3 AWESOME Software Defined Radios

HackRF One Wide Band SDR Transceiver:

First up is the HackRF One, an open source SDR. This device has some pretty impressive technical specifications. First off, this is not just one of your regular garden variety receive-only SDR; this bad boy can also transmit. On top of that, its transmit/receive frequency bandwidth covers an impressive 1Mhz – 6,000MHz (6GHz). That covers the entire HF, VHF, & UHF ham radio spectrum plus a lot more on top of that. The HackRF is a half-duplex transceiver, which means it can transmit or receive but not both at the same time. Unfortunately, the transmit power output is fairly wimpy at only 10mW, depending on what frequency you are on. Luckily, an amplifier can easily remedy this little shortcoming.

You will need to make sure you only transmit on frequencies that you are legally allowed to. Having a ham radio license will give you a broad range of frequencies that you can legally use the HackRF to transmit on, but how many and what frequencies will depend on your license. The HackRF has 3 female SMA ports, one for the antenna and the other two are for clock-in and clock-out synchronization. The ANT500 is an optional general-purpose 50 ohm broadband telescopic antenna that is adjustable between 20 cm to 88 cm.

The HackRF One has a standard micro USB 2.0 port, which provides both power to the device as well as the data interface to your computer. There is a ton of software out there on the web that will allow you to connect and use the HackRF One with all kinds of devices and Operating Systems such as Mac, PC, Android, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and probably many more. It can even be programmed to operate stand-alone without being connected to any computer device though. There are 2 buttons on the HackRF, one is to reset, and the other one is a DFU button, which you can re-program.

The HackRF One is definitely high tech and has a ton of potential uses if you are a computer guru, and you know your way around radio equipment. However, if you are not that computer savvy, can’t tell the difference between a megahertz and a milliwatt, then you might want to read up on Linux, practice soldering simple electronic kits, and study for your Ham License test before buying one of these babies.

 

Tech Specs:

  • 1 MHz to 6 GHz operating frequency
  • half-duplex transceiver
  • up to 20 million samples per second
  • 8-bit quadrature samples (8-bit I and 8-bit Q)
  • compatible with GNU Radio, SDR#, and more
  • software-configurable RX and TX gain and baseband filter
  • software-controlled antenna port power (50 mA at 3.3 V)
  • SMA female antenna connector
  • SMA female clock input and output for synchronization
  • convenient buttons for programming
  • internal pin headers for expansion
  • Hi-Speed USB 2.0
  • USB-powered
  • Open source hardware

     

    Transmit Power:

    10MHz to 2150MHz: 5dBm to 15dBm

    2150MHz to 2750MHz: 13dBm to 15dBm

    2750MHz to 4000MHz: 0dBm to 5dBm

    4000MHz to 6000MHz: -10dBm to 0dBm

    Made in China

    Price: $312
    For more info and to purchase, please visit the following link:

    http://greatscottgadgets.com/hackrf/

    Looking for SDR software/apps? Check out this link:

    https://www.rtl-sdr.com/big-list-rtl-sdr-supported-software/

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    NESDR Mini SDR Wide Band Receiver/Scanner:

    If you just want to do some simple radio scanning while at your computer, and the HackRF is just a bit too rich for your blood, then you will definitely want to hear about what I will be covering next.

    Enter the NESDR Mini SDR (Software Defined Radio) broadband receiver from NooElec. This little guy is stuffed into what looks like a normal and unassuming USB thumb drive at first glance. Upon closer inspection, you will see that each has a very tiny RF connector port which allows you to connect either the included magnet mount mini antenna or any antenna for that matter if you also purchase the proper antenna adapter cable.

    This pocket-sized radio receiver may be small, but it packs a pretty good punch for its small size and even smaller price tag. It may not cover nearly as much spectrum as the HackRF or be able to transmit, but its frequency coverage of 25MHz – 1,750MHz is not too shabby considering you can easily pick one of these up online for roughly the same price as going out to the movies. A handheld or desktop scanner radio will cost you nearly 4 times as much as the NESDR Mini. To top things off, they typically don’t even cover as wide of a frequency range as the NESDR, and if they do, they cost even more money!

    One common problem with these inexpensive USB SDR dongles is that they suffer from RF interference. One simple solution is to buy the version that comes in a fancy metal enclosure instead of the original cheap plastic one. It’s the same radio inside, but the metal housing greatly reduces the amount of RF interference. Another way to further reduce any interference is to buy a large 13-15mm RF choke (snap on ferrite bead) and a 1-3 foot shielded USB extension cord. You then would proceed to wrap the USB cord through the RF choke as many times as it will fit, and plug one end into your computer and the NESDR into the other end. This is will help cut down on any RF interference coming from your computer via the USB connection.

    Compatible software is readily available online for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and even Android OS (if you get the proper USB adapter cable for your Android smartphone/tablet).

    If you are trying to find an economical way to have some fun experimenting with radio technology, these SDR’s from NooElec are definitely worth every penny. I highly recommend them.

    Made in China

    Price: $28.95
    For more info, please visit the following link:

    http://www.nooelec.com/store/sdr/sdr-receivers/nesdr-mini-plus.html

    Looking for SDR software/apps? Check out this link:

    https://www.rtl-sdr.com/big-list-rtl-sdr-supported-software/

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    “Ham It Up” Frequency up-converter:

    Want an even wider range of frequency coverage from one of the above SDR’s? The “Ham It Up” frequency up-converter from NooElec will expand your coverage all the way down to 100KHz and possibly even lower! This means that the NESDR Mini SDR that could originally only tune down as low as 25MHz would now have the ability to receive the entire HF, Shortwave, and Medium Wave bands! The Ham It Up is even compatible with SDR’s like the HackRF One that are capable of transmitting.

    To do this, you simply connect the Ham It Up between your SDR and your antenna using the provided adapter cables. The Ham It Up is conveniently powered by a USB port. The only physical controls consist of a single switch that allows you to bypass the Ham It Up without the need to disconnect it.

    Just like with the NESDR Mini SDR, there is a really nice optional aluminum enclosure that will help reduce/eliminate RF interference. I also recommend adding a large 13-15mm RF choke (snap on ferrite bead) on the USB power cable for the Ham It Up.

    The best part is you just keep using the same SDR software that you were using before!

    Made in USA and Canada
    Price:
    • Ham It Up: $39.95
    • Aluminum Enclosure: 15.95
    For more info, please visit the following link:

    http://www.nooelec.com/store/ham-it-up.html

    Looking for SDR software/apps? Check out this link:

    https://www.rtl-sdr.com/big-list-rtl-sdr-supported-software/

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