Regular Hackaday readers are used to seeing the hacks that use a cheap USB TV dongle as a software defined radio (SDR). There’s plenty of software that will work with them including the excellent GNU Radio software. However, the hardware is pretty bare-bones. Without modifications, the USB dongle won’t get lower frequencies.
There’s been plenty of other SDR radios available but they’ve had a much heftier price tag. But we recently noticed the SDRPlay RSP, and they now have US distribution. The manufacturer says it will receive signals with 12-bits of resolution over the range of 100 kHz to 2 GHz with an 8MHz bandwidth. The USB cable supplies power and a connection to the PC. The best part? An open API that supports Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and will even work on a Raspberry Pi (and has GNU Radio support, too).
If you are like us, your brain is already spinning thinking of the hacks you can do with a fairly inexpensive (about $150) receiver that has that kind of range. Of course, you could use it as just a receiver, but it could do a lot more. For example, the second video below shows a ham that uses the device as a panadapter (a ham tool that amounts to a spectrum analyzer that visually monitors the entire ham radio band for activity).
The device has eight different front end filters that it selects depending on your chosen frequency. We haven’t had a chance to try one yet (stay tuned for that), but the specs look impressive–especially for the price. When you think that we’ve seen cheap SDRs make test equipment and even passive radar, you can only imagine what the community will dream up using these boxes.