FM Radio Player for RTL2832U sticks

 Author:   Posted on:   Updated on:  2017-11-18T21:34:14Z
USB TV sticks using RTL2832U chip are well known for their ability to send raw samples to USB host. This makes it possible to process various signals in software (SDR). There are many software tools for this purpose and most of them can demodulate also FM radio, with stereo and RDS support.

The problem is that these applications have full featured SDR abilities, with spectrum analysis and waterfall display. This makes them not at all lightweight. I've been looking quite hard for a simple FM radio player for my RTL-SDR dongle.

Some of the RTL2832U dongles come with FM capable player on the CD. Unfortunately not all. After some searching I was able to find a simple tool that demodulates FM stereo signal and displays RDS data. The application was most probably a test tool designed by Realtek to illustrate features of RTL2832U.
FM Radio Player for RL2832U sticks
This is the main window of the application. I made some slight modifications to the embedded resources using Resource Hacker in order to improve the look of the tool. This is a 32-bit application that runs on Windows 7 and newer versions. If it doesn't start, you need to install KB2731771 update.

The usage is pretty straight forward. Write a frequency in the frequency box (in kHz) and click Set and Play button to start. You can also scan channels by clicking Full Scan button. If you want to view RDS information, click RDS On button. A new window will open and RDS data will be displayed.

RDS data in FMPlayer RTL2832U
RDS data in FMPlayer
You can also pipe RDS stream to RDS Spy software if you want to analyze it further. Use the drop-down arrow in RDS window to configure RDS Spy connection.

The reception quality is pretty good and CPU usage is very low when compared to other SDR tools. I'm comparing this with SDR, because FM demodulation is performed in software. RTL2832U can only demodulate DVB-T signals.

You can download this piece of software from here. Please note that it requires Realtek drivers. It does not work with libusb based driver (which is used by other SDR apps). To change the driver, go to Device Manager, expand Universal Serial Bus devices category. Your stick should appear there as RTL2832U DVB-T or Bulk-In, Interface. Right click it, choose Update Driver Software, click on Browse my computer, then Let me pick from a list. You will be prompted with two or more options. REALTEK 2832U Device is the official Realtek driver (if it doesn't appear, install it). Choose it and click Next to make the stick work with FMPlayer.

If you want to switch back to libusb driver, find the stick in Sound, video and game controllers, repeat the above steps, but choose the other option.

Driver switching (Realtek/libusb)
Driver switching (Realtek/libusb)
Unfortunately this application is only for Windows OS. Do you know other similar tools?

6 comments :

  1. Thank you, cool little software.

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  2. Hello, i have the RTL-SDR dongle that does not work with this software, do you know how to easily switch between drivers ? maybe with zadig ? thank you.

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    Replies
    1. I don't know any easy, one-click way to switch drivers. As I said, you can go to Device Manager, select RTL SDR device and update driver from a list of drivers installed. There you can select the official DVB driver.

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  3. I'm on Windows 7 and i need to restart the PC so the drivers can change, do you need to restart on higher version of windows ? like 10 ?

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    Replies
    1. I didn't had this issue on Windows 7. However, after switching the drivers is recommended to unplug and replug the RTL dongle (SDR was not working after using the Realtek driver). Make sure that all applications that may be using the RTL dongle are closed and you should not be prompted to restart.

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