The small company Enablia was founded in 2009 and is run by four HF- and software engineers. It is located in Rome. Some really important SDRs come from Italy and so it's not surprising that this country is at the forefront of developing SDR receivers.
Enablia, which so far has been not known among radio enthusiasts, presents a SDR receiver which is mainly for professional users, e.g., the military or monitoring services. But it comes at a price range which makes this receiver also interesting for ham radio operators or shortwave listeners.
Upon my request, Giovanni de Maio, who is the chief engineer of Enablia, sent me the TitanSDR with the pro software for tests and comparison.
The Titan SDR comes in a massive high-quality aluminum casing. It is black and looks very sophisticated with its laser-cut labeling. The dimensions are 243mmx52mmx145mm (WxHxD) and weighs 1.5. Kg. Most connectors are on the back of the receiver. Here you will find the BNC antenna connector, a SMA IF-jack, a 6V DC jack, the on/off switch, and a USB 2 connector. On the underside there is a small fan for cooling. Luckily, a transformer 6V power supply is included. That is not the normal case these days because in most instances the receivers come with a switching power supply.
First, the signal passes through a four-level selectable attenuator and then comes to a manually selectable preselector with 16 band passes. After passing an anti-aliasing filter (low-pass filter), the signal reaches the RF/IF switch. Here, e.g., the IF-signal of an additional receiver can be fed into the Titan SDR via the SMA jack. After amplification and filtering, the signal reaches the 16Bit A/D converter. Here, the analogue signal is digitalized. Then the signal passes an FPGA, where the frequency is selected and the sampling rate is reduced, this results in a higher dynamic range. Finally, the signal is sent to the computer via the USB 2 port.
The fast installation is without any problems. When using Windows 8 or higher, you should first deactivate the driver signature because otherwise the installation will not work correctly.
The TitanSDR is in a league of its own. The software is not directly made for scanning frequencies as is the case with conventional receivers for ham radio operators or hobby listeners. The Titan SDR is a multi-channel receiver with its main task to send teleprinter signals of any kind to be processed by a decoder. The Pro- version works with the decoder programs Krypto 500 and Hoka Code300. Additionally, the monitoring of bands and their analysis are possible.
First of all I focused on the basic task of the Titan SDR: The decoding of diverse signals on multiple channels. Because I do not own Krypto 500 etc, I had to be contented with freeware programs which can work using a VAC (Virtual Audio Cable). I installed the great DSC decoding program YaDD and connected it to the Titan SDR via VAC. First you put the wideband channels into the panoramic spectrum. Then you add the narrowband channels, which are the transmitting frequencies, e.g., 8414.5 KHz in FSK mode with a band width of 1KHz. After configuration of four channels, you can start. You let the program run in the background because signals are not being transmitted continuously. After some time you will find some transmissions on the four frequencies and you can analyze them. I used the same procedure with the Navtex-decoder "Yand" and "Zorns Lemma". Without any problems, I could monitor and decode the Navtex- channels on 490 KHz and 518 KHz and the RTTY Signal of the DWD (German Weather Service) on 7646 KHz. During the night, several transmissions were received that could be analyzed later on. The settings can be stored and recalled for the next session. You can store as many 'sessions' as you like.
You can also make timer-controlled frequency recordings. You just program the time of recording, frequency, mode and band width. Several timers can be activated. Afterwards, you can listen to the recordings with the integrated player. To do this, you need the USB-dongle which is supplied. Only when this dongle is attached and recognized by the software, will you be able to listen to the files.
This multi-channel recording can be interesting for DX'ers and wave hunters. You can record the wide and narrowband channels. You can analyze the recordings later on and scan them in any mode and band width to find rare stations. But also 40 individual frequencies within these four wideband channels can be monitored.
Of course, with the Titan SDR you can also listen to the radio. Beside the usual modes, the Titan SDR also offers an unusual, but interesting mode: "eSSB"., or "extended SSB". This mode offers an extension of the frequency response in SSB (LSB/USB). In the eSSB-mode, you can listen to AM-stations with 6KHz band width or even more. Of course, you can listen to 'normal' SSB as well. With eSSB, AM-stations lose their typical fading and sound much better.
During the first hours of operation I noticed something unusual: the very noisy fan of the Titan SDR! Although I was only working with headphones, the small ventilator could be heard. There is a reason for this ventilator: The radio becomes rather hot.
As already mentioned, the software is not directly made for scanning frequencies. It does not offer (yet) the comfort of continuous scanning with a concurrent preselector. That means that scanning is only possible within the wide band channels. When you reach the end of the wide band, the wideband shifts on by half. It can be expected, however, that this function will be extended with the next software update.
If you want to scan frequencies in a somewhat wider range, you choose the wide band with 2.187500 KHz. This band width can be put into the panoramic spectrum only once. After setting the wideband channel, a narrowband channel is added into it and you will hear the audio immediately. Clicking on a number in the frequency display activates the frequency tuning with the mouse wheel with the numbers turning to yellow. But there are also small arrow keys to the left of the display . If you click on an arrow and stay there, the frequency changes continuously. By default, the preselector is deactivated. If you are using high performance antennas, it is advisable to activate the preselector to suppress outband disturbances. Unfortunately, the preselector does not run automatically alongside and has to be controlled manually.
My tests showed that the Titan SDR has an excellent reception behavior. The audio is clear and understandable. For comparisons, I used the tried and tested Perseus SDR. In a direct comparison in AM, the Titan SDR has a better intelligibility. In the case of distorted and fading signals, you select the Perseus' SAM mode. The Titan SDR does not have this feature , but it does have the eSSB mode. With this mode activated, the intelligibility is enhanced and surpasses the one of the Perseus. The advantage is that you can toggle between eLSB and eUSB to avoid sideband disturbances. But if the station is not exactly tuned, you have to retune. With the AM-Synchronous mode of the Perseus, this is not necessary because it is done automatically. The excellent intelligibility can even be optimized by switching off the AGC and controlling it manually (MGC). The reception of SSB is beyond any criticism and clearer and more intelligible than the one of the comparative radio. The sensitivity of both receivers is practically identical.
But there was one flaw with the Titan SDR, however. When using the wide band mode with the preselector deactivated, there were spurious FM signals. With the preselector activated, these signals disappeared right away. Active antennas with their strong signals such as the Dressler ARA-30 caused the Titan SDR to overload. With the activated preselector this was no problem and it shows how important a preselection is.
For comparisons, I mainly used the Fenu-CrossLoop/RLA4B. This renders a fairly strong signal with a good SNR. But I also used the Mini-Whip and the new NTi Mega-Active. With these antennas, the Titan SDR functioned without any problems.
The Titan SDR is built solidly and shows very good reception performance, although the software was not primarily developed for speech signals. For the reception of these signals, the software lacks important tools for signal enhancement and further optimization. A noiseblanker, auto-notch, manual notch, noise suppression, AM-synchronous etc are desirable features. Let's hope that Enablia will deliver these things additionally.
Enablia deserves a special thank for including a transformer power supply which is not the rule these days and very welcome!
Posted on 09.04.2015