Quite by chance I found confirmation on my findings in this very interesting article:
Using an SDR play receiver the "low noise" procedure I use is simpler, as it consist in just manualy controlling the RF and the IF AGC. The RSP duo is ideal for this operating mode, not allowing the AGC to amplify antenna noise along with the coherent received signal. Reducing RF gain is somehow equivalent to adding external attenuation between receiver and antenna, even though external attenuation much better protects all receiver's circuitry from overload.
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