An Introduction to SDR

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An Introduction to SDR

SDR is an abbreviation for Software Defined Radio

What you need to know

Software defined radios are what I feel, is keeping the hobby alive and is the new frontier when it comes to scanning.


For about $30, you can pick up a SDR USB Stick and be off to the races.   It seems like the sky is the limit when it comes to using an SDR and what it is capable of.   And of course, no pun is intended.

The original SDR USB Stick that we are talking about today was based off of a DVB-T USB tuner.  These are or were TV tuners built for the DVB broadcasting format.


These USB sticks had a RTL2830U chip inside and it was discovered that they data they receive can be accessed directly.   Not only that, but the receivers inside of them weren’t limited to just DVB TV. They were pretty much wide open depending on what flavor of manufacturer you went with.


The trick that makes an SDR work is that all of the of the internal magic that make a radio work is handled by the computer.   All the mixing, tuning, and converting the signal into something we can hear or decode is handled by your computer. In the simplest explanation of what an SDR is, the SDR is just your computer’s interface to an RF environment.  


The data that we are pulling is the raw I/Q data from the chip.   If you listened to some of the past Scanner School sessions, you know from my SDS100 and SDS200 podcasts that both of these Uniden products also use I/Q data to receive.   Are you seeing a connection here?


If you haven’t played around with SDR’s I strongly recommend picking up a stick or two and investing some time with what you can do with them.   If you have an old stick laying around, an upgrade might be what you need to get back in the game. Let me explain.


What hardware would should you start with?

I recommend starting with the NooElec SDR stick.

The package I purchased is what I would recommend you starting with.   The kit includes the USB Stick, a quick start guide, and a couple of antennas.



We will have YouTube videos available on our channel shortly on how to setup and install this USB dongle

Please support the Scanner School podcast.  Visit to see how you can help us.  Some of the ways you can support us won't cost you any additional money!

Links and Sources from this session:

NooElec SDR





Bonus Material:

Are you looking for your first scanner radio?

Download our new e-guide, “5 Thinks You Need to Know Before Buying Your First Scanner”.   This free PDF is about 30 pages long and has 5 things you should look for, plus a few extra bonus items to make sure you make an educated purchase.

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Podcast Transcription:

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