SDR Question

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Apr 30, 2006
North Central Illinois
I know absolutely nothing about SDR reception. It seems, from what I think I understand, like something I'd like to investigate just a bit. Can you basically pick up radio traffic such as ham radio, public service, air band, maritime, etc....?? Is this a relatively easy hobby to learn?

Can someone tell me if this is a good product to get off EBAY:

NooElec NESDR Mini USB RTL-SDR & ADS-B Receiver Set RTL2832U & R820T Tuner MC... | eBay

Then, once I have made a decision on the hardware, am I right in assuming that the software involved can be downloaded? Then, once you have installed the software, plugged in the hardware, and providing the smoke doesn't escape the computer, you are in business and have the ability to monitor just like a scanner would do? In the area I live in, 90% of public service transmissions are still receivable with a normal scanner so would this pick up that type of signal?

I can imagine that this inquiry may seem fairly mundane to those that are experienced in this area, but it can be confusing to many of us that are old-school. Thanks for your patience!



Jan 25, 2005
Upstate New York
I have about 15 USB dongles of various types.
They all performed well.

You can save a little by ordering directly from NooElec
This one may have slightly more stability.
NooElec - NooElec NESDR Mini 2+ 0.5PPM TCXO USB RTL-SDR Receiver (RTL2832 + R820T2) w/ Antenna and Remote Control - SDR Receivers - Software Defined Radio

There isn't much use for the remote control, and you'll probably want a better antenna once you start using it.

Yes, you can download the software.
On the link above, at the bottom, click on the 'DOWNLOADS' tab
The link for SDR# (SDRSharp):

I wouldn't say it's exactly like using a scanner.
You would need to also install a scanner plugin for the software to scan multiple frequencies.

For monitoring individual frequencies and 'visualizing' activity on parts of the spectrum they're very good.

I haven't updated my software lately so someone else could better tell you more about that.

For the price, they're GREAT!

For example:
I have older sample videos on youtube here:
And here:


Edit: I should warn you about the dangers of them.
They can be addictive. ;)

You can also install drivers for use with your smart phone etc.

I also run 4 to 6 at a time for antenna testing:

You can use them for tracking aircraft:

Receiving weather satellite images:

Receive SSTV (this one is from a MilSat):

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Premium Subscriber
Dec 1, 2015
Woodlands, MB
I'm running an older NooElec dongle. Works well. NooElec is a pretty good product.

As rbm says.. For good results, you need a decent antenna. I use my dual band 144/440 vertical mounted on top a a 40 foot tower.

They aren't simple plug and play.. There are a few small hoops to jump through, but it's not a formidable task. Bookmark this page as another resource for step by step instructions on getting it going: --> Quick Start Guide -


Sep 13, 2005
Will they do P25 digital?
The dongle is just a radio receiver so yes it will receive whatever you can tune it to. The processing and decoding depends on the software you use. DSD+ will decode P25 phase I voice and OP25 will decode phase I and phase II voice. Note that decode and decrypt are two different things. DSD+ has no decryption capability so you will hear and understand only unencrypted traffic. OP25 does have some decryption capabilities I am told but I have no personal experience with it.
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