Yep I gave in

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k1agh

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Yep I gave in and Im trying SDR with these two products:
NooElec Brand RTL-SDR, FM+DAB, DVB-T USB Stick Set with RTL2832U & R820T.
nooelec RTL-SDR, FM+DAB, DVB-T USB Stick Set with RTL2832U & R820T.

Anyone use these? I wanted to try them first before sinking money into something. What software can I use that everyone finds the best to test?
 

Markb

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Welcome to SDR, Tom!
The thing about the SDR side of this hobby is that it is so user-dependent, that it is hard to say "XX software is the best to use". I think the big 3 are probably SDR-Radio, SDR# or HDSDR. For RTL dongles, HDSDR is my current choice.
Just make sure you read up on the setup of these RTL dongles particularly, as there are a few items to download and install. One of the more common mistakes I've seen is people installing the drivers that come on the little CD included with the kit. Throw the disk away as soon as you receive the package!
There may be a few little bits of frustration as you get started, but ask here and we "veterans" can help get you going. I can say without a doubt that SDR has completely changed the hobby for me. Once you get the hang of the basics, there are a ton of add-ons for monitoring just about anything, with more coming online regularly.
Look here for the definitive list:

The BIG List of RTL-SDR Supported Software - rtl-sdr.com
 

Markb

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Sorry I should have been a little clearer. Did you use Zadig to install the correct drivers? Assuming you installed the drivers and all the associated software, Make sure the RF gain is turned up. Try tuning to a known strong signal, like your local NOAA weather broadcast and see if upping the gain makes a difference.

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br0adband

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If the drivers aren't installed correctly, those apps wouldn't be able to "see" the RTL stick in the first place, and the OP wouldn't get anything let alone static so... I know for a fact that SDR# won't do a damned thing without the Zadig drivers installed properly: if you attempt to choose the RTL-SDR / USB option for hardware and no drivers are installed or there's no device plugged in or recognized by Windows itself then SDR# will complain about it with a popup dialog box and then revert to using the Other (Sound card) option.

Once that's done and the stick is recognized, the easiest way to test is to use a NOAA weather signal (as Markb just mentioned) which usually resides at one of the following frequencies depending on your area:

162.400MHz
162.425MHz
162.450MHz
162.475MHz
162.500MHz
162.525MHz
162.550MHz

Narrowband FM (NFM) of course, and increase the RF gain to maybe 20.7 dB (each app is different so you'll have to figure out where to do that per app).
 

k1agh

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I used zadig and installed everything per the instructions. Im going to uninstall n reinstall and see if that helps.
 

br0adband

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Second time around - several people have had success with SDR and the associated stuff by starting over, some more than once (third time was the charm for me, as it so happens). I'm sure you'll get it figured out. ;)
 

k1agh

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Ok so I uninstalled and reinstalled SDR#. I'm on a strong NOAA weather freq but all i get is static, i tried rf gain and nothing. i hear the computer voice but very faint. I know its a strong freq as I get it on my scanner just fine. I am using the little antenna that came with the dongle so maybe thats the issue? I'm waiting for a extension cable to be sent to me so i can hook it up to my scanner antenna outside. if im hearing the computer wx voice but faintly does that mean its hook up right just need a better antenna? I did try my local pd dispatch and heard them but only with the antenna pointed towards them. Does radio shack or any place carry the adapters to hook it up to a bnc cable that goes from my scanner to the antenna? the dongle uses mcx.
 
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Markb

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Sounds like you are on the right track. Generally the antenna included in the package is junk, not to mention that it's designed for TV reception overseas. I often times use a VHF/UHF mag-mount with an SMA connector at the end which works pretty well.
I am not aware of an MCX-BNC adapter. You may need to do MCX-SMA and then SMA-BNC or something along those lines.
Not sure what Radio Shack carries these days with respect to RF adaptors. eBay may be the better option.

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br0adband

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You stated you're using the tiny 5" "barely an excuse for an antenna" antennas that come with the RTL sticks, and that's most likely the cause of what you're experiencing. If you hear anything at all then yes, the stick or sticks are working, you just need a better antenna. Overall those 5" things aren't going to work well at VHF frequencies like NOAA weather - you may find something "louder" if you move up in frequency to UHF or in the 800/900 MHz range (which is most likely).

