[amsat-bb] Best SDR for satellite reception

Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK) amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Sun Aug 13 21:56:04 UTC 2017

Hi Norm!

The best answer to the question is probably "it depends",
as there are many SDR devices that do well for different

> Best SDR? Nooelec. The one in the aluminum box works best related to
> cost. Only downfall of the cheapie RTL's is that they drift with
> temperature. The aluminum box handles EMI/temperature swings well
> without a big investment.

​The cheapie Nooelec (or any of the RTL) dongles are the
best? Huh? Disagree. For receive-only situations, they can
do the job much of the time, but for some situations they
leave a lot to be desired. If price is the only concern, then
they would be the best - as in cheapest - SDR device.​

> Funcube dongles are pricy due to VAT. Nice, but not $200 worth of
> improvement, compared to the Nooelec.
​No VAT is assessed when those dongles are sold outside the
UK and European Union. You have to deal with currency
exchange rates as they ​are priced in pound sterling. Shipping
isn't horrible, as FCDs sent to the USA go via FedEx next-day
air service that is surprisingly inexpensive. For some
purposes, like being able to use the FoxTelem and FUNcube
Dashboard programs without needing to deal with virtual audio
cables etc. the FCD is a better option than a Nooelec dongle.

Another thing that the Nooelec (RTL) dongles lack is front-end
filtering. This was apparent to me when I tried using one as a
downlink receiver for SSB satellites, transmitting at no more
than 5 watts from an FT-817. The 817 would overload the Nooelec
dongles, and would not work properly until I stopped transmitting.
For working amateur satellites when I want to use an SDR receiver
on the downlink, I go with an FCD Pro+ or either version of the
SDRplay RSP receivers. All of these have front-end filtering that
can keep my 817s from interfering with hearing the downlinks. I
take care to never transmit on the band I'm receiving on with these
SDR receivers, and go through a 2m/70cm diplexer since my two-
radio setup connects to an Elk log periodic. I have used this at
home and on the road, working SSB satellites as well as copying
AO-85's downlink with both FM voice and data.

In terms of costs, the SDRplay RSP1 probably splits the difference
between the price of the Nooelec dongles and the FCD Pro+, available
from HRO in the US currently for $99.95. IMO it does a decent job. Not
the best SDR device on the market overall, but it is a viable option
for use with amateur satellites, and probably other satellites.
The SDRplay RSP2 comes in two versions - the Pro version comes in a
steel case for $192.95, and the non-pro RSP2 is in a plastic case
with a lining sprayed on the inside of the case for $169.95.


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