The RTL Dongle is the cheapest SDR receiver available today. Despite being a low-cost 8-bit solution it is a reasonable performer on VHF but does not meet the same standard as the Airspy and SDRplay SDRs, both of which have a higher dynamic range and greater bandwidth.
If you need better performance the consider either of these two cost-effective alternatives.
August 7th, 2016: All files required for RTL support are now included in the kits. A description of these files is below.
When you plug a dongle into a port for the first time or change the port you must run Zadig from http://zadig.akeo.ie/.
If a dongle has never been introduced to the machine before the user must run Zadig from http://zadig.akeo.ie/ to couple the dongle to the Microsoft "WinUSB.sys" file that already exists on the system. Usually doing this once is sufficient. New dongles are discovered as they are plugged in. If the dongle is not recoognized (rtltool.exe cannot find it) then it's time to re-run Zadig on the dongle. This will allow any version of rtlsdr.dll to be found on the system.
Thanks to Paul Goetz for his help in the Yahoo! support forums.
If you have installed the correct drivers and SDR Console still cannot see the dongle, try rebooting. The RTL USB drivers are not very robust and can lose communications with the dongle. A reboot usually fixes it.
That's all folks!
Here's a basic RTL Dongle receiving the mighty BBC Radio Cornwall on 103.9 MHz, it's an Elvis eveing!
A quick note about bandwidths. When you start the RTL dongle you have a dropdown where you select the bandwidth. Most (but not all) dongles work at 2.4MHz (that is 2.4 Msps), some will work at 2.5 MHz. In rare circumstances rates as high as 2.75MHz have been experienced. Although a dongle may stream at 2.75MHz the quality may not be as good as 2.4MHz.
If you hear breaks in the audio then restart with a lower bandwidth.
Also known as Direct Sampling, to receive HF the tuner is disabled and the IF mode of the RTL2832 is activated. You must modify the dongle, more information available here [link].
You must select the correct HF Mode option, see Options below.
Select either automatic gain or a manual gain level. RF Gain is not use in HF Mode as the tuner chip is bypassed.
Enable (or disable) the internal digital AGC of the RTL2832.
Enable or disable the bias tee on GPIO PIN 0.
The data received from the dongle is multiplied by a fixed value to increase the value shown in the spectrum window.
These are very cheap SDR receivers, so it's only to be expected that they need calibrating. This option is used to adjust the dongle's frequency synthesiser so the stations are shown on the correct frequency in the console display.
Use this option to update the Vendor, Product and Serial values which are stored in the dongle's EEPROM, for example to change the serial number if you have two or more dongles. If you only have one dongle then this is always started, even if there is a serial number mismatch.
HF mode is also known as Direct Sampling, The dongle supports HF reception at frequencies below 28.8 MHz by disabling the tuner chip and connecting an antenna to the In-phase ADC input of the RTL2832.
This option shifts baseband data to move spike away from the centre of the display. Only supported by the e4000 tuner..
Adjust the IQ data from the dongle to compensate for design / manufacturing imperfections.
If you have more than one dongle you must use the Radio Configuration, EEPROM option to change the serial number. More information is in the Options section on this page (scroll down).
After changing the serial number update the RTL Dongle definitions with the Search option in the Definitions window.