SDR with Active Antennas for HF

A couple of weeks ago I started to gather my first experiences with software defined radios (SDR) and active antennas. I started with low investment, using the RTL SDR dongle, but I quickly realized that using the direct sampling mode for HF is not an ideal solution and added the Spyverter HF up-converter.

For my first trials I used a Mini Whip from RA0SMS as antenna, but the results were quite disappointing.


Finally, I ended up with an active loop antenna (see featured image), using the Cross-country Wireless Loop antenna pre-amplifier (10 kHz to 30 MHz version). The pre-amplifier is powered with 13.8 V via a bias-tee. Common mode chokes on the antenna line and all power lines helped to reduce noise, especially on the low bands. This is final hardware setup setup:

The setup is now running 24/7 on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ using GQRX and WSJT-X. I was surprised, how many stations and countries can be decoded down to 80 and 160 m.


Further Information

Talk given during SARTS monthly meeting

PSK reporter link to stations currently received by 9V1KG

ICOM IC-7300 – SDR radio in a box

Finally the new IC-7300 arrived, and I am still in the process to get familiar with it. I could not resist, as my IC-718, though reliable, is quite “outdated” in its technology, developed more than a decade ago.

Unfortunately, the first IC-7300 unit I picked up from the retailer in Singapore, had a DOA (defect on arrival): the CW keyer always sending dashes. Luckily, there was a second unit available, and it was exchanged without any problems.

Now the new unit is in operation for a week and doing its job without any problems. Size and weight are the same as my IC-718, but the features are not comparable, and it is a real advance in technology. The menus are intuitive and signal reception is excellent, as I can adjust all parameters – gain, filter bandwidth and response, audio processing etc. – according to the actual band conditions.


Two days ago, I setup the configuration for digital modes, connecting my Apple MacBook via USB, using fldigi and the IC-7300 built-in USB sound interface and serial control. So there is no need for any additional interface box, just one USB connection between computer and radio. It works fine, and I was able to make my first contacts in PSK-31.