The Bigger Stick in RF: StixRF Wideband SDR Receiver

StixRF is an SDR receiver in USB stick form with a tunable range of 70 MHz to 6 GHz and 40 MHz bandwidth.

The StixRF is a USB dongle that is only about the size of a stick of gum.

Software defined radios have gained great popularity over the past several years and have become an invaluable tool in teaching students and hobbyists alike the black magic that is RF. Even though most of what makes an SDR great is its software, it still needs the right hardware to capture the desired RF signal then digitize it to feed into the software. Since most SDR software runs on a standard PC or embedded development board, USB stick/dongle style SDRs became the SDR hardware format of choice. While the first USB stick type SDRs were adapted TV tuners, there is now a whole market for these software defined radio USB sticks. The StixRF is the most recent to pop up on Crowd Supply's website as an upcoming project looking to be funded in the near future.

The StixRF's tunable frequency range spans from 70 MHz to 6 GHz with a 40 MHz bandwidth which covers the majority of both license and unlicensed frequency bands. This is a big perk because since a user can listen/receive without needing a license here in the US, an SDR receiver with the widest tunable range possible is ideal so most of the reconfiguration is happening in software and with antenna choice.

Boasting an Analog Devices AD9364 chip feeding IQ data samples back via USB 3 (using a Cypress FX3 USB controller chip) to a host computer, the StixRF is brilliantly simple and powerful. SMA ports make two of the AD9364's three receiver ports available for a user to connect antennas for either a single or double frequency band setup. These receiver ports feed into the AD9364's transceiver structure which contains all of the necessary components to take the incoming analog RF signal and ultimately output digital baseband data that SDR software such as GNU Radio takes as input for user programmable processing. This AD9364 transceiver chip is the workhorse of the StixRF, and is how the board is so minimal with the amount of components is has.

The Crowd Supply teaser page for the StixRF mentions GNU Radio compatibility specifically, but the data output format of the AD9364 is simply in-phase (I) and quadrature (Q) data samples that can be easily processed by most SDR software options available.

The AD9364 chip ranges from about $175 - $225 per unit cost so I'm guessing the StixRF's price point will be somewhere a little above this price range once announced. Sign up on StixRF's campaign page to get notifications when the project is officially launched.

Whitney Knitter
Working as a full-time SDR/FPGA engineer, but making time for the fun projects at home.
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