CubicSDR is a software package that runs with the low priced RTL dongles. These can be found in abundance on many online shopping websites like Amazon and eBay. There can be a little bit of ‘tweaking’ to get any RTL SDR dongle up and running but being cheap to buy its a quick route to accessing Software Defined Radio.

Installation

Wanting to try it on a lower spec computer than I currently have my SDRSharp installed on, I originally set out to put it on the dual core/4gb RAM computer that’s my new work PC. Couldn’t get the CubicSDR to see the RTL dongle (at all), Zadig went in fine and the device was showing up in device manager but just wouldn’t work (even after a few attempts at taking the driver in and out).

cubicsdr-interface

The CubicSDR GUI

This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems with USB devices on this PC and I’m not sure if its the computer or my unfamiliarity with windows 10 (more than likely). Its bothering me a little as I could do with it being in perfect working order with zero hassle as nearly all of my online work is done on it. Won’t be beaten and I’ll come back to it later when there’s more time..

Installation on the i5 beast was straightforward though because Zadig, the dongle and various SDR programs are already running on it.

First impressions

For me the graphical interface on SDR type programs makes or breaks my interest in it right from the start. I’m all for a little messing around to get things all in a logical order, but this gets tired very quickly and if there’s a major redesign involved, the software is in serous danger of being shelved.

Once had a nightmare with SDR# not saving changes and the GUI went back to default every time the program was restarted . This sent me into a mad fit until the error was narrowed down to a problem with the Windows OS 🙂

The CubicSDR GUI is big, bold and fairly uncluttered while also working very, very first on what is after all an overpowered computer for the task. A quick look at the performance shows that CubicSDR eats a lot less resources than SDR# does making it possible to use the PC for other things at the same time (SDR# is a little greedy and can throw the odd glitch if its not got the computer to its self)

On Air

Started with the FM broadcast band with its ‘always on’ strong FM signals just to make sure the dongle and antenna were working properly before diving into the harder to find transmissions.

Although the FM side of the program works fine, getting hold of a sideband signal at a moments notice within a typical SDR dongles range can be a little tricky. As the dongle will cover down to (about) 26mHZ before the gain totally shuts down leaves the option of snagging some SSB on either the CB radio or 28Mhz ham band.

Having limited time in the week meant waiting until the weekend to get the software a proper spin. Please with the results though and spent a nice couple of hours getting used to the software while listening to what was a fairly active 10 Meter ham band.

Verdict?

Like many open-source programs, CubicSDR software is very much a work in progress and there’s a huge list of recent changes/fixes if you care to take a look at the Dev section of the website and the internet makes getting any updates that much easier than in the olden days 🙂

Regardless of what happens in the future, CubicSDR as it stands at the moment with the combination low processor load and its chunky interface gets a big thumbs up from me.

I’m looking forward to the future of this software to see how it grows over time. That said, I’m not ready to uninstall SDR# and will probably switch between the programs as the mood takes me.

Want to give it a go? , all the stuff you need (download and some installation information) can be found over at CubicSDR.com

For a overview of the whole install process (including setting up Zadig), you can take a look at the excellent RTL-SDR.com.

If you choose to try CubicSDR, it would be great to know how you get on?

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