Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RTL-SDR: a really cheap, wideband SDR

One of the latest buzzs in the SDR world is the RTL-SDR Project.

The idea is to use the cheap (they used to be below US$11 and now start at US$20) Digital TV (DVB-T) receivers, which are intended to be used with PCs and have a USB interface.

 These are the innards of one of these units:



The compatibility list is expanding and, currently, accessible here:

http://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR/comments/s6ddo/rtlsdr_compatibility_list_v2_work_in_progress/

What you get is a 64 to 1700MHz (*) receiver, with an amazing sample rate of 3.2MS/s (compare it to your soundcard!), a resolution of 8 bits/sample (not that great but enough for lots of purposes). And the best: software support for GNU Radio, Winrad, HDSDR, ... So far, there are decoders implemented for AM/FM, GSM, P25, ADS-B, TETRA, GMR, GPS, etc.


(*) (sometimes even more; there are some gaps at 1.2GHz or so) 

You can check the latest news about this project here:

http://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR/

It seems that all started here:

http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr

The way to integrate these receivers with a common SDR program, as Winrad, HDSDR, WRplus or other Winrad derivatives, is by using an external DLL, which can be found here:

http://wiki.spench.net/wiki/ExtIO_USRP


There are already plenty of YouTube videos showing how they work. It is still a work in progress so don't expect to get them going withouth glitches but, at that price, it is worth the work :-)

I have got a couple units to experiment. I will publish here my results as soon as I get them working. This is what I got for less than US$11. The small box is the receiver!




Best regards and good luck with your SDR experiments!

JOSE

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