The HackRF One is a test equipment module for RF related experiments and measurements which covers a frequency range from 1 to 6000 MHz. It is used for experiments and measurement setups with open source programs for SDRs, own software development for radio communications and measurements in amateur radio. The hardware was developed by Michael Ossmann (USA) as an open source device, backed by a strong Kickstarter funding project. It is now sold as a commercial product as well.
The system covers a wide frequency range from 1 to 6000 MHz, and covers many licensed and unlicensed as well as ham radio bands. The hardware offers a maximum sample rate of 20MS/s, which is sufficient to measure even wide band signals like WFM, DECT, Wifi and others. The ADC works with 8 bit data width and offers a dynamic range of 48dB. The digitised I/Q data is handled by a Xilinx CPLD and an integrated ARM Cortex processor. Due to the design and component selection the device supports only half-dulplex operation.
The entire circuitry is designed for low power consumption, supply is done over USB only. The board has a Micro-B USB socket, a suitable cable is included. To synchronise several HackRF One boards, the system offers connectors for clock input and output. These signals can be used to use multiple boards in parallel, for example for measurements on MIMO systems or full duplex systems. Two push buttons and several diagnostic LEDs are provided for easy operation.
The PCB is professionally manufactured with 4 layers. All components are SMD parts. To support own hardware development and extensions, many signals are available on jumper sockets. These connectors offer GPIO pins as well as parameter in- and outputs from the CPLD. A JTAG connector can be used to program the ARM Cortex processor.
HackRF One Circuit Description
Please refer to the frontend block diagram. The HackRF One board is
characterised by a very high flexibility when choosing the signal path.
RF switches at all critical junction points allow the selection of
various components, based on user programming.
antenna input two MGA-81 GaAs MMIC amplifiers follow, one serves the
input, the other the output path. The amplifiers ICs can be selected in
and out of the signal path by RF switches (SKY13317).
amplifier block is followed by a low-pass and a high-pass filter, which
can be used to limit the signal in either path (input/output). After the
filter the signal arrives at an RF mixer RFFC 5072. This mixer can be
used up to 6GHz. The signal is mixed up or down, depending on user
programming and finally fed to the baseband circuitry. Mixer and filters
can be bypassed by further RF switches, allowing the IF signals to be
switched directly to the amplifiers or directly to the antenna.
baseband chip a Maxim MAX2837 component is used, which covers a
frequency range of 2.3 to 2.7 GHz. The chip uses monolithic filters
which provide for a very linear signal and a low noise figure. The IQ
data is then passed to an ADC/DAC chip Maxim MAX5864. This ADC as well
as the DAC uses has 8 bit resolution. A maximum sample rate of 20MS/s is
supported by these converters. The digital signals are finally passed
to a Xilinx XC2C CPLD. The entire system and all interfaces are
controlled by a powerful ARM Dual Core Cortex processor (NXP LPC4320).
The board further supports 1MB flash memory.
Software for the HackRF One Board
Currently (Autumn 2014) the HackRF One board is working with 'SDR-Radio', 'GNU Radio' and 'SDR#'' (SDR Sharp). Due to the open source and license fee free nature of the project, other software project can join at any time. Several authors already have announced their support for the HackRF One. Up to date information about software is found on the manufacturers Wiki site.
18. Aug. 2014: Now the software SDR-Radio by Simon Brown
supports the HackRF Board (from version 2.x on).
18. Aug. 2014: Here is a first review of the HackRF One with SDR#
Links about HackRF One:
What the HackRF One is not!
From time to time we hear the disappointment of customers returning the HackRF One, because he or she expected something totally different. To avoid this in the future, we want to clear up some widespread misunderstandings.
- The HackRF One is not a ham radio! The HackRF One is a transmitting and receiving SDR that is meant for experimentation. It helps thousands of students, hackers, hobbyists, experienced radio amateurs and researchers to test new radio transmission paths and was a brilliant development in its time. But it certainly does not replace an amateur radio and it does not want to!
- The sensitivity of the HackRF One is lower than that of the simplest handheld radio for amateur radio. This is due to the design with the 8 bit AD-converter, the missing pre-amplification, the missing pre-filters and the limited computing capacity. But the HackRF One is not supposed to be very sensitive, it is enough if a signal is received over the lab bench. Of course you can increase the sensitivity with a large external antenna, external preamplifiers and filters and hear all kinds of transmitters in individual band ranges - but the effort is much greater than if you buy a conventional radio right away.
- The transmitting power is deliberately limited to an extremely low level. It is sufficient to send a signal over the laboratory bench to a receiver, nothing more should happen. If you are thinking of adding an amplifier to the HackRF One, you have to consider that the signal is not filtered at all and probably is not very clean spectrally.
- The HackRF One has no provisions for normal amateur radio operation. There is no microphone connection, no S-meter, no loudspeaker, there is no control possibility except through the software on a computer. To be able to use the great potential of such an experimental SDR, one has to study the theory of digital signal processing quite intensively. This requires knowledge of English, a lot of mathematics, some physics and a lot of insight in software. This is all manageable and also very exciting, but requires a lot of commitment and time. If you don't want to invest that, the HackRF One is surely the wrong choice.
- The HackRF One is one of the most versatile products to learn how SDRs work. But if you are looking for a quick and universal introduction to amateur radio, you should better choose a conventional radio and gain first experiences with it.
We will be pleased to assist you in the selection of SDRs and radios to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment.