Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

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Alex Cator
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Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by Alex Cator » 11 Sep 2016 12:32

Which is the best dongle out there for Band 2 DXing under £30? I've heard very good reviews of the ClimaxDigital DTV300 (out of production) even though I've heard that its RDS threshold is set too high, so would RDS Spy rectify that? If so, I think that the DTV330 (still in production today) would be a good purchase. I've also heard that the E4000 is a good performer on B2.

By "the best", I mean in terms of selectivity, sensitivity, RDS threshold/sensitivity, capture ratio and image rejection (remember I live about 10 miles from Tac which is a beast at 250kW). It would be nice to have LW, MW and SW too, but I care the most about having B2, B1/OIRT, B3 and the bottom of UHF.
Home: Sony ST-SB920 (modified), Sony XDR-S10HDiP, Onkyo T-4970, Ford 5000 RDS, horizontal Triax FM3
Mobile: Ford Fiesta (Style, 2013) and Ford Focus (2012) car radios
Portable: Tecsun PL-390, Grundig G5 (2 x 110kHz), Etón G8

daveB
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by daveB » 11 Sep 2016 18:40

I would suggest this one https://www.cosycave.co.uk/product.php?id_product=346 if you do go for this one you need to buy a suitable cable from them to plug the antenna in - MCX to SMA - and an SMA to F-connector adapter. I have three! The cheaper one uses a different chip and is supposedly less sensitive.

It will almost certainly go into overload if you point your beam at Talconeston, but I reckon you can point your beam at 120-130 deg East and get a sufficient drop in signal to avoid that and cover a fair amount of Europe. Or if you have to move it round further - Italy, N Africa and Spain. Sensitivity is not too different from that of the SB920 - but will be limited by the need to avoid overload.

It will be fine on OIRT/Band I Tv - use a dipole with each arm 1m long. It also works well on DAB using "DAB Player" - but needs a different driver.

The best software would have to be SDR# as you can download plug-ins to feed audio to RDSSpy for super-sensitive RDS decoding, run RDSDatalogger for scanning whilst not at the radio, record files and play them back.

The oscillator is so accurate that when DXing Band I TV you can measure the offset of the carrier to under 100 Hz and so identify weak TV carriers as to the transmitter they come from.
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, SB920s, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele compact yagi on rotator at 18ft agl. FM5 facing east, FM5 facing south, FM3 facing NE, OIRT dipole, 3-ele Moxon vertical facing east.

Alex Cator
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by Alex Cator » 11 Sep 2016 21:57

Cheers Dave. From what I heard, the E4000 is the best out of the two RTL dongles for B2 but the one you recommended (the R820T) is the best for everything else. As I am into B2 DXing more than any other type of DXing, the E4000 would be the most important for me but I'd be interested to know how good the E4000 is on OIRT/B1 and B3/DAB.

As a side note, I've tried Vlad's MPX output plugin for SDR# as I'm using SDR# to play back IQ recordings made by other DXers, but it tells me that the plugin is built in a runtime newer than the one loaded and I've got the latest version of .NET. :shock:
Home: Sony ST-SB920 (modified), Sony XDR-S10HDiP, Onkyo T-4970, Ford 5000 RDS, horizontal Triax FM3
Mobile: Ford Fiesta (Style, 2013) and Ford Focus (2012) car radios
Portable: Tecsun PL-390, Grundig G5 (2 x 110kHz), Etón G8

daveB
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by daveB » 12 Sep 2016 12:23

Hi Alex,
Firstly - R820T2 is the one to go for - not the R820T. The E4000 only goes down to 64 MHz - so is good for the OIRT Band which starts at 65.9 MHz, but will miss out on the low Band I TV channels - and not only that the TVSharp plug-in seems to be designed specifically for the R820T chip

Check this article out http://www.hamradioscience.com/rtl2832u ... 32u-e4000/

If you decide on an E4000 stick - don't hang about - the chip is no longer made. Available on ebay e.g. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/E4000-USB-DVB ... Swll1W0Rnb

The most important thing to be aware of is that the E4000 tuner chip is zero IF which means the SDR software must be able to null out the residual IF image. Someone with an E4000 based tuner will have to confirm whether the latest build of SDR# has that capability still - or has it been completely abandoned? Otherwise you will need to use HDSDR.

Whichever one you choose you will have hours of fun getting to see/hear what SDR is capable of - and it will make a good general monitoring device.

Regarding you problem with using MPXOutput with SDR# - what build of SDR# are you using? I am using build 1465 and the MPXOut dll is dated 10/10/2015. I use build 1404 for playback and it also has the MPX out version dated 10/10/15.

