Microtelecom - PERSEUS "Direct Sampling HF Receiver"
The Italian made PERSEUS "Direct Sampling HF SDR Receiver" from Microtelecom (Nico Palermo)
My Review , and useful links are located below. But after awhile the "love" party was over for me (see text).
(photo : N9EWO)
Review : Microtelecom - Perseus
Approx. Test Sample Serial Number : 006xx
Country Of Manufacture : Italy
Included FRIWO switching AC power supply : Germany (Used a 5 v Analog/Linear Supply in Use/Review)
Small Size /
Includes Power Supply / Runs A Bit Warm
The Perseus is in a attractive black aluminum case that measures 6 ˝ x 4 1/4 x 1 ˝ inches. It is made in Italy.
It runs only warm even after being on for 8 hours continuous.
External 5 volt (at one amp) power supply is required to use the set (does not power off the USB socket of the computer). A worldwide SWITCHING German made (FRIWO) AC adapter is included and did give for some noise in the lower end of the received range at the test location (approx. MW and below ). 2 input plugs are included that lock onto the adapters case. That is the standard 2 pin European style and 2 blade American type. We switched to the use of a analog/linear supply for use and in the review below
We found that any DC input plug fits loose (that is it can pull out rather easily).
A Zippy "Dual Core" Computer is Really a Requirement / 2.0 USB Port Another Requirement / Software and Driver Installation / Works on Windows 7 (32 Bit).
The manufacture specifications on what computer needs to be used (as stated in the English version EN12 PDF manual) is stated as 2 GHz Pentium 4 processor with 512 MB of memory for sampling rates of 125, 250, 500 KS/s. 2.5 GHz Pentium Dual Core processor with 512 MB of memory for the 1000 and 2000 KS/s sampling rate. (Which gives for 100 kHz, 200 kHz, 400 kHz, 800 kHz and the maximum 1800 kHz total swaths of the excellent spectrum scope). Operating Systems :Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2 (or above), Windows Vista. (Mac is not supported, sorry).
Our testing was done with a 2.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 single core processor with 1 GB of memory using Windows XP Home for the operating system (with service pack 3 installed). We were able to make this work fairly well (at least up to the 500 KS/s sampling rate). But it with ANY other computer programs in use made for ruff going. Locking up, Donald duck sounds, and other weirdness. Sometimes we had to close down and restart the program when it did this.
How well it will run with even lesser computers is hard to say. Way too may variables.
Normal CPU usage with the single core 2.8 Ghz test computer was (the only program in use). Sampling Rate : 125 KS/s 32%, 250 KS/s 42 % , 500 KS/s 55 %, 1000 KS/s 75% . 2000 KS/s 100 %.
A requirement is a USB 2.0 port. Dont even think of using a old 1 standard USB port with this one. Add on cards can be purchased at local retail outlets at a low cost for those who need to upgrade.
There is no power button to be found. Once the computer is powered down (or up) the Perseus does the same.
Installing the USB driver was the first thing to do. As indicated in the manual, with the radio connected, the included CD is used to load this driver. This installed with no problems with Windows® XP Home edition. On a Windows® 7 (32 bit) computer was not quite as easy to load. I had to force it in the Control Panel to take it (of course install the driver as an "Administrator"). From the information I have, the "included" USB driver will NOT work with a 64 bit version of Windows® 7 (contact the manufacture ?).(UPDATE : The later used USB driver we were unable to make work on 3 different XP computers)
The software/firmware is not actually installed. It is just loaded into the desired directory and run from there. Doesnt get any easier than this.
With Other Computers : We also tested the Perseus with a lesser Pentium 4 single core computer with 512 MB of memory and a 2.0 USB port (Windows XP home with service pack 3). As could be expected the same issues as above but more of a problem. With the spectrum scope at the sampling rate at 1000 KS/s / 800 kHz, the receiver was dropping out sometimes just running all by itself. Screen twitching was noticeable here too with all sampling rates. But we were actually able to use the spectrum recorder expect in the maximum 2000 KS/s / 1800 kHz selection where it pretty much locked up everything. In any event it was a much more choppy experience and not good. Additionally DRM reception was not possible with this lesser computer at all.
Another test on the other side of the mountain was with a Windows® 7 (32 bit) laptop computer using a 2.1 Ghz Intel Duo Core 2 (dual core processor), 3 GB of memory. It worked PERFECT with no dropouts at all even with the Dream DRM program in use and a couple of other applications in operation. A more beefy computer made a HUGE difference.
Frequency Coverage / The BEST Spectrum Scope Ever Used / Converters ??
One can peek up to a 1800 kHz swath of spectrum with many adjustments to make one happy. With the Sampling Rate adjustment one can view in 5 different swaths. 100 kHz, 200 kHz, 400 kHz. 800 kHz and the maximum at 1800 kHz total. As covered above the larger the chunk looked at the more computer CPU horse power is required. I must say that is the best spectrum scope I have EVER used , including the detection of the weakest of signals. It totally blows away the scope in the Icom IC-R9500 which is almost a TOTAL joke in comparison.
