with HDSDR I am finding so many more freqs and picking stuff up I would probably never have got before. I probably would never use it for vhf/uhf listening because I have got several scanners to suite that purpose but on sw/hf it is the best thing I have ever done.
Realistic pro2006, realistic pro2042, Yupiteru 7100, Fairmate HP2000, Degen 1103, ubc3500xlt, Micro-Adsb, Funcube Pro+

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by JGR » 06 Aug 2013, 20:07

Hmmm this SDR stuff has got me thinking since I have a PC in the shack and all my listening is from this point in the shack, so as I am seeing more and more the SDR receive is way better than a dedicated solid state receiver.

Can some one in a quick and easy method explain what differences they notice as I am now curious? And also what recommendations to buy as I might just swing that way in the very near future.
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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by neil-c » 06 Aug 2013, 20:37

JGR wrote:Hmmm this SDR stuff has got me thinking since I have a PC in the shack and all my listening is from this point in the shack, so as I am seeing more and more the SDR receive is way better than a dedicated solid state receiver.

Can some one in a quick and easy method explain what differences they notice as I am now curious? And also what recommendations to buy as I might just swing that way in the very near future.

The waterfall function for a start. I can centre it on 5598 and it shows everything transmitting from just below 5505 the Shannon Volmet to just past 5680 which is Kinloss SAR. It shows everything in between. I have heard several convos between both Scottish and Spanish fishermen between these freqs that I would never probably have got before with the Yupi. I am totally hooked on SDR now tbh.
Realistic pro2006, realistic pro2042, Yupiteru 7100, Fairmate HP2000, Degen 1103, ubc3500xlt, Micro-Adsb, Funcube Pro+

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by crusty » 07 Aug 2013, 12:17

kr0ne wrote:I don't think I did in the end... I remember looking at it for ages but in the end, after altering the frequency of the local oscillator and giving it a quick test I don't think it was necessary.

Will see if I can dig out some photos and schematics for you from somewhere if you are interested.

The one thing I do remember clearly is that I ended up slightly off 455kHz due to the availability of crystals with a decent accuracy, but it still works well. I think the crystal must be at 4x the desired frequency, which makes it harder to find something appropriate. :(
Ahh, I missed the 4xLO on the schematic, cheers (here for anyone interested: http://www.kanga-products.co.uk/images/finningly.pdf). Did you just bypass the input filter at T1? Pics and further info welcome, always handy for tinkerers.

JGR. Learn everything you can about SDR before taking the plunge (youtube has lots of good vids). There's an increasing number of SDR receivers on the market, and price points to suit. Some are also easier to setup/use than others. The HDSDR website has a list of supported SDR's, a good starting point for options.

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by tomos » 07 Aug 2013, 16:26

neil-c wrote:
JGR wrote:Hmmm this SDR stuff has got me thinking since I have a PC in the shack and all my listening is from this point in the shack, so as I am seeing more and more the SDR receive is way better than a dedicated solid state receiver.

Can some one in a quick and easy method explain what differences they notice as I am now curious? And also what recommendations to buy as I might just swing that way in the very near future.

As said above, the waterfall feature itself is great, then unlimited memories, user defined filters, use or virtual audio cables to output signals direct to software (no more cables and switches!) the list goes on. The Funcube Pro + would be a great place to start. Very easy and simple to setup and get running, plenty of supported software (take a look ay HDSDR, SDR# ) There are cheaper SDRs about, but it you want something that will work "out of the box" in minutes, cover 150kHz to 1.9GHz with no messing about with drivers etc. I don't think you can fault it. http://www.funcubedongle.com/

I traded in a JRC 545 DSP and started in SDR, I now own a number and have never looked back. If you can put up without the tuning of knobs (though look at the TMate if you want that with SDR) I have yet to find a traditional receiver that can equal a decent SDR setup. I do think it will be the way radio will go

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by JGR » 07 Aug 2013, 18:59

I noticed that Fun cube dongle covers most of the band but has a gap from 240Mhz to 420Mhz now I have some active frequencies in and around that area so can it be opened up so to speak?
Do not believe everything that is in black and white.
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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by neil-c » 07 Aug 2013, 19:04

