If you want to go to the next level with software-defined radio (SDR), there are many options to choose from. The RTL-SDR switches are fine, but if you’re serious, you’ll probably want something else. How do you choose? Well, your friends in European Space Agency The Libre Space Foundation has published a report comparison of very common options. It’s true that they mostly look at how the receivers work with CubeSats, but it’s still a good comparison.
The devices they test are:
- RTS-SDR v3
- Airspy Mini
- SDRPlay RSPduo
- LimeSDR Mini
- BladeRF 2.0 Micro
- Ettus USRP B210
- Pluto SDR
They looked at a few bands of interest, but not HF bands – not surprising, considering that some of the devices can’t even run on HF. They tested VHF, UHF, L band, S band and C band. Some of the SDRs have transmission capabilities and for these devices tested the transmission function as well as receive.
The review is not only subjective. They calculate noise and dynamic range figures, along with other technical parameters. They also include GNURadio flow charts for their test settings, which would be a great place to start if you want to do these types of measurements yourself.
Towards the end of the 134-page report, an assessment of the SDR software and how the boards are maintained was made. We will allow you to read the conclusions of the article, but there was no clear winner or loser, although they mentioned how limited SDRPlay software support in some applications.
Even if the report contains a recommendation, you will need to soften their advice with your own needs. For example, if you want to work with high frequencies, you will need a converter for many of these boards, but not all. Everyone’s needs are a little different.
It’s wonderful to see Libre Space Foundation thriving. After the SatNOGs project won the original Hakkadai Award back in 2014., they used the profits to form the Libre Space Foundation as a non-profit organization with a focus on mwidely available open source space technology. This is a great continuation of this mission!