Which SDR do you use and why?

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Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:36 pm

Hi,
after a lot of reading and then thinking then giving up then back to it again, I have been following the Open HPSDR mailing list and the information on their web site (openhpsdr.org) to get a toe wet with a software defined radio (SDR).

For a long time there I was going to jump in and buy a series of their cards (Rx, Tx, I/O and backplane) and other bits to assemble what seemd to be a quite mature and stable SDR but have always backed out at the last moment. Recently I returned to the investigations as I wanted to be able to run radio in the shack from down in the house (40 metres apart) over my copper ethernet network.

The OpenHPSDR group had recently announced that the long awaited "hermes" board http://openhpsdr.org/hermes.php was due for production via TAPR (yes the packet radio preople) in the US. Hermes is a single board SDR transceiver covering HF-55MHz with an ethernet interface but only QRP output power, so it seemed right for my needs (get a toe wet).
The Hermes manual makes for interesting reading and can be found here, v1.4 which is the latest is hidden from view unless you dig
http://svn.tapr.org/repos_sdr_hpsdr/tru ... l_V1.4.pdf

So the natural question is, what are other VKLOGGER users have in the shack in the way of SDR's and what motivated your choices? I am curious to hear your experiences, free coffee available :-)

Regards,
Peter, vk5pj

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by ZL1RS » Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:51 pm

Coincidentally I was sent a link to the Hermes project this morning. Very interesting and getting towards something useful ... links off the Hermes project web page lead to http://www.apache-labs.com/ and their Anan-10 product which includes the Hermes SDR board and a necessary PA + bandpass filter board to produce a tractable radio that one can plug into an antenna and actually use ... SDR from "DC" to 55MHz all in a neat little box. Somewhere I read "contest grade" performance too ... but similar claims were made for the Elecraft KX3. Read on:

I bought a KX3 recently to dabble with SDR and as a potential replacement for my DXpedition rig with the fan fare promising performance similar to the wildly successful Elecraft K3. Had the KX3 about 3 days which was well long enough to figure out it's short comings ... there were a raft of "issues" I detected and subsequently most of these became discussion points on the KX3 reflector. Some of the suggested "work arounds" were quite bazaar ... perhaps (probably?) they will be "fixed" with firmware upgrades (which is a real benefit with SDR), but to my mind most of those "issues" should have been glaringly obvious in the field beta testing and never allowed to reach a commercial production run. I quickly sold it for more or less what it had cost before the "must have the new toy" market bubble bursts. It doesn't stop there:

Perhaps I have been spoilt by the flexibility of the IC-706 series radios that I have owned since 1998. I have yet to see an SDR that will replace the wide ranging features of the IC-706MK2G: HF/6m + 2m + 70cm + general coverage RX to 200MHz + TX power 100W/50W/35W all in one little box. For my particular purposes anything less is a step backwards.

For my 2c worth: SDR is still/only in it's infancy. Something different and nice to play with, but show me a comparable SDR to the IC-706MK2g?? For sure it will happen, and I am eagerly waiting.

73, Bob ZL1RS

P.S. Yaesu fans can insert "FT-857D" in place of "IC-706MK2g" :wink:
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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK3AUU » Sat Jul 21, 2012 3:56 pm

Have a look at the FlexRadio series Bob. I am considering the 1500. You can download the software and see what it all looks like. http://www.flex-radio.com/

David

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:48 pm

Bob,
ZL1RS wrote: I bought a KX3 recently to dabble with SDR and as a potential replacement for my DXpedition rig with the fan fare promising performance similar to the wildly successful Elecraft K3. Had the KX3 about 3 days which was well long enough to figure out it's short comings ... there were a raft of "issues" I detected and subsequently most of these became discussion points on the KX3 reflector. Some of the suggested "work arounds" were quite bazaar ... perhaps (probably?) they will be "fixed" with firmware upgrades (which is a real benefit with SDR), but to my mind most of those "issues" should have been glaringly obvious in the field beta testing and never allowed to reach a commercial production run. I quickly sold it for more or less what it had cost before the "must have the new toy" market bubble bursts. It doesn't stop there:
Thanks sooo much for that post, I came within millimetres of pushing the BUY button on a KX3 last week so now I will have to ask you some more about the problems you observed, maybe off line so as to not get people upset :-) I have been torn between the clasic big three for a home rig (even drooled over VK4CP's add for his IC-7600) and a Elecraft and will still need to find a new six metre rig for everyday home use, as I can not see me using an SDR as an everyday rig. Who wants to wait for a minute or two for the PC to boot just to check some beacons :-(

The HERMES board will be great to run as a remote rig from the house PC for keeping an eye on the bands.

