SDR is the new "buzzword" in Amateur Radio. When I visited Friedrichshafen in 2011,there were an astounding number of new SDR units on display. I enjoyed quite a lengthy chat with several of the exhibitors, and it became apparent that there were lots of new developments in the pipeline... but that the REAL improvements were a few years away still! One major developer told me that it would be another 4 years before SDR was ready for the Mainstream...

Fast Forward to 2016 : SDR has become the "BIG THING" in Amateur Radio. Companies like Flex and Perseus are big names now, and even the new Icom 7300 boasts SDR features. Even the guys that cannot afford the big SDR offerings (like me) haven't been left out either - there are some incredibly sensitive SDR receivers available, and some clever guys have worked out ways to connect these receivers to their transceivers to work as Panadapters and Second Receivers, taking their modest radios and making them the equivalent of a big, expensive traditional transceiver. 

Another huge breakthrough was the discovery of Realtek 2832 Tuners being useable as SDR receivers for Amateur Radio. In 2010 Eric Fry began fiddling with USB data dumps from one of these RTL2832U dongles whilst trying to write a Linux Driver, and in 2012 his Linux Driver and some independent work by Osmocom collided and the RTL-SDR explosion hit the market. See the story here.


My first SDR Unit was bought from Giga Technology in Gauteng in August 2016. The planned purpose for this unit was to connect as a Panadapter and 2nd Receiver for my Kenwood TS-590S Transceiver. Andre ZS2ACP did the necessary modification to my Kenwood (as described by the Crystal Radio Group from Birmingham, Alabama), and I set up the necessary Virtual Cable via my MicroHam MicroKeyer II and the secondary CAT port provided by DXLab's Commander software as explained in the DXLab Wiki. I coupled up the SDR, loaded HDSDR Software and followed W4TV's Tutorial on Configuring HDSDR and CW Skimmer with DXLab (just left out CW Skimmer for now!). Switched the transceiver on, and within seconds the SDRPlay was tracking the radio.... amazing stuff!!
As my use of FT8 under JTDX grew, I found the SDR software putting considerable load on my (ageing) i5 PC, so a different approach was needed.... I set up a Windows 10 Mini PC on my network, with a 23" monitor attached to it. Using the USB connection of my Kenwood TS-590S (the MicroKeyer utilises the COM port of the radio) into the Mini PC, along with the SDRPlay, I now have HDSDR (via Commander and OmniRig) following the Kenwood via USB whilst the main PC controls the radio via the COM port. I still have full Panadapter features in this configuration, but without the extra load on the PC!

SDR#2 : Cross Country Wireless SDR-4+ HF SDR Receiver
This unit was obtained from a Deceased Estate in September 2016. It covers up to 74MHz only. This has been set up as an HF receiver under HDSDR on my Windows 7 PC.

SDR#3 :  RTL2832U R820T2 DVB-0T USB Digital TV Dongle (25-1766 MHz)
This unit was purchased from Giga Technology in October 2016, initially for the specific purpose of setting up an AIS monitoring station, and is connected to a 162MHz antenna mounted on the main tower. When I changed over to the MarineTraffic system this unit was repurposed as a NOAA Weather Satellite receiver, utilising a combination of SDR#, Orbitron and WXToImg software to receive the latest NOAA images and upload them directly to my website.  This unit runs on my secondary Windows 7 PC.

SDR#4 :  RTL2832U R820T2 DVB-0T USB Digital TV Dongle (25-1766 MHz)
This unit was purchased from Giga Technology in 2018, and is currently a spare receiver.

There are new applications being devised for the  RTL2832U Dongle all the time - further info can be found at  http://www.rtl-sdr.com

AIS Ship Tracking running on a Windows 7 PC via an RTL2832U Dongle