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perseus

perseus

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 Product Review and Short Takes from
QST 
Magazine
Copyright © 2008 by the American Radio Relay League Inc. All rights reserved.December 2008Product Reviews:Microtelecom Perseus Software Defined ReceiverShort Takes:Arrow II 146-4BP Antenna
 
From December 2008 QST © ARRL
product review
Mark J. Wilson, K1RO
 
 
Product Review Editor
 
 
k1ro@arrl.org
Bottom Line
Key MeasurementsSummary
As depicted in ancient Greek dramas,Perseus was a hero who used a clever ruseto slay the hideous Medusa (she of the reptil-ian coiffure and statuesque stare) and wenton to save his beloved Andromeda from asea monster. The 21st century Italian-madePerseus is a receiver that is striving to cre-ate its own legend by taking an innovativeapproach to software defined radio (SDR).Whether or not the gods smile on thisPerseus — only time will tell.To set the stage for this “drama,” someexplanation is in order. Most amateurs think of a software defined receiver as a device thatstarts with conventional front-end hardware— a filter and/or preselector, followed byan RF preamplifier and finally a stage thatconverts the RF signal to in-phase (I) andquadrature (Q) signals at audio frequencies.These
baseband 
signals are subsequently fedto a computer sound card that samples anddigitizes them, making the resulting dataavailable for sophisticated massaging bysoftware. As Gerald Youngblood, K5SDR,stated in his 2002
QEX 
article, “Give me Iand Q and I can demodulate anything.”
1
The Perseus receiver uses a somewhatdifferent method. It digitizes the RF themoment it exits the front end filters andpreamplifier. A high-speed analog-to-digitalconverter (ADC) converts the RF to data
Microtelecom Perseus Sotware Defned Receiver 
1
G. Youngblood, AC5OG, “A Sotware-DefnedRadio or the Masses — Part 1,”
QEX 
, Jul/ Aug 2002.
The Perseus SDR uses cuttingedge receiver technology to oerexcellent perormance and a widerange o eatures. It covers 10 kHzto 30 MHz and can receive all popu-lar analog and digital modes withappropriate sotware.
by taking 80 million samples of the signaleach second. Next, the Perseus uses a fieldprogrammable gate array (FPGA) to createI and Q information that is streamed to thePC via a USB cable for processing. In otherwords, the signal becomes data before it evenreaches the computer.This approach to SDR has several ben-efits that are apparent right away…
 
Fewer parts housed in a compact enclo-sure. The Perseus hardware enclosure onlymeasures 4.3 × 1.4 × 7.3 inches. Figure 1is a look inside the box.
 
Fewer cables. No sound card audio cablesrequired — just a single USB cable to yourcomputer.
 
And saving one of the best benefits for last,the performance of the Perseus does
not 
 depend on the quality of your computersound card. With a conventional SDR yoursound card acts as the analog-to-digitalconverter, so a mediocre sound card willgive a mediocre result. With the Perseus,the analog-to-digital conversion is handledby high-performance hardware within theradio itself. The sound card in your com-puter is only there to drive your speakers,so any sound card will do.
Setting Up the Perseus
The Perseus arrives in a small, unpreten-tious package with very little inside. Thereis the radio itself, a 5 V wall-wart powersupply with interchangeable US or Europeanplugs, a USB cable and a CD-ROM with the
 Reviewed by Steve Ford, WB8IMY 
QST
Editor 
PR035
70117115140
20 kHz Blocking Gain Compression (dB)
20
CMP
701409998
2 kHz Blocking Gain Compression (dB)
2
CMP
50110
I
3
2
2 kHz 3rd-Order Dynamic Range (dB)
9750110
I
3
20
100100
20 kHz 3rd-Order Dynamic Range (dB)
-40 +35
I
3
2
2 kHz 3rd-Order Intercept (dBm)
32-40+35
I
3
20
20 kHz 3rd-Order Intercept (dBm)
3241
80 M20 M
 
Key:
† Off Scale
Dynamic range and intercept values with preamp off.Intercept values determined using -97 dBm reference.
www.rv3apm.com/rxdx.html www.rv3apm.com/rv3apmrus.html
 
From December 2008 QST © ARRL
table 1Micoelecom peseus, seial numbe 00501
Manuacturer’s Specifcations Measured in the ARRL Lab 
Frequency coverage: 0.01-30 MHz. 0.01-40 MHz.Power requirement: +5 V dc, 700 mA. As specifed.Modes o operation: SSB, CW, AM, FM. As specifed.
Receiver Receiver Dynamic Testing 
SSB/CW sensitivity, 2.4 kHz bandwidth, Noise Floor (MDS), 500 Hz flter:10 dB (S+N)/N: 0.39 µV (SSB)
Preamp off 
 
Preamp on 
1.0 MHz –126 dBm –129 dBm3.5 MHz –127 dBm –129 dBm14 MHz –126 dBm –127 dBmAM sensitivity: Not specifed. 10 dB (S+N)/N, 1-kHz, 30
%
modulation: 
Preamp off 
 
