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Ailunce HS2/Radiodity Q20/Q900 SDR Transceiver (Read 312 times)
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Ailunce HS2/Radiodity Q20/Q900 SDR Transceiver
May 27th, 2022, 12:45pm
 
I am creating this thread for discussion of a family of radios known by various names, including:
 
Ailunce HS2,  Radiodity Q20, or simply unbranded "Q900".  It is probably sold (or will be sold) under other names as well.
 
The radio seems to be sold with a blue or black enclosure, and green or red LEDs for the keyboard back light.
 

SDR Transceiver.  Photo from Aliexpress Vendor Advertisement.
 
In addition to what seems to be the same radio sold under different names (and perhaps with slightly different firmwares), there does seem to be different versions of the radio itself.
 
There appears to have been an older version with separate connectors for the HF and VHF/UHF antennas.  Other rear-panel connections are re-arranged accordingly.  The older version also seems to lack the Ethernet (RJ45) connector.
 

It is my impression that versions with 2 SO-259 connectors represent an older iteration of this radio.
 
In this thread, I will provide the following:
  • A review of this radio
  • Information on using this radio with a Linux Host PC/Linux Ham Radio Software.
  • Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

 
To join in the discussion, please email John at this domain.  I am happy to create accounts for legitimate users (not bots).
 
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Re: Ailunce HS2/Radiodity Q20/Q900 SDR Transceiver
Reply #1 - May 27th, 2022, 1:17pm
 
First Impressions and Mini Review -- SDR Transceivers known as:
Ailunce HS2,  Radiodity Q20, or simply unbranded "Q900".

 
Background:
Many years ago, when I took my Ham Radio License Test, I vowed to not buy a shack full of HF equipment.  I'd stick with handhelds only.  Never the less, I've caught myself slowing down and checking prices when I would walk by one of those big, fancy Yeasu, Icom, or Kenwood HF rigs at hamfests -- Maybe someday...  I thought.
 
I was pretty good at sticking to my vow.  I only bought HT's such as the HamGeek FB-8 reviewed here.  I also bought lots of SW receivers;  Including a Grundig RF 250 I recently repaired.  Lots of information is Here about the Malachite SDR Receiver.
 
But when the true "Do everything" SDR came along, I couldn't help myself.  I am now the owner of a "Q900" SDR Transceiver.  
 
Unboxing and First Impressions:
The radio arrived from China in about 2 weeks.  Inside a simple cardboard box was the included carry case, and in that was the Radio,  what I would call a partial Power Cord, a Microphone a good quality USB-C cable, and a USB Drive.
 
They might as well have just left out the so-called carry case.  While it does provide foam protection for shipping, it is useless otherwise -- at least for this radio.  It is too small for a "Go Box" or field day set-up.  Even the above included items don't really fit right, let alone other things one would want in a "Go Box", such as cables, connectors, and other accessories.  I plan to use a small backpack or shoulder pack, and set up a proper Man Pack or Go Pack.
 
The included microphone appears small and cheap, but it is actually fully adequate.  It is *not* like those tiny ones they sell to plug into an HT.  It's about half way between one of those and a proper CB or Mobile Mic.
 
Other reviewers complained about the very minimal coaxial power plug and un-fused lead that is included.  I agree that a proper power cord would be better, but when one considers that cigarette lighter plugs generally contain a fuse, I don't think that the lack of a fuse in the cable is a big deal.  If actually wiring the radio into a mobile installation, the fuse should be installed at the beginning of the run (which should start at or very near the vehicle's battery.)  The short cable included is not intended to fulfill that purpose.  What they should have done is simply include the (fused) cigarette lighter plug.  An inline fuse is absolutely essential if one is going to use the included wire to make a harness for use with a Lithium Polymer battery.  I would advise using an XT60 connector on the other end, so that the radio can be powered from standard hobby Lithium-Ion (LiPo) batteries.  In this manner the radio retains portability while transmitting at closer to it's full power.
 
The radio arrived with the internal battery charged to about 70%, which is the condition the battery should be in for shipping.
 
I also got the GPS module with mine.  It was offered for free, so this was the perk that closed the deal for me.  The GPS module came pre-installed, but it does not include a GPS antenna.  It turns out that I have an GPS antenna from the Android Automotive Head Unit Reviewed Here, so at least for the time-being, I can use that antenna for testing.
 
When the unit arrived and I took it out of the so-called "carry case" a small screw and a nut fell into the case.  It turns out that all of the screws that attach the So-239 antenna socket to the chassis were loose, and one was missing.  Using a pair of forceps, I was able to re-install the screw and nut in it's place, and tighten the other 3.  Yes, a drop of Loctite blue was probably called for, so I may end up doing this job again.
 
The fact that the screw fell out is unremarkable, but the fact that the nut escaped from the inside illustrates that this radio is not at all sealed from the outside environment.  Despite advertising showing the radio covered in drops of water, it is not at all environmentally sealed.  No Environmental rating (IP) is stated in the specifications.  The circuit boards are not conformal coated. In this reviewers' opinion, the pictures showing the radio being used in unprotected environments are false and misleading.  If the radio is used for field operations, it should be protected in a water proof bag or "dry bag".  As mentioned, the included box is too small to actually enclose the Q900 and need accessories, and it is also not waterproof against submersion, but I will give it credit for at least some environmental protection against minor splashing, and better than nothing against a humid environment.
 
