Hams Want Spectrum Displays! The Solution is the Panadapter. (SDRPlay RSPdx/RSP1a/RSPduo and Yaesu FTDX3000)


Yes! Hams have made it clear that they want spectrum displays on their radios. So what did HF receiver manufacturers do? They included REALLY BAD displays in their new receivers, dooming those designs to quick obsolescence. Ask yourself — would you like a display like this?

“Spectrum” display on my $1800 Yaesu FTDX3000.

Or, would you like something more like this?

SDRuno software main control and spectrum display.

The latter display is the SDRuno software running on my Lenovo Yoga Laptop. The key is the inexpensive black box “SDRPlay RSPdx” which can do two things at once: (1) Mirror all settings of common, modern HF transceivers on the PC screen, allowing control from the PC, and (2) analyze the RF input to the transceiver, displaying it as a spectrum, and optionally demodulating it into whatever mode you need: CW, SSB, RTTY, etc. All this for about $199, assuming you have a laptop and transceiver. Here is a nice Youtube summary of how to set it up.

My setup. Left side: the RSPdx unit. Bottom: the Yaesu FTDX3000 transceiver. Top: the Lenovo Yoga laptop, in reversed orientation with downward-facing keyboard. I use a bluetooth keyboard/mouse.

It’s a trend, and as I said, conventional HF base stations, even with touch screens showing a poorly-displayed spectrum scan, are doomed to becoming obsolete. As an engineer, I feel certain this is happening, and I needed to rant a little about it. So then, where is this going? It can only go in two directions, and of course, it will end up going both directions at once. One direction is the premium transceiver with LOTS of physical dials, buttons, and direct hands-on control for the ham operator who wants the kenetic, haptic, and tactile experience that only old-school equipment can deliver. (Example: the FTDX5000) The other direction is the box-plus-pc solution in which the ham relies on their computer for ALL control and display. And it’s here already: the Expert Electronics SunSDR2-Pro transceiver, the ultimate in PC transceivers. I’m not in the market myself, but my message to other hams is this: FORGET the Icom 7300, it is a Frankenstein’s Monster, a patchwork of concepts that you love today but will not stand up to time’s progress well. Forget FlexRadio, whose quality (and price) is sky-high. Even my FTDX3000 will look sad ten years from now. At least I can hide it and use the computer interface for nearly everything. If you are like me, the $199 SDRPlay RSPdx box will allow you to convert your modern receiver to a fancy panadaptor spectrum display, as I did above. But seriously, check out the SunSDR2-Pro, and especially, check out those upcoming PC-only transceivers that should be coming out in the near future. They are the new direction. The next great radios will be boxes that you put in the corner out of sight – or boxes you can install at the top of a mountain a mile away – yet control with your laptop while relaxing in your hot tub.

Ad for the SunSDR2-Pro by the Russian company Expert Electronics.
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3 thoughts on “Hams Want Spectrum Displays! The Solution is the Panadapter. (SDRPlay RSPdx/RSP1a/RSPduo and Yaesu FTDX3000)

  1. To be honest, radio is an auditory activity. I had such radios as the IC7300, TS-990S and the FTdx101D. Glamorous graphics but when the chips are down they fall flat on their face in an ocean of heavy QRN as well as QRM.

    I live in a HOA area where not even clothesline’s are allowed so forget about an antenna farm.

    I presently use an IC7700 as my main radio with an FTdx3000 as a backup with a lousy little wire antenna hidden in the trees.

    Both of these radios have truly excellent QRN/QRM management schemes and let me navigate through the ocean of QRN with the least consumption of either Aspirin or Vodka.

    And that’s where this ham would prefer to see his purchasing dollars spent, on actual performance in real conditions versus pretty bells and whistles. 73s.

  2. Barbara, thanks for this article. This sounds like it is exactly what I need to do, and am planning my next purchase. But to be clear, could you please reconfirm the following: 1. Adding a RSPdx to my existing radio will essentially make it somewhat comparable to a Flexradio 6400? 2. Most radios can be remotely controlled with an RSPdx? 3. Is there any advantage of a FlexRadio over this panadapter + existing radio combo?

    • You didn’t say what kind of radio you have. And the RSPdx does not do any control itself, the OmniRig program does that, by running alongside the SDRUNO software on your laptop, making the SDRUNO display act like your radio display and control panel. If you have a radio which can be controlled by Omni-Rig software, then SDRUNO running on your laptop should be able to control your radio basic tuning features with the RSPDX as your display and demodulator. So see Omni-Rig to find out if they support your radio. There are other control apps too, and I’m not familiar with all the options. Whether this is “comparable” to a Flexradio 6400 I can’t say. It seems to be similar in functionality at least.

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