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Fichten Field Day SDR Receiver (FiFi SDR)




 
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Author Topic: Fichten Field Day SDR Receiver (FiFi SDR)  (Read 91661 times)
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W1AEX
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« on: March 04, 2014, 03:40:35 PM »

I purchased one of these little German SDR receivers for $169 bucks (including shipping via USPS) online at the Box73.com website on February 4, 2014. It landed here less than 3 weeks later and after a little painless soldering, installation of some USB drivers, and installation of a couple of free SDR software packages itís been nothing but great fun tuning around with it. For anyone interested in an inexpensive, easy to build, easy to use SDR kit that performs far better than a toy, this is one that I would definitely recommend. Hereís a quick somewhat subjective PRO and CON list based upon information I have collected and what I have observed while using it:

PROS:

-Price vs. performance is great with shipping included in the $169 price
-Tiny size with a high quality extruded aluminum enclosure
-Very high quality pc board construction.
-All surface mount devices are pre-installed leaving simple soldering tasks for the builder
-Onboard soundcard capable of 192KHz sampling rate for full 192KHz panadapter display
-Software automatic band switching pre-selector bandpass board included
-USB driver support for PC (Windows 8 back to Windows XP) Linux, and Mac
-USB cable provides power and connection for software control, just plug in an antenna and itís ready
-Based upon the Silicon Labs Si570 software controlled VCO
-Covers 200 KHz to 30 MHz continuous
-Compatible with freeware and shareware SDR software including Radio Jet, SDR-Console, and Genesis GSDR which is a PowerSDR variant.
-The Radio Jet SDR software provides native access to DRM (without DREAM)
-Simon Brown's SDR Console Version 2.1 software provides you with really exquisite synchronous detection and you can make custom RX filters
-Easily used as an IF receiver with another rig or a boatanchor receiver for spectrum display
-Can be frequency calibrated through an automatic software controlled routine.
-While it is not lab quality, it can double as an inexpensive spectrum display for your bench

CONS:

-As with many SDR receivers, depending on your location and antenna it can be susceptible to overload. Easy to deal with using a simple attenuator pad or an antenna tuner
-As with many SDR receivers, birdies can be seen here and there across the spectrum, especially with the antenna disconnected
-Some aliasing evident at the extreme ends of the panadapter display when viewing 192KHz of the radio spectrum
-User must provide their own USB 2.0 A Male to 5pin mini-B Male cable. I'd suggest one that has a ferrite core to keep USB bus noise out.

Lots more information, links, photos, and some HD videos of my Fichten Field Day SDR receiver running AM and synchronous AM along with other modes can be found here:

http://www.w1aex.com/fifisdr/fifisdr.html

In summary, this is far more than a toy and definitely gives a lot of bang for your buck if you are interested in a software defined radio receiver.  

Rob W1AEX


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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2014, 12:02:05 PM »

Thanks Rob, for taking the time to enumerate the features and help set expectations.

I'm hoping my FiFi arrives today and I will share my observations as well.

dan W7NGA
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2014, 08:03:23 PM »

just a brief note to exclaim my enthusiasm for this little FiFi jewel. it takes a bit of effort to get all the pieces (drivers, software, calibration) talking nice to each other, but I have finally found the secret-sauce and am having a blast. setting up "favourites" or bookmarks, with a click of the mouse I can quickly scan for 10-meter AM activity, and then click again and I am right back on 15-meters listening to TimTron.

should you decide to take the plunge .. don't hesitate to ask for help and the recipe.

thanks to Rob, W1AEX for all the suggestions and motivation to enter the SDR fold ..

73's

dan W7NGA


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W1AEX
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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2014, 11:33:39 PM »

Glad you are having fun with the little FiFi SDR Dan. You've described the setup experience well as depending on what operating system is being used it can be a bit of an adventure. But as you said, it excels as a bandwatch receiver using Simon's SDR Console V2.x when you have the Favorites set up for that task. The fidelity is a treat as well if the computer it is used with has a nice sound system. It's definitely the receiver of choice here when I'm busy at the workbench. At any rate, we'll have to exchange thoughts on some of the other software that is out there as we come across it!