Coverage is from 10 kHz to 30 MHz (useable up to 40 MHz). The manufacture are promising down converters to cover VHF , UHF and even SHF parts of the spectrum. But as this report was typed , that was no sign that these converters were going to really happen ?
Good Ergonomics / Parts of the GUI Can Be Hard to See / Memory Channels / Selectivity Excellent - 7 Preset Settings
The Perseus has very good ergonomics overall. However parts of the GUI use small and darkish icons.
The mouse wheel can be used for a defacto tuning knob and the steps are selectable.
Mouse tuning steps are : 1 , 10 , 100 Hz. 1 , 5 , 9, 10, 12.5 and 25 KHz
Slewing is also provided with the arrows at each end (corner) of both spectrum displays (steps are user selectable).
These steps are : 1 , 2 , 5 , 10 , 20 , 25 , 50 , 100 , 200 , 400 , 500 KHz and 1 MHz
Selectivity is provided with 7 preset bandwidths. Those being .08 , 1.6 , 3.0 , 6.0 , 12.0 , 25.0 and 50.0 Khz. However any of these can be adjusted down to almost nothing (in certain steps) in sub scope window with the mouse wheel (when the cursor is over the sub spectrum display).
The tested firmware/software " v2.1f " (and above ?) have 100 memory channels in 6 banks. Even stores alpha tags for each channel. The MEM window as one looks at the GUI turns out to be a very useful integrated broadcast station database that pops up on screen as one tunes around. Only shows stations which are active at the time (in UTC) that they are transmitting are displayed. This can be toggled to show all stations using this frequency as well.
The 2 databases uses are either the EIBI or HFCC. There is one additional USER database that is whatever frequency/station data the user desires but must be written in the EIBI format. The owners manual cover the details on what need to be done to update these.
Direct keyboard entry is a bit difficult to my eyes. One needs to bring up another sub-window. Click again to make sure the cursor is in the proper spot. Then one can use the keyboard (or the keypad in the window with mouse clicks). With software/firmware v2.1f or above this can be entered in kHz or Mhz format. We can hope that perhaps software updates will make this procedure a bit less complicated down the road like being able to enter a frequency at ANY time using the computers keypad.
Other than the convoluted keypad entry, there are no other keyboard operations with the Perseus that exist at all (not including aftermarket , second source options).
Excellent Synchronous Detection / Good Clean Audio But DSP Sharpness / No Tone Control / Excellent Stability / Small Clock - Date Display
The Perseus has a excellent synchronous detector that just about never loses lock (only with extremely weak stations). One can fiddle around with the PBT and remove interference from whatever sideband interference that exists to get the same job as selectable sideband done. So it can be said that is does indeed have selectable sideband sync.
The audio is indeed in the tradition of DSP sets, that is it has the harshness trait. But it is very clean. So clean in fact that distortion almost non existent. Kicking in the Sync lowers any fading distortion to nothing. SSB and manual ECSS signals sound equally good.
Ok overall the audio is good but with the DSP "sharp" harshness, a good set of computer speakers with tone controls is a must. The Behringer MS16 (16 total watts) amplified computer speakers should be excellent for use with the Perseus (not tested) ? These are a 2 way system (woofer and tweeter), separate bass and treble controls and use a internal power supply (no wall warts or floor warts). Street price about $ 80. in the USA.
Speaking of Manual ECSS, it has rock solid stability once warmed up. With the test sample it started out cold at 35 hz low where it took about 60 minutes to reach a stable state. But this will depend on room environment ...etc.
Sadly unlike the Flex 5000, there is no tone control or a EQ of any kind to help fight this audio harshness. With software/firmware v2.1f (and above ?) the date and time (in UTC) is shown at the bottom of the GUI in the "Spectrum Recorder" area. It's small but useful. There are 3rd party timer programs around, not tested.
The AGC has settings of Slow, Med , Fast and off. There is a way to adjust the AGC rise and threshold in a screen with software/firmware v2.1f (and above ?), but getting to this is a bit of a chore.
There is not a real RF gain control. So when one uses the Off AGC setting for super weak signals the volume control provides a way to control the gain of a received signal. But overall AGC performance works properly (even in SSB modes).
Function called SpkRej (AGC Spike Rejection) is provided. This is touted to emulate the AGC behavior of analog receivers. This indeed helps reduce the harsh DSP sound of the audio. It really does help, but not that it eliminates the beast either (it doesnt). In fact we detected a (very slight) hint of added distortion added in use.
Good Sensitivity and Excellent Audio Recovery / Excellent Dynamic Range and Image Rejection / Real Front End Filtering.
