About these ads
Home > Collections, DIY, Electronics, Radio, Radios and Tubes, Uncategorized > Round-Up of RTLSDR Upconverter Choices

Round-Up of RTLSDR Upconverter Choices

September 14, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Know any more that should be on this list? Send them my way!

Updated 8/27/2014!

If you’d like your RTLSDR to be able to access very long wavelength bands, you’re going to need an upconverter. There are quite a few choices for an HF converter / up-converter are now available which use a mixer and crystal oscillator to shift incoming signals into the tuner’s frequency range. These range from pre-built boards, partially built kits, and plans depending on your skill level and interest. An assembled board or a partially assembled kit will set you back about $50-100; if you’re savvy you can probably make it for $10-20 in parts – if you don’t mind winding your own coils. Your mileage may vary.

If you have a plan, kit, or finished product you’d like to share – or if you know of one I’ve missed – send me an e-mail or leave a comment here!

1. There’s a new Ham It Up v1.2 HF upconverter for software defined radio produced by Opendous which has a large amount of documentation including layouts, and can be purchased mostly-assembled for only about $50. v1.2 makes some small improvements, including a 125MHz crystal instead of a 100MHz crystal to ensure there’s no interference from the U.S. FM Broadcast Band. It also features an input switch and an optional hardware noise source is an interesting, if possibly seldom used, feature. Ham Radio Science has a rather extensive review of the original revision and were pretty happy with it.

2. CT1FFU v5  HF converter is a brand new iteration of the long-standing design which was originally one of the first released. This model features an improved smaller PCB size, improved filtering and am improved ring mixer, and phantom power to eliminate a power cable when attached to certain compatible RTLSDR receivers. The LO is still 65.520MHz or 106.250MHz which might interfere with an FM Broadcast band in some countries, such as the U.S., but there is some filtering incorporated to eliminate that. The price is reduced to 55 Euro shipped worldwide with tracking.

3. Marty KN0CK has developed an incredible upconverter which fits inside the tuner dongle’s enclosure using all 0402 SMD parts, designed exclusively for LW, MW, Shortwave and HF amateur transmissions. Revision 5, the current version, takes this concept one step further with an even more minimal PCB and the use of a direct-sampling hardware modification. With a low-pass filter allowing reception from 500 kHz ~ 54 MHz (MW ~ 6m bands), the daughterboard PCB carries a Mini-Circuits MAR-8A RF amplifier for unprecedented weak signal reception when paired with a suitable antenna. For sale here.

4. I’ve been using CT1FFU’s v3.1 dongleGerman retailer Wimo sells completed kits, which have been in stock even when CT1FFU’s own kits have sold out. A no frills HF up-converter, mine came assembled except for the SMA connectors. It’s one of the early generation upconverters but still offers solid performance. V3.1 uses a 106.250MHz IF.

Wimo also sells the FunCube dongle, if you don’t already have an SDR.


5. JA7TDO has produced the Soft66RTL, including an RTL2383u+R820T and an HF converter with a 50MHz local oscillator frequency in what looks to be a nice, 3D-printed case capable of receiving up to 30MHz, or 50MHz and above bypassing the converter.

CIMG1242

6. JaniLab has started selling a derivative of the CT1FFU v2.0 on eBay for a bit lower of a price than some of the others. The older revisions work well, although with some more leakage than subsequent designs, and don’t have quite as fancy filtering or switching features.

Janilab actually offers several. There’s both this one with the DBM mixer, above, and another CT1FFU v2.1 derivative with an SPL mixer.

7. Janilab also sells another DBM mixer-based converter, with an antenna switch to bypass the conversion.

8. And if that wasn’t enough, they even rolled their own board and put an RTLSDR and an converter on the same PCB, with an integral antenna switch. This is incredible. Not cheap, though.

9. If you’re looking for a more rugged commercial solution, High Sierra Microwave has an upconverter (FCD-1-55-UC) with a 133MHz LO frequency and BNC terminals with an integral amplifier. I’m a fan of converters whose LO frequency shifts the entire HF range above the FM broadcast band in general and the shielded enclosure will definitely cut down on noise. Looks like it’s suitable for mounting outside at your antenna’s feed point, and it also looks like you’re going to pay for those features. I’d love to evaluate one of these if I could get my hands on one.

10. W9RAN developed a RANverter kit which was featured in the January 2013 issue of QST magazine, using a 125MHz local oscillator. It’s gotten a lot of great buzz on the Internet and offers good performance and even a little bit of conversion gain through the mixer. Unfortunately, he appears to no longer be offering it for sale. I did manage to get a set of boards and will be offering the W9RAN precision converter through Easy-Kits.com eventually.

