SDR-J is a set of open source programs for the receiving side of
Software Defined Radio on the PC.
Started as a hobby project (it still is!!!) for getting some
sound out of a PC with an Elektor SDR card as (Elektor May 2007) radio device,
it evolved into the current set of programs.
The set consists of software for DAB (Windows and Linux PC as well as for a Raspberry PI 2 (3) running a decent Linux distribution), software for (W)FM (Windows and Linux PC and Raspberry PI 2 (3)), software for "classic radio", i.e. amateur modes and DRM, on Windows and Linux PC (it will run on the Raspberry PI 2 (3) though), and some simple software for viewing spectra also on Windows and Linux PC.
The pictures show (from left to right) screenshots of the use of the major components of the set
The software is written in C++, and the Qt
framework for the GUI is used, while many libraries available
through a GPL are used (recently, as an exercise in programming a - limited
- version of the DAB-rpi software is also encoded
in the Ada programming language using gtk for a - very simple - interface).
In the current version some errors were fixed, and the software is compiled against the most recent libraries for the devices (1.95 for the SDRplay, 1.08 for the AIRspy). The software will probably not work with versions of the SDRplay library before 1.95.
Furthermore, the common programs (i.e. all but the SW software) are now equipped with tooltips, where the function of a button, slider or other widget can be viewed by moving the cursor over the widget.
For Windows, there is a single zipped folder containing
the executables and relevant dll's for all programs.
Download the Windows version of the DAB, WFM, Spectrumview
and SW software in a zipped folder here .
Note that, while a number of dll's is in the zipped files, the "basic ones"
are supposed to be available elsewhere on your system. Note further
that the libraries for the SDRplay - if you wish to use that - should be
downloaded from the producer of the device.
The sources of the software can be downloaded from "https://github.com/JvanKatwijk/XXX" where XXX stands for the project. These projects also often contain up-to-date windows executables.
For more information on any of the programs, touch the appropriate label below.
There are two programs for DAB decoding, the "sdr-j-DAB" program
that will run on a PC running
Linux or Windows, and the "DAB-rpi" that will run on a PC with Linux or Windows as well as on an Raspberry PI 2 (3).
While both programs share large parts of the implementation,
the "DAB-rpi" program is implemented slightly differently to distribute the computational load over all 4 cores of the Raspberry PI 2 processor,
and it has slightly less functionality in the handling of data.
The "sdr-j-DAB" program - if so configured - shows the spectrum of the signal, on the other hand, the "DAB-rpi" program can be configured to send the audio output to an IP port rather than to the local sound"card" (used by me to listen to DAB programs through the remotely controlled DAB-rpi).
In both programs the audio seems to be OK, data handling, however, is still immature. Unfortunately, since the DAB transmissions that can be received locally do not contain much of a data part, progress in developing the data handling is slow.
Operation of the DAB-rpi program is straightforward.
Selecting a device is controlled by the selector labelled "9"
on the picture above.
The control panel for the selected device will appear elsewhere on the screen.
The Mode and Band are by default set to Mode 1, Band III
where the transmissions in this part of the world happen, settings can be
changed by buttons labelled 7 and 8.
Actual running of the program will start after pressing the "START
button labelled "1", quitting the program
is by pressing the "QUIT" button (labelled "2").
When synchronized, the name of the ensemble (here "DAB+") will appear and names of the programs encoded within the ensemble will be displayed.
Selecting a particular station in the list is by clicking with the mouse on a program name ("Classic FM") in the picture. An output channel is selected using button labelled "6", in case the output is sent to an ip port, this selector is made invisible.
The resulting audio (48000 Hz, stereo) can be saved in a file by pressing button labelled "4". The input (with a samplerate of 2048000) can be saved into a ".sdr" file by pressing button labeled "5" (an ".sdr" file is basically a ".wav" file). Again, pressing the button for the second time after opening a file, will cause closing the file.
Pressing button labelled "3" will cause the software try to resynchronize.
The two numbers shown above the button panel show the "fine" frequency offset resp. the "coarse" frequency offset in Hz. When synchronized, the "coarse" frequency offset will remain constant, the "fine" frequency offset change continuously, depending on the reception conditions.
The numbers on the top line right indicate (from left to right)
Operation of the sdr-j-DAB program is similar. It has an additional button with which a scan over the channels in the selected band is started. The scan will stop at the channel where the software assumes there is a decent DAB signal.
