HackRF Blue

For anyone getting into the world of Software Defined Radio, the first purchase should be an RTL-SDR TV tuner. With a cheap, $20 USB TV tuner, you can listen to just about anything between 50 and 1750 MHz. You can’t send, the sample rate isn’t that great, but this USB dongle gives you everything you need to begin your explorations of the radio spectrum.

Your second Software Defined Radio purchase is a matter of contention. There are a lot of options out there for expanding a rig, and the HackRF is a serious contender to expand an SDR rig. You get 10 MHz to 6 Gigahertz operating frequency, 20 million samples per second, and the ability to transmit. You have your license, right?

Unfortunately the HackRF is a little expensive and is unavailable everywhere. [Gareth] is leading the charge and producing the HackRF Blue, a cost-reduced version of the HackRF designed by [Michael Ossmann].

The HackRF Blue’s feature set is virtually identical, and the RF performance is basically the same: both the Blue and the HackRF One can get data from 125kHz RFID cards. All software and firmware is interchangeable. If you were waiting on another run of the HackRF, here ‘ya go.

[Gareth] and the HackRF Blue team are doing something rather interesting with their crowdfunding campaign: they’re giving away Blues to underprivileged hackerspaces, with hackerspaces from Togo, Bosnia, Iran, India, and Detroit slated to get a HackRF Blue if the campaign succeeds.

Thanks [Praetorian] and [Brendan] for sending this in.


35 thoughts on “HackRF Blue

  1. Anybody else find this humorous? “Togo, Bosnia, Iran, India, and Detroit”… Notoriously dangerous and poverty stricken countries, and Detroit. If the shoe fits, wear it. Way to go, Detroit!

      1. “Amazing tools, great space”

        It gets to a point where you can stop thinking of it as underprivileged… I promise. Unless you mean relatively to the rest of the US, but still connotations…

    1. Indian produces 1.5 million engineers every year and I am one of them. And yes we are poor and poverty stricken. But does that change the basic need of engineers, to innovate and develop something new. This is really immature to discriminate nations on the basis of their economic prowess especially in case of innovation.

      1. From the Indiegogo page:

        “RF performance is basically the same as the HackRF One through the whole spectrum from 6GHz down to 125kHz. We were able to listen to shortwave radio on 4.9MHz and get data from low-frequency RFID at 125kHz (this is not an improvement, the HackRF One can also do this);”

        I think it’s just an “unadvertised” feature because it’s probably not easy to do it.

        1. It’s unadvertised because it’s basically a hack, to do this you have to go way out of speck for the parts, causing a severe drop in performance (SNR, output power…), but even then it can still perform the tasks.
          Michael Ossman himself gave a talk (available on YT) about these, other hacks include using harmonics to achieve even greater upper frequency, but at the cost of reduced performance…

    1. Yeah technically the range is 10M to 6G, but the guy in the video says he was able to use it down to 125kHz, and he says on the website that he was able to do it with the original one from Ossmann also (i.e. the Blue version is not “better”). Maybe it’s just “possible” but difficult so they don’t want to actively state the range is from 125k up to 6G, that’s my guess anyway.

  2. I did a LOT of reading about this and decided to back the Indiegogo personally but they are also sending our hackerspace a free one which is fantastic. They seem like a pretty cool team. As someone from South Africa, this statement (from the guy’s blog himself) made me LOL and then cringe, even our kids have access to running water:

    Some eyebrows have been raised about including Detroit in the United States on this list because the U.S. is not traditionally thought of as a third world or disadvantaged country. All politics aside, my thoughts are that I3 Detroit is doing some great work in the community, and they are doing it in a community which is disadvantaged enough for there to be children without access to running water.


    1. They *very explicitly* say that the parts are *not* all identical to the original; substitutions were made that brought the cost down whilst maintaining the performance of the original.

    2. They have removed all the pin headers, the clock in and the clock out SMA connectors. Added a RF shield and a CPU heatsink. And replaced as many 10 cent parts with 1 cent parts that they can. I would expect a change in the ageing characteristics of the device and a change in the MTBF.

      1. I’ve seen your other posts here, and on every other site that mentions this thing. Sounds like you REALLY have it in for these guys but haven’t even read the campaign itself. Methinks you bought a bunch of HackRFs at wholesale prices intending on selling them, or were working on producing your own low cost version, this kind of dedication to trashing a project like this is not the sign of a sane person.

        1. And it ended up not being true, I got my blue last week and it has the pin headers, the clock in and clock out connectors, didn’t have an RF shield (it was an optional addon) nor a CPU heatsink.

  3. I’m kinda disappointed this was featured. While this project is completely fine as far as licensing goes, I don’t think it’s in the spirit of open source. They’ve taken the design, swapped some parts for cheaper variants and put it out for sale. They haven’t added anything to it, it’s just a cheap clone that will only discourage people like Mike Ossmann from producing awesome open source projects like this in the future..

    (Note: I’m a different Mike)

    1. If you don’t want that to happen, define it in the license, if you don’t care, don’t. There gazillions of licenses out there that are restrictive.

      But I disagree with this whole “spirit” thing, don’t read between the lines, rely on what is spelled out. Granted people will release stuff with unintended consequences.

      Either its open, open with restrictions or not, if there are no such restrictions in the license, other people who weren’t involved shouldn’t arbitrarily try to decide what others should and shouldn’t do.

      1. So when the same thing has happened consistently over the last 10 years to every single piece of open source hardware in existence like Arduino, OpenLRS, MultiWii, etc and profoundly benefited the community as well as the original developers you chose not to take any notice and planned on doing everything open source, but now all of a sudden some guys running a campaign to give free hackrfs to hackerspaces who need them is making you “close” your hardware. Good one.

    2. In the spirit of Michael Ossman’s blog on the history of the HackRF: “I was interested in building an SDR platform was to be able to provide something that my students could afford, something that could even be rolled into the cost of the class.”
      See: http://ossmann.blogspot.com.au/search/label/hackrf
      I am sure Michael approves of someone approves of a cheaper device (I’m buying one). I also hope Michael is working on an improved version – and touches base with these guys when its ready for sale. Together, they could do something truly impressive AND economically viable.

    3. It’s *exactly* in the spirit of open source. You don’t open source software with the mindset that only people who are actively working on the project are allowed to use it. Open sourcing hardware is done many times because people want their work in the hands of other people, but don’t have the ability to supply it; releasing the design allows others to fill that void.

    4. if the ‘spirit’ of open sourcing projects is to allow others to learn and/or ‘improve’ the project, then the hackrf blue still satisfies the spirit. there is no requirement the improvement needs to improve the perfomance or features (i prefer this side), this one improves on the price. will the performance/features suffer? will the lifetime suffer? those are things that will be answered later. I’d argue it wouldn’t be in spirit if all they did was to sell hackrf blues at less of a margin using identical hardware.

      -the devil’s advocate

    5. I supported Mike Ossmann’s kickstart with hopes to utilize the hack RF in my 4th year electrical engineering degree project this year. I’ve yet to receive anything and had no luck contacting him. I’m out $300 from the first and last crowd funding project that I’ll ever back. if a cheaper variant is ever offered outside of indego/kickstarter it’ll definitely have my support.

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