Preamp on 
1.0 MHz 3.4
µ
V 3.1
µ
V3.8 MHz 2.7
µ
V 2.3
µ
VFM sensitivity: Not specifed. For 12 dB SINAD: 
Preamp off 
 
Preamp on 
29 MHz 4.5
µ
V 3.9
µ
VBlocking gain compression: Not specifed. Gain compression, 500 Hz bandwidth: 
20 kHz offset 5/2 kHz offset Preamp off/on Preamp off 
3.5 MHz 115/115 dB 104/98 dB14 MHz 117/112 dB 105/99 dBMaximum notch depth: Not specifed. >70 dB.ARRL Lab Two-Tone IMD Testing 
Measured Measured Calculated Band/Preamp Spacing Input level IMD level IMD DR IP3 
3.5 MHz/O 20 kHz –27 dBm –127 dBm 100 dB +23 dBm–5 dBm –97 dBm +41 dBm14 MHz/O 20 kHz –26 dBm –126 dBm 100 dB +24 dBm–11 dBm –97dBm +32 dBm0 dBm –88 dBm +44 dBm14 MHz/On 20 kHz –28 dBm –127 dBm 99 dB +22 dBm–11 dBm –97 dBm +32 dBm14 MHz/O 5 kHz –29 dBm –126 dBm 97 dB +20 dBm–11 dBm –97 dBm +32 dBm0 dBm –89 dBm +44 dBm14 MHz/O 2 kHz –29 dBm –126 dBm 97 dB +20 dBm–11 dBm –97 dBm +32 dBm0 dBm –88 dBm +44 dBmSecond-order intercept: Not specifed. Preamp o/on, +85/+89 dBm.Image rejection: 90 dB 97 dBFM adjacent channel rejection: Not specifed. 20 kHz oset, 29 MHz, preamp on: 79 dB.FM two-tone, third-order IMD dynamic range: 20 kHz oset, 29 MHz, preamp on: 80 dB.Not specifed.S-meter sensitivity: Not specifed. S9 signal at 14.2 MHz: preamp o oron, 56.2
µ
V.*IF/audio response: Not specifed. Range at –6 dB points (bandwidth):**CW: 348-850 Hz (502 Hz)Equivalent Rectangular BW: 496 Hz;USB: 113-2845 Hz (2732 Hz);LSB: 112-2865 Hz (2753 Hz);AM: 73-3090 Hz (3017 Hz).Size (height, width, depth): 1.4
×
4.3
×
7.3 inches; weight, 13.4 oz.Price: $1299.
*S-meter reading not aected by preamp or attenuators.**Variable flters, set to 449.7 Hz, 2.73 kHz and 5.98 kHz (CW, SSB, AM)
Perseus software, USB drivers and instruc-tion manual.Microtelecom recommends a minimum2 GHz PC running
Windows XP
or
Vista
. If you want to push the Perseus to its perfor-mance limit, they recommend a 2.5 GHzdual-core system. (Our ARRL Lab testsshown in Table 1 were performed using a1.86 GHz dual-core PC.) The minimumrequirements shown in Table 2 are easilymet with any recent computer.For my tests, I used a 2 GHz Toshiba Sat-ellite laptop computer with 1 GB of memoryand
Windows Vista Home Basic
. This istypical for what now passes as a “budget”consumer laptop.It is worth noting that the Perseus is notconfined to a
Windows
environment. AnySDR application can be used as long as itcan “talk” to the Perseus hardware. If 
 Linux
 is your pleasure, Microtelecom encouragesyou to try the popular
 Linrad 
application at
www.sm5bsz.com/linuxdsp/linroot.htm
.Once you have the Perseus applicationsloaded to the computer, simply plug in theUSB cable on the rear panel (Figure 2). Withthe Perseus hardware attached, fire up theapplication of your choice (the main Perseussoftware or the spectrum analyzer) and theradio comes to life.At first I tried receiving with just a30 foot wire plugged directly into the radio’sBNC
RF INPUT
port. This didn’t work wellbecause the antenna was too close to myRF-noisy laptop, resulting in a continuousS7 level noise floor. I tried using a 15 footUSB extension cable to put some distancebetween the laptop and the antenna. Thisreduced the noise substantially. When I con-nected the Perseus to my outdoor invertedV antenna, the laptop interference was fi-nally inaudible.
The World at Your Fingertips
Hams who’ve read my product reviewsknow that one of my favorite yardsticks isthe
no-manual test 
. Yes, we should all readthe manuals before we apply power to anyequipment. In theory, however, a well de-signed piece of hardware or software shouldbe sufficiently user friendly that it worksright out of the box with as little study aspossible.The Perseus software passed the no-man-ual test admirably. Once you figure out howto click your mouse on the arrow keys at thelower edges of the spectrum display, you’rein business. There is a digital frequencyreadout as well. If you double-click withinthe readout window, a direct frequency entrykeypad appears. Just enter your desired fre-quency in kilohertz and click 
OK
 
or turn yourmouse wheel. There are a total of 10 waysto tune the radio by clicking and dragging

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