The executables and dll's required for Windows can be downloaded
as a zipped folder.
The sources for the programs can be downloaded from
Compilation requires a number of libraries to be installed (next to Qt5 and an appropriate C++ compiler toolchain) being installed
New is a variant - currently only available for Linux - with a more "modern" GUI (thanks to Albrecht Lohoefener: For the latest release see "https://github.com/AlbrechtL/dab-rpi".)
This version, using qml for describing the GUI, will - when asked to do so - scan the band and collect all programs from all ensembles that can be received. The list is maintained between invocations of the program. Just click on a program to select it.
Generating the executable for this variant requires setting "CONFIG += gui_3", rather than the default specified "CONFIG += gui_1" in the "dab-rpi.pro" file. Note that is option is not available in the CmakeLists.txt file.
While the CMake configuration file assume Qt5, it is very well
possible to compile for Qt4 using QMake.
The DAB-rpi program does not require QWT and on my Raspberry PI 2 I am using Qt4 for it.
For compilation of the DAB-rpi on the Raspberry PI 2, the option "NO_SSE_AVAILABLE" should be uncommented, since the arm processor obviously does not support the SSE instructions.
The DAB-rpi software has an option to send the sound output (the PCM samples) to an IP port (20040) rather than to the sound card, an option that can be set or unset in the ".pro" file for use with qmake (comment or uncomment the line CONFIG += tcp-streamer). To support listening in that case, the sources contain a simple "listener" program, that program is precompiled for the Windows library (and named "soundClient"). I use the Raspberry PI headless through an SSH connection, where the Raspberry PI is on a different location than where my chair is.
The Windows executables are part of the windows distribution, that can be downloaded from as a zipped folder . The folder contains next to the executables most of the required libraries. The Windows versions are precompiled for the three mentioned input devices and for appropriate Extio libraries (some of them included in the zipped folder others to be obtained from the supplier of the device). The Extio_XXX.dll's were tested for the DABsticks and the SDRplay, it might or might not work with others.
The projects at github ("https://github.com/JvanKatwijk/dab-rpi", and "https://github.com/JvanKatwijk/sdr-j-dab" contain, next to the newest sources I am working on, sources for complete and recen releases as well as precompiled versions for Windows of these releases.
The (Wideband)FM software consists of several instances of a simple FM receiver, configured to be
used in conjunction with a given device, one of DABstick, SDRplay or AIRspy.
The software will run under Windows (precompiled versions for all three mentioned devices as well as for Extio-XXX.dll's),
and under Linux (both PC and Raspberry PI 2) configurable for any of these devices.
The program(s) support decoding of stations in the FM broadcast band in mono and stereo and support RDS decoding (obviously, the frequencies to be received depend on the radio device connected). A recent feature is that the FM software supports a program list, a list of known programs with their frequencies, which can be set and altered. Such a program list may contain selected program names with their associated frequency and is maintained between program invocations. Selecting a station from the list will set the program to the frequency for that station.
Operation of the WFM receiver software is straightforward.
Finally, with the button "FS", one may save the current frequency setting and bind a name to it.
The sources are to be found on
The precompiled Windows executables are - together with the DAB software - to be found as a zipped folder.
When compiling under Linux, first, the device or devices for which it is meant is to be selected in the configuration file (either qmake or cmake, the zipped Windows folder contains 4 precompiled versions, one for each of the mentioned devices and one for use with Extio-XXX dll's).
When compiling one needs, next to the C++ compiler and Qt (either 4 or 5)
Also new is that - as with the DAB-rpi - the WFM-rpi software - when configured to do so - sends its output to port 20040 - for remote listening (again, my device is not in the same room where I normally stay). The same "listener", as for the dab-rpi program, i.e. soundClient program can be used for listening.
The more general sdr-j-fm software is also still available. As can be seen from the picture the GUI contains more elements, such as a spectrum.
This version supports - under Linux - the sw-elad-s1, to be used with a downconverter. Note that the program is - especially when running Windows - quite resource hungry.
The SW software aims to be the SDR equivalent of a classical SW radio. It originated as a small package for shortwave listening with the Elektor SDR card from 2007 and it evolved into the current program. The program supports a number of input devices and nearly a dozen decoders. I use it to listen to amateur bands, to psk, rtty and usb and lsb transmissions and - occasionally - to listen to RRI, sometimes to radio Nigeria and - depending on the conditions - to the DRM transmission of Bangalore. i.e. the few remaining DRM transmissions.