11. If you’re comfortable speaking  Dutch, or just with Google Translate, you can buy the Kit RF Converter for RTL SDR Sticks DC – 65 MHz. Unlike most other models, this one HF up-converter takes a BNC 50 Ohm antenna input and has an SMA 50 Ohm output with a 100 MHz oscillator frequency and built-in protection. This one also looks like a great starter kit with through-hole components and large coils and looks easy to build. You can also purchase the completed assembled kit in an enclosure, which also includes a power cable and SMA-MCX adapter cable. Looks interesting.

12. Kalle over at DGK Electronics has a great looking compact 100MHz HF converter designed to fit inside of a pre-made RF shielding box. It uses the ADE-1 mixer and an ASEM oscillator. It has some of the most complex filters and great filtering on the incoming power line, it probably performs very well. He describes the filters on his page, and there’s also a full schematic available. There’s a photo of a pile of boards, and he says there’s still some available, one might be left! DGK Electronics

13. David Forsman, WA7JHZ, sent me a photo and plans of his 125MHz HF up-converter with a diode limiter, attenuator, and amplifier all in one from plans featured in Jan ’13 QST magazine. Click through there to the article for a schematic and explanation for more details and a full schematic. Thanks, David!

14. Matt Dawson GW0VNR has a very interesting HF converter using more discrete parts than some of the other ones I’ve seen. It uses hand-wound transformers, an actual discrete diode mixer, and a Saronix oscillator running at 106.25 MHz. It uses a total of 23 parts and looks like it would be pretty easy to build. He doesn’t have any photos of the completed board, but does have a full schematic, overlay, transfer mask and Gerber files for the PCB. I’m pretty sure I have all the parts to build this one in my box as well. It looks interesting and simple. Check it out.

15. Radio amateur Paulino Sato has posted schematics and specifications for using the TA7358AP FM Front-End as an HF up-converter you can build yourself, using small coils wound on your own forms. It’s a bit of a commitment, but only has about 40 parts. The instructions are in PDF format. Download from me directly or the original is available on DropBox. The PDF contains PCB masks and silk screen layouts and a full schematic.


16. Over in the UK at the George Smart Wiki, we see homebrew plans by M1GEO using hand-wound coils with an SBL-1 mixer and 100MHz crystal oscillator. It has around 20 parts to assemble. These coils look like they could be hand wound on a dowel coil form, and the crystal and mixer are very large parts, so you could probably build this on perfboard without any trouble.

17. Bryce Salmi KB1LQC built a very rugged-looking clone of George Smart’s above with some modfiications dead bug style.

18. Romanian amateur Alexandru YO2LDK built a simple HF upconverter circuit using an NE602. This has an amplifier, limiter, regulated supply and 100MHz frequency like several of the ones pictured, but the circuit itself looks quite different. The amplifier stage is ahead of the limiter, which looks like this one is offering a constant gain versus the adjustable gain some of the others have offered. It looks like this one has more tunable components, which means a little more work to dial it in. I didn’t see any photos of the completed product.

19. Nick G0CWA built an interesting switchable upconverter design, complete with instructions and board layout PDFs.

20. Japanese amateur JA2GQP build a rather minimalist upconverter with only a 19 components offering a +50MHz frequency shift. He’s included a schematic and PCB mask for you to build your own very easily!

21. Cycle 24 Kits has a Multiband Converter available which uses a very small assortment of components and five switchable band-pass filters for 40/20/17/15/13 or 80/49/40/20/15/10 meters. Looks like a simple, no-frills kit that should be very easy to assemble!

cycle24kits converter

22. German amateur radio club Ortsverband Husum M04 has an SDR-Konverter with a very nice looking enclosure designed around the familiar NE602 mixer. The page is in German, but it looks like a quality product!

sdr-converter

23. From the comments, I’ve learned about the SV1AFN Design Lab’s DC-55MHz upconverter for an RTL-SDR receiver. It features selectable bypass, selectable LNA featuring about 20 dB of gain from parallel Mini-Circuits Gali-74+ amplifiers, and a design with excellent filtration on the input and local oscillators to reduce harmonics and interference, it should be a very good performing upconverter-amplifier. It’s a kit with SMD parts pre-soldered; you wind a few transformers and connectors or you can purchase it assembled.

sv1afn

With these choices, there are plenty of options for getting HF signals into the VHF ranges for use with the RTLSDR. It’s not difficult to modify these plans for even higher fidelity and accuracy, such as by increasing filtering on the power lines, building a shielded enclosure, improved antenna systems, and more.