Rob

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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2014, 08:06:16 PM »

There is a boatload of software out there, as well as sdr receivers.
Even the low end ones seem to work better then most vintage or new ham receivers.
Besides the displays, the filters and sound quality can be fantastic.

Lots of programs and versions of programs to run with various radios, there is something for everyone's taste.


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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2014, 05:00:09 PM »

As Brett said, there's lots of software out there to play around with. I stumbled upon the Genesis Radio software (GSDR) and was stunned at how it makes the FiFi SDR play. As a bonus, the little FiFi actually does a pretty competent job of covering the 6 meter band, which was a big surprise to me since as far as I know it's not really designed for that! The screenshots below show it receiving Radio China International on 40 meters, WCBS 880 in NYC while in "Compact Screen" mode, and a station calling CQ on 6 meters. Note that while receiving on 6 meters the FiFi SDR was connected to my 85 foot loop that is quite deaf above 20 meters. Here are a couple of YouTube videos that I made while messing around on 6 meters. Note that the audio in the videos is not quite right due to an audio level issue between Windows 7 and the capture software that I have not yet resolved. The audio produced by the Genesis GSDR software is actually superb:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5DcgiPQpxA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAB4-8shuHo

The last video shows the FiFi SDR tuning around on the AM broadcast band with the Genesis GSDR software:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFAGINGZsGk

The setup to get the FiFi running with the GSDR software is simple. Just follow the steps at the link below and you will be up and running in a few minutes. The Genesis GSDR software runs circles around anything else I have found. Be prepared to be surprised!

73,

Rob W1AEX

http://www.w1aex.com/fifisdr/gsdr.html


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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2014, 10:48:20 PM »

Rob, thank you so much for sharing this information.  I followed your directions, it was truly painless.  Up and running without a hitch, 32 bit version runs fine on Windows 7 on my lenovo T400 laptop.  Works so much better with Fifi compared to HDSDR or RadioJet. 
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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2014, 12:21:14 AM »

Not a lot of difference between the x32 and x64 version.
the x64 takes a bit of advantage of the 64 bit architecture and lightens
the CPU load a bit.....

But the x32 bit version is kept  more up to date.

It's getting ready now for the 50khz to 450mhz SDR transceiver kit.   :-)


Glad that's working for you Rob....
Fifi is another one I haven't heard of yet....  I've lost track of all the new SDR RXs that have come out.
I knew at least 16 different ones, all based roughly the same in the past 2 years.
But some you don't ever hear about, unless by word of mouth by someone stumbling on it.  :-)

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« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2014, 11:19:24 AM »

Rick, glad the information was helpful. I definitely agree with you regarding the comparison between Genesis GSDR and the software from Radio Jet and HDSDR that seemed to do random stuff all the time. The GSDR version of PowerSDR makes the FiFi less like a toy and more like a solid SDR for ham, swl, AM BCB DX, and utility listening. I also like being able to make my own skins for GSDR from parts that I made for PowerSDR and OpenHPSDR mrX.

Bruce, the FiFi is like a SoftRock with si570 on steroids. For 169 bucks you get the RF board, bandpass filter board that switches automatically, and the extruded aluminum enclosure. The whole package is enhanced tremendously when used with the Genesis GSDR software.

The only thing I am puzzling over is the inability to adjust the MHz and 100 KHz columns with my mouse on the main frequency display. There's probably a setting somewhere that I did not toggle correctly in one of the menus. Other than that, it works beautifully! Thanks for the information regarding the x32 and x64 versions. The resource footprint of the x32 version in Windows 7 is so slight that I will stick with that variant.