JGR wrote:I noticed that Fun cube dongle covers most of the band but has a gap from 240Mhz to 420Mhz now I have some active frequencies in and around that area so can it be opened up so to speak?
Not as far as I am aware.
Realistic pro2006, realistic pro2042, Yupiteru 7100, Fairmate HP2000, Degen 1103, ubc3500xlt, Micro-Adsb, Funcube Pro+

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by JGR » 07 Aug 2013, 20:07

I am struggling to find via google much on SDR apart from the actual operating software, what I am after is a list of manufacturers that offer these units as I want to review individual SDR receivers, funcube seems a little feature light for what I would like. Ideally covering SW up to UHF but SW is not a critical issue as I have dedicated transceivers and receivers for this.
Do not believe everything that is in black and white.
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Flex 5000A, Trio TS-830S, Icom IC-E2820, IC-E92D and a DVB-T SDR Dongle

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by tomos » 07 Aug 2013, 23:07

What frequencies do you want to cover, for wide VHF and UHF coverage the rtl dongles would fit the bill.. Take a look here

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/buy-rtl-sdr-dvb-t-dongles/

A few more steps to get them set up, in terms of drivers, typically they use a third party driver such as those provided by zadig as opposed to the ones they ship with. They can be used with pretty much the same software as the Funcube.

In which way is the Funcube feature light, the features are provided by the software controlling it as opposed to the rx.

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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by cottonfoo » 07 Aug 2013, 23:24

How do you rate the Funcube Pro+ against the 545 DSP, tomos? That's a hell of a receiver to give up! I'd like an SDR to use as a panadapter for my R8500 using the IF out.
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Re: Using a transceiver as a communications receiver

Post by tomos » 08 Aug 2013, 05:50

Yep it was a hard choice, but I have never regretted it. As stated above, very few people go back.

There is little doubt a modern top end SDR will out perform a traditional RX price for price, the question really is SDR for you? Do you want to dig out signals or watch a waterfall spectrum, maybe you want to record the whole spectrum and play it back at your leisure, tuning around it as if where listening live!, maybe you feel watching NDBs "blip" on your screen is "cheating" ... did you "hear it"?

The 545 is a great rx, one of the best in its day, but that's getting on for 20? plus years ago now and technology's has moved on, the DSP and features it was sold on are now common place on many modern transceivers (such as the ICOM 7400 mentioned earlier for example) as well as most of the new TX rigs. (Back to the using a TX as an RX question?) The computer control side of things is sadly lacking for new OSs and software as on a lot of these older rigs.

How would I rate the Funcube HF against the 545 ? To be honest the Funcube is a lot more fun, and I "see" so much more. you tend not to miss things. Its the software is what makes the difference., free software such as HDSDR offers may more "power" than the 545 did. Both very good, it depends on you :)
try the Excalibur or Perseus and there is no comparison


The true power of SDR is utilising the PC to provide what is not possible within a traditional radio, band filters are ultimately more adaptable (virtually unlimited) as are notch filters, memories, modes etc. Not to say the traditional RX are not good, they are, but today I would rather go with a Perseus or Winradio Excalibur for HF ( a bit higher spec than the Funcube) and a Funcube dongle for VHF. (Use the tmate2 for control) The original Funcube did not have that frequency gap, it is now covered by the RTL dongles.
Take a look at the Perseus and Winradio sites, you can download the software and play in "demo mode" and play back some recorded files and see what you think, also HDSDR, SDR# and sdr radio.com

For a traditional WB RX the ICOM 8500 would be my RX of choice, the CCW SDR works well as a panadapter for it. If I want to spend that kind of cash these days, I look for a current model RX/TX, that is supported by its manufacturer.

The Alinco DXR8 also is not bad, with its SDR output, best of both worlds, its not got a huge bandwidth, but it woks well. Also now supported with HDSDR and Omnirig as well as KGSDR (not a WB RX like the 8500 however)

For SDR RX take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_so ... ned_radios personally I would stay away from the softrock type SDR that is reliant on the PC soundcard.

Tomos

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