What you get in the box
Basically just the SDRPlay. The API drivers and the ExtIO software can be downloaded from SDRPlay’s website. You might want to check the website for updates to the software since the SDRPlay folks frequently provide updates to the API adding new improvements. You will also have to provide you own usb cable. If you are buying a new cable, you may want to invest in a cable with ferrite chokes on both ends. This will help reduce some RFI that may be introduced into the SDR from the computer via the USB cable.

Probably something like this :

Software
The SDRPlay does not come with any software. Right now you can choose between HDSDR, SDR-Console, or Studio 1. All the programs work well with SDRPlay, but you may prefer one over the other due to the feature set. One difference you will run into is that SDR-Console supports the SDRPlay natively where HDSDR and Studio1 will require you to install the ExtIO installer available for download on the SDRPlay web site. Getting setup is pretty simple. Just download and install the SDRPlay API drivers and the ExtIO installer (for HDSDR and Studio 1) from the website. Configure whatever SDR software you chose to use and you should be good to go. When using the HDSDR or Studio 1, you can access the ExtIO’s control panel. Here you can change the sample rate, adjust the sensitivity, and other parameters. Don’t worry too much about messing anything up because there is a handy reset to defaults feature. Another nice feature is the ability to save or load custom settings to and from the ExtIO’s control panel. Mac users aren’t totally left out due to the availability of CubicSDR. The software is still in development, but it appears to be coming along nicely. Mac users can always run the Windows SDR applications under Fusion or Parallels if they wish. At this writing SDR-Sharp no longer supports the SDRPlay. This mainly due to SDR-Sharp taking a more “commercial” approach with the software in conjunction with AirSpy hardware.

SDRPlay ExtIO Control Panel
SDRPlay ExtIO Control Panel

 

 

 

 

 

Real World Performance
Performance is actually quite good for an SDR receiver at this price point. The SDRPlay was tested with several computers running HDSDR as the client software. These computers ranged from high end PCs to a cheap Windows Tablet. Even at the SDRPlay’s highest sampling rate of  8MHz, they all performed well. The SDRPlay / HDSDR combination also performed well running under Parallels on an iMac. The antennas ranged from several small indoor whips, an outdoor VHF/UHF antenna, and an outdoor HF dipole.



The SDRPlay has lots of sensitivity so this is a nice little SDR for those who live in “antenna restricted areas”. Connecting the SDRPlay to even a short whip antenna brought in plenty of signals. even stronger stations in the HF band.  However, like most radios, a better antenna will bring better performance. There was no noticeable overloading when connecting the SDRPlay to a larger outdoor antennas. If you live close to a strong broadcast decision you may need to reduce the gain a bit or use additional filtering, but this was not the case here with our local broadcast stations. Since the SDR software client is an integral part of SDR performance, you may experience a different result depending on the software and settings. That being said, The SDRPlay worked very well with HDSDR, Studio 1, and SDR-Console. Overall the SDRPlay performed admirably for a SDR receiver at this price point through out it’s receive range. The SDRPlay was a treat to use on the HF bands. The SDRPlay would make a great Spectrum Display for a legacy HF receiver. Also, the reception above 800MHz is excellent making this a nice radio for radio trunking and satellite enthusiasts. There were no noticeable images in most areas during extended listening test on a variety of bands. Again, this may vary depending on software, settings, location, and environment. Overall, real world performance of the SDRPlay was very good. Of course more expensive SDR receivers may do better, but the SDR play held up pretty well against some more expensive SDR equipment that HRS has tested in the past. Good job SDRPlay!

SDRPlay with Studio 1
SDRPlay with Studio 1
SDRPlay with HDSDR
SDRPlay with HDSDR
SDRPlay with SDR-Console
SDRPlay with SDR-Console

 

 

 

 

 

Support
The SDRPlay team has been very responsive to making the SDRPlay better and listens to their customers. In the two months of use here at HRS the SDRPlay team has released several upgrades to the SDRPlay software to increase performance and usability. Actually there have been many improvements to the SDRPlay since it was originally released. So older reviews may not accurately reflect where the SDRPlay is today, so keep that in mind. There is a very active Facebook group that discusses the SDRPlay. This has been an excellent place to go and ask questions or to get help.

Conclusion
At the $150 price point there just isn’t much to complain about. The SDRPlay represents an excellent value in a low cost wideband SDR receiver. If you are currently considering getting involved with SDR radio, or want to trade up from the RTL dongle world, then the SDR Play should definitely be on your short list.

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “SDRPlay Review”
  1. I have been looking for a receiver to start in the owrld of SDR and this review convinces me that the SDRPlay is very good value and the way to start. Thanks very much

  2. Nice review and I have the SDRPlay SDR, the only problem I am
    finding is the availability of Linux software that is currently
    available. GQRX works good for the RTL2832 dongle and currently
    it is not useable on the SDRPlay device. Hopefully in the future
    it will be available for Linux Mint without the problems of
    doing a compile and finding dependency files missing and
    coding bugs.

    1. I ordered the SDRplay from Ham Radio Outlet and received it within 3 business days.

      Quite prompt!

      I am a SDR newbie so learning as I go.

      My SDRplay has worked flawlessly with HDSDR.

      I also would like more Linux (Mint) software for the SDRplay.

      Buster

  3. Your review doesn’t say if anything else is needed to make this receiver work (a valid issue in the SDR world). For example, is a 9:1 balun ($14), a male SMA connector, or an antenna tuner ($150+) needed when connecting an ordinary long wire antenna to the SDRPlay?

    1. David, the RSP doesn’t differ from any other receiver in this regard. Depending on your location and frequency neighborhood and antenna you may or may not need an extra tuner, you will likely need connectors to attach it to whatever you have already and whether or not you need a balun depends mostly on your antenna. You also need a computer and a table to put it on and a roof would be nice too so it doesnt get wet, they never tell you that in those goddamn reviews either. Last time I bought an SDR I found myself standing in the rain with a loose wire in one hand and the box in the other, bloody reviewers!

    2. When I connected my LWAdapter to my SDRplay, I could
      only get the local 50KW station. But when I used a 5′ wire connected to a 5′ piece of coax, I could ALSO get another 15 AM broadcast stations…so I made a 10,20,40DB pad and now get around 40 detectable stations.

  4. Thanks for the review and comments. I try to stay out of the rain with electrical devices in hand. I have read a number of other reviews and they are also positive and in somewhat more detail. For instance, take a look at the ones on eHam.

    Mike, kd8dz

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