The 50 KHz to 450 MHz Genesis SDR kit sounds like a winner. I'll be checking the site frequently to see how that shapes up!

73,

Rob W1AEX
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2014, 11:57:54 AM »

Not sure why you can't change those digits with the mousewheel.
It's only like that with the "new VFO look" ( which I never use, so I didn't know about this til today).

With the normal look, it works fine.

I'll let Goran know.  ( YT7PWR)
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2014, 12:17:33 PM »

Bruce,

You are right, it does work fine with the standard VFO look. Thanks for the tip! I love the "new VFO look" but its really easy to untoggle that setting if a large frequency excursion is made. Of course if Goran fixes it that would be beyond awesome!

Thanks,

Rob
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2014, 01:11:32 PM »

Rob
I was thinking about buying the FiFi to use < 540 khz. I'm really concerned how it can tolerate my RF environment amidst the NY broadcast radio antenna farms about 5-10 miles away. Tried to find out how low and how effective their optional pre-selector was. Any thoughts or predictions on how this might work? I have my Flex 5K, but below the AM BCB band it's basically useless. My old Kenwood TS-930 still does a very respectable job.
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2014, 04:32:43 PM »

I'm not sure how well it would perform for you down there. It is extremely well behaved on the AM BCB from top to bottom and much cleaner than my Flex 5000A ever was. Being curious, I just tuned down to its bottom limit of .1 MHz and did not encounter a single AM BCB image down there while it was connected to one of my 85 foot broadband receive loops. I live about 12 miles away from WTIC 1080 (50KW) and it used to rip up my Flex 5000A unless I was using an antenna tuner in front of it. That being said, I did not hear BDL or any of the other beacons that I used to hear down there. Did they discontinue those transmissions?

I did find some RTTY on 282 KHz, 286 KHz and 293 KHz that you can see in panadapter of the screenshot that I attached. The mp3 is what was heard on 293 KHz. I really didn't hear anything else down there, but to be honest, my antenna does very well down to the bottom of the AM BCB but it's probably quite deaf below that. I could hear the receive level change when I went below 300 KHz so it appears that the FiFi SDR does switch filters down there. The noise level drops to nothing as soon as you go below 100 KHz. Also, I noticed that the local oscillator does not automatically track below 300 KHz while using Genesis GSDR but it behaved fine if I moved the LO manually and kept it around 20 to 30 KHz above the received frequency. That's about all I can report as unfortunately, I have not spoken with anyone who has used one of these on the LF bands even casually. I think I would keep asking around before dropping any cash on the table!

73,

Rob W1AEX


Note - The link below has some receive specs for the FiFi SDR. Check out the "Sensitivity" table near the bottom of the page for some performance data on frequencies below the AM BCB:    

http://o28.sischa.net/fifisdr/trac/wiki/Messungen



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* FiFi RTTY 293 KHz .mp3 (134.29 KB - downloaded 272 times.)
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2015, 12:09:33 PM »

I had some time to play around with the 64-bit version of the GSDR program. It works fine with Windows 7 and the CPU utilization is about half what is required to run the 32-bit version. It's very stable and will run all day long without any issues. As Bruce indicated, the 64-bit version (2.0.12) apparently is not updated as often as the 32-bit version (2.0.16) but it does seem to run fine if you are interested in playing around with it. Note that it can reside with the 32-bit version on the same computer if you install it in a different folder.