David
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, SB920s, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele compact yagi on rotator at 18ft agl. FM5 facing east, FM5 facing south, FM3 facing NE, OIRT dipole, 3-ele Moxon vertical facing east.

sleeper77
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by sleeper77 » 13 Sep 2016 19:43

I second the RTL-SDR with the E4000 chip. I managed to receive Estonia via E Skip a few years ago with it. Tropo is not as effective for reception when I did a comparison to my Sony tuner & as you would expect for the price there can be images + overload, but it is much better than the R820T & R820T2 versions on this part of the band. The R820T & R820T2 chips are more recommended for all other bands, the latter having better SNR results since being more recently made. I know some people may disagree with me on this but I am going by on the results I have had when comparing them on the same frequencies + stations.

daveB
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by daveB » 14 Sep 2016 13:55

Hi

The rtl-sdr.com article basically said the RTL820T had a lower sensitivity at the low end of it's range. I don't find it a problem as I use a masthead pre-amp. That may sound counter-productive but it improves s/n ratio on weak signals even though you have to back off the gain setting on the RTL-stick. The fact that you have razor sharp adjustable bandwidth makes it much easier to pull out weaker signals alongside stronger ones - and to some extent can compensate for loss of sensitivity.

The discussion is a bit academic - unless you actually buy one and try it. A bit like the scrumptious cream cake in the baker's window - it does you no good in the window! And you need to move quick to get an E4000 stick - at less than £10 it is cheaper than a Do..Jo... pizza meal.

David
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, SB920s, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele compact yagi on rotator at 18ft agl. FM5 facing east, FM5 facing south, FM3 facing NE, OIRT dipole, 3-ele Moxon vertical facing east.

Alex Cator
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by Alex Cator » 14 Sep 2016 21:44

Cheers Dave and Sleeper, I think I'll go for the E4000 if it's the best RTL dongle for B2, unless there is a way to sort out the RDS threshold on the DTV300 (maybe the DTV330 has better RDS performance). I've heard really good reviews of the 300 from John on his blog, apparently its performance is similar to the XDR!

I may also get an R820T2 for the other bands - especially if TVSharp doesn't support it.
Home: Sony ST-SB920 (modified), Sony XDR-S10HDiP, Onkyo T-4970, Ford 5000 RDS, horizontal Triax FM3
Mobile: Ford Fiesta (Style, 2013) and Ford Focus (2012) car radios
Portable: Tecsun PL-390, Grundig G5 (2 x 110kHz), Etón G8

daveB
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by daveB » 14 Sep 2016 23:56

Just spend the £8.35 for an E4000 based stick and don't worry about whether a DTV300 or DV330 will give better RDS sensitivity :D. I'd guess the limitation will be how far you can push the sensitivity before overload and absolute sensitivity won't matter too much.

The only way to decide which dongle is best is to buy one of each and do back to back comparison - but you have to start with one. I remember comparing an 820T dongle with a FC0012 dongle and the latter was more sensitive. Then I fried both when I used a 2 way splitter with dc pass on both legs and fed the 12volts preamp supply into their front-ends!

David
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, SB920s, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele compact yagi on rotator at 18ft agl. FM5 facing east, FM5 facing south, FM3 facing NE, OIRT dipole, 3-ele Moxon vertical facing east.

Alex Cator
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by Alex Cator » 02 Oct 2016 22:15

Sorry for the late reply, but how much was your E4000 stick then, Sleeper, and what did it look like? I've read that some sticks on eBay that say they're E4000-based are actually R820T-based (I'd recommend reading this article from nearly 3 years ago: http://goughlui.com/2013/10/23/rtl-sdr- ... e-elusive/). I have a feeling the one Dave recommended might actually be an R820T.

You can get guaranteed real E4000 sticks on eBay but they come from the US (e.g. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/RTL-SDR-Eloni ... SwmLlX4s3i). This one costs £19.
Home: Sony ST-SB920 (modified), Sony XDR-S10HDiP, Onkyo T-4970, Ford 5000 RDS, horizontal Triax FM3
Mobile: Ford Fiesta (Style, 2013) and Ford Focus (2012) car radios
Portable: Tecsun PL-390, Grundig G5 (2 x 110kHz), Etón G8

daveB
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Re: Best cheap dongle for Band 2 DXing (under £30)

Post by daveB » 03 Oct 2016 13:55

Tongue-in-cheek - the best cheap RTL dongle is one that is plugged into your PC and running.

The one on e-bay doesn't not meet your cost ceiling - the "£19" quoted is at an exchange rate of $1.50/GBP and you have forgotten the postage. At $1.25/GBP to factor in currency fees the total cost is around £37.00.
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, SB920s, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele compact yagi on rotator at 18ft agl. FM5 facing east, FM5 facing south, FM3 facing NE, OIRT dipole, 3-ele Moxon vertical facing east.

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