Originally Posted by APSN556
Well darn! I hadn't even considered an SDR...until you mentioned it. Looking at a few websites about them has certainly sparked my curiosity. The SDR world is completely new to me. My budget would only be around $1200 if I went the SDR route. Any suggestions on a particular model? Thanks for helping me out T!
Unfortunately it is hard to talk about such things without, again, getting opinionated.
I own many of the sub $1200 SDRs on the market. I have tried out even more of them. There are many SDRs on the market in that range, but I will only talk about the "main stream" units, not the limited production or building block experimenters units.
At the low end of the spectrum are the sound card based SDRs. They run from $25 to about $300. They all have problems and performance issues, mostly associated with the sound card based operation (that is a multi-page write-up to cover all by itself). However, something like the SoftRock Ensemble II is hard to beat for $85 assembled and sub $60 in kit form. This is an SDR at cheap portable pricing that has fair to good performance. But, I do not recommend them as an only radio, maybe as a play around or a backup radio. I use mine just to play around most of the time.
Around the $500 price point is the RFSpace SDR-IQ. This is the lowest cost mainstream DDC SDR that I am aware of. It combines good performance with moderate cost. In several raw performance areas it is similar to the SoftRock Ensemble II, but without the soundcard limitations, with better dynamic range, and better filter performance. While its display/record bandwidth is not large (190 kHz max display width) I consider it a good starter SDR. I have two of them here and use them every day, although they are mostly secondary to my main SDRs. I have one of them on SDR-Radio.com so that others can use it when I am not. This SDR is well supported by third party software providers, I believe it might be the best supported SDR on the market.
At about $800 is the Bonito RadioJet. It is a new SDR that I have no experience with. Its performance specifications are very good, and if it meets them it is definitely an upper tier (but not best) radio. But, as an SDR it comes up a little short as it has very, very, narrow displayed bandwidth, only 24 kHz maximum. So, while it might be a very good radio, as an SDR and in several features that make an SDR optimal for Ute listening, it frankly looks not good. Also, I have not heard of any third party software that is planning, at this time, to support it.
Up around the $900 to $1000 range the selection gets pretty good, and the performance gets very good.
The Quicksilver QS-1R comes in at about $900. It has probably the most potential performance of any SDR in this price range, but in order to meet that performance potential auxiliary equipment needs to be added that pushes the cost up well over $1100,probably into the $1300+ range for the good pieces. Without the add-ons, just as it comes out of the box, the sensitivity of this unit is the worst in the price bracket. Think of this as the Hot Rod, lots of potential cool in it, but it will take some work and money from you to get there.
The WinRadio G31DDC comes in at $850 to $900. It has the second widest DDC display bandwidth, at 2 MHz, behind the QS-1R. Its sensitivity is outstanding, the best in the sub $1200 category. It is the only radio that includes the ability to have two waterfalls at the same time, one showing the “narrow” DDC bandwidth (from 20 kHz up to 2 MHz, user selectable) and the second “wideband” showing the full 0 to 30 MHz HF range, or 0 to 50 MHz if you have that option selected in the pull down menu. This wideband display gives you the ability to look (visually only, not to receive the signal) back in time up to 18 minutes, so you can check activity of signals that happened when you were concentrating on other things. The disadvantage to this radio is that there is only one third party software vendor supporting it, so if you do not like the interface WinRadio supplies you might be out of luck. It is one of the newer SDRs on the market, so maybe just no one has started supporting it yet, or maybe they never will, just can’t tell at this time. WinRadio has made the SDK for this avalable so anyone who wants to write software can, but so far no takers. Fortunately, I personally like the WinRadio GUI, finding it the most adaptable among the GUIs shipped with radios. But, because it does so much it also has one of the steeper learning curves. Also, it is minus a couple of features that other SDR GUIs have, and you have to ask yourself why in the world WinRadio left those out? There are work arounds for all of them except the lack of remote internet capability.
The Microtelecom Perseus comes in at $1000 to $1200. Until the Excalibur came out it was the best SDR for a hobby listener right out of the box in this price range. It now lags behind the Excalibur in almost every technical specification although it does, in my opinion, have a more robust front end that accepts high level signals better. I still consider it very good and I would rate it a close second best of the sub $1200 SDRs. It is supported by multiple third party softwares, almost as many as the SDR-IQ is.
Of all of these I mentioned I own all of them (plus a couple more outside the $1200 price range) except the QS-1R and the RadioJet. And I have used the QS-1R a bit. If I could only have one SDR today in this price range it would be the WinRadio G31DDC Excalibur.
So, there is my answer to your question of any suggestions, the G31DDC, hands down. However, make sure you are comfortable with the interface, because that might be the only one that ever works with that hardware. Or maybe a third party will pick up support for it, who knows.