The SDRplay and DABstick are directly spported devices, both in the Linux
and the Windows version. The SDRplay supports frequency selection from app 10 kHz and up
and is used to listen to short wave. For DABsticks, there are libraries
with which a decent reception from 12mHz up is possible.
Under Linux, there is also direct support for the Elad-s1 (I don't own one, but a friend does). Furthermore, under Linux support for the Elektor card and the pmSDR can be compiled in (both devices need a cardreader for data input), or just a cardreader without device can be used.
Finally, there is support for receiving the raw antenna data using the WiFi, a simple server is part of the software, supporting the SDRplay, and sending the (decimated) data to an IP port. The receiver site is equipped with a scall client program as one of the "device-handlers".
In the precompiled Windows version, direct support for the Elektor card and for the pmSDR disappeared since using the ExtIO-XXX dll for these devices is an excellent alternative. Handling of devices for which a Winrad compatible dll exist is now extended with support for fast devices, i.e. devices such as DABsticks and SDRplay that deliver their data through the usb. I tested it with the ExtIO-XXX dll's for the SDRplay and DABsticks.
Since the decoders in the software are all "small-band" (for CW and PSK I normally set the width of the decoder screen to 6kHz, and select the preconfigured USB bandwidth of 2.5 kHz, while for DRM a bandwidth of 12kHz is really needed), the sample rate of the data from the fast devices such as the SDRplay, is reduced to 96000 or 48000 (it can be set to different values in the configuration file though, but 96000 samples/second leads to a spectrum-width of 96000 Hz which functions well on a common laptop screen).
My personal use is listening to SW using the aforementioned simple "server", running on the Raspberry PI 2 in the neighbourhood of a loop antenna with a simple amplifier on the attick, that provides the (decimated) sample-stream from the SDRplay to the home WiFi, allowing me to listen to shortwave radio from within the "lazy chair". The sources for the software, implementing a simple server for the SDRplay are part of the SW sources. The sources for the client are also part of the software tree.
The screen depicted in first picture shows this "normal" way of working. The window of the SW program in the middle, with at the left the widget for the selected device, which is "remote SDRplay". The widget of the SDRplay server - which runs through an SSH connection on my Raspberry - is on the right.
The various pieces of software for interfacing to a device as well as the various decoder are implemented as plugins. Adding or deleting a device or a decoder is simple, just add the plugin code to the appropriate directory, and does not require recompilation of the main program.
On start up, the main program will look into an ".ini" file for the path-names that specify where to find these plugins. If no ".ini" file exists as yet, defaults "input-plugins" and "decoder-plugins" are chosen. To set up the paths for the decoder plugins and the input plugins in an ".ini" file, a small configuration utility ("configure") is included. The second picture above shows the widget for this configurator. It merely asks for the paths names and creates (or updates) an ".ini" file in the home directory of the user.A variety of decoders is implemented
For use under Windows, a pre-compiled version
of the sw-receiver software is
available in the same zipped folder as for the other programs.
That folder contains plugins for
input and decoders in subdirectories input-plugins
resp. decoder-plugins and it contains many
of the required DLL's. Using the SDRplay as input device
does require installing the software from the producer of the device.
For use under Linux, one might want to download the sources from "https://github.com/JvanKatwijk/sdr-j-sw". The source tree contains subdirectories for the configurator, for the sw software proper and for the "server". The tree for the SW software itself contains subdirectories for the plugins, implementing the decoders and plugins implementing the support for input devices.
For compiling the main program one needs - obviously - the C++ compiler, the Qt libraries and development files and the QWT library and development files. Furthermore, the fftw3 library, the portaudio library, the libsndfile and libsamplerate libraries are also required.
For compiling the plugins (to be found in the subdirectory "plugins/input" and "plugins/decoders") one might need more libraries, depending on the plugin. E.g. for the rtlsdr as device one needs the rtlsdr library and libusb. Have a look at the configuration file. In the subdirectories for the input and for the decoder there is a small script to generate the plugins
Note that for the drm decoder plugin, one needs an adapted version of the "faad" library, a version compiled for DRM. The internet is full of examples on how to do that (./configure --with-DRM). Note further that, depending on the selected estimator, one might need additionally the "armadillo" library is needed (for some complex matrix operations), the default setting is such that armadillo is not needed.
