SDR: Ham It Up!

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I want to bring your attention to the Ham It up v2.1 a high-quality RF (MF, HF) converter for Software Defined Radio (SDR) devices like the RTL-SDR DVB units and the Funcube dongle.  I personally believe its the best SDR upconverter currently available.  They’ve  even added a noise source circuit; However, you need to source a few extra components to complete the circuit.

Why use an up-convertor?

The RTL2383 + Elonics E4000-based DVB-T tuner using a modified driver, is getting to be very popular among amateur radio enthusiasts because it’s cheap and highly versatile to allow you to receive on a very wide frequency range. Unfortunately, the chip has some limitations – that wide range only goes from about 50-2200MHz with most in the 64-1700MHz range. That’s well above the HF bands where many ham radio operators and shortwave or AM stations are found.

Using the Ham It Up

The operation is quite simple:

  • Connect your antenna to the RF input ( I use: http://www.maplin.co.uk/sky-scan-mobile-scannerantenna-29733)
  • if using the above antenna you’ll need a RPmaleBNC-2-SMAmale adapter (I use: http://www.maplin.co.uk/sma-plug-to-bnc-socketadaptor-32015)
  • Connect your SDR to the IF output
  • you’ll probably need a SMA male-2-male depending on your SDR connector (I needed: http://www.wifi-antennas.co.uk/pigtails-and-adaptors/sma-male-to-sma-male-adaptor.html)
  • Ensure your toggle switch is in the enable position
  • Plug your USB power source into the USB-B USB jack
  • Fire up your favorite SDR software.  Tune to 125MHz + (+/- the tuning offset from the tuning procedure) + your desired frequency and enjoy!

Their website even has the necessary tools for Windows packaged up in one easy installer SDR# download.

How it works?

The Up-converter board basically converts HF signals to the FM band (specifically 100.5 MHz to 150 MHz) allowing your RTL2832U to tune in the HF signals. When used in conduction with SDR Sharp or HDSDR you are able to receive HF signals in AM, USB, LSB, CW, and other modes. HDSDR gives you roughly the same functions found on most better HF receivers like noise blanking, automatic gain control, variable filters widths, etc.  I purchased the Ham it Up HF converter for testing from NooElec and it arrived very quickly.

Basically the Ham It Up converter is a very small board with a female SMA connector on either end. There is also a bypass switch, which is a nice edition which allows you to switch the converter out of the antenna path. You can go back to using your dongle in the FM/VHF/UHF  modes without having to disconnect the converter. Power is provided by a +5V source such as a usb phone charger. You will need one with a Micro-B/Type-B (depending on manufactured unit) USB connector on the end that plugs into the converter.

Alternative Up-convertors

For alternative up-convertors, please refer to http://www.rtl-sdr.com/tag/upconverter/

Some popular alternatives: