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Old 05-01-2011, 9:56 PM
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Question Excalibur Experiences (Not all good)

I've been playing for the last few days with a new Winradio Excalibur (non pro version). At first I was very happy with it but as time wore on certain deficiencies have come to light and now I am wondering if I should return it.

A quick summary of the good and the bad -

Good
+ Excellent AM reception, superior to the Flex and my Icoms.
+ Seeing the complete 0.1-30Mhz spectrum is amazing and useful.
+ Being able to record up to 2Mhz of spectrum is very handy, although perhaps overkill.
+ No fan noise, no hash from Power Supply. Nice small box design.
+ Integrated DRM is better than using VAC.

Bad
- No preamp that I can find.
- SSB reception plagued by audio popping. More pronounced when recorded. This is not present on the Flex.
- DRM reception very sensitive to signal level. Receives TDPradio at s9 just fine but RNZI or Radio Canada Int. at s5 is a no go.
- Noise reduction seems non-existent, but that may be my inexperience with the software. However, it's a push button function in PowerSDR.

If I can't solve the SSB issues, then I will seriously consider sending it back. I've tried different headphones, different connection setups but I can't find a solution.

Anyone else with an Excalibur out there have these issues?

Cheers,
Andrew
W6OR

Last edited by w6or; 05-01-2011 at 10:19 PM.. Reason: Clean up, revised bad stuff.
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Old 05-02-2011, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by w6or View Post

- No preamp that I can find.
- SSB reception plagued by audio popping. More pronounced when recorded. This is not present on the Flex.
- DRM reception very sensitive to signal level. Receives TDPradio at s9 just fine but RNZI or Radio Canada Int. at s5 is a no go.
- Noise reduction seems non-existent, but that may be my inexperience with the software. However, it's a push button function in PowerSDR.

If I can't solve the SSB issues, then I will seriously consider sending it back. I've tried different headphones, different connection setups but I can't find a solution.

Anyone else with an Excalibur out there have these issues?
I have been using an Excalibur since a few days after release. I also have most of the other SDRs on the market.

- Re: No preamp. True, there is no selectable pre-amp, but are you sure you need one?

The sensitivity of the Excalibur, with no selectable preamp (specified at –130 dBm @ 10 MHz and 500 Hz BW, and I have measure more like –134 dBm or even a bit better), is in the realm of most radios with preamp on. In fact the Excalibur, sans selectable preamp, is more than 5 dB more sensitive than the Perseus SDR with the Perseus preamp selected. And the Excalibur has the same sensitivity without preamp as the Icom R-75 does with the R-75 preamp turned on.

True, the Excalibur is a few dB less sensitive than the absolute best receivers made today (such as the Yaesu FTdx-5000D, the Elecraft K3, or for SDR the Flex-5000), but it exceeds anything else in its price range and many things costing a good deal more.

But, the Excalibur does have selectable attenuators, in 3 dB steps from 3 to 21 dB. So, you might view the Excalibur as having the preamp always on, and to “turn it off” you just select attenuation.

Becaused of the very wide dynamic range of the Excalibur and similar SDRs the advantage that a traditional receiver gains by having a selectable preamp is simply not needed. With a more traditional design you want to be able to apply the preamp only when needed, to avoid two-blocking the RX with strong signals. With the exceptionally wide dynamic range of most DDC SDRs that simply is not an issue any longer.

- Re: SSB popping. Are you using the most recent version of the software from the WinRadio web site? Early versions of the software had more noticeable audio popping.

Also, some users, with some sound card combinations, have noted more popping than other users. I have no idea why that might be.

My own installation of the Excalibur I notice a slightly more enhanced propensity to pop in SSB mode than say my FT-5000, my FT-2000, or my Flex-5000, but really not much at all. And the pop is normally well controlled by using adjustments under the “Gain” tab, particularly with the latest version of the software. I do not see any difference between recorded and “live” audio and popping.

And WinRadio has improved the audio pop in software updates, but users need to keep WinRadio notified of objectionable operations or they are not likely to change things. In other words, have you asked WinRadio about the pop you are having?

