New to SDR, Quite Happy with the RSP1

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New to SDR, Quite Happy with the RSP1

Postby NoelC » Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:13 am

I've been listening to radio for over 50 years, and from the first time I saw a waterfall display this past year I knew I had to have an SDR. Browsing WebSDR sites sufficed for a little while, but that has its limitations, not least of which it's someone else's radio spectrum a long way from home - not what's here.

I read what I could, talked to some Hams I know, and finally ordered my RSP1 in December. It was shipped literally the same day the RSP2 was announced publicly. Oh well - I'd have bought the RSP2 but in fact I'm quite happy with the RSP1.

I did some planning and online research and bought a good quality LNR Precision EF-SWL antenna kit and ordered some low loss Bury-Flex coax fitted with PL-259 connectors. I even thought to buy an SO-238 to SMA adapter to get the signals into the RSP1 box.

But the one thing I DIDN'T think to get was a good USB A Male to B Male cable with RF chokes. That's presently on order, though to be perfectly honest a cable I had without chokes is actually working pretty well. I might not even think I needed a better one but for reading online that it helps increase SNR.

I followed the instructions and the SDRuno software installed onto my Dell workstation running Win 8.1 easily and without incident.

Before having put the antenna outside I had strung it around the room, and I was initially somewhat disappointed with the overall results. The reasons were these:

1. The antenna was of course not optimally set up to receive signals, but also it was in a quite noisy (RF-wise) environment (multiple computers, many small power supplies, and old plasma TV, etc.). Result: Lots of noise, few signals.

2. My unfamiliarity with the many, many controls in the SDRuno panels didn't lead me easily to optimal combinations of settings. I've since figured out most of them after 3 or 4 days of fooling with it, but it's daunting initially.

3. There are a few RF quirks in the RSP1 that took me by surprise. There are ghost signals, and behavior when the IF Gain Reduction isn't high enough, etc. that made what I was seeing not seem right.

4. The software doesn't automatically remember where you left the panels unless you delve into how to save the workspace. IT NEEDS TO REMEMBER THE PANEL POSITIONS WITHOUT BEING TOLD TO DO SO SPECIFICALLY. SDRuno maintainers, please look to the Adobe Photoshop model of managing workspaces. You almost have it right.

But since that first impression it has only gotten better...

A. I've put up the antenna outside properly, grounded it right, and have run the coax into the house. WOW, what a difference! I am picking up HF (shortwave) signals my portable Radio Shack SWL receiver can't even begin to detect with its whip.

B. I'm an engineer and a tweaker, so I've just been clicking controls and figuring out what they do. Mostly the results have been intuitive, but I've looked up a few controls. The more I use it the more I realize all the controls have useful functions under very specific conditions.

C. Once you learn to expect the quirks the displays get a lot easier to understand. I guess I was naïve to think that only real signals would be displayed. It might be cool if the software would detect these "weird" conditions and put a little message up somewhere (e.g., "possible crosstalk" or "input overload" or whatever makes sense technically).

D. I've set up a couple of different workspaces now, and having all the panels return to their proper positions on opening the program is very nice.

At this point I'm really getting good radio performance from the system. Today I was getting 20 dB or better SNR with WWV on a couple of different frequencies (and from Florida that ain't bad). I have listened in on SSB Ham communications, I had a blast listening to airliners this evening up around 120 MHz, tuned some AM stations on the other side of the world and I even picked up "The Pip" from Russia. Just now I was listening to very high quality audio from local FM stations. I love being able to see the signals. Admittedly I have a good computer, but even with the 10 MHz sampling rate it used no more than 5% of the total CPU power in my system.

My suggestions to other first-timers using the SDR / SDRPlay / SDRuno:

  • Get a GOOD antenna kit and take the time to set it up properly.
  • Get GOOD cables (coax, USB).
  • Take the time to watch YouTube videos, read the manual, and poke around for a few days before judging how you like it. It will grow on you.

Overall impression so far: NICE product! Sure to give hours of enjoyment.

I think I may have run across one or two bugs - e.g., the [ ZAP ] button doesn't seem to work - but I still have a ways to go before I'm comfortably familiar with it and can report bugs with confidence. There's lots to play with to help get there!

Last edited by NoelC on Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am, edited 0 times in total.
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