One of the things that I figured out with both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions is that it is very easy to calibrate the VFO frequency in GSDR so that it is spot-on even when receiving SSB signals. The first picture below should make the explanation that follows a little easier to follow:

Hit the WWV button in the Band selector keypad of the GUI and press it repeatedly to step through each of the WWV stations. Tune to the one that is highest in frequency and still well above the noise level. I have also used CHU on 7.850 which is usually quite strong at my location during daylight hours. Note that before this adjustment my FiFi was so far off frequency that none of the frequency standard stations were in the receiver bandpass, if that is the case with yours, set the VFO frequency to where the frequency standard station should be and then switch the mode to DSB. Next, open up the Setup tab to display the "Hardware Config" page that allows adjustment of the Si570 XTAL frequency. Watch your panadapter and then hit the little "up" button tab followed by the "set" button for the Si570 XTAL and see if the frequency standard station moves closer or farther away. If it's going in the right direction keep mashing the "up" button tab and the set button until it is close. Obviously, if it's going in the wrong direction, start mashing the "down" button and the "set" button until the station is close. When you reach the point where the up or down button moves you too far, go back one step, and then start manually adjusting the smaller numbers in the frequency box until the frequency standard station is zero beat. You can really get it exactly zero beat if you are patient. When you are done with this adjustment it might be worth the time to make a screenshot or at least write the adjusted frequency down so you can simply enter it in directly if you ever have to reinstall the software. When you have got it zero beat, hit the "OK" button to close the setup screen.

Another thing that I figured out was how to keep the s-meter from sitting at S-9 when there was no signal being received. To be honest, when used with the FiFi the s-meter is really just a relative strength meter so make these adjustments with that in mind. It may be possible to calibrate the s-meter to reflect signal dBm accurately but I did not bother to go to the trouble. The second picture below may be helpful for seeing where this adjustment is made. Open up to the Calibration tab and write down the values that are present in your "Level dBm" and "SMeter val" fields so you can re-enter those values if you don't like the way your adjustments turn out. Note that larger values inserted into these fields result in a lower s-meter reading on the meter. By playing around with these you can get the s-meter to display lower with no signal and reasonably high when a signal is present. Not a very precise explanation but you should be able to make the meter respond in a reasonable way by messing around with those values. When you are satisfied, click on the "OK" button to close up the setup tab.

The pictures below should help you get to the correct tabs in the setup for GSDR.

Rob W1AEX



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« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2015, 12:40:08 PM »

Jeff - W2NBC used his graphic talents to produce a major upgrade to the Genesis GSDR analog s-meter. The numbers and text are sharper and  the added color to the meter arc and the trim around the display make for a very nice visual improvement!

You can see the new meter in action at this YouTube link of a 40 meter SSB qso:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRZteEam8CQ

To install the new meter, download the NewVFOAnalogSignalGauge.jpg image below, rename the old meter file in the Console folder of the skin you use in Genesis GSDR, and then drop the new meter file into the console folder. When you start up Genesis GSDR the new meter will be there.

Thanks Jeff!


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« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2015, 10:18:32 AM »

As it turns out, the guys who re-purposed PowerSDR for use with the Genesis software left the hooks for the Console.png file to load if it is present in the "skins" Console folder. This means that you can have a textured surface instead of a simple color to form the GUI console. Using several different Console.png files that I made for various OpenHPSDR and Flex skins and then also pasting those textures into the 4 png files that are used behind the GUI control surfaces it was possible to make some custom GUI displays for the Genesis Radio software that works so well with the FiFi SDR. Of course I used the new s-meter that Jeff - W2NBC came up with!

The skins that I made can be downloaded at:    http://www.w1aex.com/fifisdr/gsdr.html#skins

Instructions for creating your own custom skins can be found here:      http://www.w1aex.com/fifisdr/gsdr.html#edit

73,

Rob W1AEX


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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2016, 11:28:04 AM »

For those who play around with the Fichten Field Day SDR (as well as many other ExtIO.dll devices that connect through a USB port) the new SDR-Radio Version 3.0 preview release is a very nice piece of software to play around with. You can download either the 32-bit or 64-bit version at the link below:

http://sdr-radio.com/v3_preview_downloads

Note that when using the FiFi SDR hardware, the software runs it as a SoftRock Si570 device and seems to automatically select the "AM (FiFi-SDR DSP)" soundcard device which is the wrong interface. Make sure that in the "Select Radio" screen the "Complex Baseband (I/Q) FiFi SDR Soundcard" is selected as shown in the first screenshot and it will fire up perfectly. The second screenshot shows the software monitoring WCBS (NY) on .880 MHz with the DSP receiver panel open. The default receive filters for AM/SAM range in bandwidth from 5 kHz to 16 kHz with options to edit any of them or to add your own custom filters. The third screenshot shows WTIC (Hartford) on 1.080 MHz with its IBOC data streams on either side of the traditional AM signal.

