Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My SDR Adventure

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Let's start with the good stuff... It WORKS great!

I ordered the SDR Bundle from NooElec and with the custom enclosure for the Ham It Up upconverter board and the adapter it was a little over $100. Careful because when you choose the bundle, it defaults to buying ALL of the extras which I did not need. But it's easy enough to unselect the extras. Bottom line price for the USB Dongle, Upconverter and Cable to connect the two is $79 I believe. Shipping was pretty cheap via USPS and I received the shipment in less than a week.

Very happy with NooElec, with my only complaint being that there are very little instructions or help on their site as most of my info was gathered elsewhere. The enclosure is nice, A little tricky to put together but looking back it was the easiest piece of this puzzle. I only had to switch 2 of the spacer nuts to get it to line up correctly in the enclosure and from what I hear on the interwebs, the case does a nice job of shielding the upconverter board. Next time I have the case apart I might test those web stories. Not sure why because we can all believe everything we read on the www's right?


It seems there is no one stop shop for the next steps as it appears that they can vary based on pc operating system, type and make of USB dongle and what software you are looking to use. Good thing is that after you buy the above, the rest is free. But not stress free! This SDR site below actually had the best instructions for setting up BOTH programs SDR# and HDSDR. This is the same site we featured in our November meeting where we presented the SDR info! This site has complete instructions for setting up both of these SDR packages, and they use different .dll files so be careful. Not being pc programming literate, the SDR# install was a little weird as it seemed to do it as a command prompt type install and I still cannot find the folder in windows but I really didn't need to.

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I tried them both and at this time I have settled in with the HSDR program... very graphical and I did not like the control panel navigation on SDR#. Too much was hidden without clicking and dragging. The HDSDR controls are all visible and accessible with a click or two. First I set up the dongle alone and got that to work on it's available frequencies before adding the upconverter. Of course KPRS and it's booming 89.9 FM broadcast signal came in beautifully even with the included cheapie antenna supplied with the dongle. With some adjustments I was able to tune in the local law enforcement frequencies, but had a little trouble with the 2meter band. I probably do not have something set correctly or maybe it's just the poor antenna.

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I am still learning the filters, adjustments and saving favorites. One thing that gave me trouble was the frequency shift for using the Upconverter. I settled in at 124,997,952 but it will probably still be tweaked a little as I go. Sometimes on 40m the frequency seems to be slightly off but very little. 7.279.000 might need to be set at  7.278.800. That I can handle!

I did find a video that was very helpful in making adjustments. Like the website above, he covers using both SDR# and HDSDR so it is very helpful. One slight update from his video is that the oscillator comes preinstalled on the upconverter now. This video got me in the ballpark on the shift. I hooked up my OCF dipole HF antenna and was trying to use the WWV stations to set it but could not tell for sure if I was on 10, 15 or 20. So I got what I thought was close then fired up my Yaesu FT-840, using my inverted vee and listened to a phone QSO on 40m, and then matched it up on the HDSDR and made final adjustments to the shift and here I am. This video below is very helpful!



I was a little worried about switching between the dongle frequencies and back to the upconverter but with HDSDR it's pretty easy. Just switch the upconverter to "bypass" then go to Options/RF Front-End Calibration and choose SDR hardware connected to antenna (default). I left my HF antenna hooked up, and it receives all area FM broadcast stations. To go back to HF, just click the radio button SDR Hardware on Dongle-Upconverter and switch the upconverter over to upconvert.

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Overall very happy with the product from NooElec. The Ham It Up Upconverter case looks great. I might opt for a longer cable between the dongle and the Ham It Up but if you use a laptop it's not a problem. My all in one desktop has the box hanging kind of awkwardly but I working on a fix. Fancy box or stand or something. Eventually I will try a random long wire or beverage antenna for the SDR to use exclusively. But baby steps right? Give it a try... I highly recommend the NooElec Dongle and the Ham It Up Upconverter! This was my experience and from what I have witnessed, every experience is different and not the simplest of processes but I hope this helps someone else, at least a little! Let me know if you have questions or thoughts to help me learn!

At a recent COffee QSO we tried my laptop setup with HDSDR and used a different USB Dongle that Leon N3LRH had and it seemed to work just fine! He had the same upconverter that I had without the enclosure and we did notice significantly more "noise" with his so the shielding from the enclosure appeared to help. So I don't believe that the dongle maker matter too much and upconverters are all different so there may still be tweaking for all of us but isn't that what we do ? Have fun.... 73 de KAØEGE

Helpful Links Review --

Basic Install Process -- http://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-quick-start-guide/

SDR# Basics -- http://www.atouk.com/SDRSharpQuickStart.html

HDSDR - http://www.hdsdr.de/

Signal ID Wiki - http://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/Signal_Identification_Guide

SDR Setup YouTube - http://youtu.be/Rnof4xGkdAo

If you found any other helpful sites or comments... please post them in the comments below!!


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