Bye Bye Sony ICF-2010 Hello SDR!

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APSN556

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I owe a huge thanks to the folks here on radio reference for helping find a new base radio for my SWL needs. Many suggested a SDR radio and they were absolutely correct. This thing is AWESOME. My ICF-2010 is now up for sale for only $300 in the classifieds section. I hate to let it go, but I dont travel much, and dont foresee ever using again.
 

ka3jjz

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If it's not already gone (that's a decent price), you might want to think twice about selling it. Having a backup receiver is not all that unusual, and the 2010 is a real gem - it's very much the portable that everyone compares against, including the E1 Eton.

Mike
 

SCPD

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A portable is also very handy for tracking down RFI sources in the house and externally. Which SDR did you purchase?
 

APSN556

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I was able to try out both an SDR IQ and a Microtelecom Perseus. While the SDR IQ was MUCH cheaper, tons of fun, and much more ergonomically friendly... when it came time to return them, I couldn't give back the Microtelecom Perseus.
 

AC9BX

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I love SDR. However, it isn't easily portable. Having a backup and portable radio around can be useful.
I'll keep my DX-398 for as long as it functions. I don't use it as often now. But for SW broadcast stations it's more than adequate. And it's an excellent AM broadcast band radio.
 

N5YS

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Perseus vs QS1R receiver

I suggest checking out the QS1R receiver at:
http://qs1r.wikispaces.com
and you will be surprised to learn that the QS1R is the best Direct Digital Sampling SDR radio available.
The Perseus specs are also compared when you click on the link on the left margin.
And the QS1R sells for $100 less.

73, Tom Stanley N5YS
 

Token

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I suggest checking out the QS1R receiver at:
http://qs1r.wikispaces.com
and you will be surprised to learn that the QS1R is the best Direct Digital Sampling SDR radio available.
The Perseus specs are also compared when you click on the link on the left margin.
And the QS1R sells for $100 less.

73, Tom Stanley N5YS
“you will be surprised to learn that the QS1R is the best Direct Digital Sampling SDR radio available” is quite a statement, especially with no qualification of cost or application on that statement.

I will say unequivocally that the QS1R is not the “best” DDC SDR today, there is no one thing it does that another SDR does not do better. Please note that I did not say it was bad, only that it is not “best” at everything. In fact I would say that no one SDR is “best” at everything, although some do some tasks better than others. I make that statement having used the QS1R and many of the other SDRs on the market, not based on the “unbiased” makers spec sheets or comparisons on the makers web site.

The QS1R is a better building block than many SDRs on the hobby market and is well suited to use in an amateur application where you might want a transmitter associated, possibly in this application it is the best sub $1000 SDR on the market. It might not, however, be a better building block than say an Atlas backplane and Mercury/Pennylane combination. It is also, definitely, not even in the same league as hardware like the Aeroflex 3030 series digitizers, but of course the Aeroflex’s are not “hobby” SDRs. You did not claim hobby SDR, you just said “best” SDR, that is pretty wide target there.

The QS1R has the widest basic frequency coverage (10 kHz to 62.5 MHz) of any of the current generation of hobby DDC SDRs (receiver only) on the market. But in the aliased mode several SDRs are wider. For example even the venerable SDR-14 will go to over 200 MHz. But if you want 6 meter DDC coverage with the best possible sensitivity in the hobby market than maybe the QS1R is the best compromise. I am not saying the QS1R is very sensitive, I am just saying that since it covers 6 meter native then it is the only DDC (no down converter or super heterodyne hybrid) on the hobby market that I know of. Of course, the Flexradio Flex-6700 also covers 6 meters and is DDC, and has far better performance numbers than the QS1R, but that is a transceiver, not just a receiver, and in a totally different price bracket.

The next thing the QS1R does “best” on the hobby market (receiver) is its ability to apply multiple individual RXs. It can apply up to 7 receivers on 7 different bands. There are several other pieces of hardware on the market that have the technical capability to do this, but only the QS1R is doing it as a regular thing using software an average user can come by. Of course again, the Flex-6700 can do 8 independent receivers, all at one time and with greater bandwidth each than the QS1R, but again the Flex-6700 is a transceiver.

