$20 ultra-cheap Software Defined Radio with RTL2832 DVB-T USB stick

29 Mar 201203:29


TLDRThis instructional video showcases how to repurpose the S Cap DVB-T USB stick, typically used for receiving digital television, into a versatile software-defined radio (SDR) receiver. By switching modes, it can send samples to a computer at a rate of 33.2 MHz, capturing signals across a wide frequency range thanks to the Realtek 2832 chip and Elonics E4000 tuner. The presenter details the process of configuring the device with custom plugins and drivers to work with SDR software, emphasizing its affordability and accessibility for beginners interested in exploring the world of SDR.


  • 💻 The S Cap DVB-T USB stick, originally for digital television, can be repurposed as a software-defined radio (SDR) receiver.
  • 📡 This device can send samples to a computer at a maximum rate of 33.2 MHz, with each sample being 8 bits in size.
  • 🔍 Discovered by Antti Palosaari, this functionality allows for broad experimentation in radio frequency (RF) analysis.
  • 💾 The S Cap contains the Realtek RTL2832 chip and the Elonics E4000 tuner, enabling reception over a wide frequency range.
  • 📱 Initially, the device may appear as unknown in the computer; specific drivers and plugins are required for proper recognition.
  • 📂 The necessary plugin, created by the narrator, supports the chipset and tuner, facilitating the device's operation as an SDR.
  • 🛠 Installation involves using software like Zadig to configure drivers for the device’s bulk interfaces, specifically setting them to WinUSB.
  • 📲 Following driver installation, software such as HD SDR can be used to control the device and receive signals effectively.
  • 📰 The plugin also offers the ability to adjust gain, enhancing reception quality for both strong and weak signals.
  • 💵 Affordable and accessible, the device and its supporting plugin provide an entry point into software-defined radio for hobbyists and professionals alike.

Q & A

  • What is the primary use of the S Cap DVB-T USB stick?

    -The primary use of the S Cap DVB-T USB stick is to receive digital television signals.

  • How can the S Cap DVB-T USB stick be modified for other uses?

    -The S Cap DVB-T USB stick can be put into a mode that enables it to function as a general-purpose software-defined radio receiver, sending samples to a computer at a maximum rate of 33.2 megahertz.

  • Who discovered the alternative use of the S Cap DVB-T USB stick for software-defined radio?

    -The alternative use of the S Cap DVB-T USB stick for software-defined radio was initially discovered by Antti Palosaari.

  • What are the specifications of the samples sent by the modified S Cap DVB-T USB stick?

    -The samples sent by the modified S Cap DVB-T USB stick are eight bits in size.

  • What components does the S Cap adapter contain?

    -The S Cap adapter contains the RTL or Realtek 2832 chip and the Elonics E4000 tuner.

  • What frequency range can the S Cap DVB-T USB stick receive signals over?

    -The S Cap DVB-T USB stick can receive signals over a very wide frequency range due to the Elonics E4000 tuner.

  • What software is needed to configure the S Cap DVB-T USB stick for software-defined radio?

    -To configure the S Cap DVB-T USB stick for software-defined radio, you need to download a specific XO plugin created for this purpose.

  • How does one install the driver for the S Cap DVB-T USB stick to work as a software-defined radio?

    -To install the driver, ensure the device is selected in the software, choose 'Win USB' among the options, and then click 'install driver' to complete the installation.

  • What software can be used to operate the S Cap DVB-T USB stick as a software-defined radio?

    -HD SDR is one of the software applications that can be used to operate the S Cap DVB-T USB stick as a software-defined radio.

  • How much does the S Cap DVB-T USB stick cost, and why is it considered an affordable option for entering the world of software-defined radio?

    -The S Cap DVB-T USB stick costs around $20, making it an incredibly affordable solution for those interested in exploring the world of software-defined radio.

  • What additional feature does the plugin offer for the S Cap DVB-T USB stick when used as a software-defined radio?

    -The plugin offers the ability to change the gain, which is useful for adjusting for strong or weak signals.