In real testing (using a good outdoor antenna) sensitivity is good. Even weak signal sensitivity is very good. A extremely low 2 db pre-amp is provided, but as one can expect with such a small boost its nearly noticeable (if at all). However, when the going got VERY ruff with signals down in the mud , the WJ-8711A came out on top easy. Also the noise floor is a bit better on the WJ too.
Dynamic range is excellent, we experienced no overloading at any time in testing. A 10 or 20 db attenuator is provided and is more useful for clipping of the Analog-Digital-Converter (ADC "clip" red light on GUI or on the black box).
It appears to be free from most nasty spurious, DSP burps or ay other weird signals. Image rejection is also equally good.
Unlike most other SDR receivers, the Perseus has real RF "front end" preselection filtering.
Built in Spectrum "Recorder"
As with other SDR receivers on the market the Perseus has a function to be able to record up to 1800 kHz of the spectrum for later playback in real time. One can change modes, bandwidth etc, just like receiving it live. It works excellent once the bugs were ironed out. Also as it goes with these recorders, it eats up hard drive space like a large starved goat.
The playback function does not operate properly until we installed the Virtual Audio Cable software , otherwise it would not playback (UPDATE : software/firmware version v2.1f and above does not require VAC for this function). See the DRM text below for more information on this software.
No function in the GUI for standard audio recording of just one signal. This has to be done with a separate audio recording program of the users choice. We used the old Cool Edit Pro 2" program with very good results. Well at least until the computer resources gave out with the limited XP test computers.
DRM Mode A Pain To Install (Dream) / Requires External Programs To Be Hunted Down By The Owner, But works well / VAC additional Cost !!
There is a DRM mode available on the Perseus. However with the decoding software we used it requires the owner to fetch on their own and install 2 pieces of software to make work (it actually is 3).
First requirement is for downloading the DRM decoding software. In our tests we used "Dream" version 1.6.1cvs .
Second, with the Dream software it is is a bit tricky to make work as the necessary "qt-mt230nc.dll" is deliberately left out and has to be located and downloaded separately via the internet and added to the Dreams program directory. There is no install involved with the Dream software and added .dll, you just run it in whatever directory you have it in.
Number 3, even another piece of software called Virtual Audio Cable interface software (called VAC) is required (this one uses a normal install). This is $ 30. USD software. But a shareware demo version can be downloaded for testing. The demo will work with the Dream software OK, but with nag screens. Important : One must properly select the sound device input and outputs in the VAC menu's, otherwise you will hear nothing.
With all of that work , How Does DRM work on the Perseus ? There is no way to adjust the input volume and the metering on the Dream software, and level varies from a bit excessive to too low input level using RCIs Sackville 9800 kHz DRM frequency (using the Dreams meter). But it never effected the output (with a proper in the clear signal of course).
The VAC program and the Dream software both worked with Windows® 7 - 32 bit with no problems (not tested with 64 Bit).
So overall it CAN work very well, but at this price point it would have been much better if the manufacture would have been able to provide all of the required software on a CD ROM disc right out of the box. IMPORTANT NOTE : See "Update" at the bottom of this review for more information on the DRM mode.
[Very Important Note : If using a sub par host computer the DRM mode may not function at all. One may just see scanning in the Dreams data window and nothing more.]
Good Noise Blanker / Very Good NR noise reduction and Manual Notch / S-meter Bar is a Winner / Excellent Manual Notch / Auto Notch a Bust.
We found the NB Noise Blanker to work fairly indeed. It did help to reduce local power line noise. Selectable wide and narrow modes too. We did noticed cross modulation setting in about 2/3 up its sliders scale , but that about normal for noise blanker circuits.
In the case of the NR (Noise Reduction) it was even more useful. For signals in awash of local noise, it made for a very useful tool. Improved audio recovery by leaps and bounds with noisy signals. However, it gives that wooshy and hollow tube sound that all of these NRs tend to produce. It gets hard on the ears (and brain) to use this for any length of time (well for me anyway).
S-meter uses a horizontal bar screen display and appears to be very accurate. Shows in dBm or standard s-units (at the same time). One can also chose between RMS or Peak type of display as well.
The provided manually adjusted "single" notch is very sharp and deep, excellent overall. Auto notch was provided on the software/firmware version " v2.1f " (and above ?) that we tested. Sadly we found it to do harm than good at any adjustment (killing the signal).
Excellent SDR Receiver, But WAY Overpriced...
Perseus is the best SDR receiver we have used out of the number we have tested (including the RF Space SDR-14 and Flex-5000). Its performance is very good aside from the steep price tag. Also being a SDR "Software Defined Receiver" (no Mixer or IF stages at all), one can hope for improvements down the road. The synchronous detection holds lock very well and improves the already minimal distortion even further. Has real front end filtering too. DRM mode is a major chore to make happen (and may not work at all) as it requires download and cost of Virtual Audio Cable software plus the freeware Dream program (and one other .dll file) as covered above and below on this page.