Peter, 5pj

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by ZL1RS » Sat Jul 21, 2012 8:12 pm

more about the problems you observed
Peter, I sent an e-mail to the address in your Logger Operator Profile.

73, Bob ZL1RS
Last edited by ZL1RS on Sun Jul 22, 2012 3:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK6AKT » Sun Jul 22, 2012 3:03 pm

Hi Everyone
Well I have a Flex 1500 with a 100w amplifier after it and I have worked the world with it.
Bang for Buck it is the best value for money out there.
With the latest version of Power SDR V 2.3.5 it is a great receiver and is as good as if not better than my FT2000 it has great receive audio and the filters are fantastic and the spectrum scope is the best part of SDR.
The one thing I must point out is if you have a crap computer system and don't follow good earthing practices you will never have a good SDR result.
73
Ken VK6AKT

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK6AKT » Sun Jul 22, 2012 4:18 pm

Hi Matt
Well I must say that the Flex 1500 can be used as a great driver for transverters .
After all it is only a 5 watt transceiver and it is very easy to reduce 5 watts down to the required levels with a few resistors (it also does has low level out as well).
Along with the fact that you can connect a 10 Mhz reference Oscillator it makes an ideal transverter driver.
Sorry to hear that you gave up on the Flex 1500.
I must admit the early versions of PowerSDR had problems but the latest version works very well
Peter indicated that he wanted the try out SDR and I would still say that Bang for Buck the Flex 1500 is a great 160-6m transceiver and general coverage receiver.
Best part is no waiting to get bits and pieces it works straight out of the box.
73
Ken.

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK3PF » Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:50 am

Hi all,

Have you considered the HPSDR boards, especially the new Hermes single board transceiver? Uninterrupted coverage from 50 kHz to 55 MHz.

TAPR are taking preorders until 25 July 2012 for around US$900 + P&P. Plus you will probably want/need and appropriate amplifier to lift the 0.5 W output to 10 or 15 W plus to give better filtering for Tx/Rx. Check out the Hermes page at TAPR: http://www.tapr.org/kits_hermes.html
TAPR is likely to be offering a PA/filter module later in the year - the 15 W Apollo PA. No cost announced as yet. Alternatively, you can buy a nice case and 10 W PA from Apache Labs for US$399 +P&P.

From 26 July, you can place an order with Apache Labs for their Annan-10 transceiver, based on the Hermes board with a 10 W PA & filtering at around US$1450 +P&P: http://www.apache-labs.com/index.php

Both will run PowerSDR software, as well as other options.

There is information on Hermes available from openhpsdr.org and the associated wiki.

The draft Hermes User Guide is also online: http://svn.tapr.org/repos_sdr_hpsdr/tru ... umentation

Despatch from TAPR is likely to be September or October, or October if buying the completed Annan-10 unit from Apache Labs.

Reports from all the beta testers indicate excellent performance. Phil VK6APH has just announced that he has incorporated Vector Network Analysis software into the firmware of Hermes, so it will also be able to be used as a versatile piece of test gear.

I am now waiting for my Hermes, having already placed an order with TAPR.

Peter VK3PF

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK3HJ » Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:12 am

