Being able to decode RDS data is really an ideal aid for FMDXing,
perhaps as interesting as the change from analogue to digital readout.
Additional information can be obtained in this way and you know with
far more certainty which station you are listening to: it's right there on your display!
Sounds great, but still signals can be too weak or your decoder can be too insensitive
to show you all the RDS data you were hoping to see on your display.
Separate decoders as well as built-in ones show this deficiency: signals must be pretty
strong to appear on the display. Moreover, separate decoders like the Conrad RDS Manager
can't retain the data: signal gone, data gone! One has to be alert and make some notes.
Fortunately RDS tuners can store the RDS data in a temporary memory, but these tuners
aren't often as sensitive in decoding RDS as one would like them to be.
These problems can, however, be solved thanks to your computer:
there is a lot of RDS software around to enhance the performance of your decoder.
You can of course install this software and see what it looks like;
some of these programs contain some samples,giving you an idea what
the real stuff looks like.
If you decide this is the way to go, you will have to find out about
the DATA and the CLOCK signal in the decoder: that's what your PC
needs to feed the software.
If you study your manual and know something about electronics,
you could open up your tuner and start working on it.
Perhaps you might want to build your own decoder.
You can check out the Puskas Barnabas decoder
or have a look at the one built by Carsten Groß
Not being a technician myself I guess I wouldn't like operating
on my expensive tuner myself.
There are some alternatives, however:
the Conrad RDS Manager (CRM)
and the GNS Radiocard. Let's have a look at the Conrad RDS Manager first.
The CRM can be easily modified at
almost no cost and taking up only 30 minutes of your time.
The results will be stunning!
Details on where and how to obtain the CRM can be found
at the end of this article.
How to modify the CRM?
What you need is this: a piece of wire (2 'cores' and 1 earth), 1 bi-polar capacitor
of >1µF, 1 bi-polar capacitor of >4.7µF and a SUD-D plug (9 or 25 pins).
The values of the capacitors are NOT critical, I used 4 and 10 µF.
They are just a protection between the RDS IC and the computer.
Inside the CRM you will find 2 resistors near the RDS IC. R6 is for CLOCK
and R4 is for DATA!
Inside the little box you can make an earth connection at the end
where the cables enter (from tuner to CRM and the power cable).
There is a small metallic covering which can be used as earth.
How to connect?
The >1µF is soldered to CLOCK(R6) and the >4.7µF to DATA(R4).
The other 'leg' of the capacitor is soldered to the SUB-D, via your cable of course.
Make sure you solder this on the top of the circuit board (where you CAN'T see
the RDS chip) and on the left-hand side of R6 and R4 and to the right-hand
side of C11 (a disc shaped capacitor). (Seen with the display turned
CLOCK is soldered to pin 8(5), DATA to pin 6(6) and 'earth' to pin 5(7).
If you want to use RDSDecoder 2.01 mind the different connection!
CLOCK is soldered to pin 9(22) and DATA to pin 6(6).
If you want to run the DOS software (i.e. if your computer doesn't run too fast)
AND the RDSDecoder, connect Clock to Pin 8 AND 9 (5 AND 22).
The first pin number is for 9 pins SUB-Ds and the second for 25 pins SUB-Ds!
That's all there is to. It will cost you half an hour of soldering time
and just a few Euros to buy the wire, capacitors and SUB-D.
If you think the modification mentioned above it a bit overdone as you feel
you have no need for software RDS decoding, just giving the CRM PI codes
decoding capabilities will be sufficient, there's a great modification to the
CRM around. Have a look at Jan Kolar's website!
You can even combine the 2 modifications in 1 CRM!
Having modified your CRM or your tuner you can now connect it to
your PC and run the software.
In the next part of this article 4 RDS programs will be discussed.
They are all in use by FMDXers from the Benelux, Germany, UK and USA.
All but one of these programs are DOS programs.
You won't need a deluxe computer to run the DOS software.
An old 386 -and even a 286 as the makers claim- will do nicely.
