Alleviating Boredom…

As I’ve stated before, I am an Amateur Radio Operator as well as a Shortwave Radio Listener. In short…I’m a nerd! For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the airwaves and what I could pick up on a radio.

Tecsun PL-880

You can still use traditional shortwave radios to listen to the bands or you can use software defined radios. SDR’s are basically black boxes with circuitry that are connected to a computer. The software on the computer is what demodulates the RF signals into audio. The graphical user interface simulates a radio. Pretty cool technology!

Airspy Dual and the RTL-SDR dongle.
Airspy HF+ Discovery and the RSPduo.
Nooelec SDR SMArt dongle.

The RTL-SDR dongle and the Nooelec SDR SMArt dongle each cost $30.00 USD and are 8-bit ADC processors. Frequency coverage is 24MHz-1.8GHz. The Airspy HF+ Discovery is an 18bit ADC processor and run $169.00 USD. Frequency range is 0.5kHz-31Mhz and 60MHz-260Mhz. The SDRplay RSPduo ($249.00 USD) is a 14-bit ADC dual tuner SDR with a frequency range of 1kHz-2GHz.

Connecting these SDR’s to a laptop or desktop and running the software creates a much different radio listening experience. With this method, listening to radio signals is on a different level since it is visual as well as aural.

Chuwi HI10X Tablet running Airspy SDR# software to decode signals. SDR used is the Airspy HF+ Discovery.
Lenovo Yoga 730 running SDRuno software connected to the SDRplay RSPduo dual tuner.

In amateur radio parlance, I can cover all frequencies from DC to daylight. An exaggeration to be sure, but frequency coverage is impressive. Much wider coverage than a standard amateur radio. Each of these SDR’s are useful for different purposes. Some are primarily focused on HF frequencies (0.5kHz-30MHz) where others are wideband and are useful for scanning VHF or UHF frequencies as well as the FM band.

Antennas are the most important part of this system. Currently I am using passive loop antennas (Airspy Youloop $35.00 USD) active antennas (mini whip and Bonito Meg Aktiv MA-305) a long wire antenna and a Loop on Ground antenna.

I built the Loop on Ground antenna as an experiment but have been very impressed with its performance. I wound a FairRite #2873000202 binocular core transformer with 28AWG Kinar wire to create a 9:1 transformer.

9:1 transformer wound with 6 turns and 2 turns.
Box houses the 9:1 transformer, connectors for wire and an F-connector for feedline.

Since these are receive ONLY antennas, it is acceptable to use CATV RG-6 coax cable. My Loop on Ground antenna has 60 feet of wire to form a loop. Total cost for this antenna was $12.39 USD. Results were spectacular. My signal-to-noise ratio was greatly improved. Background noise was drastically reduced which makes listening much easier on the ears without a bunch of static.

SNR was averaging 50dB’s which is really good for my location.

When it is cold outside and I can’t go fishing, I tend to sit at my desk and surf the airwaves just to see what’s out there. There are still a lot of programs on the shortwave bands believe it or not. You can decode weather faxes as a way to get weather information without any network connections. Listen to AM and FM, NOAA weather radio etc etc.

All of the software I use is FREE. Zero cost. And there is software for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android. In the main picture you can see my mini-Windows 10 desktop and 34″ monitor running both SDRuno software and the Airspy SDR# software at the same time. You have lots of options!

Anyway, I thought I would share a different hobby that I have besides fishing. Stay warm out there…