January 26, 2018

WSPR monitoring and the SDRPlay RSP1A 1 kHz - 2 GHz SDR-receiver

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The SDRPlay RSP1A "DC to Daylight" SDR receiver

The downside of the popularity of stand alone WSPR transmitters like for instance the QRP Labs U3S and the Sotabeams WSPRlite is that more and more hams in the field of WSPR have become transmit-only stations and do little WSPR monitoring or none at all. On the other hand though, if it wasn't for these neat little stand alone WSPR transmitters many radio amateurs would probably never have been active in WSPR at all. I'm one of them; it was my beloved U3S that has made a keen and active WSPR operator out of me.

But we all depend on eachother; without WSPR monitoring stations there's no use in transmitting WSPR beacons, and without transmitting stations there's no use in monitoring. It occurred to me that if you're an active user of a U3S or a WSPRlite, and you're enjoying seeing your WSPR beacons being spotted all over the world, you more or less have the obligation to do the occasional monitoring session, as a favour in return and to keep the WSPR network alive and interesting! To me, being a transmitting-only station has always felt a little selfish.

I've done the occasional monitoring sessions, but only if some special WSPR project was in progress; maritime mobile, floaters, high altitude balloons, expeditions, etc. Still a little selfish and I decided I wanted to become more active with general WSPR monitoring as well. I don't like having my transceiver powered up for longer, extended periods of time though (it occurred to me that manufacturers should build in to their transceivers an on/off switch or a sleep mode for the display to be turned off during extended monitoring sessions).
So, for this reason (and a million others) I decided to purchase the new SDRPlay RSP1A SDR receiver. The RSP1A is manufactured in the UK and receives from 1 kHz to 2 GHz, or to use a popular term, it's a "DC to Daylight" receiver. It's my first experience with a Software Defined Radio, and I must say that I'm really thrilled with all the possibilities the RSP1A brings. It's really nice to also be able to explore the VLF frequency range for instance; for the first time in my life I managed to hear the signals of time signal station DCF77 on 77.5 kHz. I'm planning on making a PA0RDT mini whip antenna to do some more serious monitoring on VLF, LF and MF, including 2200m and 630m WSPR.

My first WSPR monitoring session with the RSP1A was done on 40m and instantly the SDR receiver connected to my HyEndFed 10/20/40m wire antenna managed to pull in the 5 Watt WSPR signals of the DP0GVN beacon on Antarctica for me (earlier, reciprocally the DP0GVN receiving station already picked up my 200mW WSPR signals on 20m, see the addendum to my blog entry of January 13th). I'm really pleased with the reception of the RSP1A.

A nice interview with Jon Hudson from SDRPlay about the new RSP1A can be found here on YouTube.

I also don't like leaving my laptop powered up for extended periods of time, so in the future I might look into the possibility to do WSPR monitoring sessions with the RSP1A connected to a Raspberry Pi.

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