Modify/Revive old RTL stick (part 1)

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Eric61

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Modify/Revive old RTL stick

I bought 2 of these inexpensive RTL sticks for just over $12 each almost 3 years ago.

IEIK SDRICE RTL-SDR FM DAB DVB-T USB Stick Set with RTL2832U & R820T Great SDR for SDR# ADS-B Receiver Set Radio Compatible ICE Input

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00SY1X51I/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

They did OK on strong signals but not so well on anything else. Due to the style of the antenna connector, I was unable to use anything other than the supplied antenna. There were no pigtails for this type of connector. (images 1 &2)

Recently, I popped open the case to see if I could change the antenna connector, and saw that it might be possible with the right connector. After a short search, I found these. (image 3)

BNC Female Right Angle Single Pin Soldering PCB Mount Connector 3Pcs

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016JPU5JU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

$4.67 for 3 with free shipping. It did take a couple weeks to ship from China, but I was not in a hurry.

The old connector was barrel-shaped and had solder bridges on either side of the connector to the large solder pads on each “leg” of the board. The antenna input was a wire that was soldered to a hole in the board. (image 4)

I did have to modify the new connectors so they would fit in the case, and also did a little work on the circuit board as well. The new BNC connectors are slightly wider than the old connector, so a sharp pocket knife whittled the inside edges of the “legs” to widen the space. It doesn’t take much. (image 5)

continued in part 2
 

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Eric61

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part 2

The large lugs on the new connectors were ground down with a dremel tool so that it was roughly flush with the barrel. I was able to bend-break some of the tabs and corners with some needle nose pliers prior to grinding, which gave me less to grind. (image 2)

Then it was a matter of soldering the new connector in place. I lined the connector up so that it was centered exactly like the old connector. It was a snug fit so it stayed in place relatively well while I soldered. I did the sides first, and it takes a lot of heat to get the tab on the connector hot enough to take the solder- the connector is like a big heat sink, but it will eventually heat up enough and you can create a good solder bridge/mount. I let the connector cool completely before doing the other side. You don’t want to melt the plastic insulator inside the connector, so use just what you need to get the job done. Lastly, I made a little solder bridge between the center conductor on the connector (length trimmed to fit) and the spot on the board where the previous connector was. (image 1)

When searching for a connector to use, I realized the barrel of the connector would need to protrude quite a bit from the stick in order to have room to attach a BNC male. I probably could have moved these a little further out, but in any case the barrel doesn’t stick out far enough for the BNC to twist and lock on- it’s blocked by the case. It only lacked a little bit- like the width of the bottom ring on a male BNC. So I enlarged the hole in the case to allow the connector to sit inside the case a little bit. (last 2 images)

The ability to connect an external antenna makes all the difference in the world and these are actually pretty good sticks now that I can get a good signal to them.
 

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