📺 Turning a DVB-T USB Stick into a Software Defined Radio

This video provides a detailed guide on transforming a standard DVB-T USB stick, typically used for receiving digital television, into a versatile software defined radio (SDR) receiver. The presenter explains how the device, powered by a Realtek RTL2832 chip and an Elonics E4000 tuner, can be repurposed to capture a wide range of frequencies when connected to a computer. Initially discovered by Antti Palosaari, this functionality allows for the reception of signals over a broad frequency spectrum at a rate of 33.2 megahertz with eight-bit samples. The video walks through the process of recognizing the device as unknown by most computers and installing a custom XO plugin and driver to enable its new capabilities. The presenter demonstrates the device's practical application with HD SDR software, showcasing its ability to tune into frequencies and adjust gain for optimal signal strength. The tutorial emphasizes the affordability and accessibility of entering the world of SDR through this method, inviting viewers to try the plugin and share their experiences.



💡SDR (Software Defined Radio)

Software Defined Radio (SDR) represents a revolutionary shift in radio engineering, where traditional hardware components like mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, and detectors are implemented through software on a personal computer or embedded system. In the video, SDR is the central technology enabling the transformation of a DVB-T USB stick, originally designed for digital television reception, into a versatile radio receiver. This adaptability underscores SDR's significance in modern radio communication, allowing enthusiasts and professionals to explore a wide range of frequencies and signals without the need for multiple pieces of hardware.

💡DVB-T USB stick

A DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting — Terrestrial) USB stick is a device designed for receiving digital television signals via terrestrial broadcasts. The video highlights an innovative use of this device beyond its intended purpose, by turning it into a general-purpose SDR receiver. This repurposing exemplifies the flexibility of SDR technology and the creative potential within the hobbyist radio community to utilize consumer-grade electronics for sophisticated radio engineering tasks.

💡RTL2832 chip

The RTL2832 chip is a Realtek semiconductor product that, when coupled with compatible tuners, can demodulate DVB-T signals and forward the raw I/Q samples to a host device, such as a computer. In the context of the video, the RTL2832 chip is key to enabling the DVB-T USB stick's transformation into an SDR receiver. Its ability to send raw data to a computer for processing allows users to receive a wide array of radio signals, thereby serving as the hardware foundation for SDR applications.

💡E4000 tuner

The Elonics E4000 tuner is a component that allows a device like the DVB-T USB stick to tune into a broad range of frequencies, making it versatile for different radio applications. In the video, this tuner is highlighted as a critical element that, in combination with the RTL2832 chip, enables the device to cover a wide frequency spectrum. This capacity for broad frequency reception is vital for the device's functionality as an SDR, allowing users to explore various bands and signals.

💡Bulk interface

In the context of USB devices, a bulk interface refers to a type of data transfer that is optimized for reliability over speed. It is typically used for transferring large amounts of data that are not time-sensitive. The video mentions that upon connecting the modified DVB-T stick to a computer, it appears as 'unknown devices to bulk interfaces,' indicating that the device communicates with the host computer through such interfaces. Configuring these interfaces correctly is crucial for the SDR functionality to work, as it ensures the smooth flow of data between the hardware and the software.


WinUSB is a Microsoft-provided USB driver that allows user-mode applications to communicate with USB devices. In the video, selecting WinUSB for the bulk interface configuration is a critical step in setting up the DVB-T stick for SDR use. By installing the WinUSB driver, the user enables the device to communicate effectively with SDR software on a Windows computer, facilitating the transfer of radio signal data for processing and analysis.


HD SDR (High Definition Software Defined Radio) is a software application that allows for the reception and playback of radio signals on a computer, utilizing SDR technology. In the video, HD SDR is used to demonstrate the successful modification of the DVB-T stick, showcasing its ability to receive and decode radio signals as an SDR. The use of HD SDR exemplifies how accessible and powerful SDR software can transform conventional radio reception devices into versatile radio scanners.

