FlightAware Discussions

RTL-SDR vs Pro Stick Plus

Currently I have the FA 26" antenna, Uputronics pre-amp/filter, and FA Pro Stick Plus connected to a Pi4B. Considering switching to the RTL-SDR v3 dongle. Two questions before I purchase:

  1. Is the RTL-SDR unit fully compatible with the PiAware system image? No additional software or drivers will be necessary? I’m also feeding ADS-B Exchange and PlaneFinder if that matters.

  2. Assuming the RTL-SDR v3 is actually an upgrade over the Pro Stick Plus, why does it perform better? What is superior about it’s design?

Thanks in advance.

It depends a bit what performance you have right now. If you are already at the max, an “upgrade” would not improve your reception.

I had a similar question some months ago. @wiedehopf (an expert on these topics) stated that my setup might not get improved even with an Airspy because it’s already maxed out based on my location and environment.
Changed recently to an Airsquitter (type of Radarcape) which is highly optimized, but it’s not much better than the Pi solution

Do you have sources of intereference around? e.g. lots of mobile networks etc?

I’ve been thinking about a similar upgrade for some time but then came across the following article which may be of interest. I’m not sure how good the science is but it suggests that the Prostick and Prostick Plus are both superior to the RTL-SDR v3.


It also depends how you define improve. I upgraded from an SDR dongle to an airspy mini. The better reception led to more messages, but distance and number of planes did not increase that much, terrain and walls being in the way.

1 Like

Yes, from a software point of view, they are interchangeable.

A bit of research on your part would have answered most of this question.

The Pro Stick Plus is (due to its front end) a dedicated ADS-B (1090MHZ) receiver.
The V3 has no such limitations and is much more versatile. This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending what you want to with it.
Running bare-foot, the V3 won’t out-perform the PS+, but adding the matching filter amp, it usually does due to the multiple filter/amp stages.

(that’s the short answer)

1 Like

I did a lot of research. The issue is deciphering what is largely quite technical information, which is what I was looking for a little help with.

Anyway I appreciate the information from everyone. It seems the only way to know for certain is to experiment.

I’ll soon switch from the Pro Stick Plus/Uputronics to the RTL-SDR V3 and RTL-SDR LNA and will certainly post the results for anyone that is interested.

The technical specs are easy to compare. It’s the unique site characteristics that make it hard to predict which combination of parts will give the best* performance.

  • “Best” means different things to different people. Some people want max range while other are only interested in traffic around their local strip.

In other threads:

Is the RTL-SDR V3 superior to the FA Prostick (orange) and Prostick Plus (Blue) obviously without the built in LNA and filter or is the key to any potential improvements mainly due to the combination with the RTL-SDR LNA/Triple Filter? i.e. the impact of the LNA/Triple Filter

Just today, I changed dongles from a " NooElec NESDR SMArt v4 Bundle - Premium RTL-SDR" to a “FlightAware Pro Stick Plus (USB SDR ADS-B Receiver)”. I hot-swapped them over, and the R Pi kernel log showed all went well.

So the NooElec was sold as an RTL-SDR. The FA stick announced itself as:

Product: RTL2832U
usb 1-1.5: Manufacturer: Realtek
usb 1-1.5: SerialNumber: 00001000
usb 1-1.5: dvb_usb_v2: found a ‘Realtek RTL2832U reference design’ in warm state

Is this not an RTL-SDR as well - v2 rather than v3 - and that it what is under discussion here ?

Anyway, in the hour since I swapped, the number of aircraft being tracked has on average doubled, peaked 3 times as many aircraft. Perhaps my urban environment likes the FA filter. I won’t really know whether it performs better on average for a few days, but initially the FA stick looks better in my location.

Same comments as above.
The Pro Sticks are dedicated ADS-B receivers (by nature of the filter).
The 'V3 is a broad band receiver (25~1700MHz), but with less gain and no filtering.
When mated to the matching filter/amp, most reports show the V3 combo has the edge.

The V3 has a number of construction improvements (metal case, heatsinking, Bias-T) plus the ability to access the Clk line to make use of an accurate external oscillator or slave one V3 to another and a bunch of other features you won’t use receiving ADS-B.
As a versatile SDR, the V3 rocks, but at twice the price (for the combo), it’s your call if you think the benefits suit you.

I’ve often wondered on forums why some people think you should exhaust research on search engines before asking in the group.

The original question created a decent thread and more was learnt, perhaps by many merely reading but not contributing to the discussion, than the answer to the original question posed.

That’s my opinion anyway.


1 Like

This is a great forum, I’m pretty sure no offence was meant.

Keep posting :sunglasses:


1 Like

It was a low level dig - sure, but I still took the time to answer the question.
It’s an interesting and valid question, but does get asked regularly.

I think that those responses are pointed more toward searching in the group before posting a question than trying to force people out to Google or other search engines.

What tends to happen is that certain common questions are asked over and over, and each new question separates the answers (and thus the knowledge) into tons of small silos. If people were to search first, they are likely to find that either their question has been asked and answered, or they may find a similar thread that they can piggyback onto.

I am sure that there is also an element of “Hey - I took the time to learn this, and now you want me to solve your problem without you having exerted any effort in trying to solve it for yourself…”

All that said, I absolutely hate the Disqus forum software, and feel like it makes searching more difficult than most other options.


Some people are adept at searching, others, and I include myself, are not so. I think many searches need boolean operators to get results otherwise can get very confusing.

My view is if I can answer I will do so or ignore the question.


That’s fair.

My view is that if I am going to ask strangers to teach me something that they know, and I don’t, then as much as possible I am going to do everything I can to minimize the inconvenience to the people I am asking to help me. Since “did you search” seems to be the default first answer on every forum that I have ever participated in - covering a wide variety of subject - it seems like a logical place to start.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I was trying to shed some light on why asking whether you searched is so common


A simple question very often develops into an interesting conversation, not only the questioner derives benefit. My own view is forums are social areas, if we make people nervous to ask forums will die, bit like fidonet.

I have a friend, aged 60, very sensible person, we often discuss various issues involving computers, radios, engineering and other areas. He will not use forums, he says they are often quite hostile.

I’ll take one of three options;

  1. Answer the question
  2. Say I dont know but suggest FAQ or search.
  3. Ignore it.

I would not embarrass or insult them. That’s me though.


Was something in my response embarrassing or insulting? It was not intended as so. I was responding to your question about why people tend to be directed to search. I shared my observations. I am sorry for your friend, they are potentially missing out on a lot.

I do think that if you spend any time here at all, you will find two things. -1) people here are incredibly generous with their knowledge and time, and 2) at least once per week a new user will post a question, argue about the answer, and then expect to be spoon-fed the solution, as if he or she is owed something by this group of volunteers.

I think we all have the opportunity to decide which group we want to be part of.

1 Like

Unless I’m following the thread wrongly didn’t think it was your post that suggested researching the answer. Mind you, with multiple quotes it can be confusing.


Because in some forums or Facebook groups people are asking questions which are asked several hundred times before and expect to have the answer delivered on a silver plate.

As long as someone is answering, it seem to be working for them, but that’s not how a real community should work

Just my 2 cents on that, did not want to be off topic

1 Like