Summary of BladeRF SDR TRX
BladeRF is a high performance SDR transceiver made by a small start-up company, Nuand http://www.nuand.com/bladeRF.
Currently only mainboard is available for US$420, with a HF/VHF transverter due late November to give coverage down to 10 MHz. For receive only, an up-converter for RTL-SDR dongles could be used to go lower.
•Fully bus-powered USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Software Defined Radio
•Portable, handheld form factor: 5" by 3.5"
•Extensible gold plated RF SMA connectors
•300MHz - 3.8GHz RF frequency range
•Independent RX/TX 12-bit 40MSPS quadrature sampling: LMS6002D is a field programmable RF transceiver http://www.limemicro.com/products/LMS6002D.php
•Capable of achieving full-duplex 28MHz channels
•16-bit DAC factory calibrated 38.4MHz +/-1ppm VCTCXO
•On-board 200MHz ARM9 SOC with 512KB embedded SRAM (JTAG port available)
•On-board 15KLE or 115KLE Altera Cyclone 4 E FPGA (JTAG port available)
•2x2 MIMO configurable with SMB cable, expandable up to 4x4
•Modular expansion board design for adding GPIO, Ethernet, and 1PPS sync signal and expanding frequency range, and power limits
•DC power jack for running headless
•Highly efficient, low noise power architecture
•Stable Linux, Windows, Mac and GNURadio software support
•Hardware capable of operating as a spectrum analyser, vector signal analyser, and vector signal generator
Being a start-up, much of the software is still being developed, but some is available to make an awesome SDR receiver cum spectrum analyser.
While I was interested in them as an SDR, my immediate need was for a spectrum analyser for my DVB-T project covered in an earlier post.
I am trying to amplify the 1 mW DTV-T output on the 70 cm channel from the UT-100C modulator dongle. I have three amplifiers, trying to get about 5 W or so, to transmit.
Bottom line of BladeRF: it works as specified.
My Sandy Bridge i5 CPU is running at 37% and its fan is wizzing. Bloody amazing!
Imagine if it could be demodulated on the computer as well. I think there are 5 TV channels 7 MHz band.
I had to use the TV antenna with its masthead amplifier. My discone was a waste, too low and we are in a shadow area for free to air TV.
I initially tried to get it working on a Windows 8, but ended up getting it going on a clean Windows 7 i5 Sandy Bridge machine, first using USB2, then with no drama on USB3.
Per the Nuand blog entry, http://www.nuand.com/blog/platform-support-update/, the stand-alone Windows installer (http://nuand.com/downloads/bladerf_win_installer.exe) works. It puts everything into the Program Files (x86) directory. The installer includes firmware and the FPGA image (.rbf files). The main program to manage the BladeRF is “bladeRF” (in start list).
Run BladeRF from Start menu to get command window. Check you can talk to device. Load FGGA image and LEDs on board should start flickering. That’s all! Then to SDR software.
Updated .rbf files can be substituted as they become available. The FPGA image must be loaded each time the device is turned on or reset, not sure why, but no big deal at this stage.
As such, there is no need to go through the rather complex process of compiling everything to do the install as detailed in the wiki: https://github.com/Nuand/bladeRF/wiki/Getting-Started%3A-Windows. The description of the process is useful if you wanted to change any of the source code.
Windows SDR software: SDR-console V2 beta
The only Windows software I can find that supports bladeRF is SDR-console V2 beta. The current beta doesn’t but I managed to get an earlier version of SDR-console that was designed to work with bladeRF: Build 2.1 Beta 1545, see http://www.ham-radio.ch/kits/sdr-radio.com/2.1/ for all versions. Setup SDR as per any other.
Bandwidth list “only” goes to 5 MHz, but maximum gives 30 MHz (maximum can be set in radio definition). V2 “only” goes to 1 GHz, not sure if setting or otherwise. At the moment, not a problem, but it would be good to go to 23 cm band as UT-1000C can go that far.
As for Windows 8, not sure what the problem is. Main one is non-signed driver, which can be overcome with special start-up mode for Windows 8 (not a criticism, I can see why they do it) It may be a Windows 8 issue, as that is one of the listed issues for the device. It may also be a change in the firmware that is incompatible with the current V2 .dlls (the latest beta lists bladeRF but can’t find it). Will try again in next few days.
I am happy
While everything is still a bit hairy, I am happy.
I have a spectrum analyser for my DVB-T project. Now I can set up the amplifiers without clipping/splatter etc.
Everything else is a bonus. I can only encourage others to
buy one of these devices and start experimenting. The company is a start-up and
needs all the support it can get for a fantastic device.