UHF-Satcom.com - A quick review of AOR's Alpha communications receiver (18/10/2006 11:50:38 +0100)
(above) Front panel view showing spectrum display from 2 to 3 GHz!
(above) Rear panel view showing various inputs and outputs (Note no name plate or serial number badge)
During the Friedrichshafen 2006 radio show in Germany, UHF-Satcom.com had an hours play with AOR's brand new receiver, the 'Alpha'. UHF-Satcom.com members have owned a string of AOR receivers over the years, starting with the AR88E, AR950, AR1000, AR2001, AR2002, AR3000, AR3000A and most recently the AR5000+3. The initial specifications look very good and they include:
The initial impression of the receiver is that its aimed at the professional market, the price tag will no doubt reflect that when it's in production. The operation of the receiver is pretty much based on the AR5000, and a lot of the functions and control methods are the same, the exceptions being that the screen can of course show a lot more useful information. The receiver was tested only on local signals present on VHF/UHF and 2.45GHz, but with very good results just on the telescopic antenna. On 2.45GHz with 100MHz FFT bandwidth, it was easy to see the Bluetooth modems in mobile phones beaconing, also in band were several wireless LAN's and a couple of CCTV cameras, all were easy to identify on the FFT waterfall. The video demodulation was tested on the UHF television band, with excellent results, the picture was sharp and didn't suffer from any blurring or lag that can be associated with LCD displays. The TV demodulator is capable of PAL/SECAM/NTSC and also switches to the correct system. A nice feature of the LCD display is the user programmable soft keys to the right of the display - these can be programmed by the user for useful or commonly used functions. The FFT waterfall seemed very fast and responsive, making it very suitable for catching short duration signals such as frequency hoppers. It was also possible to see the contents of the 5 VFO's on the screen as a list, very handy indeed. The memory scan and band search functions were not checked out mainly due to lack of time, but its assumed that they function as per the AR5000 receiver.
Moving to VHF and UHF, again the signals were easy to spot in 10MHz bandwidth around 145MHz and 430MHz, although at times the signal levels were very high and this lead to the expected overload and washing out of the spectrum analyser / FFT waterfall - probably with the attenuator in 'auto' mode this would not occur. The receiver has two antenna sockets on the back, similar to the AR5000 series. Presumably the AOR antenna switch will work with this receiver, it is noted that the antenna number was present on the screen, no attempt was made to change this due to lack of time. The receiver has a nice DSP IF, including some good features such as auto notch, noise reduction / filter, IF shift, AFC, tone squelch and inverted voice descrambler. the AOR representative mentioned that Trunking and APCO25 decoders would be available as internal fit options. Another interesting feature is that there is an I/Q output on the back with 1MHz bandwidth - this is an utter bonus for external demodulators or SDR. The radios firmware can also be upgraded, presumably via serial or USB - again an excellent feature missing from previous AOR receivers. It was not clear from talking to AOR as to weather the radio is phase coherent when locked to a 10MHz external standard, although given that its a DSP IF, this shouldn't be too hard to achieve. AOR were keen to stress that this radio was a 'work in progress' and its specification was subject to change.
Unfortunately there were no chairs for visitors to the radio, so the price went unknown ;-) Although UHF-Satcom.com will anxiously await another chance to play with this brilliant receiver in the near future.....
The only other comment on the radio is that "I need one"!!!
comments on this radio to aoralpha at uhf-satcom dot com
A link to another AOR-Alpha page: http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/widerxvr/1036.html
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