I just received a package today with my new ultra-cheap SDR, the RTL.SDR. These USB devices are actually intended to be used as TV tuners, but many shortwave and scanning enthusiasts are using them as software-defined radios (SDRs). I ordered mine on eBay for $23, and it came in about 2 weeks from Hong Kong.

Until recently the only quick and easy option for using one of these dongles was with WINSDR and HDSDR with the EXTIO plugin from This has all changed now and all you need is the very nice, fast, and open-source SDR#. It natively supports RTLSDR hardware (along with FUNCUBE and the audio card) and is much kinder on the CPU than the others.

RTL.SDR Features

  • Frequency range : 22 – 2200 MHz (max)
  • Sample rate: 3.2 MS/s (max)
  • Resolution: 8 bits/sample
  • Noise figure : < 4.5 dB
  • Software support: GNU Radio, Winrad, HDSDR, etc.
  • Receivers implemented: AM/FM, GSM, P25, ADS-B, TETRA, GMR, GPS, etc.

And don’t forget, there are always Web based SDR available for use, free of charge!