In 2014, Expert
Electronics from Russia presented their first pure SDR receiver, the
ColibriDDC-SDR. A small box with respectable reception performance
and good operating software. Now follows the little brother
ColibriNano. This is extremely small! Probably the smallest Direct
Sampling SDR. At the first sight I thought, already again a RTL
stick! But far from it ...
If you hold the "USB stick" in your hand, you will be pleasantly
surprised. The housing is made of milled aluminum. It is black
anodized and neatly processed. The small one is simple and noble. To
get a view of the innards, I opened the ColibriNano. I do not have
to lose many words. The electronic board is cleanly processed. The
aluminum housing is designed in such a way that the individual
modules on the board are located in a separate shielded housing.
Cleverly solved! The ColibriNano is a full-fledged SDR, which
ultimately turned out to be on closer inspection.
The tiny one gets quite warm during operation. 43°C. I measured on
the housing. In order to reliably dissipate the produced heat, a
heat-conducting foil was placed on the 14-bit A / D converter,
making contact with the aluminum housing. Other SDR's are similarly
warm at the base. This is not the case, because their housings are
considerably larger and the heat is radiated better.
most important technical data
Operating modes: LSB / USB / DSB / CW / AM / SAM / NFM /
WFM (software dependent)
- Frequency range: 10KHz - 55MHz
- Frequency range in undersampling mode: 10KHz- 500MHz
- Sampling rates with 24-bit resolution: kHz 48, 96,
192, 384, 768 (visible spectrum width)
- Sampling rates with 16bit resolution: kHz 1536, 1920,
2560, 3072 (visible spectrum width)
- Sensitivity: 0.35uV
- Dynamic range: 110dB
- Operating voltage 4.5 ... 5.5V (directly via the USB
- Power consumption: 0.41A
- 14bit ADC
- ADC clock frequency: 122.88MHz
- Stable local oscillator with +/- 0.5ppm
- attenuator / preamplifier in 0.5 dB steps adjustable
from -31.5 to + 6dB
- Antenna input with 15 kV ESD protection
- SMA antenna connection
- Dimensions L x W x H: 90х25х17mm
- Operating temperature: +45 ... + 50 ° C
- Weight: 43 grams
Block diagram of
Connection and commissioning
Because the ColibriNano is designed as a USB stick, it is connected
directly to a USB port of the PC or notebook. In the latter I
recommend a USB extension cable with about 30cm length to use. The
ColibriNano has a certain weight and could, with a horizontal
position over time, the USB jack of the notebook can unclog. I myself use a USB
hub, where the plugs are inserted vertically from above. Also for
the antenna connection you should get a 50cm long Pigtail adapter
from SMA to BNC / PL. Best from RG174 or RG316 to minimize the
pressure on the USB port.
Once these preparations are done, the installation of the ExpertSDR2
program for the ColibriNano is done.
This takes a few moments. Normally the software should recognize the
ColibriNano and address it. The manufacturer points out that if
other USB devices are connected with the same USB chip from FTDI,
there might be problems with the detection of the ColibriNano. For
this there is a special procedure which is in the installation
manual. For me everything worked smoothly on Windows 7 and 10.
The software ExpertSDR2
As with the big brother ColibriDDC-SDR, the proven same software is
used here as well. Apart from a few functional restrictions, such as
the wideband spectrum, the vast majority of functions are the same.
Since the test of the ColibriDDC-SDR in 2014, no more functions have
been added. Would not be necessary. The software has all the
necessary functions for a successful reception. Only software errors
have been corrected.
Communication with external programs often runs via VAC, the virtual
audio interface. This time I took CW-skimmer and the interplay
between both programs tried. For CW-Skimmer and ExpertSDR2 to talk
to each other, a few settings must first be made on both programs
and on VAC. Here is a guide. <
Link > After the settings are made,
the communication between the programs will work smoothly. You can
adjust the frequency in both programs. On the ExpertSDR2 everything
can be adjusted according to your own wishes. The software can also
make tape recordings. The I/Q-files are then played with a
separate software which can be downloaded from the manufacturer's
The ColibriNano can
also be controlled remotely via the Internet. Either you connect it
to a PC/notebook, or you have the possibility to connect the
ColibriNano to the router via the microcomputer RasperryPi3.
Unfortunately I could not test this function for time reasons.