The Windows version of the plugin for DRM has the correct library compiled in.
The spectrumviewer software is a simple program, it just shows the spectrum, up to a selected bandwidth, determined by the selected samplerate. The spectrumviewer software can be configured with the DABstick, the SDRplay, the AIRspy, the sw-elad-s1 and a soundcard.
Operation of the spectrumviewer software is straightforward.
The selector, marked "airspy" on the picture is used to select a device.
A frequency can be selected by entering the number in the keypad, terminating
it with either mHz (for interpreting the number as the frequency in mHz)
or kHz (for interpreting the number as the frequency in kHz).
The selector "viewmode" makes selection between spectrum or waterfall mode possible, touching the button "freeze" will - as the name suggests freeze - the spectrum shown.
The "set scan" selector starts (or stops) scanning though the frequencies The 4 selectors to the right of the "set scan" button determine the frequency range, the stepsize and the rate at which the frequency change will occur.
The precompiled Windows executable is to be found in the zipped folder
together with the DAB and WFM software. The configuration of the pre-compiled
version contains, next to
the DABstick, the AIRspy, the SDRPlay and the soundcard, a handler for devices supported by an Extio-XXX dll.
The sources, for compilation under Linux, are in "https://github.com/JvanKatwijk/sdr-j-spectrumviewer".
For compilation, one needs, next to the C++ compiler and the Qt and Qwt libraries,
Since the interest is more in programming than in writing manuals (that no one ever reads), the manuals are not up-to-date. There is a manual for the dab receiver, for the wfm software, and one for the sw-receiver (note that the latter manual still refers to the previous version where the control box for the selected device is on the GUI and where there is no mention of the DRM decoder). However, in the version distributed now, the GUI's are extended with tooltips, telling the function of the various elements of the GUI.
An informal description of the synchronization in the DRM decode is given in this description the document continues to be a draft, but contains quite some information on issues with decoding digital signals.
As an exercise in programming, basically to renew my knowledge of the
language after a period of 20 years, a - slightly limited -
version of the DAB-rpi program was rewritten in Ada.
For implementing the - simplified - GUI the Ada binding to gtk, gtkAda, is used.
The resulting program runs pretty well on my laptop and it was a nice and interesting exercise to create it.
I did not manage (yet) to compile the Ada sources on the Raspberry PI 2 and did not attempt to generate a Windows executable.
The current version has support for the input device "compiled in", i.e. the device is determined by the configuration settings (see the file "main.adb" for instructions how to select a configuration for one of the other supported devices). The Mode and Band can be selected though in the command line (defaults are Mode 1 and Band III).
The audio output is sent to a "default" device, no selection for other output devices is possible (yet). Contrary to the very first version, the current version heavily depends on the use of generics.
The sources were compiled using the gnat compiler and gtkAda3. The Ada sources bind to C libraries for fftw, libsndfile, libfaad, portaudio and - obviously - to the libraries for the device.
The sources are available at "https://github.com/JvanKatwijk/ada-dab".
To make life easy, a compressed 8G image of a Debian Jessie distro
for the Raspberry PI 2 with both the DAB-rpi and WFM-rpi software installed
(sources, required libraries and executables) is available on request.
Apart from the additions needed to compile and run the DAB-rpi and WFM programs, the distribution is clean.
Note, however, that this image will only run on an Raspberry PI 2, not on an Raspberry PI 3. Note further that different distributions for the Raspberry PI 2 sometimes support pretty old compilers. The g++ compiler in the Jessie distribution is a 4.XXX, while on the other hand the g++ compiler in the arch distribution (that is what I am normally using) on the Raspberry PI 2 is from the 6.XXX range.
The difference in performance is noticeable: while the average load on the 4 cores on the Raspberry PI 2 running the Arch distro is between 50 and 60 percent, the load on the cores on the same box running the Jessie distro is up to 85 to 90 percent.
All software is being developed as a hobby project and is available under a GPL.
It is - obviously - nice if this software is useful, but as the license states:
SDR-J is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.
I am grateful to SDRplay ltd for providing me the possibility to use the SDRplay and to
Benjamin Vernoux for providing me the possibility to use the AIRSPY, both wonderful devices.
Suggestions and contributions (material and immaterial) are welcome.
Pijnacker, December 2016
Jan van Katwijk
Lazy Chair Computing