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In a world with a growing list of wireless systems, there is a real need for monitoring tools and instruments everyone can use.

Wireless microphones, Video links, GSM/GPRS/3G/4G networks, WiFi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, ISM bands… The list never ends. Some of these are amateur RF bands and therefore nice for hacking and tinkering. Some others are professional, licensed bands with specific use where every Hertz of the assigned spectrum is precious.

Dealing with all this complexity is only feasible with the right tool at hand.

RF Explorer is an affordable Handheld Spectrum Analyzer designed from scratch to be a sort of Swiss Army Knife for the specific needs of digital radio frequency communication.

Commercial high-end spectrum analyzers are traditionally expensive and bulky, in the order of many thousand dollars, and you need significant expertise to master them. RF Explorer offers 90% of what a high cost unit will do for RF digital band communication, at a 5% of the cost. Additionally, it can be carried on easily anywhere, used outdoors efficiently for hours with a single battery charge.

RF enthusiast have limited themselves to cheap "RF Power Detector / Frequency counter" devices in the past. But these are limited to display data for a single point of maximum power, and traditionally power metrics are too unreliable, in the order of 20dB or even 30dB inaccuracy.

In contrast, a spectrum analyzer like RF Explorer will display full frequency spectrum in the band, including carrier and modulated shape, will display Spread Spectrum activity if that exist, and will show bandwidth to monitor collisions, frequency deviation from expected tone, etc.

RF Explorer start at only $99 for narrow bands ISM models, and they are fully functional analyzers used worldwide by radio enthusiasts, engineers and companies who deal with specific ISM bands only.

But there are more advanced models available covering wider bands including the 6G model with a full coverage of 15-2700MHz and 4850-6100MHz in the same unit, with excellent dynamic range and plenty of features.

There are some other devices in the market which offers some of these features in an USB key, and they are of reasonable cost, albeit with limited bandwidth and resolution when compared to RF Explorer. However, USB-Key devices always depend on a PC connection, and that is very inconvenient for outdoor work or if you need to save space in the lab desk.

 You can connect RF Explorer to your PC for additional features and display quality, but that is optional; RF Explorer is fully functional as an independent unit.

See below a quick summary of what you can do today with RF Explorer, together with firmware extensions we are working on for the near future.

Let us know your suggestions in RF Explorer distribution List as we are highly motivated to extend this device based on community requests.

Currently in BETA the new RF Signal Generator is fully programmable, can work as a CW single carrier, multi Sweep and Tracking Generator from 23.4Mhz to 6GHz. More details available on this page.

RF Explorer currently supported workflows

  • Monitor continuous wave (CW) and temporary transmissions in specific ISM band.
  • Detect whether a device is transmitting in the expected frequency and with expected power
  • Check whether an antenna or amplifier change makes a difference in power, orientation and noise
  • Detect band occupancy to move your gadget to a different channel
  • Works as RF Generator to transmit pure RF tone so you can test your RF link in seconds
  • Works completely automatic so you do not need to be an expert to use it. It will resolve RBW, Sweep time, for you.
  • Offer spectrum data in Normal, Average, Peak Maximum calculator modes
  • Open communication API SCPI.
  • Open source PC client software for Windows and Mac OSX, unlimited capture and post-processing storage
  • Optimized for all worldwide frequencies between 15 to 2700MHz. Check on this model map for more details and comparison chart.
  • RF Explorer Signal Generator with tracking capabilities for full SNA test and characterization of 2 port RF devices. More details here.

Additional information

 

High performance software for Windows

Realtime or adjusted signals, 3D spectrogram waterfall, CSV export, high quality graphics and a large feature set is available for free to RF Explorer users

 

 

RF Explorer roadmap and future extensions

  • Transmission test tones in OOK and FSK
  • Digital transmission decoding and packet sniffing for OOK and FSK, including Manchester code support
  • Logging features for multi-hour transmission monitoring
  • Frequency counter
  • Automatic peak detection
  • Storage for 1000's screenshots in expanded memory.
  • Expansion modules for additional ISM band support, expanded RF Generator and Tracking Generator for circuit analysis, etc.

For an example of how easy and powerful RF Explorer is in a real use case, check this tutorial.

To better know what others are saying about RF Explorer, check on online videos and references.

Buy RF Explorer online

RF Explorer is available at SeeedStudio online store and a network of distributors worldwide.

 

Using Presets in RF Explorer

Overview

Presets are predefined configuration names stored in the device to easily recall commonly used setups.

