Sunday
Jul292012

Improving RTLSDR reception

Yes, a better antenna would help...

Serveral years ago, I bought a Motorola broadband signal booster (part #484095-001-00) to solve a weak signal problem with my cable TV reception. The problem subsequently having been resolved, the signal booster sat in a closet. Today I decided to try it between the rabbit ear antenna I am using  and the RTLSDR dongle. The results were quite dramatic. The manufacturer claims a 15 db gain between 52 and 1001 Mhz, and I can concur that I am seeing every bit of those results. Weak stations are coming in much stronger, and I am discovering new stations that were non existent before. Strong stations are now all at -10 db. Definetely worth the price ($35 at Best Buy), as this is a rugged device meant for outdoor installation. A cheaper alternative might be an indoor model, such this RCA 10 db amplifier ($15). And I am quite keen to try this Winegard HDA-200, which claims a 24 db gain.

For the uninitiated, a 15 db gain is a 32 fold increase in signal strength (10 raised to the power of 15/10), while a 24 db gain is a 251 fold increase in signal strength (10 raised to the power of 24/10).  I will advise how it goes, and yes, I have another dongle still in the package if I blow this one out with too much signal!

By the way, with all this weight hanging off the RTLSDR dongle, it would be wise to get a USB hub with a fairly long cable, so that the dongle can lay flat on a surface rather than struggle to stay attached to a PC or laptop USB port. If you have ever opened one up, you have seen it would not take much for the USB connector to break off the circuit board.

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Reader Comments (2)

I would like to see a spectrum sweep-and-log capability. Besides scanning already known frequencies, this would be useful for sniffing out previously unknown frequencies and rarely-used transmitters.

Useful parameters to log would be mode, frequency, date, time, and duration. Settings might include whether or not to log previously logged frequencies, skipping frequencies in the known frequency database, linger time on a "hit" channel, and squelch level.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave NF2G

@Dave, good idea. I am waiting for the forthcoming plugin system, these things that may not appeal to everyone are ideal as plugins.

August 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterAbed Tony BenBrahim

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