SDR: Software Defined Radio
Updated: Feb 24
When it comes to radio, I'm not a big fan of digital. But if China is good at one thing its pumping out seriously cool technological shit extremely cheap. For a grande total of $34.95 (with Amazon prime shipping) this USB dongle, cables and set of 4 telescoping antennas transforms your laptop (after a semi-complicated free software installation) into a multi-band radio receiver with full visual waterfall and tons of... well... cool shit.
I'm pretty impressed. Watch this video run-down from Josh (KI6NAZ- Ham Radio Crash Course on youtube which is a pretty decent channel for all things Ham radio btw).
It took me about 1 hour to get the equipment and software set up and, as a first test, basically engage in THE most complicated method imaginable of listening to NPR.
Equipment is set up for VHF/UHF out of the box but can be modified with appropriate antennas and modifications to receive HF, as well as multiple layers of additional crazy shit that I doubt I will ever bother with.
I ran the SDR setup on solar-supplemented 12V for over two hours, and although it was abit of a power-hog, it does seem feasible as an offgrid/emergency information monitoring system that could be combined with higher-quality frequency-specific antennas to create a decent layer of (RX-only) broad spectrum radio access. For $34.95 its hard for me to imagine NOT at least trying it out. It also provided a glimpse at what a higher-end HF radio setup with waterfall might look like. I am currently licensed within the amateur radio Technician class, and studying for my General license which will open up HF band allocations that I cannot currently legally transmit on, so I found this affordable opportunity to be quite exciting and educational along the path.