RX-888: 32 MHz/16bit, 200 US-$ – pricks up your ears

The RX-888 covers 32MHz @16Bit in a row. Here it comes to life with Simon Brown’s unique and indispensable software SDRC V3 at an professional active dipole antenna MD300DX.

It is the (a few weeks) younger brother to the RX-666, a brainchild of Oscar Steila, IK1XPV. And it is one of the first palm-sized SDRs in the price class of 200 US-$ which covers the whole HF band for receiving, recording and playing with 16Bit resolution, resulting in a competitive dynamic range of about 100dB. I got one from China via eBay (there are numerous sellers) within a few days. Overnight, Simon, G4ELI, made his SDRC V3 software to match also to the RX-888 with excellence. You need a PC, an i5 should do it, with USB3.0 for data streaming, controlling and power supply. Yes, there is no need for a separate 5 or 12VDC!

Much had been speculated about one obvious fact: the price of the A/D chip is, if only a medium order is placed, the same or even higher than the price tag at the RX-888. How comes? One rumor with some substantial background results in this story: the chips had been desoldered from boards of other projects which didn’t pass the quality control. These boards had been sold at a low price as a bonanza to smart people who can use all the parts which on their own will have passed the quality control, most notably the pivotal A/D chip.

This blog should give you a first impression. The biggest difference between RX-666 and RX-888 seems to be that the latter is equipped with a permanent low-noise amplifier of +20dB which perfectly balances sensitivity and dynamic range for 90% of us DXers. Sensitivity on HF is nearly on par with FDM-S2.

Two antenna sockets – the impressive cooling fins on three sides of the box will be needed after a planned update of covering 64 MHz in a row with 16Bit, and up to 10MHz (now: 8MHz) above 64MHz.

I tested the RX-888 from 10kHz to 32MHz and had a look above 32MHz – see the two following screenshots.

RJH69 on VLF 25.0kHz. This time signal from Belarus was received at 07:06 UTC on 02SEP2020 in Northern Germany and read with CW decoder MRP40.
A look onto 8MHz of the FM broadcast band.

The RX-888 also worky nicely together with decoders like DRM or (other) data, see the two following screenshots.

The very weak DRM signal of China National Radio on 9655kHz [Urumqui, 30kW, antenna direction 98°!] is duly received by the RX-888 with the data decoded with free DREAM software.
US Air Force Diego Garcia [JDG] in the Indian Ocean calling their Lajes counterpart [PLA] in the Açores on 4721kHz at 17:18UTC in MIL-STD-188-141A.

PC power: Nowadays, a “receiver” is a system, consisting of an SDR (the box), software and the PC. While world-class software SDRC V3 is for free, and an top SDR costs just about 200 US-$, you should not forget an able PC. It must be an i5 and up if you want to digest bigger bandwidth like 8 MHz, 16 MHz or even 32MHz. Even for recording 32 MHz, there is no need for internal SSDs, a fast iron disk will do the job. Furthermore: 32MHz recording for 24 hours do expect a bit more than 11TB disk space. This calls for an external HD, and a second USB3.0 card (not: hub!) is a must. As external HD, I use the WD MyBook Duo, delivering 28TB at under 750 US-$. The combination of an desktop i7 and this HD ensures stutter-free recording and playing up to bandwidth of at least 32MHz. Here simply more is more …

Last, but not least, please find below a few audio examples of broadcast as well as utility stations. They proof that the RX-888 is a serious receiver at a ridiculous low price.

4712 kHz/USB: Russian Airports with radio checks in Russian: Kazan, Rostov (net control), Saratov, Samara, Novosibirsk, Chelayabinsk. They transmit with 1kW of power to a low-hanging dipole. 02SEP2020, 17:00 UTC.
4750kHz/AM-ECSS: Bangladesh Betar with ID over an obviously defective transmitter (nominal 100kW). 02SEP2020, 17:00UTC.
4800kHz/AM-SAM: Chinese National Radio Beijing I (Geermu, 100kW) ID in Mandarin, ID. 02SEP2020, 22:00 UTC.
4920kHz/AM: Tibet People’s Broadcasting Station (Lhasa, 100kW), ID in Tibetan. 02SEP2020, 21:00 UTC.
5000kHz/CW: Chinese Time Signal Station BPM (Sha’anxi/Pucheng, 5kW), ID in CW. 02SEP2020, 22:00UTC.
6676kHz/USB: Singapore VOLMET, 5kW, ID and weather in English. 02SEP2020, 17:20UTC.
6676kHz/USB: Bangkok VOLMET, 5kW, ID and weather in English. 02SEP2020, 18:10UTC.
7240kHz/AM: Tibet People’s Broadcasting Station (Lhasa, 100kW), ID in Mandarin. 02SEP2020, 21:00 UTC.
9275kHz/AM: FEBC Philippines/Bocaue (100kW), ID in Mandarin. 02SEP2020, 14:00 UTC.
9310kHz/AM: VoA Deewa Radio (Udon Thani/Thailand, 250kHz), ID in Pashtun/Urdu. 02SEP2020, 14:00UTC.
9664,77kHz/LSB: Radio Voz Missionaria (Camboriu/Brazil, 10kW), ID in Portuguese. 02SEP2020, 22:00UTC.
10’000kHz/CW: Chinese Time Signal Station BPM (Sha’anxi/Pucheng, 5kW), ID in CW. 02SEP2020, 17:00UTC.