I’ve been using my v3.1 Converter from Wimo for a few months, and have been very happy with its performance so far – there’s little noise and leakage, and I use it to pull in shortwave broadcasts from all over the world including the BBC, China, Cuba, Japan, Russia and more from my home in Seattle with only an 80″ long wire and a string of adapters – I highly recommend that model, or any of the models in this family, for great performance. I’m looking forward to trying out some of these other ones.

If you have a design you’d like to see featured here, let me know!

Edit 12/1/2013: Added JA2GQP’s minimalist SDR upconverter.

Edit 10/29/2012: NooElec offers “Ham It Up v1.0″ upconverter which looks to be based on a different design, and seems very high quality. Check it out! 

Edit 2/2/2013: Better info about the Opendous Upconverter, KB1LQC’s DIY Upconverter, and WA7JHZ’s upconverter.

Edit 2/3/2013:Added 9A4QV HF Upconverter SDR UP-100, G0CWA 2012 upconverter, YO2LDK upconverter.

Edit 2/13/2013: Added Vandijken Elektronica upconverter and W9RAN RANVerter 2.0.

Edit 2/19/2013: Added KN0CK SMD HF Upconverter

Edit 2/25/2013: Added Matt GW0VNR’s Upconverter and the DGK Electronics HF Converter.

Edit 4/13/2013: Added JaniLab converters, High Sierra Microwave converter.

Edit 4/25/2013: Informed 9A4QV Out of Stock – Thanks Adam!

Edit 5/14/2013: Ham It Up v1.0 > v1.2, Now Ships with 125MHz Crystal

Edit 8/13/2013: CT1FFU v5 replaces CT1FFU v3.1, and some copy-editing!

Edit 9/2/2013: Updated to reflect availability of some items.

Edit 10/21/2013: Added Soft66RTL

Edit 1/28/2014: Added KN0CK Rev 5; more updates coming soon!

Edit 2/22/2014: Added Cycle 24 Kits and DARC-Husum SDR-Upkonverter and SV1AFN

About these ads
  1. July 28, 2014 at 5:38 am

    The Cross Country Wireless HF Upconverter is reviewed in this month’s (August 2014) issue of Radio User magazine. A four page article covers the theory, operation and results of the Upconverter. Web page for the CCW HF Upconverter is:

    http://www.crosscountrywireless.net/upconverter.html

    • jwk
      July 28, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Fantastic – thanks for the link, I’ll get the page updated shortly!

  2. April 5, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Thank you JOSEPH for link to my blog page,
    here is another very good performance Up Converter:

    http://yo2ldk.blogspot.ro/2014/02/hf-upconverter-lna-for-rtl2832-r820t.html

    best 73 !

  3. March 1, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Hi, can you add my designs on the list pls ? I’ve now been working on version 3.

    http://home.scarlet.be/on1bes/sdr_up_converter2.html

  4. Cyk
    February 22, 2014 at 5:38 am

    http://www.darc-husum.de/sdr-konverter.html

    It’s a german website, but google should help. Documentation including schamatic and PCB is free for download.

  5. Dave WB0GAZ
    February 20, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Add this option: http://cycle24kits.com/converter/index.html

    Although designed originally to upconvert 40, 20, 17, 15 to 11M to allow use of reclaimed CB radio, I use it with R820T (24 MHz capable) version of the RTLSDR receiver. About USD 25. Took about an hour to build the kit (no toroids), ran on the first try. With simple bandpass filters per band, the setup is well behaved with my various wire antennas.

  6. K2TL Jim Matis
    January 27, 2014 at 9:48 am

    whoops, bad link..sorry

    https://www.sv1afn.com/upcnv.html

  7. Jim Matis
    January 27, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I recently purchased the SV1AFN upconverter:

    https://www.sv1afn.com/upcnv.htmlr

    I think it is amazing, especially in comparison to the W9RAN RANverter. Not that the RANverter is bad, being so simple and inexpensive to build. But the SV1AFN is quite impressive! You might want to take a look.

  8. January 24, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Hi! I will release new design Soft66RTL2. This new version is expanded lower frequency and has 3.5mm antenna Jack for SWL users. internal dongle is connected by MCX connector. so you can replace it freely.

