Only three days after placing the order, a new (and much improved) FunCube Dongle Pro+ arrived on my doorstep from the UK.
I previously had one of the original FCD’s – a non “plus” model – but quickly lost interest in it because it did not offer access to HF frequencies. The new version covers 150 kHz to 1900 MHz (with a gap from 260 – 410 MHz) and does it well thanks to other changes in the design from the original model.
Many folks have experimented with cheap $20 DBV-T based dongles to receive various signals throughout the RF spectrum and there might be the tendency to think of the FCD+ in the same regard due to the similar form factor, but let me assure you – there is no comparison.
Also in the Improvement category is some of the software used to process data from SDR receivers, namely SDR# which directly supports the new FCD+. Starting up my new receiver was darn near plug-n-play and took a total of about three minutes to go from having the package open to receiving signals from DC to daylight. All that fuss with Zadig and other apps needed to make the DBV-T dongles work are non-issues here – goodbye to all that nonsense!
There was recently a thread running on the Elecraft reflector about the new FCD+ outperforming the K3 on 6 meters in terms of receiver sensitivity. As the thread came to life, I expected the original poster to get pounced for making such a claim but, to the contrary, others agreed. That thread is here (scroll to bottom of page).
All this as I waited for mine to arrive. Expectations were high.
Starting the FCD+ consists of loading SDR#, plugging in the dongle and allowing the drivers to load themselves and then opening SDR#. Enable a few (5) options in SDR# and then start receiving. That’s it.
Initial targets were local AM and FM stations, then on to HF where I listened to Radio Habana on the 49m band and many other SW stations on the 31- and 25-meter bands. Audio was great and it was fun to experiment with filter bandwidth and AGC settings in SDR#.
I can see the FCD+ as being a SWL’s only receiver with very few – or perhaps, no – compromises being made over what they might otherwise choose to own. In fact, I’d love to see a comparison of performance and capabilities of the FCD+ with a dedicated SW receiver in the same price range.
Up on VHF/UHF: the local police repeater, various NOAA weather freqs and air traffic were all monitored easily. I had dinner at this point and left the FCD+ running so that I could return later and see if it had drifted off frequency. It hadn’t. This is a vast improvement over the original FCD.
The ham bands were next and the results met my high expectations while monitoring phone, CW and digital signals on 15-160 meters. Although the FCD+ has a 192 kHz bandwidth, SDR# can be easily zoomed in to display a closer, magnified portion of the band such as only the CW segment.
It was interesting to switch back & forth between dipole and Yagi to see the effect, not only of changing signal strength, but of signal to noise differences as well.
My next step is to download and configure a “virtual audio cable” program so that I can run other software in tandem with SDR# to allow the FCD+ to serve as a CW skimmer and also to tinker with decoding the NOAA weather satellites and a few other experiments such as those discussed by DK8OK here in a 24MB multimedia pdf (I didn’t know there was such a thing!).