27 comments

  • Excellent, concise blog post! The next year should be exciting for advanced SDRs at an affordable price like the RX-888.

    • Wolfgang Platzer

      Sounds great.
      What would you recommend more: the RX-666 or the RX-888?

      • … thanks, Wolfgang, the 888 clearly delivers more performance at a similar price. 73 Nils, DK8OK

      • Wolfgang Platzer

        Hello, I received some weeks ago the RX-888. As I had difficulties to install it on my MAcBook I bought two weeks ago
        a new Asus Laptop. Unfortunately this one does not even recognize the RX-888 as a device. My wife´s old Lenove immediately finds it. Any idea what the problem ight be and how this could be solved?

  • Nice picture heading up this post, Nils.
    Super illustration how the noise floor has two “lumps” at around 13-15 MHz and 21-25 MHz, that I assume is the preponderance of ITU allocations to “FIXED” services?
    Do you know what the “mess” is from 28 MHz up? Inadequate anti-aliasing??

    • … all amateur radio bands are blocked, as well as some utility ranges. The mess >28MHz is purely cosmetic, and Simon will tide up it in a future version of his software. 73 Nils, DK8OK

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  • You mention that they will be upgrading soon to 64 MHz direct sampling. Will this be a hardware or a firmware upgrade?

    • … should be a firmware update, Greg. But don‘t know when. 73 Nils, DK8OK

    • … thanks, Greg, and as far as I know, a firmware upgrade will do the job. But I cannot guarantee for that, and I don’t know when this may happen … 73 Nils, DK8OK

      • Nils,

        I would be interested to know how the device performs in the long-term test at high sampling rate in terms of the heating of the ADC chip. The manufacturer describes the stability as ‘OK’, which says something. If the chip burns down, you can waste $ 200 in the bin. There is no manufacturer guarantee.

        Ref:
        “Currently Known Problems:
        1. Because the ADC chip ltc2208 is very hot at high sampling rate, although it has been guided to the shell by thermal conductive silica gel pad, and the shell is also attached with heat sink. But the shell is still very hot after a long time of work, but after a long time of running test, the stability is OK. Passive heat dissipation is limited by radiator size.” (source: ebay.de site)

        73 aus Gießen!
        Willi

      • … nothing to worry about, Willi: the box shows still under 40 degrees Celsius after a night at 32 MHz. 73 Nils, DK8OK

  • I ordered one. Will share my experience after its arrival 🙂

  • I received mine today and it is impressive to see some BC stations with 90dB SNR and more.without any issues but something seems off on my setup … I use a simple consumer version of a popular 6th gen I7 business notebook running SDR-Console 3.025 and beyond 2MSamples it stutters. What am I doing wrong? The notebook had a very low price and now I wonder if the USB 3.0 implementation might be a poor one? My main PC is under repair and the new one will have to wait a months or two.
    CPU load display within SDR console shows around 30-40% while the Windows task manager shows 50-60% for the SDR-Console process?! Or could something be wrong with my driver or could the very latest firmware from factory be giving me a problem? The system shows it as Cypress FX3 USB StreamerExampleDevice … now for a test that I installed the driver according to https://www.sdr-radio.com/rx-666 it doesn’t seem to detect the device anymore. Last time I resolved this I had to go into the BIOS and turn the USB devices off and on again. Shouldn’t matter but someone it did … but I will continue tomorrow.
    Another thing is that in the VHF band, where the RX is supposed to have only 8 bit resolution, it may stutter even at 1 MHz Sampling .. shouldn`t it be an easy game with 8 bit resolution?
    No I wonder if the main problem is just the DC current … maybe I should give the RX another hole for a separate 5V supply, which will end the warranty that I may need if there is an issue from the factory that causes it?
    Apart from that the case already gets warm at 1 or 2 MHz sampling but definitely not dangerously warm that something could be damaged, but it is definitely above body temperature. My final goal is to run this thing as an SDR-server where I can connect a bunch of clients with decoders via IP accessing any part of the entire sampled HF band. It seems I am very far from that goal.
    Also it is pretty noisy on 10m band … not cool up there compared to the AirspyHF+ which is clear as a bell up there.
    73 Joerg