Here's what I'd suggest and what I did myself, it's a "ghetto mod" but it held me over till my MCX to BNC pigtail arrived and I was finally able to attach a real antenna - mind you this will render one of those crappy things useless, or both, but it's reversible:

- take one of the 5" antennas and disconnect it from the RTL stick or whatever

- use your fingernail or a razor blade to very carefully raise a portion of the black "cover" on the bottom of that antenna base, it's just held on by a sticky glue and can be removed rather easily

- when you're removing it you may notice one of two things based on the fact that there's a tiny magnet in there, a button-sized one, and it'll either be 1) stuck to the black plastic cover you're pulling off, or 2) more like it'll be stuck to the inside of the circular metal insert that sits flush with the inside of the base itself

- once the black plastic cover is removed (regardless of where the magnet happens to be) you'll need to use either the corner point of a razor blade or perhaps a tiny flat blade jeweler's screwdriver - wedge that into the space between the base plastic and the circular metal insert and gently pry that metal insert completely out

- when it's out you'll see the brass metal insert (that the antenna screws into) and it'll just have a tiny dab of solder holding the center conductor in place, the ground of the coax isn't even attached to anything at all, not even that circular metal insert (not much but it could function as a ground plane to a very small degree

- either cut the wire totally at the solder point or desolder it and remove the coax from the antenna completely

Now you've got a piece of coax - as cheap as that particular very thin high loss not shielded at all coax that you can then attach to another piece of wire to make yourself an antenna proper. I did that myself when I got my first RTL stick in December, as a stopgap measure till the pigtail arrived, and basically made a very crappy homebrew wire OCFD (plenty of details about it here at the forum, just search for it, and there's an RR wiki entry about it too) - didn't even solder things, just cut the end of the coax clean, stripped back about 1/2" of it, attached a 48" piece of 18 gauge copper wire to the center conductor, then an 18" piece to the "ground" conductor.

I taped - yes, taped, with a few pieces of good old masking tape - the whole thing to a wall in my apartment and plugged it into the stick which is/was connected to a 12 foot USB extension cable (with the shielding removed, but that's another thread). You need to make sure the coax then comes off at a 90 degree angle (makes a "T" basically) since it works like part of the antenna itself. No, I didn't bother using the matching transformer and it still works, albeit not as well as a properly built OCFD according to design.

You can do this in 5 minutes or less, seriously, and it'll dramatically improve things in terms of reception over that crappy 5" nearly useless thing that came with the sticks. It's better than not being able to hear or receive most anything till the pigtail or whatever you ordered arrives.

And it's reversible: all you'd have to do is put the cable back into the base and resolder that one center conductor, but I highly doubt you'd want to do that once you realize - by using a better antenna, even a coat hanger attached to that coax - can and will be.

As far as connectors, no, Radio Shack doesn't carry anything MCX related. Lots of BNC, N, SMA, etc, but not MCX. Fry's does, however, but you don't have a Fry's in Maine. You need something like this or something similar (depending on what type of connector you want on the end for the antenna(s), of course:

http://www.amazon.com/coaxial-coax-cable-assembly-female/dp/B00CSCTB4Y/

Order two and you're good to go.

Hope this helps...
 

k1agh

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Thnxs Ill try it with one of the two antennas i got. Hopefully my pigtail i ordered gets here saturday or monday.
 

k1agh

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Ok I took the antenna apart and connected the wire to a coax cable and tape it up just to test. Hooked it all up with the bnc adapters and guess what it works. Made some adjustments and the wx freq comes in clear and loud. Gonna play around with it and see what else I get. Thnxs for your help.
 

br0adband

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"I'll be damned, it works..." - One of the most common reactions people new to SDR using these "cheap USB TV tuners" have, and I had it myself the very first time everything just worked. ;)

Congrats, and "Welcome to the party, pal..."
 

mancow

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I have a Micom-2R, Micom-2TS, FT897, FT857, and KX-3 in front of me but what do I fire up to check out HF, the damn dongle on the nooelectric upconverter. Less than $150 worth of crap that consists of an exposed circuit board on the table. It's ridiculous but it's true. Seeing almost 3 MHz of spectrum at one time with any mode and any conceivable filter bandwidth is just beyond what the whole display and dial radio can offer. I feel almost dirt admitting it.
 
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br0adband

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You need the upconverter to listen to hf sw correct?
Yes because the lower limit for these type of sticks is typically 24-25 MHz with 1700 MHz on the top end (the rare and elusive Elonics E4000 tuner can reach up to 2.4 GHz) so an upconverter is necessary for the HF activity monitoring. HamItUp is a popular converter sold by NooElec as well. I have no real interest in the HF monitoring myself, never did get into SWL stuff over the years but I'll admit that one reason was the cost of a really good SW receiver. Always loved the classic Sony ICF-2010 and similar models but they were just beyond my ability to purchase for whatever reason, let alone some even more serious piece of hardware like a dedicated AOR or Icom unit.

I may have to check out the HamItUp at some point or some other upconverter considering the cost. Can't hurt to widen my horizons I suppose - I'm not too old to learn new tricks just yet. ;)
 
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