Device models supported:

  • RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzers Combo (with Expansion board) support presets since firmware version v1.26. This include ISM Combo, 3G Combo, 6G Combo and Wifi Combo.
  • RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzer Plus model since initial firmware v3.00 support embedded presets but firmware v3.06 is required to connect with RF Explorer Preset Manager.

Firmware upgrade is available in the download page.

For specific help on using presets in the handheld device, please check user manual.

This tool is available for Windows computers (Windows XP SP3 and higher, including latest Windows 10), Linux and Mac computers. Please see specific sections below.

RF Explorer Preset Manager for Windows

The RF Explorer Preset Manager tool can be used in Connected and Disconnected mode. Connected mode is required to update the RF Explorer device, but Disconnected mode is useful to manually define presets that can be later uploaded to one or more RF Explorer devices.

For companies with multiple RF Explorer devices, this tool is the easiest way to propagate the same settings to all them.

PresetManager

Quick Startup guide

  1. Connect your RF Explorer device to USB and keep it in standard Spectrum Analyzer mode. Only one device can be connected to USB, otherwise the tool will not be able to communicate with RF Explorer.
  2. Open the RF Explorer Preset Manager tool, it will automatically connect to RF Explorer and indicate so in the “Status” section.
  3. Press button [Reload All Presets From Device] to get all defined presets from your RF Explorer device (if any) into the Computer.
  4. Do any manual modification or create new presets, as required
  5. When all changes are completed, click button [Update All Presets To Device] to get RF Explorer device update with all changes from Computer
  6. Close the RF Explorer Preset Manager tool

Detailed description

The tool include tooltips help text on each button and function, keep the mouse a couple of seconds on top of any application area to get instant description.

Connection

The tool will scan and try to connect to any RF Explorer device when it starts.

If there is no RF Explorer connected, it will work in Disconnected mode. This mode is useful to define presets or modify existing ones, stored in local Computer. To connect to an actual device, the application must be closed and reopened again.

If a RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzer device is connected to the USB port, the application will automatically connect upon starting. It will not connect if more than one RF Explorer device is connected to USB, for instance if a Spectrum Analyzer and a Signal Generator are both connected.

The tool uses 500Kbps speed mode only. If connection fails, please make sure to check the CONFIG MENU baudrate selected in the RF Explorer device, should be set to 500Kbps in the device for it to work.

Define a new preset

To define a new preset, select the preset index (1-30 for Standard units, and 1-100 for Plus units). Modify Start/Stop frequency, define a Description Text, etc.

Description Text is limited to standard ASCII 7 bits characters. Other characters may display correctly in the computer, but will not work correctly when loaded in the device. For best results, limit text to A-Z, a-z, 0-9, and simple symbols like ., -, +, _, etc. Do not use accentuated or 8 bits ASCII characters.

All values are persisted in local computer XML file. If application is closed, presets will be remembered when the application starts again.

Important: a preset is considered <defined> with a useful value whenever the Start Frequency is different than zero. Presets with Start Frequency set to zero are considered empty.

Valid preset values for frequency are limited by the actual RF Explorer model the preset will be used into. For instance if the device is limited to 240-960 MHz range, defining values outside this range will be ignored as incompatible when uploading to the device. In devices with Mainboard and Expansion Board, make sure to select the right option before editing frequency ranges.

Modify a preset

To modify any preset with new values, edit the values the same way you do for defining a new preset.

Reset a preset

Select the preset to reset to zero and then click on [Reset Current Preset…] button

Reset all presets

To start with an empty, clean preset selection you can reset all at once using [Reset All Presets…] button

Reload presets from Device

If running in Connected mode, the tool can download all presets from the device into the computer frontend.

If values for a particular preset are different in the computer and the device, the one in the computer will be overwritten with the one from the device. When using the [Reload All Presets From Device], the device preset definition takes the priority.

Presets defined in the computer but undefined in the device will not be overwritten or changed.

Update device presets

If running in Connected mode, the tool can update all presets in the device using the current definition from the computer.

If values for a particular preset are different in the computer and the device, the one in the device will be overwritten with the one from the computer. When using the [Update All Presets To Device], the computer preset definition takes the priority.

For presets defined in the computer with ranges incompatible with the device, the preset will be ignored and not sent to the device.

Import / Export presets

Presets defined in a computer can be saved to and restored from Preset export files. These files allows to share preset definitions among teams or colleagues, can be sent by email or shared apps, and can also be used to replicate in different computers.