You can also run them in a Window if you prefer Win95/98.
Let's have a closer look.
1. RDSDecoder 2.01 from EsslingerRDSDecoder 3.0 from Esslinger
Unlike the other decoding software mentioned below the RDSDecoder 2.01
is a Windows(Win95/98/Me) based program and it runs nicely.
Be careful with the .vxd. My pc wouldn't boot when the CRM was still on
(synching to COM1). Apparently Win98 has a problem with the driver.
However once booted (so fire up the CRM after booting) it runs very smoothly.
The free demo version does not support logfiles or recording/playing samples.
Of course you can see PS/PI/AF/EON/Groups/ Bit Error statics and more.
At this very moment the price of a full version is unclear.
This RDSDecoder 2.01 is a good alternative if your fast pc doesn't run
DOS software reviewed below.
This program must be downloaded directly from Esslinger
(Thanks to Bill Nollman for providing this information.
You might want to visit his interesting RDS website!)
Some of the software mentioned below WILL NOT work on a fast computer,
say a PentiumII 300MHz or better.
You will see a runtime error on your computer screen.
A few programs have been patched and do run on a 1.33GHZ!
The patch to unlock programs written in TurboPascal, producing
the runtime error 200 can be found here.
2. RDS.EXE from UKW/TV Arbeidskreis.
This really tiny programme (46 KB) uses just 2 simple black and white screens.
These screens give you already far more information than your (separate) decoder.
Of course the PI code is shown, but also PS/AF/PTY/TP/TA/EON etc. are there.
It's all in German but due to its simplicity that won't pose problems for non German speakers.
Information can be logged in a file (ASCII), but you'll have to leave to programme to view it.
A bit clumsy perhaps.
You can also change certain 'preferences' such as the rate of a failure in decoding.
A high rate will mean quick decoding but with a margin of error.
A low rate will mean slower decoding but 100% correct.
It's up to you to find out what's best.
Some drawbacks in the RDS.EXE are its slow way in detecting data, albeit still a bit
faster than ordinary decoders, and its lack of a sampling mode:
you cannot record data and play it back as if it were 'live' on your screen.
Such a sampling mode can be interesting if you want to study
the RDS data after a DX session.
Conclusion: RDS.EXE is a simple and practical program that works perfectly,
what you see is what you get .
3. RRDS from Christoph Lorenz.
Again a very small program: it won't need more than 200 KB on your harddisk.
Very striking are the big 'windows' used on the screen.
The PS window takes up half your screen! Huge letters on a simple background.
Ideal for the visually impaired. RRDS also gives you all the RDS information you might need,
even In House Data and Raw Data can be seen and all of this using English terminology.
Moreover it's the only software discussed in this article that allows you to use the mouse to
open and close windows. A log file is automatically generated (with good quality signals) or
can be forced. In RRDS you can make samples, which means you can view your recordings
the way they first appeared on the screen and check out things like EON, AF etc.
The software is pretty fast in decoding data and just like the RDS.EXE it's possible to set
your preferences. Alas, one big drawback casts a shadow on this software: RRDS tends to
crash every now and then! Nerve-racking in the middle of a DX session.
The author, Christoph Lorenz, knows about the problem but hasn't got
the time or interest to fix it.
Conclusion: RRDS is a fine program, it's quick and has clear graphics, but the bug in it
is a real pity.
4. RDSS0375 from Martin Schultz.
Just like RDS.EXE and RRDS this sofware is of German origin.
All the screen info is in German only.
The programme needs some 400KB of free space on your disk, again not a lot.
If you are new to RDS decoding this RDSS0375 will certainly take your breath away:
more than 20 screens filled with data and lots of colours which all have a specific meaning!
The startscreen will tell you were you can find the info you need,
although from personal experience I can say screen 23 (F8F4) is the best one:
all relevant data can be read from this screen.
Martin Schultz really intended to make this a professional program:
you can decode PI/PS/PTY/TA/TP/MS/IH/RT/DI/EON and more.
It's possible to see how the data is binary structured or how the different
data groups are sequenced.
