Which SDR to get? Stumped.

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IdleMonitor

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Ok I'm stumped...I know there's numerous threads here on these items and have reviewed over many of them and have looked over all the amazon and ebay items for these USB SDR type dongles. Just really not sure which ones to buy. I'd like to stick to something under $100 for everything I need.

List includes, this. Dongle itself, obviously most of these are mostly vhf from like 25/50 mhz to 1.2 Ghz so that's fine, I have a discone antenna that I'm gonna be able to use, the coax coming in will have a PL259 type connector from either RG8U or X coax.

I think for the time being I'll keep it to those types of frequencies and I'll worry about an HF antenna later for when I'm ready to get an HF Upconverter.

Point me in the right direction please to what I could possibly want to look for. I've looked over Amazon/Ebay and confused. First time venture into these types of radios and accessories needed to help with the type of coax gonna be used.

Aside from what I already listen to on my scanner, what other types of stuff will I be able to find to listen to with one of these. Which software will be the easiest to use and learn?

I just really don't know which one to buy?

Been a scanner hobbiest for almost 2 decades now so I've done lots of scanning over the years, what can I expect from one of these types of devices? Wanna learn something new about our spectrum and what's out there.
 

tylerwatt12

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The nooelec dongles are $20/each. The have ESD protection which is nice I have two of them for my digital trunking scanner. A cable TV splitter/amp so I can amp those 800mhz signals. The splitter feeds in from a Wilson 301111 nextel antenna.

I've got an upconverter (hamitup 1.2) it converts everything 125MHz up, right past the FM band, which is perfect.

There are all sorts of signals out there, poking around 902-928 is fun, lots of automation devices run on 900 including security cameras, and some old cordless phones.
But watch out because it may not be legal to monitor some of those
You have NOAA APT, which sends satellite images of earth every once and a while, you need a special antenna for good reception of that.

I use RG6 and it works fine, you shouldn't have to worry about 50/75ohm too much, the difference isn't that much.

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IdleMonitor

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So those would work pretty decent then for a basic reciever using a discone antenna? As long as I have the right connector?. What type of software is good to use with those types?

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IdleMonitor

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The R820t dongles from nooelec use MCX female ports, you can easily find an adapter that will get that done.

Here's one: http://www.amazon.com/coaxial-cable-SO239-female-connector/dp/B00C20FV78
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Yeah I had seen those. Not sure if I can order it though through amazon.ca as apposed to .com however I supposed that would work now if I got the hf upconverter whats the cable i would need to use with that. I think thats what I may have been confused about.

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tylerwatt12

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If you're running windows, SDR# and SDR-Radio v2 are good pieces of software for general listening
For OS X/Linux GQRX is easy to use.

All 3 support FM/AM/USB/LSB just like a regular radio/scanner. You switch modulation by clicking a button in the software, thus "software defined" radio.

As for decoding digital signal, there's usually a piece of software for each scenario
 

tylerwatt12

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Yeah I had seen those. Not sure if I can order it though through amazon.ca as apposed to .com however I supposed that would work now if I got the hf upconverter whats the cable i would need to use with that. I think thats what I may have been confused about.

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Oh sorry, forgot that part. The hamitup uses SMA connectors. From the antenna you must convert your connector to a SMA(m). That feeds into the input on the upconverter. From there I have a SMA(m) to MCX(m) and the SDR takes the MCX side.

The upconverter takes a USB B connection for power only, (usually the same USB cables that modern inkjet printers use)
 

IdleMonitor

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Cool thanks, I'll have a look around again, but I think this pretty much sums it up. Why are these things so cheap though if it can open up a whole world of other radio spectrum listening compared to a regular scanner?
HF I can understand, but VHF/UHF etc..

If you're running windows, SDR# and SDR-Radio v2 are good pieces of software for general listening
For OS X/Linux GQRX is easy to use.

All 3 support FM/AM/USB/LSB just like a regular radio/scanner. You switch modulation by clicking a button in the software, thus "software defined" radio.

As for decoding digital signal, there's usually a piece of software for each scenario
 

dimab

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There are a few different chipsets available. I don't understand all the differences of each, but I bought the following it and it works great for my needs. I have a discone antenna on my roof which feeds the dongle.

Amazon.com: NooElec Brand RTL-SDR, FM+DAB, DVB-T USB Stick Set with RTL2832U & R820T. Great SDR for SDR#, HDSDR, and Other Popular SDR Software Packages!: Electronics
plus an MCX to BNC converter (connects to an antenna splitter). Just choose the right converter

The rest is just software setup. I run SDR#. One big thing is to calibrate SDR#. Without this my freq. selector was awful. http://forums.radioreference.com/software-defined-radio/259929-sdr-calibration-rtl2832.html
 

IdleMonitor

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K so these are the two that I'm thinking about.

