software defined radio on the cheap with a DVB stick

I think I first learned about software defined radio a few years ago on the chaosradio podcast. I was totally excited about the idea, and immediately installed gnuradio not only on my computers, but at times also on the smartphone. The USRP has been on my wishlist ever since. That’s the hardware device most commonly used with gnuradio. The downside was the price tag. While the approx $ 1’000 are not much compared to commercial solutions, it was too much for just another project to toy around, and I didn’t have an idea for a project where I must have one so far.

Then in last February (2012), I read on a blog post that was probably linked from hacker news that somebody found out that a cheap DVB tuner USB stick could be used as an SDR receiver. That was exactly what I’ve been waiting for the past few years, except that a device with TX would be even cooler. Immediately I went to the local electronics shops with a compatibility list. But in most shops they had no clue, and they couldn’t even find out what chipset was in the devices they sold. In a more professional shop they tried to find out the chipset, and they had a device that looked very similar to one on the compatibility list. But it didn’t work. So, I ordered one directly from china. It took almost two months to get here, but then it took another two month before I really started experimenting with it beyond checking if I could sample something to the harddisk. Here is some background information. Continue reading “software defined radio on the cheap with a DVB stick”