After these two facts there is nothing the QS1R does “best”, even if we limit it to hobby receivers only, every other spec can be beaten by other hobby SDRs.

Want sensitivity? Most other SDRs on the market today blow the QS1R away. The QS1R has an MDS (500 Hz BW) of about -121 dBm (that number is from the QS1R spec sheet at http://qs1r.wikispaces.com/QS1R+Specifications ). Even the relatively deaf SDR-IQ has -127 dBm (500 Hz BW). And things like the Perseus and Excalibur are often 10 dB, or more, better than the QS1R. The QS1R explains that away by claiming that “most” users are not in a quiet enough location to benefit from an MDS much lower than that, and that the Perseus sensitivity is wasted because the user so often has to select the Perseus attenuator “to avoid ADC clipping because of the Perseus excess gain” (direct quote form the QS1R web site). In a couple years of Perseus ownership (among other SDRs) I have had to use the Attenuator only a few times, and then most often when listening to one of my own transmitters. It could be said I live in a very quite location and I would not argue that, but I also access many remote Perseus SDRs via the Perseus network, often in urban installation sites, and also seldom have to use the attenuators on those remotes.

Want selectivity? Nope, the QS1R is not the top of the heap for that one either.

Want dynamic range? Unfortunately the test criteria (signal spacing used if multiple signal) is not defined on the QS1R web site, but the number, while very good if dual signal, is not the king of the hill. If the number shown is raw single signal dynamic range then the QS1R is kind of average.

Want maximum displayed bandwidth? The Excalibur and the Excalibur Pro can show up to 50 MHz of real time bandwidth. If you are talking about DDC recordable bandwidth then the Excalibur Pro can record up to 4 MHz of DDC window.

Further, in side-by-side tests I have tried the Perseus, the QS1R (no add-ons), and the SDR-IQ. On the same antenna, at the same time, under the same conditions, the Perseus consistently performed slightly better than the QS1R. The SDR-IQ generally did just as well as the QS1R on a single signal and at times slightly better, but naturally the SDR-IQ is not as capable an SDR as the QS1R in most ways.

So, as I have laid out above, the QS1R is not “best”. It is good, and I am not arguing against that. And it certainly has an application (core building block for amateur radio use) that is very good, even one of the best. But “best” is a difficult thing to say and stand behind.

If I had to pick a “best” hobby SDR on the market today, based on both performance numbers and having used many of the SDRs in question, I would have to say it would be the WinRadio Excalibur Pro, with the WinRadio Excalibur coming in second. I know several people who do not like the software (personally I think it is quite good) but no one I know who has actually used one can fault the hardware. On the other hand, if you have a transmitter and want to use the SDR as a display/receiver for ham use the Excalibur would be one of the furthest down my list, and the QS1R would be rather high on it.

T!
 
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N5YS

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QS1R "best" Direct Digital Sampling SDR receiver?

I agree with the post from T!, but did not intend for my "best" comment to be taken absolutely.

In many points that T! raised, he seems to agree that the QS1R would be a top choice, if you consider that I was not intending to make comparison to professional equipment (Atlas 3030) or high-priced transceivers (FLEX-radio 6700 costing $7,499). At $899, the QS1R receiver is $100 cheaper than the Perseus with wider freq range, and in my opinion outperforms it also, as well as the Excalibur overall.

So please forgive my poor choice of words: I believe that QS1R is the _better_ choice amateur SDR receiver!

73
Stanley N5YS
 

Token

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In many points that T! raised, he seems to agree that the QS1R would be a top choice, if you consider that I was not intending to make comparison to professional equipment (Atlas 3030) or high-priced transceivers (FLEX-radio 6700 costing $7,499).
By the way, the Flex-6700 is not always $7500, that is the price for most loaded up version of the Signature series, the Flex-6700R is over $1000 less. The same performance can be found in the Flex-6500 for more than $3000 less. Regardless, yes they are expensive, but they are also Worlds apart from the QS1R.

I only consider the QS1R to be in the top tier (top 5 for hardware under $1900) if you are talking about the core blocks for building an SDR based ham station. As I said, it is a good building block if you are going to include it in something that also includes a transmitter of some sort. For HF Utilities, MW DX, and SW listening I would not place the QS1R in the top 5 (under $1900).

