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IC-705 or what the Maestro should have been

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Comments

  • Bill -VA3WTB
    Bill -VA3WTB Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020

    Jon, I hear this a lot from people that may not be so informed, here is a little help for perspective.
    1} Just a few facts here to share. the last update was Sept 17 2018, so it is almost time for a new update.
    2) Flex has had several government contracts over the last 10 years and look at all the radios they created during those contracts.
    3) The 6000 radios were created because of one of those contracts.
    4) And Flex radio is still committed to Ham radio being their main love.
  • Ken Hansen
    Ken Hansen Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    I think you trivialize the effort involved in creating a 'portable control surface' like the Maestro, when you equate it to a portable/QRP Radio like the IC-705. Icom could only make a Radio like the IC-705 after it made the IC-7300. It appears to re-use much of the same interface programming and leveraged off their experience building an SDR-based Radio 'for the masses'. (Look at all you get for less than $1,000 US, it's incredible). Flex builds feature-rich radios like the 6XXX series radios, ranging from $2K-7K US with 'contest-grade' performance and features (The IC-7300 is an entry-level Radio) - what features would YOU be willing to remove to put a Flex 6XXX Radio into a portable/battery operating radio? How many features can you pull from a Flex Radio and it retains its 'Flex-appeal' for current/new owners? It would be a MASSIVE effort to build such a Radio without an existing product design to leverage off of., and considerably harder than the effort required to produce the Maestro. Flex focuses on a particular handful of segments in Amateur Radio market - asking them to create a portable QRP Radio is just as big an effort as asking them to create a dual-band 2m/70cm Mobile Radio for your car. A portable QRP Flex Radio with attached control surface would quickly approach the price of a Flex 6400 ($2K), prompting the question how big is the QRP market for such a Radio. The IC-705 is designed, in large part, to appeal to entry-level Japanese license holder that have very restrictive operating privileges.
  • N2WQ
    N2WQ Member
    edited January 2020
    The 705 competes with the KX3, which seems incredibly popular based on the traffic on the Elecraft forums. So the attractiveness of the QRP market is relatively easy to estimate. WRT scaling down the existing platform- a good starting point to consider is eliminating the BPFs and implementing a low power final which will lead to a lot less heat and open up the opportunity for a smaller form-factor. Looking at the enclosure I see quite a lot of space that can be compressed.
  • Ken Hansen
    Ken Hansen Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    The extra volume is to dissipate heat, I suspect. Making battery-operates QRP rig is not simply an exercise in reduction, you need to tune power consumption, manage heat issues, as things get closet RFI becomes a bigger and bigger issue (internally), and of course, packaging. Add to that, the need for a new design to be FCC certified. Is such a thing possible? Sure. Is it likely? No, not in my opinion - they'd literally have to start from a near blank piece of paper. Re-packaging a 6400 after eliminating the bandpass filters and 100w RF deck and adding a 5-10 watt deck, you haven't really saved that much weight, you've got horrible batter consumption, a completely new & unique chassis, and so on. Now, if the price was $2K incl. face plate, who'd buy it? Who buys it if it's closer to $2.5K? There's no way it would ever sell for anything remotely close to an FT-818 or Flex 1500... I can't see a path to profitability - of course, having now said that, flex will announce a $999 single-receiver QRP SDR with built-in wifi to support SSDR on Windows or iOS devices! LOL
  • N2WQ
    N2WQ Member
    edited January 2020
    Look at Red Pitaya as what’s possible today as a baseline building block. The board gives you (in software) 8 independent receivers plus an exciter that can power your finals. https://www.redpitaya.com/n86/new-ste...
  • Ken Hansen
    Ken Hansen Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    The red Pitaya folks actually turned their board set into a dual-receiver SDR Radio, and it only costs about $2,500.

    It is a QRP Radio (producing 20 watts output with a 500 ohm antenna connection impedance (to facilitate use of end-fed, random-wore antennas.

    I think the Flex 6400 would be a better starting point than this board set for a Flex portable QRP Radio like the IC-705.

    If I was tasked with developing such a Radio, I would leverage off the 6400 product, abandon the idea of incorporating a control surface (maestro), replace the 100w finals with a robust 15-20w set of finals, eliminate the bandpass filters and the ability to use an internal tuner. My goal would be to wedge it into a shallow 1u rack chassis, add an ATU interface modeled after the one in say an Icom HF Radio (an AH-4 interface), and include built-in wifi/Bluetooth for control by either a windows or iOS device or a Maestro. The key to making the unit smaller would require very innovative cabinetry and unique thermal solutions (like water-cooling).

    An accessory chassis would hold a 30 amp switching power supply and an antenna tuner (like the LDG IT-100) in a similar 1u cabinet, putting an entire Flex solution in a shallow 2u case, optimized for mobile/portable deployment.

    Anything less than that, a fully-capable, SSDR software-compatible device , would struggle to be considered a real Flex Radio.
  • EA4GLI
    EA4GLI Salvador Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Flex radio fixed my license break issue.. Took a while but I am finally on the air with the 6700. Thanks Eric!
  • Val  DM1TX
    Val DM1TX Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Yeap! they have great support I can confirm that. You just have to ask.
  • KF4HR
    KF4HR Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    If your aim is owning a low power portable radio, I suppose the IC-705 is one way to go, but personally I have no need for one, nor would I consider trading my Maestro for one. 

    I've gone down the low power portable radio road before.  After the compact radio novelty wore off I found myself wishing for more power and more full sized features.  The next thing I knew I was carrying along a 100 watt HF brick amp, large battery or generator, ATU for wide range antenna tuning, laptop for logging/digital, etc.  Controlling my F-6700 with its 2M amp and a 70cm Transverter, all remotely with my Maestro does a fine job. 