Information about this can be found under the link. <Link>
It can also be
operated with HDSDR and SDR-Sharp. Expert Electronics provides the
required ExtIO's on their website for download. Unfortunately, the
provided ExtIO's did not work as they should. There are still many
errors. That is why I have not entered into this.
The reception with the ColibriNano
Due to its dimensions it was not to be expected that the ColibriNano
had a preselection installed in its housing. It is only a low-pass
filter installed at 55MHz. Nevertheless, I treated him like any
other candidate. He was operated at the crossloop, at the big loop
with 8m circumference with the amplifier NTi ML200 and at the Datong
The clipping indicator often lit up. This fact is often
overestimated and the recipient's performance is unduly diminished.
But this is not the case in most cases and leads to a false
impression. As long as the clipping indicator does not light
constantly and no intermodulations or increased noise are heard, the
ADC is not overloaded. During the entire test phase of two months,
I have not noticed a single audible intermodulation. It is obvious
that such a device has not been designed to be operated on extremely
high-frequency antennas such as Beverages or Beam's. The clipping
display of the ColibriNano can be deactivated by right-clicking on
How is the ColibriNano
now? Without circumlocution and in short, very good! In almost all
situations, the small one could match the comparison device. The
sensitivity is almost equal to that of the Winradio G33DDC. From VLF
up to the 10m volume all transmitters were received, the G33DDC also
received. This is also thanks to the excellent ExpertSDR2 software.
It is matured and offers a lot of possibilities for interference
suppression. The limiting factor is antenna compatibility. Hobby
antennas such as ALA1530, MiniWhip etc., the ColibriNano tolerates.
Larger antennas require a solid preselection.
In Undersampling mode the ColibriNano receives up to 500MHz. FM even
in stereo. This works quite well, but should be enjoyed with caution.
For the frequency ranges above 55MHz, he has not installed any
bandpass filters, which can lead to intermodulations.
But now to the reception comparisons! During the tests I took the
Winradio G33DDC as a comparison device, although the price
difference between these two devices is very high. Actually, the
KiwiSDR, which costs almost the same amount, would be the right
comparative candidate. Because the KiwiSDR has a different operating
concept, I decided to take the G33DDC.
Second 00 - 10>
Second 10 - 20> ColibriNano
Some recordings are of very weak, barely perceptible channels. Only
in this way can differences in sensitivity and intelligibility be
heard at the grass mascara in order to find the DX capability of the
device. Therefore, I recommend using a headphone to listen to the
At the current lowest
active frequency 18.3KHz, the French military transmitter "HWU" is
good to hear. Reception antenna here was the Datong AD370. Both
devices were able to receive the transmitter. Thanks to its
excellent NB's (Noiseblanker), the ColibriNano has been able to
provide the better result as far as the visibility of the signal in
the spectrum is concerned. The spectrum is largely freed from the
horizontal interference bands. The G33DDC delivered the better
audible signal with more resolution. The NB's of the G33DDC
unfortunately do not affect the spectrum, which led to a poorer
signal recognition. However, the spectrum of the G33DDC has a higher
resolution than the ColibriNano software.
Due to strong local
disturbances I could not make clever comparisons on LW and MW.
↓ Hamradio 80m
↓ Radio Rebelde
in SAM at 7am.
Radio Rebelde 5025KHz
↓ Radio MiAmigo
6085KHz with nice Music. Both SDR's in AM-Synchron.
↓ Hamradio 40m
↓ Echo of Hope
Korea on 9100KHz in AM-Synchron.
Echo of Hope 9100KHz
↓ ItalCable on 10MHz
in USB. Both SDR's on par. Only with slightly different accents.
↓ RAF Volmet on
11253KHz in USB. Bandwidth 2.7KHz. The ColibriNano brings a somewhat
muffled reverberation, but with less background noise.
RAF Volmet 11253KHz
↓ All India
Radio on 13605KHz in SAM. The ColibriNano roars a little more.
Probably because of the missing preselection.
All India Radio 13605KHz
↓ Hamradio 20m
↓ Radio Pilipinas
15190KHz in AM without Noiseblanker.
Radio Pilipinas 15190KHz
↓ Voice of America in
french on 17650KHz in SAM. No big differences on this signal with
Hamradio beacon auf 28257KHz in CW.
Expert Electronics has managed to build the smallest direct-sampling
SDR. The small device, with the small dimensions of a USB stick,
delivers excellent reception performance on hobby-standard antennas.
For 300 € purchase price you can do nothing wrong.