- I cannot comment on DRM operation, I do not use DRM for SW stuff, the closest I do is some amateur radio digital modes, and the Excalibur does fine for those.

- Re: Noise reduction. This is indeed a problem with the Excalibur, in my opinion. The noise reduction (Noise Blanker) just does not do much, either that or I do not understand how to use it. By the way, WinRadio has responded to customer recommendations for other items, some of them very rapidly, but this one is still hanging on.

I have had success in using the noise reduction in the ADS with the Excalibur, but really there needs to be a better option in the basic software.

T!
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Old 05-02-2011, 1:47 PM
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Default vs. NetSDR

Token,

Have you had a chance to compare with the NetSDR?

-rb-
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Old 05-02-2011, 5:53 PM
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Hi Token,

I addressed some of my concerns with Winradio directly. I'll share what I learned below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post
I have been using an Excalibur since a few days after release. I also have most of the other SDRs on the market.

- Re: No preamp. True, there is no selectable pre-amp, but are you sure you need one?
Winradio's response indicated that they have the preamp in their RX chain always on. That is born out by the manual. From my own experiments with reception vs. the Flex 3000, there doesn't seem to be a noticeable difference in sensitivity.

My question now is does having the preamp always on lead to problems when you use an active antenna which has it's own preamp?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post
- Re: SSB popping. Are you using the most recent version of the software from the WinRadio web site? Early versions of the software had more noticeable audio popping.

Also, some users, with some sound card combinations, have noted more popping than other users. I have no idea why that might be.

My own installation of the Excalibur I notice a slightly more enhanced propensity to pop in SSB mode than say my FT-5000, my FT-2000, or my Flex-5000, but really not much at all. And the pop is normally well controlled by using adjustments under the “Gain” tab, particularly with the latest version of the software. I do not see any difference between recorded and “live” audio and popping.

And WinRadio has improved the audio pop in software updates, but users need to keep WinRadio notified of objectionable operations or they are not likely to change things. In other words, have you asked WinRadio about the pop you are having?
I am using version 1.27 which is the most up to date version.

Winradio support gave me good advice on this issue. They suggested using an AGC attack time of 0.005s and/or setting an audio filter with a max of 3kHz. This has addressed the issue to my ears. It really only occurs with USB/LSB reception, the AM reception is rock solid. However, I do hope Winradio has taken note of my feedback.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post
- Re: Noise reduction. This is indeed a problem with the Excalibur, in my opinion. The noise reduction (Noise Blanker) just does not do much, either that or I do not understand how to use it. By the way, WinRadio has responded to customer recommendations for other items, some of them very rapidly, but this one is still hanging on.
This one is still an outstanding issue for me, and I have notified Winradio as such. Their suggestion was to buy their Digital Suite software package, but this really should be standard.

Also there is no solution for DRM. This seems to be a "feature" of the mode, but it seems counterintuitive to design a digital mode for shortwave broadcasting that requires a strong signal and gives you nothing if signal strength falls a bit short.

Overall, much happier with the purchase. The Excalibur works well with my laptop, and so I'm looking forward to taking the radio with me on trips.

Thanks,
Andrew
W6OR

Last edited by w6or; 05-02-2011 at 5:55 PM.. Reason: Punctuation
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Old 06-05-2011, 2:53 PM
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Is anyone using external speakers with excalibur? My laptop volume just doesn't cut it. I have a higher end Toshiba laptop and the volume is usually adequate. Is there a website with a tutorial to use all the features of the winradio excalibur..


Sal
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Old 06-06-2011, 8:38 PM
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I doubt there is any such website. However there might well be a Yahoo group or two...best regards..Mike
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Old 06-06-2011, 9:39 PM
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Hi Mike

Yeah I found a few yahoo groups. They are helpful in many ways but I was looking for a shortcut. Im learning more everyday but my impatience is my downfall sometimes. Anyway when its time I think i will post a good how to for that radio and software so I could help someone else like you guys have helped me


Sal
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