    • Hi, Jörg – thanks for sharing your experiences. You should try to exactly trace each of the different problems. I can only refer to my setup – PC, driver, firmware, software version etc. There are many points which may influence performance and behavior. My setup runs without problems. Better luck, next PC!? 73 Nils, DK8OK

  • Hi Nils – many thanks for the quick reply.
    It would be very helpful for my technical “situational awareness” to get an idea what is needed to assure a proper operation of the RX888. Can you please tell me which CPU and GPU you are using, if you use the onboard USB3.0 or a dedicated PCIe slot card with a separate power supply connector and which sampling rates cause how much CPU/GPU load and also if your CPU load is also higher when using the VHF/UHF part of the RX, though it supposedly just uses 8 bit instead of 16 bit, which doesn’t make any sense only because it is multiplexing receiver parameters towards the R820T2 tuner.
    It would be very helpful for me to get a feel for what is actually working as designed and what may cause my current limitations.
    My main workstation will repaired and re-installed hopefully within this week and in the long run I want to turn it into a pure SDR monitoring server as soon as the new PC gets build which will be November/December depending on the availability of the latest GPUs, which should hopefully also be able to take some of the SDR processing off of the CPU if SDR console supports it.
    73 Joerg, DL8EBM

  • Hi, Jörg – my PC for all these hobby things is an i7-8700 CPU @3,2 GHz, 32 GB RAM, NVDIA GeForce GTX1050 Ti, USB is USB 3.1., on-board. As I handed my RX888 over to a friend, I cannot do any further tests. This I will leave also more to the ham radio magazines (which I contacted, but they are not interested in this receiver …). So, stay tuned 😉
    Headline: More IS More. You really need a bit of power. And you need a second, independent USB3 socket to feed an external HD, I am using the WD Duo Books 20/28TB. At least this works. So there is no need for an internal SSD of, say 12 TB, being quite expensive. All this is needed only to use the maximum performance of this SDR. If lower bandwidths are sufficient, lower PC perfomance will also do. I ordered the RX666 and the RX888 just for fun and because I am always interested in new technologies. My workhorse for DXing is a Winradio Sigma. 73 Nils, DK8OK

    • Dear Nils,
      many thanks for the info on your PC setup, that gives me a better idea of the resources where it is supposed to work flawlessly.
      Will take my system completely apart again, change some components including a dedicated pcie usb3.0 card and re-install it. It is an I7 2nd gen with the Sandy Bridge chipset error, which has some issues by design regarding long term degradation of the Onboard usb and some sata3 ports, but I don’t want to throw it away since the rest is working great and will hopefully have enough juice to run as an SDR server full time and in December I’ll build a new workstation if the latest CPUs and GPUs become available.

      And by the way I am not planning to record the entire HF band 😂 just some decoded HFDL stuff that I am interested in. You once wrote a great article about multiband HFDL reception using the Airspy and Spyverter … did you have good luck running the DisplayLauncher without crashing its DB after some thousand planes and then never running stable again? Re-installing the SW did not help, on another machine I ran into the same problem, shame because the SW looks nice.
      I got data coming from HFDL, ACARS, VDL2, ADSB and JAERO that I want to unify and visualize it collectively. Any clue how to do that with SW that already exists?
      Best regards
      Joerg, DL8EBM

      • … thanks, Jörg – regarding the decode of 25 channels, and collecting the results: more often than not, during live processing, the database will loop through with just one message. In most cases, it is better to process the decoded files file by file afterwards (post process). But I did that not for a year or so, and with an older PC. So things may have changed. Just try it.
        Alas, so far I didn’t search for a unifying database, collecting decoded messages from different formats. It seems that only few people are doing 24 HFDL channels in parallel. A publication about this in some magazine may spark this interest and trigger some activity. In Germany, however, no magazine is interested in this attractive and useful technique; I tried that in vain … 73 Nils

  • Does the RX888 cause signal decrease ??

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  • Hi,
    I have de rx888 and it works on sdrconsole.

    I want to use it with de SDRUNO, that i use with my RSP2. I want to keep it running on all hf ham bands to monitor ft8 fignals and test antena and propagation into my qth. With ths RSP2 i only have 10 mhz to rx at same time.
    Anyone knows how to use the SDRUNO with de RS888
    Or anyone knows how to asing a diferent audio out to virtual cable, and virttual port fot cat control to multiple virtual receivers on the SDRCONSOLE. I can do this with the SDRUNO.

    Regards

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