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Re: Ailunce HS2/Radiodity Q20/Q900 SDR Transceiver
Reply #2 - Jun 4th, 2022, 1:49pm
 
What Works and What Doesn't -- SDR Transceivers known as:
Ailunce HS2,  Radiodity Q20, or simply unbranded "Q900".

 
What Doesn't Work
Call me pessimistic if you want, but I feel it is appropriate to warn potential consumers of the limitations of this device.  What works will be listed last so that we leave on a good note.  These lists are in random order for now, but I'll clean them up as I continue to work with the radio.  Check back as this review is currently a live document.
 
  • The GPS module installed in mine works, but only displays basic GPS info in extremely small text on a dedicated screen.  I thought that at the very least, there would be a way to set the radios internal time from the GPS time, but there does not seem to be any way to do that.  It also displays GPS speed, but it is so small as to be completely impractical while driving.
  • The radio copies the communications protocol from a Yaesu FT-817, but it does not work if connected to CHIRP, and Yaesu FT-817 is selected.  The Radios memories cannot be read or written.  The provided BT app does not include any way to select/edit/read/or write the radios channel memories.  In other words, I have no user friendly way to program/edit/name channel memories at this time.
  • With the current firmware, Squelch does not work in AM mode. --  It seems to only work on VHF and possibly UHF (Typically FM) bands.  It does not work on Short Wave, Air, or CB, so if you plan on listening to any of those things, plan on tolerating some noise.   This is reported to be fixed in newer Ailunce firmwares.



 
 
What Does Work
There is some good news.  In fact, quite a bit of it.  This radio has great potential if they continue to provide firmware updates, and information for the developer community.
 
  • It is solidly constructed, and with the exception of the mentioned lack of environmental protection, it should withstand even those bad things that happen to nice radios.
  • It has good receive and is very usable out of the box at least for casual Short Wave listening without messing with dozens of SDR parameters.  It include features such as live CW decoding.



 
What works with Linux?
  • JTDX on Linux works with the same settings as shown in the manual for the Windows version.
  • Newly purchased Radios, or Radios with newer Bootloaders can be upgraded from a .BIN image on a USB drive, so installing future Firware updates should be easily performed using a Linux PC.  If your Boot Loader is not yet updated, you can reference the Thread on the Malachite SDR for dealing with .DFU files using Linux.  Note:  I have not tried what is mentioned in the Malachite Thread with the radio described in this thread.


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Re: Ailunce HS2/Radiodity Q20/Q900 SDR Transceiver
Reply #3 - Jul 4th, 2022, 7:08pm
 
This is a quick post to provide links to the brand names for this radio:
 
Links:
 
Chongqing Guohe Electronics Q900
Ailunce HS2
Radioddity QR20
 
Note: Ailunce is not a misspelling for Alliance.  My apologies for spelling the name of the company incorrectly.  I will continue to fix misspellings as I find them.
 
A Few Notes:
 
  • The Guohe Electronics website has improved greatly in just the last few weeks.  Looks like they are getting serious about supporting this radio.
  • While I am making the assumption that these radios are all the same or very similar, I do not know the results of using one brand firmware on a different brand radio. It is possible that different radios do in fact have component changes or boot loader changes.  Using a different firmware may permanently render the radio unusable (brick). See below.
  • I am listing the vendor brands together like this only as a reference.

 
Firmware Installation Methods:
 
Q900 Radios that show HW: 2.0 (or later, presumably) can be updated using a USB Flash Drive. Installing a separate Bootloader file is unnecessary at this time.  The DeFuseDemo Software, and instructions that reference it are not applicable to currently shipping versions of this radio (Summer 2022). HW version can be found in the Info App in the Menu (The screen with the Icons).  This also means that upgrading the radio using Linux (or any operating system) is not an issue.  Just copy the Firmware file to the root of provided USB drive (or any USB drive).  Be sure to rename the file on the USB drive to FW-NEW.bin (no matter the version). With the radio OFF, insert the drive into the full size USB connector on the back of the radio (you cannot use the USB-C jack even if you have a USB-C compatible Flash Drive), and turn the radio on.  The firmware update will happen automatically.  Follow on-screen prompts.
 
Note:  Bin Files and DFU files are different.  Renaming a file with a .dfu suffix to .bin will not work, and could brick the radio.  All new FW files should be provided in the .BIN format.
 
More Firmware Information:
 
As mentioned the Chongqing Guohe Electronics website has gone from just a shell to a very nice looking website, including a manual (very similar to the others, but with some additional information) and 2 firmware versions.  The latest software on the Guohe Electronics website is called FW-NEW_2.1.5.bin inside the zip.  My radio said it had FW 3.0.0, so I knew that installing it could result in a downgrade, but I tried it anyway.  Even though the file inside the zip had a date of 24 Jun 2022 (much later than when I received my radio),  I ended up with a downgraded radio.  While I did not test functionality, several of the applications in the Menu (Icon) screen were missing.
 
