You’re looking for a Software Defined Radio (SDR) but there are so many options! How do you pick which one is right for you?
Take a look at the table below, you’ll find a list of various SDR platforms with some details on what you can do with them and why they may or may not be the right option for your needs.

Each SDR is going to have differences in both hardware and supported software. In the world of SDR you need to have both so take a close look and choose wisely.

SDR Freq Range Bias Sample Rate Sample Depth Interface TCXO Price
(roughly)
 
RTL-SDR v3

500KHz-24MHz
(Direct Sampling)

24MHz-1766MHz

4.5v

2.4msps (stable)

3.2msps (max)

8-bits USB 2.0 0.5-1PPM $21.95USD

eBay Special
24MHz-1766MHz NO 3.2msps 8-bits USB 2.0 NO $5-15USB

Airspy
24MHz-1700MHz 4.5v 10msps
(8msps visual)
12-bits to 16-bits USB 2.0 0.5PPM $169USD

Airpsy Mini
24MHz-1700MHz 4.5v 20msps
(6msps visual)
12-bits USB 2.0 0.5PPM $99

Airspy HF
0.5KHz-31MHz
60MHZ-260MHz
NO 768ksps 12-bits USB 2.0 0.5PPM $199

SDRPlay
1KHz-2000MHz 4.5v 10msps 8-bits USB 2.0 0.5PPM $169

Nooelec Smart
25MHz-1750MHz NO 3.2msps (max) 8-bits USB 2.0 0.5PPM $23.95

Nooelec Smartee
25MHz-1750MHz 4.5v
Always On!
3.2msps (max) 8-bits USB 2.0 0.5PPM $25.95
SDR Freq Range Bias Sample Rate Sample Depth Interface Power Out Price
(roughly)


HackRF

10MHz-6GHz 4.5v 20msps 8-bits USB 2.0 10dbm $300

This tap is work in progress

This tap is work in progress

This tap is work in progress

Below you’ll find details about some of the terms you might find in these tables to help you better understand your options.

 

  • Bias
    • Also known as a bias-t or bias tee this is voltage sent over the antenna cable in order to power an LNA or other device at the end of the coax/feedline (antenna wire).
  • LNA
    • Low Noise Amplifier, these are used to increase the gain (input signal level) into your SDR, you’ll need to power it and a bias tee is a great way to do so.
  • Half-Duplex
    • A transmit capable radio that cannot receive at the same time.
    • Often unable to swtich from TX/RX fast enough to use as a transciever.
  • Full-Duplex
    • A transmit capable radio that can also¬†receive at the same time.
    • Great for experimenting with things such as:
      • SDR based repeaters
      • OpenBTS (cellular sites)
      • Relaying information
      • and much more!
  • Sample Rate
    • The number of samples at which the SDR can bring data into the pc.
    • The amount of frequency bandwidth you see may be affected by your USB speed, software and other factors.
  • Sample Depth
    • How many bits the ADC (analog to digital converter) is capable of processing.
    • Just because you have a higher depth doesn’t mean you can see more at once.
  • TCXO
    • Temperature compensted ocillator, essentially a small component or ‘clock’ that does not easily drift with a change in temperature.
    • Important if you want accuracy.
  • PPM
    • Parts Per Million, essentially this is have far off frequency your SDR might drift.
    • You want less than 1 if you can
  • Frequency Range
    • The tunable range of frequencies you can receieve with the SDR
      • KHz | You’ll find HF / Shortwave radio here
      • MHz | This is VHF through UHF
        • Low orbiting satellites
        • Public safety
        • Telemetry
        • other Interesting Signals
      • GHz | This is microwave stuff
        • WiFi
        • Cordless Phones
        • Inmarsat and Iridium Satcom
        • GOES – NOAA Satellite
        • and much more!

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