To export presets, use the [Export Presets to File…] and select a file name. This file can be shared, stored for backup, etc.

To import presets from a file into the current session, use the [Import Presets from File…]. The file will add any new preset to the computer session. To upload the imported presets into a device, use the [Update All Presets To Device] after import completes.

RF Explorer Preset Manager for Linux

The specific version for Linux run with mono. It is tested and supported in Ubuntu 64bits v16.04 using Mono 4.x, it should work fine in any modern distro using a recent stable version of Mono.

Install Instructions:

  1. Download and install Mono for your Linux distro from Mono project website
  2. Add your linux user to the dialup group, otherwise may not be able to open the USB port. For instance this command will do it in Ubuntu/Debian: 
    sudo adduser <my_user> dialout
  3. Download and copy RF Explorer Preset Manager for Linux executable, you can locate it anywhere in your computer.
  4. Connect your RF Explorer spectrum analyzer to the USB port. Only Combo and Plus models are supported.
  5. Run the tool with
    mono RFEPresetManagerLinux.exe

Note: use regular Linux login, not root or superuser, otherwise configuration files will not be stored in the home folder correctly.

RF Explorer Preset Manager for Mac

<Coming soon>

Software options for RF Explorer

RF Explorer spectrum analyzer can be used as a standalone tool, but can also be connected to a computer for additional features.

This page contains a comprehensive list of software available for RF Explorer, coming from different sources and vendors. This list is intended to help you to better understand the different options available, but we are not responsible for any of the 3rd party published applications. We suggest to contact the 3rd party web pages for additional and updated info on any of the offerings.

Software for RF Explorer

ProductPlatformDescriptionCompanyPrice
RF Explorer for Windows

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Powerful and fast, includes all standard Spectrum Analyzer features, as well as enhanced functionality such as 3D Waterfall and remote control command.

It also includes the required firmware uploader to keep your RF Explorer unit with latest updates.

RF Explorer official website

free
Vantage for MacOS

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Robust and easy to use standard spectrum analyzer functionality for Mac, all RF Explorer models supported. Includes file export for major 3rd party coordination software tools.

Future advanced features in the roadmap.

$99
Touchstone

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Powerful, user friendly general purpose spectrum analysis and frequency monitoring, includes adjustable RBW, easy operation and 2 display charts

Nuts About Nets

free
Touchstone Pro

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Same as Touchstone, the Professional version adds a total of 5 display charts, advanced reporting and channel band monitoring

Nuts About Nets

$49
Touchstone for Mac

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Touchstone and Touchstone Pro for Mac are available from NutsAboutNets. It brings the same functionality of Touchstone Windows to Mac OSX.

Nuts About Nets

$49
ClearWaves

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

This is the tool you need for advanced RF frequency coordination, a must have for Audio and Video professionals.

Precise, wideband RF spectrum scanning, visualization and channel coordination. Includes advanced intermodulation and frequency monitoring features, 5 display charts, and reporting.

Nuts About Nets

$295
Touchstone Mobile

 

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Available for Android OTG phones and tablets, it turns data collected from RF Explorer spectrum analyzers into highly graphical charts and displays, enabling users to more readily visualize the RF environment, monitor RF signals, troubleshoot RF issues, and detect sources of RF interference.  

Nuts About Nets

$49 
RFTrack

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Available for Android OTG phones and tablets, it combines GPS location from Android and RF activity from RF Explorer to create a worldwide TVWS database.

ICTP

free
RF Guru + RF Scanner

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

RF Guru is a complete frequency coordination and intermodulation assistant for Audio professionals. The RF Scanner tool connects RF Guru to RF Explorer and other spectrum analyzers.

Stage Research

Visit website
WWB6 – Wireless Workbench 6

Offline connection with CSV imported files

Complete solution for frequency coordination. It can import CSV files from RF Explorer for Windows for offline analysis.

Axient - Shure

Visit website
RF Explorer for Python

Recommended for developers

Interface API to easily connect RF Explorer to Phyton language and tools

RF Explorer Python wiki

Free, open source
iRFExplorer

Realtime connection with RF Explorer

Basic and easy to use standard spectrum analyzer functionality for Mac.

Mac OS X 10.7 and later, make sure you install the Silicon Labs driver as per installation instructions.

Dirk-Willem van Gulik - Appstore  

If you are a developer or 3rd party company with software connecting with RF Explorer, let us know, we will add you to this list. It is the best way to make your software visible to the large RF Explorer user base.