  9. January 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    We have just released the first batch of our new HF Upconverter. This has an isolation transformer and RF over-power protection to protect the RTLSDR dongle and PC from electrostatic charges on the antenna and nearby high power transmitters.

    http://www.crosscountrywireless.net/upconverter.html

  10. January 14, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Small gadget for the guys using direct sampling or the upconverters without the pre-mixer amplifier:

    http://lna4hf.blogspot.com/

  11. October 21, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Hello, I released Soft66RTL. Soft66RTL is including RTL2832u+R820T with upconverter. it is very cheap.only $58 including international shipping fee. please visit my site.

  12. May 31, 2013 at 1:10 am

    @Gerry, huh, I try with lot of efforts to make ZMSDR as kit or pre-assembled module but I have lot of problems to get appropriate components in my country :( Also PayPal system is not fully active (can’t get payments). So, right now until something is changed I can only share schematics and advisees regarding those techniques. For translation use Google, it translate text quite well.
    73 de YU3MA

  13. jwk
    May 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks YU3MA for the info! You’re right, there are a lot of options out there for hobbyists who want to spend a little more or do a bit more work. Not everyone is up for (or even physically capable of!) soldering 0402 SMD by hand, though! 73 KF7LZE

  14. May 27, 2013 at 4:23 am

    Hi to all, just few comment regarding those upconverters. If you want really good reception on HF band, don’t use upconvertes with RTLSDR but instead direct mod with transformer as explained on my blog. That solution will improve noise figure compared to any other solutions as it don’t have any active components. For ‘serious’ HF reception, try some SoftRock SDR receivers (like my ZMSDR) which have about 110dB dynamic range when properly constructed so you will be able to receive very weak DX signals as noise floor is much lower than RTLSDR’s ;) Also, you don’t need any preamplifiers in such case, only (optional) passive band-pass filters.

    73 de YU3MA

    • May 29, 2013 at 3:32 am

      i will try this mod it seems like the best approach. is there an english version of the yu3ma information? can i buy a zmsdr assembled anywhere? will the zmsdr or modified dongle work with the new v2 sdr-radio software by Simon Brown? The sdr-radio i believe is the best pc program and Simon is committed to it like he was with HRD.
      GREAT CONTRIBUTION TO THE RADIO ART
      THANKYOU YU3MA
      Gerry KC8ZUL

  15. anon HAM
    May 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Watch this pse.. based from an original idea of YU3MA

    http://hamradio.selfip.com/i6ibe/rtl2832hf/dongle.htm

    http://yu3ma.net/wp/?p=370

  16. jwk
    May 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    It’s true, quite a few use a 100Mz converter. KN0CK’s converter, fortunately, uses a 120MHz frequency so it won’t suffer those issues. The 100MHz variants seem to be phased out as designers realize how much better a higher frequency can perform. Thanks for your note!

  17. Txema Araluze - EA2AFR
    May 16, 2013 at 3:07 am

    HI guys !
    Already got a Ham It Up v1.2 HF upconverter bought at NooElec Inc. and must say that it’s a very nice piece of hardware. I works as expected and covers all my needs brighty.
    This 1.2 ver. adds a very interesting feature (my profane opinion…). A new crystal 125 mHz instead the 100 mHz one on the first version wich prevents interference from the FM broadcast stations and assure a better and clear reception of HF bands.
    I’m deeply sorry I can’t say the same concening to other unit advertised here (intentionally name ommited).

    73 de Txema – EA2AFR

  18. May 3, 2013 at 6:48 am

    great work marty thanks for the website data on rtl stuff. i put a link into the rtlsdr yahoo group showing one packaging option and a quick cookbook for software setup. you might link to it if you find it usefull

  19. February 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Hi
    Firstly thanks for including my design in your pages just thought you might like to know I have another design on

    http://makearadio.com/visitors/index-nick.php

    This is another complete unit that can fit into a 3.5inch drive bay or be a self supporting external SDR. The design is modular and includes pre-amps, psu’s filters etc. my SDR MK2 and other radio projects, the 9600 converter will also work with the dongles as well.

    You can download full plans for most of my radio projects

    Hope this is of interest happy building Nick (G0CWA)

  20. February 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Hi!…I have a HF Upconverter board design that fits INSIDE the EZCap (E4000) dongle and works GREAT…! All SMT parts… Let me know if you want a picture because I’ll be glad to send one

  1. August 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm
  2. February 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm
  3. January 18, 2014 at 11:58 pm
  4. September 4, 2013 at 3:46 am
  5. April 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm
  6. February 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers

%d bloggers like this: