Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sigmira: A Fully Featured and Advanced SDRadio (and Free!)

Sigmira is my personal go-to SDR. Much like Twente's WebSDR described in the first post here, it is an SDR, but you download it (Windows is supported, and an unsupported Linux version exists) and your computer becomes the station instead of using the Twente website.

PLEASE NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with Sigmira nor do I receive any compensation for my review of this program. As with any software, use it at your own risk. I have never had an issue with it and I know of no one who has, but I am not liable if any harm comes to your system with its usage.
Using 2 monitors. 

Sigmira gives you some significant advantages over WebSDR.
  1. There are many antennas people have set up to allow you to log onto. You can choose an antenna closer to the broadcaster you wish to listen to whereas Twente's antenna is fixed to the Netherlands. This means if you locate an online antenna closer to, say, America when you want to listen to SKYKING, you can do so and the signal should be better. Sigmira antennas are all over Europe, North America and Central Asia. 
  2. There are several more modes of reception not found on WebSDR. It will demodulate several rare and specific modes such as SITOR-B and NFM. 
  3. It displays local and UTC times. 
  4. For those that wish to get into more technical aspects of SDRadios, there's phase array controls and other aspects of fine-tuning the signal not found on WebSDR. 
  5. The Waterfall, and this is just opinion, is much more sensitive and detailed.
  6. The Squelch Control is MUCH better than WebSDR's. You can manually adjust it until it's where you want it.
Some disadvantages.
  1. It is far more complex than WebSDR's site. Straight-forward band and mode selection is easy enough, but novice users may have issues with logging onto antennas or using the advanced features. 
  2. Recording transmissions is also not as straight forward. At this time, I find using another program (for me, VLC) is the easiest way to record a broadcast. 
  3. Many online antennas have an automatic time limit, usually an hour to 2 hours. While it is generous of those with SDR receivers to allow us to consume some of their bandwidth for free, time limits may be problematic for those who want to listen to a station for longer. You can typically log back on right after your session has ended with no problems. 
  4. There is no chat box. Not a serious issue, but WebSDR's chat box does allow you to know what others are hearing and gives you a chance to tune in. There is an IRC chatroom out there that works the same way, however. (I'll update this when I find it again,) 
The Sigmira website has a .pdf instruction manual you should download and read first if you are considering using this more advanced program. This will help you to understand Sigmira's more complicated systems and help you decide if you wish to download it or just stick with WebSDR. For the novice just looking to amuse themselves from time-to-time with SKYKING or other transmissions, WebSDR is probably all you need. For those who are curious to explore more, Sigmira might be a new and interesting option. 

If anyone has questions about Sigmira or anything on my blog here, feel free to ask.

If you're looking to build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire for an antenna (the longer, the better and split into a "T" if possible. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90! Combined with the USB cable and speaker wire listed above, $115 gets you all frequencies from 100 kHz up to 6 GHz!  

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