While I still chanced bricking, or at least rebrading the radio, the above situation prompted me to try the Radiodity QR20 firmware.  The Radiodity FW page had a newer firmware still marked 3.0.0, but dated "20220607" -- again -- later than the date I received my radio, so I gave it a shot.
 
My radio now reports HW: V3.0 and SW: V3.1.1.  (HW: 3.0 is not a typo.  That is what it says.  I assume that refers to a Bootloader version). The radio also retains the Chongqing Guohe Electronics logo and my Callsign at startup, It also retained my programmed frequencies.  I will continue to report FW issues and fixes in the previous post.
 
Apparently, the only difference between 3.0.0 and 3.1.1 (AKA 3.0.0 20220607) is a fix for a Bluetooth Headset issue.  I am not expecting any other differences/fixes.
 
UPDATE:  I can now report with some confidence that the Radiodity QR20 firmwares and the Chongqing Guohe Electronics Q900 firmwares seem to be the same.  The Version 2.1.5 FW-NEW.bin from the Radiodity site and the Chongqing Guohe Electronics page have the same md5sum result.  The Aliunce Firmwares seem to follow a different numbering scheme, and are distributed in .dfu format.
 
I still suspect that the Aliunce firmwares are for the same hardware. According to some information, the Aliunce firmwares may even be ahead of the QR20/Q900 firmwares.   For one, this site has partially reverse engineered the HS2 firmware, and found several PIN's.  These PIN's are the same as the PIN's in the QR20 and Q900 Firmwares.  Note also that the linked github apparently mentions a V1.4.0 Aliunce
 FW.
 
If anyone would like try loading a Aliunce .dfu firmware on their QR20 or Q900, please use the information at the top of this page to create an account, and post your result. Again, please note the cautionary statement above.
 
Check this thread often, as I will post information about new firmwares as I find them.
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Re: Ailunce HS2/Radiodity Q20/Q900 SDR Transceiver
Reply #4 - Jul 18th, 2022, 4:52pm
 
New Firmware Information as of 17 July 2022:
 
The Guohe Electronics website now has a V3.0 firmware in FW-NEW.bin format.  It is not a zip'ed directory -- no instructions or change log, just the raw bin file, so it may get lost with other files in your downloads directory, which IMHO, is a bit unprofessional.  Note also Clicking on the small "books" icon will get you the 2.1.5 link.  You have to click on the text to get the V3.0 FW.  MD5sums verify that this file is identical to the latest Radiodity 3.0.0 file (AKA 3.1.1 or  20220607)  This means that the Q900 and the QR20 both have identical firmwares as of this writing.
 
MD5 results for reference or just for the skeptical:
 
File downloaded from the Radiodity site:
Code:
md5sum Downloads/Radioddity_QR20_Firmware_Update_V3.0.0_20220607(1)/Firmware/FW-NEW_V3.0.0_20220607/FW-NEW.bin' 
0cd3623f56249ca1e147d11660fefde9  Downloads/Radioddity_QR20_Firmware_Update_V3.0.0_20220607(1)/Firmware/FW-NEW_V3.0.0_20220607/FW-NEW.bin 


File downloaded from the Guohe Electronics site:
Code:
md5sum Downloads/FW-NEW.bin' 
0cd3623f56249ca1e147d11660fefde9  Downloads/FW-NEW.bin 


 
I find the timing of this more than just a bit interesting.  I'm sure Guohe Electronics properly developed, tested, and approved this FW for their radios.  The thought that they just read my post saying it worked on my radio, grabbed it from the Radiodity site, and copied it to their website never even crossed my mind.   Roll Eyes
 
UPDATE:

Downloading the latest firmware on the Ailunce site [2022Version HS2 FW] results in a zip with a change log and a Firmware in .bin format.  The date is that same 2022 06 07 date, and it mentions a version 3.1.1.  I bet you will never guess what the md5 value for this file is...
 
Code:
CW-Hi12:/storage/emulated/0/Download $ md5 Ailunce\ HS2\ FW-2022.6.7.bin
0cd3623f56249ca1e147d11660fefde9  Ailunce HS2 FW-2022.6.7.bin 


 
Note:  The md5 command looks a little different here because I did this one on an Android tablet.  How did I get a Linux command line on an Android tablet?  Android is  Linux, and you can easily get to a shell by installing an app like ConnectBot.
 
So as of this post, all 3 market names of this radio use the exact same firmware.  The cautions above still apply in general, but md5 does not lie -- The firmwares are identical, and apparently  will not rebrand your radio.
 
This brings up an obvious question -- Who is really doing the development for this radio?  Is there some other company (or person, or "entity") leading development of this radio?  Is there a development site out there someplace with even newer firmwares or test firmwares -- Maybe even source code?
 
If anyone would like to come forward with answers to the above questions, or contribute anything else to the discussion of this radio, please request registration by emailing "john" at this domain.
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