Last week, I set up a Free DIY internet radio recorder on my PC to record “All This Jazz” on KWGS in .mp3 automatically.
In that post, I mentioned that I had ordered an $8 USB FM tuner from Hong Kong on eBay. It arrived yesterday.
More precisely, it is an RTL2832U+R820T DVB-T SDR+DAB+FM USB 2.0 DIGITAL TV Tuner Receiver HT.
(If you can’t wait the week or two it takes from Hong Kong, here is an equivalent from Amazon: KEEDOX® RTL-SDR, FM+DAB, DVB-T USB Stick Set with RTL2832U & R820T)
The RTL2832U part of the chipset is a TV tuner, which is useless, because it works on the European standard, not ours.
R820T refers to the radio tuner part. Unlike a normal tuner, it has a vast frequency range of 24MHz to 1850MHz.
With the dongle plugged into my computer and free SDR# software installed, my “software-defined radio” tuned in FM stations and NOAA weather radio (162.55MHz in Tulsa).
Ham radio including CW (Morse code), unencrypted police and fire radio, aviation, etc. should also be receivable with the right antenna. Of course, the antenna supplied was inadequate, but good enough to verify the product works. (A 2’9″ piece of wire, alligator-clipped to the jack, does much better for FM reception.)
I saw regular spikes in the police and fire band, but I presume their communications are encrypted.
I have also been able to record KWGS in .wav format. I converted the .wav file to .mp3 with free Audacity software, at about 1/20 the size.
If you acquire one of these RTL2832U/R820T devices, here is a complete tutorial on setting up software-defined radio on your PC:
Caution: try this only if you are careful and fairly knowledgeable about Windows. It is an excellent tutorial, but I still shot myself in the foot last night, while trying to swap the USB stick’s standard driver for a special low-level access driver (I was in a hurry to get it working before our Date Night started.)
Today, I was able to extract the bullet, cauterize the wound, and finish the job, but just be advised, it can be a risky operation if you aren’t super-careful.
I opened Windows Media Center to see if it would recognize the tuner, but it didn’t. I will investigate later; this is our Sci-Fi Saturday!
(3/15/2015: I don’t think this device can integrate into Windows Media Center, unless you are on a European version of Windows. As it is, the SDR radio/recorder is cheap, fun and useful; it lacks only a scheduled recording capability. SDR-Radio.com offers software that does scheduled recording, but with different hardware, such as FUNcube.)