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Preliminary Review of Release V.1.4

Ken - NM9P
Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭✭
edited March 2019 in SmartSDR for Windows
I have spent many hours with the new software release over the past week.  Here are some of my initial impressions.  I am sure I will leave some things out, but here are some things that stand out:

Display improvements:
The display seems to be much smoother and more crisp. I needed to adjust parameters in the "Display" side menu.  I now use AVG=50 and FPS=15, with weighted averaging ON most of the time.  I wish there was a little more granularity in adjusting the Gain and Black levels, but I have always been able to get a good display.  Others have mentioned that the bottom panel of the TX Side-bar doesn't always show.  but since I never use full screen, it is no big deal to me.  I DO wish that the entire screen could be made to expand/contract and keep all 5 control panels on the screen with the same aspect ratio.  That would be nice.

Also... there is no more stuttering when adjusting, zooming, or sliding the display.  Nice!

Flex Control Over-run:  Heaven be praised!  (And the programmers at FRS)  This is finally fixed!  I cannot believe how smooth the tuning and the new display runs when using the Flex Control Knob.  Even when using extreme zoom and tuning to the edge of the band this thing just doesn't run over.  The whole panadapter and waterfall shift more smoothly that I ever dreamed the would.  I didn't realize how i had been changing my tuning habits on previous releases until I started putting this release through its paces.  No more need to reach up and drag the screen to make more room, or backtrack when the rig tunes far past the edge when I hit the roll-over point.  I really like this.  This was one of my bigger frustrations in the past.  It is almost worth the delay for an upgrade just for this to be fixed.  Thank You!

TX EQ:  The bad news - Changes were made to the EQ routine which required adjustments in my TX profiles.  The Good News - the bandwidth changes to the 2K, 4K, & 8K sliders have made the EQ patter much smoother.  The trade off seems to be that it lost a bit of response in the low end.  BUT my Rag-chew profile pattern is simpler, only requiring boosting the highs and the lowest three bands are now flat (with my Heil PR22 mike)  I have posted my before and after settings in another thread.  Overall, I give this a plus.  It was a simple matter to readjust.

PROC:  The new audio CODEC seems to have improved and strengthened the Processor's effectiveness.  What used to need DX is adequate with NORmal.  and the DX and DX+ are more effective.  DX+ now has some real punch when combined with effective EQ and bandwidth adjustments.  I did need to reduce my mike gain by two points due to EQ changes.

Additional Default TX Profiles:  This is nice. I hope they have made adjustments necessary because of the EQ changes.  I DO wish that it was possible to delete or hide default profiles that I will never use.... as long as I can reload them if I ever need them.

DSP Changes:  Although DSP functions of NB, NR, ANF & APF were not major issues addressed, I have noticed some serendipitous improvement in most of these functions.
NB:  seems to function a little better at lower settings with a little less distortion.  It also doesn't go haywire and require resettling after transmitting, which it did on occasion before.
NR:  Has less distortion, especially when operated with lower settings.
ANF:  If you leave the slider at 0 or 1, the notch is pretty effective with much less distortion than previous versions.  Depending upon the offending carrier frequency, If you turn the control up, distortion increases rapidly.  But it is very usable on lower settings.  It seems to work better against some tone frequencies than others.  Mystery?  The TNF is always more effective with little to no distortion, but you must adjust it yourself.
APF:  Glitches for this control have been noted by other reviewers, so I will not belabor the point, only to say that with a setting of "1" there is some effect.  All others are either not effective or produce a tone.

For all of these functions, careful adjustment of AGC-T to the "Sweet Spot" or "Knee" right where the noise just begins to drop is essential for best SNR and for best function of the DSP  subset.  It is also necessary to readjust after changing receive filters, turning any of these functions on or off, adjusting the Preamp/attenuator, or changing antennas.  I have the AGC-T function loaded to my FlexControl Knob.

DAX Improvements:  I really like the new DAX Control Panel.  The helpful hints should help newbies and forgetful types navigate the wonderful world of digital audio connections.
I haven't used DAX much in this new release.  I will leave this for others to expand.

Recording/Playback:  Unfortunately, this is a miss and a back-step.  It seems that the recording signal is tapped post RX EQ rather than pre-EQ.  It also seems that the Playback Insert point is tapped in Pre-processing and TX EQ instead of at a flat point in the audio "chain."  This has caused a lot of reports of distortion on playback.

The work-around I have heard is to deactivate RX EQ when recording and deactivate PROC and TX EQ when playing back recordings.  It seems as though this gives a clean record/playback.  This should be an easy fix in the next point release.

Power Down:  Since upgrading, I haven't needed to press and hold the power button, or hit it twice to begin a shut-down.  Power down is clean and fast.

Networking:  Very Nice!  I haven't used it much, but have been able to get it working on my wife's laptop.  I have some local networking difficulties that are probably related to my network and computer, not the rig.  So I haven't experimented much.  The network troubleshooter screen is helpful.

CW Transmit performance.  The QSK works even better than before and the note is very nice!
It is as smooth as silk.  There have been several other CW enhancements in addition:  Sync of CWX and Keyer paddle speed is available, if desired.  Fixes were made in CWX.  etc.

Tune power slider is now separate on the main TX panel.  Thanks!

Additional FlexControl Knob functions are available in Setup.

RIT/XIT range has been expanded to 99 Khz!  WOW!  Thanks!  

There is more to review, but these are my first impressions.
Overall, this is a great move ahead, with a few glitches and frustrations.
But the "Hits" far outweigh the "Misses."

I may have more reviews later after I have been able to play with more Digital Modes.

Ken - NM9P


  • Duane_AC5AA
    Duane_AC5AA Member ✭✭✭
    edited May 2018
    Great review, Ken.  I've seen a number of what you have mentioned, but a big thanks for the power-down fix.  I'm one who turns the rig on and off a lot, and it was getting to be a pain.  I love the smooth panning now as the Flex-Control runs off the edge of the panadaptor - very nice!
  • Steve W6SDM
    Steve W6SDM Member ✭✭✭
    edited March 2015
    Very nice writeup, Ken.  Thanks for taking the time to do it.  You gave me a few areas to look at that I hadn't thought about yet.
  • George - AB4FH
    edited March 2018
    Good summary.  I would add that I just finished a CW contact on the MacBook Air downstairs in the living room.  It was an unusual feeling using the keyboard and CWX with no paddle in sight.  But the audio was good enough on the built-in speakers to allow acceptable copy of an RST 449 QSO.

    Hat's off to the Flex Development and Engineering team for a job well done.
  • Mack
    Mack Member ✭✭✭
    edited March 2019
    Ken, thank you for your very thorough and well thought out review. I agree with your observations. The alpha test team works countless hours trying to find all the bugs and bring new enhancement ideas to the developers. Please keep this sort of positive and objective feedback coming as we can use it all.

    Vy 73,

    Alpha Tester

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