💡Frequency tuning

Frequency tuning is the process of adjusting a receiver to select a specific signal frequency for reception. The video emphasizes that the SDR-enabled DVB-T USB stick retains the ability to tune across a wide frequency range, thanks to its E4000 tuner. This functionality is central to the appeal of SDR, as it allows users to explore a vast spectrum of broadcasts, from amateur radio bands to commercial FM stations.

💡Gain control

Gain control refers to the adjustment of an amplifier’s output level relative to its input level. In SDR applications, adjusting the gain is crucial for optimizing the reception of signals, whether they are strong or weak. The video highlights this feature within the custom plugin for the DVB-T stick, demonstrating how users can tweak gain settings to improve signal clarity and reception quality, thereby enhancing the overall usability of the SDR setup.


A plugin in the context of SDR software refers to an add-on or extension that enhances the software's functionality or enables support for additional hardware. The video discusses the creation and release of a specific plugin that supports the DVB-T USB stick with the RTL2832 and E4000 chips, turning it into an SDR. This plugin exemplifies how community-driven development contributes to the accessibility and versatility of SDR technology, enabling users to customize their radio scanning and receiving experiences.


Introduction to using the S Cap DVB-T USB stick for digital television reception.

S Cap can be used as a general-purpose software-defined radio receiver.

S Cap sends samples to a computer at a rate of 33.2 MHz.

Samples are eight bits, providing quality experimentation results.

Discovery credited to Auntie Paola and documented on Osmocom.

S Cap features the RTL (Realtek) 2832 chip and E4000 tuner.

Wide frequency range reception enabled by the E4000 tuner.

Unknown device recognition and setup process.

Introduction of the XO plugin for support and configuration.

Guide on configuring bulking interfaces with the dig and siddig.

How to install the WinUSB driver for device operation.

Demonstration with HD SDR to show operational success.

Affordability and accessibility of the S Cap for beginners.

Plug-in availability and user feedback encouragement.

Frequency tuning and gain adjustment features of the plugin.

Conclusion and invitation for community engagement.



I focus this is a short video to show


you how to use the s cap dvb-t USB stick


which is usually used to receive digital


television but you can put it into a


mode that will enable it to function as


a general purpose software defined radio


receiver that will send samples to a


computer at a maximum rate of thirty


three point two megahertz and those


samples are eight bits which is slightly


smaller but the experimentation I found


that it works quite well


this is initially discovered by a guy


called auntie Paula sorry I've been


pronouncing his name correctly this is


the right up on osmocon this is the


adapter that I got it's called the S cap


and it contains the RTL or Realtek to


832 chip it also contains the ilanics II


4000 tuner that enables it to receive


signals over a very wide frequency range


so if you plug it into your computer it


will initially appear as some unknown


devices to bulken interfaces what you


need to do is download the ex-ceo plugin


that i've created and the beta version


that i've just released will support


this card the particular chip and the


tuner so what you need to do is when you


actually get the XO plug and make sure


you install the dig and siddig will


recognize that there are two bulking


interfaces that haven't been configured


yet as you can see here these correspond


to those are the device and if you click


on the first one you'll note here the


vendor ID the product ID and the zero


zero for the first Balkan interface what


you would do is make sure this is


selected then you go over here and make


sure this is on win USB not the other


two options and then you would click


install driver that will complete and


install the Olivia's v1 driver so you




can't do it from for instance HD SDR so


bear with me I'm going to plug it back


into my computer all right so let's


launch HD SDR and there we go


there is a local repeater and going to


the fam I'm mute you can hear so that's


working quite well and I've just got it


connected to some bunny ears near the


window so if you end up getting one of


these it's very affordable it's only


twenty dollars I got mine for $36


Australian and it's an incredibly cheap


solution if you want to get into the


world of software-defined radio so if


you want to give this plug-in a go just


download it and let me know how you go


leave any comments below or or feel free


to contact me one final point is that of


course the frequency tuning works as


well but this particular plug-in also


lets you change the game here which is


quite handy if you've got strong or weak


signals coming in depending so thanks


for watching see you next time

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Related Tags
SDRDIY electronicsDigital TVSoftware-defined radioRTL2832E4000 tunerRadio hackingTech tutorialUSB modificationAffordable tech