SDR Spectrum Analyzers

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w4rez

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I know that there's probably not a single one of these that compare to a real, lab-grade SA. However most of us can't really justify spending several thousand dollars on a piece of test equipment that we might use a handful of times a year.

I'm looking at the Nuts About Nets RF Viewer ($79 + shipping) and the Signal Hound USB-SA44B ($919 + shipping)

RF Viewer looks like it's little more than a toy. I think it's funny that it's marketed as a wireless network testing took, yet it only covers 24 MHz to 1766 MHz so it can't even analyze most Wi-Fi signals. The Signal Hound unit looks like a more serious tool. It covers 1 Hz to 4.4 GHz and has a companion tracking generator available.

Has anybody got any experience with these? What other options are available?
 

br0adband

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The Nuts About Nets thing there is just a "cheap USB TV tuner" based on the Rafael Micro R820T tuner and the Realtek RTL2832U USB controller, it's nothing special and I doubt their software is either - you're looking at a max spectrum of 2.4 MHz (while technically the R820T can do better, like 3 MHz, the Realtek control chip will drop samples if you push it over 2.4 MHz). You'd get the same or better results spending $10-20 on a NooElec RTL stick (I prefer those because they have the electrostatic protection diode guaranteed - just because the stick looks the same as theirs doesn't mean it has that diode) and using SDR# or SDR-Radio or some other SDR application which happen to be completely free (at least so far). Why pay 4-7 times as much for the same thing?

As for the Signal Hound hardware, specs look decent, the software doesn't, and you might find something like the BladeRF or the soon to be released HackRF for such purposes at lower cost. But then again if you specifically want a spectrum analyzer and not just a software define radio - and by that I mean that the majority of people here at RR are using SDR hardware and software to actually listen to radio communications and not strictly as RF testing hardware - then perhaps those types of units aren't really what to focus on. Of the two the Signal Hound is obviously a better piece of hardware (at least based on the specs, of course), but there are probably better options for spectrum analyzers specifically.
 

NYG

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Jun 9, 2006
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I know that there's probably not a single one of these that compare to a real, lab-grade SA. However most of us can't really justify spending several thousand dollars on a piece of test equipment that we might use a handful of times a year.

I'm looking at the Nuts About Nets RF Viewer ($79 + shipping) and the Signal Hound USB-SA44B ($919 + shipping)

RF Viewer looks like it's little more than a toy. I think it's funny that it's marketed as a wireless network testing took, yet it only covers 24 MHz to 1766 MHz so it can't even analyze most Wi-Fi signals. The Signal Hound unit looks like a more serious tool. It covers 1 Hz to 4.4 GHz and has a companion tracking generator available.

Has anybody got any experience with these? What other options are available?
The RF viewer software will allow you to scan I believe up to a 300Mhz chunk of spectrum. Of course it takes a number of seconds to complete a scan because it'll have to re-tune the center frequency of the dongle.

If you have an RTL dongle you can just download the free version of RF viewer to check it out. I've tried it and it does work. There is no facility to listen to an active frequency, it'll just continue sweeping the range you have set and update the display accordingly.

It may actually come in handy if you want to set it and forget for a while to see if anything new pops up in a wide frequency range.

It also works with the little hand held RF explorer. That looks to be popular with people that work on live sets with a lot of wireless microphones etc... to find open spectrum.

It's certainly not a lab quality test instrument but I can see it coming in handy for hobby purposes or those looking for a band opening.
 
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