Again in my tests the top rated (standalone) Watkins Johnson WJ-8711A DSP super set still beats it out when it going gets tough. The main bug here is the sensitivity and noise floor. They both could be a bit better with the Perseus.
Important Updates / With Any New Firmware - Software Can Include New Bugs That Go Along With It / So Long Perseus.....
After a few years of playing with the Perseus, I have since given up (in fact I'm no longer a owner). Seems that with any new Firmware / Software update(s) came a ROYAL "Pain In The Rump" that went along with it. Yes one should expect to have a few bugs with a SDR type of a set this is, but really folks it was getting so bad to make one cry and with only limited (or very poor) support. I was spending more time TRYING to fix the software ills than listening to the receiver. If you are a computer geek, OK , you will be a happy camper. In my case, forget it. The tiring DSP type audio (after awhile), self-generated noise (at least on my sample), limited sensitivity and high noise floor are 4 performance ills that killed it for me.
They went to a new USB driver (which I never got to work properly with 3 different XP computers). The DRM mode started not to work right either down road (another one I could not cure). The one bug that really broke the straw was the fact after connecting it to a new very quiet "Dual Core" computer; we discovered that the set generates self-inflicted noise (yes, using a analog power supply). This was verified in a number of ways, so is not a fluke (at least with my sample). So at that point I said goodbye to the Perseus and lots of headaches along with it.
: I will NOT be held responsible for any information that
is listed here.
using the Griffin Technology PowerMate USB device.
Powermate software version tested: 2.0.1, Microsoft Windows XP Home and Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit).
Sorry , beyond the information listed below I can not provide any additional help on this.
The Griffin Powermate works well with the Perseus for a "defacto" tuning knob,
When used with a slower computer (non dual core), Windows may not recognize it at boot up. (see text below).
This bug can get to be a royal pain in the rump after awhile.
Intermittently Windows XP may not recognize the device at boot up in normal use (blue base LED does not light up.). With some computers this may happen every time or every other time its booted ?
1. To restore the device back into Windows XP, go to :
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager
Look for Human Interface Devices (HID) in the list of hardware.
Disable the one marked in its list with the yellow exclamation point in front of it. Right click and select Disable.
Then repeat the above procedure using enable
If this does not restore operation after a couple of attempts then repeat the above steps (right click) but this time using Uninstall.
Next (in the action top tool bar in Device Manager) select Scan for hardware changes. This should reinstall the Powermate hardware back properly on the system.
NOTE: It may take several attempts for this fix to take with either method listed above.
If still unable to make the device recognized and operational after a number of attempts, then uninstall using the above procedure. But next unplug the device from the USB port. Then reinsert the USB plug again let Windows do the reinstall automatically.
2. If using Run at Startup feature with the PowerMate software (version 2.0.1) and the device is not recognized as covered above, the program MAY have to be closed and restarted in order for the previously stored settings to be recognized. Its a good idea to use the export feature and save all applications just in case.
3. Another possible solution is to reinstall the software. This information was received from Griffin Customer Service. This is for Windows XP. Please note this did nothing to cure the issues with the 2 test computers.
Uninstall the program using the add/remove programs from your control panel.
Next, make sure that there are no remaining preference files still on your computer:
1. Open my computer
2. Double click Local Disk C:
3. Double click Documents and Setting
4. Double click your name
5. Goto Tools in the menu bar and select Folder Options
6. Click the View tab
7. Look for Hidden files and folders
6. Click Show hidden files and folders
7. Click OK
8. Double click Application Data
9. Double click GriffinTechnology
10. Delete the PowerMate folder
11. Empty your Trash
12. Restart the PC without the device-plugged in.
13. After the PC has rebooted, plug the device in.
14. Download and install the latest version of our software from our website:
Final Word : Sadly we were never able to make the "properly installed" Griffin Powermate boot up reliably no matter what we tried on 2 different computers running Windows XP (home edition). Always have to fiddle with it in one way or another at some point as covered above. Once it's recognized by Windows, it's works well. I have not used this product with Windows Vista and have no plans to do so.
UPDATE : The use of a faster "Dual Core" computer TOTALLY cleared this issue up.
Links (Reviews , Dealers and Software)
Universal Radio - Ohio USA "PERSEUS"
Microtelecom "PERSEUS" web site
"eham" PERSEUS reviews
USA "PERSEUS" Importer "SSB Electronic USA"
NASWA Journal Columns · Equipment Reviews, May 2008
Arctic DX: (Bjarne Mjelde) My Perseus Impressions
Behringer MS16 "16 watt" Speakers (excellent for Perseus Use)
: I will NOT be held responsible for any information that
is listed here.
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