When I looked at a new rig, I decided I was not interested in another commercial unit, and chose to go down the experimental open hardware/open software route of HPSDR.
About 2.5 years ago, I set up HPSDR, with Mercury Rx, Penelope Tx, Magister USB interface, Atlas backplane and the Linear Power supply board. I was absolutely not interested in building the multilayer boards, with lots of surface mount components, so opted for the assembled and tested Tx, Rx and controller boards. I built the backplane and power supply board, and integrated it with a Codan HF PA unit. This gives me a 160m-10m, 100W all mode transceiver. I have used a reworked version of PowerSDR to suit the HPSDR hardware. There have been some changes to the boards since I built mine, but there is no reason for me to "upgrade" what I have.
This transceiver performs very well, and I have worked a *lot* of DX. I don't see any reason to purchase any other rig.
I have a second Receiver card in a box that I was going to install, but haven't felt compelled to yet, so it sits as a spare for now.
PowerSDR is interfaced with Ham Radio Deluxe, and DM780 for digital modes. Virtual serial ports and Virtual audio cables software is needed to get all that running, but it all ends up very neat. There is only one cable (USB 2) between the PC and the HPSDR rig.
I have the parts for a 6m IPA to drive my 150W brick, that I'll look at integrating sometime in the next few months.
My interest in radio doesn't go beyond HF, so can't say how an implementation using transverters would go with this hardware, but I'm sure a competent technician would work it out.
The only quirk that I find a a minor nuisance is the CW sidetone/tx audio monitor function suffers from the effects of latency caused by the digital processing. One day I'll build and integrate a "standard" sidetone oscillator, but in the meantime, I've got used to it!
There is a lot of information to help you set this all up, but it takes some digging around to find what you need. There is also a web forum, where you can access all the brainiacs behind the OpenHPSDR project. If you prefer an out of the box turnkey solution, I'd look at the commercial SDR offerings such as Flex.
BTW, my HPSDR in its current configuration: Mercury/Penelope/Magister/Atlas/LPU/Codan PA, in a Pandora enclosure set me back around $1250, so I think it's good value.
73 es GL,
Luke VK3HJ

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:45 pm

Hi Luke
VK3HJ wrote:BTW, my HPSDR in its current configuration: Mercury/Penelope/Magister/Atlas/LPU/Codan PA, in a Pandora enclosure set me back around $1250, so I think it's good value.
73 es GL,Luke VK3HJ
I have taken the plunge to buy a HERMES board (not due to Sept/Oct 2012), so will need to work on a PA and filters for it in the coming months, so will keep an eye out for any CODAN power amp modules for HF :-) then something extra for 50MHz.

Still have the feeling I want a REAL radio in the shack for those time when I want to just check a beacon or get on quickly when 6 metres is open LOL, as my PC takes a while to boot XP. For anyone considering SDR, in my opinion they should always taken into account that a new PC is going to part of the costs if they have anything older than a few years and you want the SDR to run to its full potential.

I received a link to an aussie built SDR kit that I will add to this post tonight, its around $350 for a kit (uses USB to the PC) and they have an addon PA board as well.http://www.genesisradio.com.au/G59/

Regards,
Peter, vk5pj

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK3HJ » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:20 pm

I most certainly have more than the SDR in the shack, see my QRZ.com picture.
My second rig is an IC-735, handy for a quick bands check, as the PC takes a while to boot up, load PowerSDR, and HRD.
As most amateurs have a computer in the shack, I didn't mention that as a cost, but one needs at least a dual-core CPU to operate SDR smoothly. Mine operated with a Pentium 4/3GHz CPU, but it was a bit lumpy.
Also noted the Genesis SDR. Good stuff, Aussie source, and looks quite manageable to construct - 'proper' through-hole components. Earlier on, I looked at PicaStar, but was deterred by the complexity, and all the SMD components.
With HPSDR Hermes, I presume you've ordered the assembled and tested unit.
If I was entering the SDR scene now, that's the way I'd go too. Not as much flexibility as the multiple board system I use, but I only use the same configuration as Hermes anyway.
For a suitable PA solution, keep an eye out for a Codan PA mentioned earlier, or a scrapped rig with a working PA with LPF. On a recent scan of the auction website, there was an IC-735 PA and LPF unit for a reasonable price. In my opinion, 0.5W is not useful output in itself, and a 10-15W PA is generally not enough to drive your kW PA to full power. 100W is usually enough in itself, and plenty to drive the big PA when you need it!
73 and have fun,
Luke VK3HJ

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:48 pm

Update:

I took the plunge to buy a HERMES board from the TAPR in the US who made a batch on behalf of the OpenHPSDR group, it just turned up last week after its grand tour of the USA postal service as it took 30 days to get from Texas to California :-( then just 3 days from there to me (sigh)

Now the real fun starts, I have printed out the 29 page manual for HERMES and will do some bed time reading before I even put power on it (not normal for me).