You might be overwhelmed at first by all this information, but a readme.file is provided.
Unfortunately it's in German only.
There's a small user guide to this program on this website. Click here.
RDDS0375 is my favourite of the software mentioned in this text:
it's really quick in decoding, even a failure rate of 98% will give you a PI code,
which can help you in identifying the station.
It's also possible to record and play samples and that can be done
in a very easy manner.
In the later version of the programme (RDSS0389) 3 decoders are used in 1 screen:
a slow one with high accuracy and a quick one which is more prone to displaying 'phantom' PIs.
In the RDSS0389 you can label your samples and logbooks are automatically generated:
one for the slow decoder (.txt) and one for the fast (.log).
A new screen (F8F4F7) shows how PI codes are generated and how the correct ones are marked.
A few lines from a recent Es opening as shown in the log file of my RDSS0389:
| Datum | Zeit | PI | PS|11.07.1999|17:03:52|99FF| KTIS : |*| 8|1|0|M| 2|000020|11.07.1999|17:04:21|
|11.07.1999|17:05:37|1464| SKAI |*| 1|1|0|S| 1|00000B|11.07.1999|17:05:39|
|11.07.1999|17:07:40|5000| TEL. |*| 0|0|0|M| 0|000007|11.07.1999|17:07:44|
|11.07.1999|17:12:49|100A| 94,T FM|*| 4|1|0|S| 1|00000E|11.07.1999|17:12:52|
|11.07.1999|17:19:32|5400| LISTEN |*|15|1|1|M| 1|00000A|11.07.1999|17:19:34|
|11.07.1999|17:29:21|FFFF|VENUS 91|*| 0|1|0|M| 9|00000E|11.07.1999|17:29:24|
|11.07.1999|17:39:27|5158|Manbassa|*| 9|1|0|M| 5|000020|11.07.1999|17:39:39|
|11.07.1999|18:52:34|5201|RAI MF1 |*| 0|1|0|M| 1|00001D|11.07.1999|18:52:58|
|11.07.1999|19:07:52|5274|FANT..CA|*| 0|1|0|M| 1|000052|11.07.1999|19:10:32|
|11.07.1999|19:17:33|5057|R.ELLE |*| 0|1|0|M| 1|000028|11.07.1999|19:17:34|
|11.07.1999|19:35:03|5021| R.S.I.|*| 9|0|0|S| 5|000033|11.07.1999|19:35:19|
|11.07.1999|19:42:46|5443|GALAXIAS|*| 0|0|0|M| 0|000008|11.07.1999|19:42:46|
It's not possible to set your own preferences but be assured that the author has set all
the parameters perfectly.
Conclusion: RDSS0360, 0375, 0385, 0388 and 0389 is a fine DX instrument.
Its performance is truly outstanding and it provides the user with a wealth of RDS info.
To my liking this is the best there is!
Where to obtain these RDS programs?
They can be downloaded from the Internet from Martin's website or look below.
Or write to Martin Schultz: An der Vossbergen 26B, D-26133 Oldenburg Germany
!!It's recommended to register the RDSS0375 as Martin will then certainly provide you
with the updated versions!!
Also a registered copy performs better in recording samples than an unregisterd copy.
Newer versions of the program can only be obtained from Martin directly.
The GNS Radiocard
GNS Radiocard, also sold as Lifestyle Software PCMCIA Radiocard DR2001.
www.gns-gmbh.com and www.tmcdecoder.de
Price: € 256,- including software.
Optional window clip antenna: € 25,-.
Shipping and handling: € 7,- in Germany, € 16,- in Europe,
€ 22,- outside Europe. Description
The GNS Radiocard is a miniature radio on a standard PC Card.
The Radiocard has two connectors: one cinch to connect the optional
external window clip antenna and one 3.5" jack to connect
to the line in of your PC's soundcard or an external amplifier.
This output is line level, so the signal is too weak for
a pair of headphones.
The card is controlled entirely by software on your PC.
The following software is supplied with the card: