Article

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 and ProAudio 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.


WinIcon

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.


MacIcon

RF Explorer Preset Manager for Mac

Installing and using the Preset Manager in Mac is a simple task.

Install Instructions:

  1. Install USB drivers and Mono as documented in this article
  2. Download the RF Explorer Preset Manager from the download page
  3. Run the software from the package, or better drag it to the dock or the Applications container
  4. Make sure the software is Authorized for use in MacOS Sierra or newer versions: You may need to authorize the application explicitly in your system. To do so, go to Security & Privacy panel in System Preferences, then hit the Allow or Enable option.

LinuxIcon

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.

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
Wireless Microphone Analyzer

Define and report Wireless Mic activity based on manufacturer channel names.

Discussion thread in group link.

GITHUB project 

by Bernd Konnerth

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.

Protecting your instrument

 

 

RF Explorer is a very sensitive device. It can detect signals as low as -120dBm, which is 10E-12mW or 9nA over a 50ohm load.


This extreme sensitivity comes at the price of fragility; your device needs care handling and protection in order to run for many years without problems.


Most RF technicians know the RF instruments have to be protected in order to survive the high Electro Magnetic (EM) fields that may be in the environment. Expensive instruments like $50,000 full sized Spectrum Analyzers and Signal Analyzers comes with a long list of handling procedures the operator must observe in order to limit any chance of damage. Unfortunatelly, the fact that RF Explorer is a cheaper device doesn't mean it can work without protection.


The first and most obvious precaution is to make sure the input RF power is not beyond the acceptable levels of the instrument.


RF Explorer 3G Combo and WSUB3G models are well protected up to +30dBm (1Watt) input power, which is plenty to play safe in pretty much any environment.

However, other RF Explorer models have a maximum safe input power of +5dBm, which is 3mW in the RF SMA port. As an reference, that is the power captured by the RF antenna from a cell phone a distance of 10cm, or from a Microwave oven at about 1 meter distance. Not all the ovens or cell phones work the same, so take this as an indication only.

 

What may not be obvious to all users is this is a limit in any RF frequency band, even if the RF Explorer is powered off.

 

As an example, the RF Explorer WSUB1G -with a frequency range of 240-960MHz- will not detect a microwave oven (2.4GHz) on the screen but can be very well damaged by it. Similarly, a strong 2m HAM or FM high power transmit station won’t be detected by this model, but still induces enough RF power to kill the RF circuitry with ease. And that doesn’t depend on RF Explorer being on or off because the antenna will receive that powerful signal and will inject it into the spectrum analyzer, with serious risk of damage.

 

 

In addition to RF power, you should reduce the likelihood of static discharge over the antenna. In particular, the naked metallic antennas such as the Nagoya telescopic antenna we include in the wideband models. The whip helical plastic antennas included in the narrow band models do not expose the internal contact to the outside world and thus are safer from ESD perspective because don't offer a direct current path to the internal sensitive CMOS component pin, but all metallic antennas needs you to observe good ESD practices, most importantly in very dry winter air: Make sure you have a good hand contact with the metal case of the RF Explorer before touching the antenna and, whenever possible, do not touch the antenna with your hands.

 

For this very same reason, you should never make contact with the antenna to any external energy source. Just imagine what power can be injected inside if you make the antenna contact to AC current or a powerful AC source of any kind!

 

If the RF Explorer RF circuitry is damaged, you will need to send it back for repair, taking time and cost so we strongly suggest using one or several standard procedures used for decades by RF technicians to protect your instrument:

  • The ideal device to protect your RF Explorer against strong RF fields is a RF Power Limiter. There are several options in the market, but we designed a compact, multi-purpose RF Explorer Power Limiter device with a very attractive price and the addition of advanced features such as an embedded 6dB attenuator and a 16V DC block. It will protect your RF Explorer for any power up to 1W (+30dBm) - For more details on this power limiter see this article.

Other options available in the market are for instance this power limiter from Mini Circuits: ZFLM-252-1WL+, available for less than $100, but does not include extra attenuator or DC block functionality, and is significantly larger in size.

An valuable update comes from user Bob Johansen points out this interesting Mini-Circuits application note on power limiters, very useful!

  • If you do not own a power limiter, ideally if you store the RF Explorer in your lab for no use, either enclose it within a metal case to protect it from external RF fields or, if not possible or available, unplug the antenna out of the SMA connector. This will significantly decrease the chances of high RF power get into the RF circuitry. If you know there may be strong RF fields nearby, it is even safer to plug a 50ohm SMA dummy load to the RF connector so the RF circuitry doesn’t receive any external RF field. You can find 50 ohm dummy loads in SeeedStudio for only $8.

  • When operating your instrument in unknown area where strong RF fields may be nearby, never plug the antenna into the SMA connector directly, always use a 30dB SMA attenuator to reduce the potential power received. This will increase the max power you can receive, but will reduce sensitivity as well. Remember this is required even if the instrument is not powered on yet. You can find SMA attenuators in SeeedStudio for convenient 60dB, 30dB and 10dB attenuation values.

    High Frequency Precision 30dB Attenuator High Frequency Precision 10dB Attenuator High Frequency Precision 60dB Attenuator

  • If the RF power comes from an out-of-band source, but you still want the maximum in-band sensitivity, a SMA attenuator may not be the best option because it reduces sensitivity in all bands. For instance, if you are using the WSUB1G model to monitor a weak 433MHz signal and know there is a strong 1.2GHz source nearby, the attenuator may not be the best option because it will attenuate the 1.2GHz signal but also the 433MHz signal. So in this case a good RF band pass filter may be the best option. There are many different options for filters, not all of them cheap, so look for available options for your band before taking this path. The Mini-Circuits website may be a good place to start.

 

Let us know if you have any question, we take client satisfaction seriously and want to make sure you enjoy your device for years without issues.

If your unit needs repair because the RF circuitry went unresponsive, let us know, we will find the best and most efficient way to offer a cost sensitive repair service.