Does anyone else have a OpenHPSDR HERMES running and is wiling to share their impressions?

Peter, vk5pj

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Sun Dec 09, 2012 8:26 pm

Just an update, Dec 2012.
have powered up my Hermes board (Tx and RX on one board) today after putting it into the case with a 10W power amp from Apache Labs (ANAN-10). Connected to it over my wired ethernet network from both in the shack and later on in the house. Yet to buy myself some headphones for the house so not tried to TX from the house but it sure receives nicely on the 5/8th 52MHz vertical.

Steep learning curve but I think this is going to be an enjoyable experience.

Regards,
Peter, vk5pj

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK2LK » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:05 am

I use an Ettus research USRP1. Downside is, it really only works as an exciter (2 milliwatts output from 0-30MHz using a LFTX board, and 100mw output between 50-2200MHz) so I need to design some suitable amplification for it to all work properly..

And yes, I'm definitely doing it the hard way.

Cheers,
Matt
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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:54 pm

11 Dec 2012 update.

Tried to use my HERMES tonight on 6mx and find it is not happy with the the vk5rbv beacon (50.315) that is near me. I have over 100 different peaks of the beacon keying (including one on 50.110), which makes the panadapter next to useless for spotting activity.

Anyone want to buy a HERMES + the ANA-10 PA and case, looks like I need a REAL radio :evil: :?:

P.S its not a fire sale so no silly offers.
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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:23 pm

Hi Matt,
VK2DAG wrote:Tap the IF of your "real" radio and use the Hermes thing on that freq. You will be able to watch the band and if you set it up right you can have point & click tuning. What is your normal "real" radio?
Matt.
The real radio at the moment is an older ICOM, the IC-736 (yes the same model that Jack, vk2xq is having problems with). I will have to see if I can get access to the IF of the radio but that would be a total waste of the HERMES and its PA, if I am to do that then a cheaper Rx only SDR may be a better option or a modern rig with an inbuilt panadapter.

I really wanted a radio I could run over ethernet from the house as the shack is in a shed some 50 metres away.

Peter. vk5pj

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK3HJ » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:05 am

Peter,
The OpenHPSDR email discussion list is there to help developers and users of the HPSDR stuff. Link is in the top menu bar of http://openhpsdr.org/ website.
Post your comments there, and you'll have access to Phil and all the developers of the hardware and software, and many users who, hopefully, have a ready solution for you. Do a search under the message archive first.
I've yet to use my Mercury/Penelope HPSDR on 6m, as that is a band I have little interest in.
It's great for HF.
73 es GL,
Luke VK3HJ

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by ZL2BRG » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:38 am

VK5PJ wrote:11 Dec 2012 update.

Tried to use my HERMES tonight on 6mx and find it is not happy with the the vk5rbv beacon (50.315) that is near me. I have over 100 different peaks of the beacon keying (including one on 50.110), which makes the panadapter next to useless for spotting activity.

Anyone want to buy a HERMES + the ANA-10 PA and case, looks like I need a REAL radio :evil: :?:

P.S its not a fire sale so no silly offers.
Strange, got a similar setup here. Hermes+Anan10 did not notice any issues on 6m when my local beacon 6km away was keying.

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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by VK5PJ » Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:35 am

Strange, got a similar setup here. Hermes+Anan10 did not notice any issues on 6m when my local beacon 6km away was keying.
Hi unknown, (you did not sign with a name), I would be interested to know what size and height antenna you use and if you know the power and freq of the beacon you made mention of?

Peter, vk5pj
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Re: Which SDR do you use and why?

Post by ZL2BRG » Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:13 pm

VK5PJ wrote:
Strange, got a similar setup here. Hermes+Anan10 did not notice any issues on 6m when my local beacon 6km away was keying.
Hi unknown, (you did not sign with a name), I would be interested to know what size and height antenna you use and if you know the power and freq of the beacon you made mention of?

Peter, vk5pj
Hi Peter
It (was) 10 watts - off air now being replaced by a 6m repeater. The Antenna here is a dipole @ 5m. I'm line of site to the beacon location - Mount Climie.
What level (dbm) iare you receiving the beacon at ?
Are you getting any adc overload warnings ? and as a somebody on the hpsdr list mentioned have you got any noise filtering turned on ?.

73's
Simon ZL2BRG

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