The second update of Simon's "preview release" was made available on May 20th and I have been using it nearly continuously with no issues at all. The GUI is beautiful and very intuitive. Keep in mind that this is not even at the "alpha or beta release" stage so some features in V2.0 are not yet implemented in the interface. Note that If you are currently using SDR-Radio V2.0 the V3.0 software can be installed and it will not affect your V2.0 installation at all.

A very slick feature that Simon has implemented is the option to let the V3.0 software offload most of the FFT data crunching tasks to an NVIDIA chipset video card. If you look at the taskbar at the bottom of the last 2 screenshots you will see that the CPU utilization is running at 1.0% and the CUDA cores of my NVIDIA TI-560 video card are running between 19% to 22%. This distributed computing feature almost guarantees smooth performance regardless of other tasks that are running even with a very minimal computer. I have not observed any problems with the V3.0 software sharing the video card's processing hardware, even when doing intensive tasks like rendering video. Note that this option is only available if your system uses video hardware equipped with an NVIDIA chipset.

Future releases of SDR Radio V3.0 will be fully functional with TX (utilizing adaptive predistortion if desired) and RX for those who run the Apache Labs ANAN hardware, sometime in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2016.

Rob W1AEX  


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« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2016, 05:30:50 PM »

There's a new piece of free software called "SDRuno" that runs beautifully with the FiFi SDR. The software was primarily designed for the SDRPlay hardware but the designers generously extended hardware support to include the widely used Si570 programmable PLL. This software is incredibly capable with a very customizable modular look. Getting it up and running is not too difficult as long as you are comfortable manually copying the ExtIO_FiFi.dll file into the SDRuno folder once you have installed it. You also need to copy the libusb0.dll file into several folders (Windows, System32, My Documents, and the SDRuno folder) as it is somewhat system dependent as far as where SDRuno will look for it. It's definitely worth the effort to get this program running.

The first two screenshots show the software as it's receiving the AM BCB and the 40 meter band. The last screenshot shows how the memory bank functions are implemented. You can create your own memory banks, as I did for the AM BCB stations I typically listen to, or you can import downloadable databases such as the complete HF SWL database in CSV format that is offered by the EiBi organization. Memory scanning is planned for implementation in a future release. Direct frequency entry with your keyboard is one tuning feature as well as using the mouse scroll wheel to tune around or a left mouse-click to spot tune to frequencies in the waterfall. The last screenshot also shows a combination waterfall/spectrum view that looks exactly like what was being done in CuSDR. You can display spectrum, or waterfall, or both, or you can select the combination view as shown in the last screenshot.

The software and its user manual can be downloaded from the SDRplay play site. (http://www.sdrplay.com/windows.html) There is also an excellent introductory tutorial written by NN4F and KD2KOG that simplifies setting the software up. It has many hints that helped me get up and running without much sweat. It can be directly downloaded from this link:    http://www.nn4f.com/SDRuno-cookbook.pdf

After I figured out how to utilize the custom workspace feature I made two videos of this software in action. The first YouTube video shows the synchronous detector being used to receive the AM BCB. Note that with this synch detector you can listen to either sideband or both sidebands. The second video shows various tuning methods in the software being used to tune the 40 meter band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLggt2hLEuI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8u2E2CSA5E

This is definitely my new favorite SDR software and it has certainly provoked a lot of interest in the SDRplay hardware that it was primarily designed for.

73,

Rob W1AEX


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