It took some long thinking whether I should acquire a Reuter RDR54 certainly as the receiver is not well-known in the SWL scene. Nobody could provide a comparison with other receivers. In the Internet were mainly technical data available but no test reports. There for it is hard to decide whether to get such an expensive receiver. But when I get, as a radio-freak, offered a RDR54 it is hard to withstand.
Now I have the receiver and am ready for some receiving comparisons.
What kind of receiver is the RDR54 ?
The RDR54 is a European! More precisely, it is manufactured in Germany by Reuter Elektronik. The manufacturer was unknown in the SWL scene. Originally was the RDR54 designed as a measurement receiver and was quiet hard to operate. There for wrote Burkhard Reuter, the designer and name-giving of the receiver, a new operating software which made the RDR54 easier to operate for the SWL. The RDR54 is a receiver of the newest generation. It is a “SDR”, a Software Defined Radio which requires no PC.
There for is the RDR54 independent of a PC for regular operation. Only for software updating is a connection to a PC required. But the RDR54 cannot be compared with the common SDR’s because it operates with the newly designed discrete frequency principal. The common SDR’s operate with the time discrete principal. For an in-depth explanation please consult the manufacturer.
The housing looks like an industrial measurement equipment. It looks cold but elegant at the same time.
The workmanship of the housing is just top-notch ! The entire housing is made out of aluminum. The only cheap component is the main tuning-knob, which just does not fit with the RDR54 … But improvement is on its way. Recently is a magnetic raster VFO-knob available made out of stainless steel. In the middle, which cannot be overseen, is the beautiful and large display. The resolution is very good and gives information about most functions. All is good readable, even the small prints.
The display can show waterfall spectra, curve spectra or line spectra. The visible frequency range is about 164 kHz. The spectra can be zoomed in.
On the left side of the display are the audio functions. The wobbling volume knob has an additional function. When the volume knob is pushed and held can the volume be changed. The build-in loudspeaker is not that big but gives sufficient audio quality for shortwave listening, but is lacking a bit of bass.
For further details on the functions of the RDR54 I refer to the manufacturer website of Reuter Elektronik, because this would otherwise be too much on this site.
How is the receiving quality ?
The receiver operates 100% digital. It gives almost a noise-free and clean audio. The band-noise is pleasant and allows listening with headphones for hours.
But it has on some signals a bit of typical metal-audio, as can be heard on receivers with DSP technology. But this relates to the operating principal of the RDR54. For an in-depth explanation please contact Burkhard Reuter. But after some time listening is this no longer noticeable as the audio is very clear.
It is there for really a joy DXing with headphones. The loud raster main tuning knob and the “Auto” operating mode are bit disappointing. The “Auto” mode is a kind of AM-synchronous mode. When tuning fast through the bands is the audio quality not as with common analog receivers. The “Auto” mode tries to synchronize immediately each signal in the band-pass range, which gives an unfamiliar sound. But Burkhard Reuter has put this issue immediately on the list of should be corrected with the next software release. The sensitivity is definitely better than the Perseus. But at very weak signals is the Perseus a bit better understandable. But this is all software defined. The Reuter RDR54 exists since 2009 and there is still much room for improvement in the software. The Perseus required also some time until it was at today’s level.
The RDR54 can convince with its concept (SDR without PC) and his very sensitivity.
When the manufacturer optimizes the software can the RDR54 soon play in the top league of shortwave receivers.
***In the meantime is the software version V302 released. The user interface has been simplified, new operating modes have been added and the receiving quality has definitely been improved. Details can be found in the latest Operating manual of the RDR54.
Because the mechanical tuning encoder was quiet loud I have installed a magnetic raster tuning encoder along with the knob made out of stainless steel. Now it is a joy to tune through the bands. No more mechanical noise. The heavy stainless steel knob has a nice flywheel-effect, but not too heavy. Additionally has a matching audio volume knob been installed, free of charge. Reuter Elektronik made the modifications within a working day. That is real service !
The RDR54 in action (HD Video)
The RDR54 is a modular built receiver. This way can new modules, such as the FM-module, easily be installed. With the 100% software digitalization can new functions be integrated to expand the functionality of the receiver. Burkhard Reuter was so kind to lend me the FM-module for some weeks for test purposes.
This FM-module offers the FM frequency range of 87.5 – 108 Mhz, tunable between mono and stereo. Additionally is the 2-meter radio amateur band (144 – 148 MHz) included, just in receiving mode.
For the FM mode are 4 filter bandwidths available :
50khz S & HQ
80khz S & HQ
120khz S & HQ
240khz S & HQ
S = Steep (sharp) HQ = High Quality (HiFi)
For detailed information I refer to the website of Reuter Elektronik.
How does the FM-module sound?
I connected the RDR54 to a FM antenna, mounted on the roof of the house, and to the cable-network connection. The cable-network connection gives often a stronger signal. Although a clipping signal could not be monitored. Also connected to the roof-mounted antenna, unfortunately not rotatable, performed the RDR54 flawless. The digital filters are extreme steep and can isolate easily adjacent transmitter. Is the transmitter signal undisturbed can be switched to 240 kHz-HQ and FM can almost be heard in HiFi quality. What fails is the nowadays common RDS-decoder. According Burkhard Reuter will this feature be implemented in the next software release.
All in all is the FM-module very recommendable, surely the receiving performance. The price tag gives you a cold wake-up call. For the FM-module have 350 Euros be put on the table.