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B009LQT3G6/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A2ODZQFKJKWN4I

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B009U7WZCA/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A2ODZQFKJKWN4I

I'm sure these are or will be ok for what I want to explore with.

Now, the cable that I need to connect the two together, which one do I need?

I looked for the SMA(m) to MCX(m) connectors, but couldn't find anything on amazon.ca?

Like I said, I have PL 259 connectors on the coax run in, I think I'll be good for the SO-239 female to sma male part which if I'm reading correctly is what would feed to the HF Upconverter, as I'm using one of them already to feed to my 396T scanners.

I would need the SMA Male to MCX male then to run from the converter to the dongle. That's the piece I need. I guess if I'm going with the upconverter.

I've never dealt with these types of connectors before, just used to regular pl 259's f, n, bnc sma style connectors so...please excuse my ignorance on the connector types and so many questions.
 

tylerwatt12

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IdleMonitor

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And that's the one that I would need to go from the HF upconverter to the dongle correct?

I couldn't find it on amazon.ca either. EBay has some, none in Canada. One in US
3" Conformable Coax 0 085" SMA Male TO MCX Florida Labs SMS BJ085 3 0 MCXMR | eBay
Or, if you can wait 2.5 weeks, you can buy the item that ships from China, which will be much cheaper. I bought mine off eBay seller rfbat and they are good quality.

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IdleMonitor

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That helps alot, thanks for the info here. So confusing with so many different ones and price ranges, and they all pretty much do the same thing.

Now with the upconverter how does it read then on the screen for HF stuff?

Example, if it's say 3.730 Mhz or 3730 Khz how would it read out in the air band with the upconversion? Does it get confusing or pretty simple to figure out?

HF Aside, I'm really interested in what stuff I can hear that I usually don't pick up so much with the scanner hooked up to the discone.

 

tylerwatt12

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That helps alot, thanks for the info here. So confusing with so many different ones and price ranges, and they all pretty much do the same thing.

Now with the upconverter how does it read then on the screen for HF stuff?

Example, if it's say 3.730 Mhz or 3730 Khz how would it read out in the air band with the upconversion? Does it get confusing or pretty simple to figure out?

HF Aside, I'm really interested in what stuff I can hear that I usually don't pick up so much with the scanner hooked up to the discone.
The program you'll use(sdrsharp) has a frequency shift feature.
Set it to -125MHz and it will look like normal. Otherwise your 0KHz will be at 125MHz.
 

IdleMonitor

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The program you'll use(sdrsharp) has a frequency shift feature.
Set it to -125MHz and it will look like normal. Otherwise your 0KHz will be at 125MHz.
Awesome. Good to know.

Other then what ya regularly listen to on the scanner what types of stuff can ya pull out from these devices. Decoding etc? P25? Mototrbo? Figuring out ltr systems? Other trunking stuff? Vhf fm radio skip?

As you can tell first time user here. I used to own a dx394 shortwave long ago and just kinda scanned around these dongle devices look like they can zero right in on some stuff ya otherwise may not catch.

Or do ya just simply scan the bands and look for whatever pops up?

What modes are good? Acars? Paging?

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tylerwatt12

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You can hook it up to DSD to decode digital voice such as P25.
UniTrunker has just been updated so it supports RTL-SDR sticks (almost)out of the box.
You can get a full RTL-SDR trunking setup, with control decode, and digital voice decode for under $100. You need 2 dongles for an optimal setup.
PDW decodes pagers
TVSharp decodes NTSC analog TV (partially), RTL-SDR's can't decode the entire NTSC signal due to bandwidth constraints.
ADS-B is what airplanes use for tracking altitude speed and location. that broadcasts on 1090MHz
Sdrsharp allows you to listen to full stereo FM with RDS data in window, I don't see why skip won't work.
Here's a couple more resources
Digital Modes Samples
software - RTLSDR
guides - RTLSDR
 

bama9999

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One more vote for the NooElec dongles. I got mine from NooElec's store on Amazon, and it works great with both SDR# and HDSDR. Beside listening to various analog transmissions, I've used it in conjunction with DSD to listen to Mototrbo. Still need to do a little tweaking on that to get it better, but can copy it like it is.

NooElec has some of the best customer service I've ever encountered as well.
 
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