Software Defined Radio (SDR) is a fun hobby for electronic enthusiast who like to push the limits of hardware and software.
SDR hardware can pick up signals over-the-air that are usually hidden to the general public.
Signals such as general radio scanning, ADS-B aircraft radar, marine AIS, ACARS, trunked radio, P25/MotoTRBO digital voice, POCSAG, Weather balloons, APRS, NOAA APT and Meteor M2 weather satellites, radio astronomy, DAB and much more can be scanned and listened in on.
Receiving these signals can not only be fun but practical in-case there was ever an emergency.
When buying SDR hardware the receiver is the most important part of the equipment but the antenna can also play a role.
The best receiver in the world will simply not work well if the antenna under performs.
Many cheap SDR hardware kits come with an antennas that do not perform very well.
If the antenna is a problem it can be fixed by building you own or buying a better one that receives signals well.
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Our Picks For Top Software Defined Radio Kits
NooElec NESDR Nano 2+ Tiny Black RTL-SDR USB Set (RTL2832U + R820T2) with Ultra-Low Phase Noise 0.5PPM TCXO, MCX Antenna & Remote Control
NooElec is a well known source of hardware for software defined radio, with this kit being their newest.
It is a small dongle that also comes with an antenna and uses the RTL2832U ADC chip receiver and R820T2 tuner.
It can pick up frequencies between 25MHz-1750MHz making it a nice low cost SDR starter package.
NooElec NESDR Mini USB RTL-SDR & ADS-B Receiver Set, RTL2832U & R820T Tuner
This unit is one of NooElec original kits.
It also uses the RTL2832U receiver and R820T tuner. It also comes with an antenna to help pick up signals at a distance.
While not the newest it is a well known chip-set with lots of help available on forums and software available to use.
JahyShow® DVB-T DAB FM,RTL2832U & R820T Tuner,Mini USB RTL-SDR & ADS-B Receiver Set,Radio Compatible,MCX Input,Easy Intall,25 – 1700 MHz,Support Windows XP/2000/Vista/Win7/Win8
This SDR kit uses the RTL2832U and R820T tuner ICs and is another low cost unit.
It come with an antenna, software disk, and remote control to pick up frequencies from 25MHz-1700MHz.
Like most SDR dongles it is compatible with SDR# which picks up signals being broadcast.
If you are looking to start a SDR hobby for fun and learning then any of the above units will work.
Starting out in software defined radio is a low cost hobby that anyone can get into.
As with anything there is a learning curve depending on your skill level may take some time to master.
Thankfully there are many online resources that make learning easy then in the past and will have you up and running in no time,
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure a SDR kit is a good pick for you.