At $899, the QS1R receiver is $100 cheaper than the Perseus with wider freq range, and in my opinion outperforms it also, as well as the Excalibur overall.

So please forgive my poor choice of words: I believe that QS1R is the _better_ choice amateur SDR receiver!
By "amateur" do you mean ham radio or do you mean hobby listening?

The QS1R has a wider DDC record capability than the Perseus, but not wider than the Excalibur or Excalibur Pro. It has a slightly higher maximum frequency coverage than the Perseus or the Excalibur. It has a higher IP3 than most other SDRs. And it has the ability to do 7 RX channels at one time, a combinational function of the software and the hardware that some other SDR hardware could support, but no one has felt the need to write the software/firmware yet.

Other than these features, in your opinion how does the QS1R outperform the Perseus or the Excalibur? In almost all other measurable specifications either of those SDRs outperform the QS1R.

What do you base your opinion that the QS1R outperforms the Perseus or the Excalibur on? Is there one specific feature that you need for your application that makes the QS1R rise to the top? Have you actually compared the QS1R in actual use to either the Perseus or the Excalibur, or are you strictly going off information from the makers web sites? If off the makers specifications which specifications are most important to you?

Knowing how you arrived at this opinion could help others of a similar mind set who might be trying to down select form the available options on the market.

Yes, I realize that an opinion is hard to quantify, but there has to be something, or a combination of somethings, specific that makes that opinion. Something in your mind that brings it up on the scale.

In my opinion the QS1R is a good choice if you plan to build (not buy) an amateur radio station that includes a transmitter around an SDR. The external hardware mute (not unique to the QS1R, but also not very common in SDRs) makes for an easier transceiver interface. Since it is not overly sensitive there is less of a potential problem with front end issues in the presence of a transmitter. Because of its ability to monitor 7 frequency ranges at one time and its interaction with CW Skimmer it is well suited to watching for specific stations as they pop up in the CW portions of the bands. And because of the lower latency it works better for general QSK CW operations. Its wider DDC record is a wasted feature on HF ham radio, as no HF ham bands are as wide as it’s ability to record and the bandwidth is too narrow to capture multiple bands at one time. Also, for ham applications, you seldom desire the ability to record an entire band for long periods of time. I have the capability, have had it for years, and don’t think I have ever done it for ham use other than to show it can be done and provide example recordings. You can’t work them if they were on the air yesterday.

On the other end of the spectrum is my opinion of the QS1R as a listening tool, vs an integrated ham radio tool.

In my opinion the QS1R is not a particularly good choice if you are looking for a turn-key, out of the box, listening tool for SWL, Ute, BCB DX, etc. Anything but ham. Having used the QS1R side-by-side with other SDRs (directly beside Flex-5000A, SDR-IQ, SDR-14, Perseus, Softrock Ensemble II, USB66, indirectly beside Excalibur, Excalibur Pro, Excelsior, NetSDR) I have seen other SDRs consistently pull signals out that the QS1R did not on the same antenna and at the same time. This is supported by specifications from the makers web pages, including the QS1R pages, that indicate the QS1R has only average to poor specifications in certain areas, such as sensitivity.

It is because of this first-hand, observed, performance delta that I am of the opinion that the QS1R is not a particularly good choice for a listening only tool. As I said before, not bad, but not particularly good, eclipsed by several other SDRs on the market, both more expensive and less expensive. From first-hand observation and other than upper frequency limit, in my opinion, the QS1R does not outperform the Perseus in any way I have seen, in fact the Perseus generally outperforms the QS1R, and in my use the Excalibur outperforms the Perseus regularly. And for the most part this opinion is supported by technical specifications.

Having owned and still owning many of the SDRs on the market today, if I had to own only one SDR for HF listening it would be the Excalibur Pro. If price was a factor and it had to be under $1000 I would own the Excalibur, with the Perseus a close second, and that mostly driven by the remote capability of the Perseus. If I were on a very tight budget, something like the SoftRock Ensemble II would be on my short list. While not a particularly good SDR it has a phenomenal amount of capability for under $100.

T!
 
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