Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Another Mini SDR Awaiting Arrival

It will be interesting to see what the Airspy R2/Spyverter R2 combo will show off when it arrives in Kongsfjord on June 30. The Airspy has received lots of praise, like this one from Nils Schiffhauer, but will it deliver on MW?


Thursday, June 15, 2017

ColibriNANO - A Few More Impressions

"Premature" is indeed making up opinions about a radio without even having plugged an antenna into it.  But it will have to wait another week. I've had the opportunity to play with software though, and make some notes.

The installation problem seems to be resolved, and only affected the first or so batch of receivers with serial numbers not programmed into the receiver's EEPROM. I have since connected the Nano to other PCs with no problems at all. The fate of the early adaptor, I guess.

I haven't found info on power consumption, but it does run off a USB 2.0 port, so it must be lower than 450-500 mA. This makes it a good candidate for field or remote operation using battery power. A tested and working setup is Intel NUC + SDR + hard drive powered by a 12V battery.

I do have to commend on the apparent build quality of the Nano. It's aluminium, tight, feels heavy (as heavy as 43 grams can feel) and looks "expensive". Because of the weight, it might be an idea to use a short USB extension cable to reduce strain to the PC's USB port.

The ExpertSDR2 software does have its shortcomings, said to be addressed later this year. HDSDR is the best (and indeed a very good) alternative right now, except there is a 60 dB signal reading error. There is support for SDR# too, but only for version 1005 which is rather old.

So we'll see after I've had the chance to listen to real signals, and measure its sensitivity. I do like the concept though. Pocket receiver redefined.
Photo: Expert Electronics

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

QSL: JOTK NHK-1 Matsue, Goutsu/Muikaichi relay stations, 1323

Another 100 watt catch from Japan came last October when the Goutsu and Muikaichi relay stations were heard with quite a good signal. In comparison, their 1296 main station was local-like at the time.

I received a friendly letter from the Senior Engineer yesterday.

Monday, June 12, 2017

ColibriNANO - It's Here. Sort of.

Yes, it's here. Only very, very first impressions so far. I haven't even connected it to an antenna (because I don't have one at my apartment).

It's small. It's hot. And I mean literally hot! So hot it's actually a tad unpleasant. I don't know if it's a bad sign or not.

Despite many attempts on two different PCs with two different type USB ports, I never got ExpertSDR (their native software) to run. The Nano was always disconnected. Drivers manually installed, still no cigar. Some inconsistencies in the manual did not help. I'm not excluding user error, but come on - this should be plug and play!

No problems with HDSDR though. It plays, records and plays back well. So good work on the ExtIO dll - at least so far. One problem though is that the gain is set 60 or so dB too high (I'll measure later on with my signal generator), but that error is easy to calibrate thanks to HDSDR's versatility.

SDR# is a different story again. It does open, but the window is never visible, only the miniature window visible when you hover the mouse pointer on the task bar.

So what to say. Unfinished? Will it fry? Or is it a keeper? Time will tell.

Update: It turned out that on the early sets, the serial numbers weren't programmed into the device's EEPROM. With that sorted out, ExpertSDR began to talk to the Nano. Now, there are other issues.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Airspy HF+ (coming soon) - First Image

I checked into Airspy's site today, an noted that since last visit they've added an image. Probably not the real thing but an Autocad or similar image. The two screw-thread similar protrusions are likely the SMA connectors. If that is the case, we're talking s-m-a-l-l ...

QSL: V6AH Radio Pohnpei, Fed. State of Micronesia 1449

Weak, but with almost perfect readability and with no interference, the closing ceremony of V6AH was heard in November 2016. One of those really magic moments one can experience towards the Pacific from my old farm.

QSL is not always easy to obtain. OJ Sagdahl found an announcer on Facebook who did reply, and I was happy to get one too today.

My second Micronesia on MW, and it's about 10 years since the first!

Pacific islands stations are always exceptional. Even if some, like Tonga-1017 and Kiribati-1440 have become quite usual, their Polynesian languages and music style have no match anywhere else.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

QSL: JOJG NHK-1 Yamagata relay Tsuruoka 1368; JOJG NHK-1 Yamagata relays Oguni/Atsumi 1584

I heard  1-kW JOJG Tsuruoka in October with a good signal mixing with the Aomori-963 relay in Fukaura. In April I even caught a great signal from JOJG's 100-watt relay stations in Atsumi/Oguni.

QSL card and friendly letter arrived today.

Their main station in Yamagata is on 540, and still unheard here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

QSL: JOHK NHK-1 Sendai, 891

JOHK had a good signal one October evening. QSL card received today.

Three Novel SDR Designs To Enter The Market This Summer

SDR development has been somewhat incremental the past decade. The Perseus (2007) is still the SDR of choice for many DX-ers. Size hasn't changed significantly in this period. Neither has large signal handling, but there has been some development on maximum sampling rates, with the Elad FDM-S2 leading the way with a 6 MHz maximum bandwidth.

Now, things are about to change. Here are three possible record breakers:

Size: The Expert Electronics ColibriNANO is the size of a simple 8-bit dongle, yet has a 14-bit ADC like the Perseus, and can sample up to 3 MHz. Its frequency range is 0-55 MHz, up to 500 MHz with undersampling. As per the end of May, some preorder units have been delivered to customers, others (me) are still waiting. EUR 299.

Performance: The Airspy HF+ claims to be a paradigm shift in high performance HF radio design with superb signal rejection and stunning sensitivity claims (MDS of -138 dBm!). Frequency coverage is 0-31 MHz and 60-260 MHz. The architechture only permits a sampling rate of 660 kHz though. As per the end of May, the HF+ is not announced for sale. so we do not really know if it will happen during the summer. Price? TBA. I've seen mentions of a "target price" of < USD 200, but not from Airspy. Their current top model, the Airspy R2 + Spyverter (needed for performance below 24 MHz), costs EUR 289. My unqualified guess is EUR 299.

Capacity: The Elad FDM-S3 (sorry, I have no links to the actual SDR but I found the photo below on the internet) takes RF recording for the hobby market to an entirely new level with the possibility to sample 24 MHz! This will make FM DX-ers happy. I've read that it will cover 0-54 MHz and 76-108 MHz. As per the end of May no announcement of availability. It was shown on the Dayton Hamvention. Price TBA. My unqualified guess is EUR 899. The S2 sells for EUR 525.

Friday, May 26, 2017

QSL: JOFO RKB Kitakyushu 1197

RKB's main station JOFR in Fukuoka is among the strongest Japanese stations here. JOFO is a 1-kW relay and was fighting with Kumamoto Hoso (RKK) at the time, but with a good signal.  QSL card, letter and schedules received today.