    I do agree the Maestro could and should be modified to perform other functions.  Hopefully one day FRS will hire one of the really great programmers out there to enhance the software features of the Maestro.  I'd definitely be willing to pay for Maestro software enhancements.

  • roger na4rr
    roger na4rr Member
    edited January 2020
    Thanks for the info.  I just placed my order with HRO
  • Doug
    Doug Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Sal I don't care if you have 8000 post, you posted a lie about me and you owe me an apologize at the very least.
  • Steve K9ZW
    Steve K9ZW Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020

    Perhaps it is a misconception, but having been personally involved with Maestro-like products from very early on (from Q3 of 2013) with what became the Maestro, from the onset what became the Maestro was never intended to be a stand alone radio or ever have its own RF capabilities.

    Salvador correctly identifies that the current Flex-6000 range has no replacement for the former Flex-1500, and that excepting the current Flex-6400M/6600M models is focused on providing a "radio server" in Flex-6000 range.  Actually there are plenty of PowerSDR-type Flex-1500 replacements on the market, though I haven't identified any particular one that would be field portable like this Icom.

    The Maestro is an awesome bit of kit. 

    The Maestro in January 2020 does more than the original design promises, my Maestros always work, and they are a good user experience.

    Like many of you I would like to do more with my Maestros, but I do have viable work-around setups & techniques that make a Maestro integral to my operations.

    I'm think some later Maestro owners end up confused with what the product offers and the totality of their dreams.

    I have OTHER non-FlexRadio System radios for when I want to have everything in a go-kit ready form.  

    Now at some time after January 2020 I may look at an Icom-705, though in my case I don't think I will retire my other portable options to make way for the 705 very readily.

    I'm not holding my breath for FRS to launch a similar product either.  

    73

    Steve
    K9ZW

    Blog:  http://k9zw.wordpress.com  
  • EA4GLI
    EA4GLI Salvador Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Really? You still don't get it? FACEPALM x100
  • EA4GLI
    EA4GLI Salvador Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Steve, I understand what the Maestro is and does. I just think it was a golden opportunity to bring a replacement for the 1500. An entry level radio into the Flex world at an affordable price. A piece of equipment, stand alone that can be taken to a field day or a club. I still remember the weeks before the announcement and all the different ideas we shared in this forum about it. I disagree with Ken above, but he raises valid points about the complexity of a qrp radio. Flex just happened to have a qrp radio before they launched the 6000 series, and it was the gateway radio into their ecosystem for me and many others. I still own and use my 1500. The cheapest option today, a 6400,requires a full computer in front of it to be operational. The 6400m is too pricey for an entry radio. There is a wealth of amateur radio operators that cannot afford a Flex radio. I think that the icom will be a great success for them, the same way I think the Yaesu 818 will quickly fade away. I don't need to go to the icom forum to say that. Neither to the yaesu forum.
  • Bill -VA3WTB
    Bill -VA3WTB Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Here is what we know.
    The Meastro was never intended to take the place of the 1500 in any way. It performs the things it is intended to do as planned. So missing the boat with the Meastro? Nope.

    Flex would have to develop an QRP radio based on the 6000 technology. They likely have talked about it in production meetings but I would bet they felt the development cost is to much in regard to the market demand. Now I'm sure some of you are thinking that the QRP market would support this investment and that the market is strong. But I would disagree. I don't think the QRP market is is that strong although there is a small nich market.

    On the other hand Icom does not need to develop anything new. They can simply use older technology from their other radios to make the IC-705.
  • Ken Hansen
    Ken Hansen Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    I broadly agree, but would describe Icom's SDR-based Radio technology as 'current' rather than 'older', but that's a personal thing. I agree any offering from Flex would necessarily be based on their current Signature Series 6X00 radio platform/ecosystem.
  • Ken Hansen
    Ken Hansen Member ✭✭
    edited January 2020
    The FT-818 is a continuation of the amazingly successful FT-817, ensuring that all prior investments in accessories for the FT-817 will remain useful for years into the future. It will not, in my humble opinion, fade away anytime soon. Flex has exactly ONE current platform for Amateur radios, the Signature Series 6X00 radios, the 1500 and 5000 series radios are incompatible with SSDR and were, I believe, discontinued due to part availability. Flex can either leverage off current 6X00 radio technology and software or start over from scratch. The hardware in the 1500/3000/5000 series Radios is unavailable, and I believe they gave up the rights to their PowerSDR software after a certain point. Used Flex 6300s are about $1,200 on the used market, and supports the very latest release of SmartSDR - that is an affordable entry-point. Flex can not make a radio worthy of the Flex name for $600-800 - any compromises would ultimately reflect poorly on the brand IMHO. But that's just my opinion, Flex will do what makes sense for them, they know better than I.
  • Bill -VA3WTB
    Bill -VA3WTB Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Ken, yes that is mostly my point, the IC-705 is only a direct sampling receiver, it is a hybrid transceiver sharing with some of there other radios.
  • Bill -VA3WTB
    Bill -VA3WTB Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2020
    Ken, the reason for ending the 1500. 3000 and 5000 was because PSDR was not able to take Flex in the direction they wanted to move in. There are things they are doing in SSDR that could not be done in PSDR. PSDR had reached it limits.
    While Flex was involved in a government contract Gerald wondered about the possibility of doing Direct Sampling in ham radio as they were doing it in the government project. That was the time when a break from PSDR had to happen.
    Gerald created PSDR but never had any rights to it. PSDR is open source software.

    But to your point, yes parts were harder to come by from the builders of the main boards. Some of the electronic parts on the boards were becoming discontinued. but that didn't begin to happen till long after they stopped supporting PSDR.

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