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Latency in Contesting

johnn1jm Member ✭✭

I heard a top contester say he wouldn't use Flex radios because of the latency in Flex radios. Any truth or rebuttal to that? What is the latency he is seeing?


  • David Decoons, wo2x
    David Decoons, wo2x Member, Super Elmer Moderator

    Chris Tate N6WM and Craig Thompson, K9CT can answer that. They both run big contest stations that are running Flex radios (multiple), amps, tuners, and switches. And they do very well in contests.

    Each person will love or hate things about different radios. If a person cut their teeth on Elecraft then it will be a hard sell for them to move to a Flex or another radio manufacturer.

    Try a Flex. Contact sales to ask about their lucrative return policy if it doesn't work for you.

    Not getting rid of my Flex station....

    Dave wo2x

  • johnn1jm
    johnn1jm Member ✭✭

    Thanks, Dave. I have a Flex and in my contest operation I see no problems. Love my Flex.

  • Mike-VA3MW
    Mike-VA3MW Administrator, FlexRadio Employee, Community Manager, Super Elmer, Moderator admin


    For contesting (non-remote) make sure you use the Audio (Mic and RX) on the radio. Do not use the Windows audio paths for contesting and the reason being that the Microsoft's handling of the audio via Windows is very latent (ask any serious gamer). This is not a SmartSDR issue at all.

    There are 5 audio subsystems that the Audio has to travel through between the Ethernet connector on the back of the computer and your headphones and each adds a significant delay.

    If you are remote operating, then you have to deal with it and adjust your operating style accordingly. Fortunately, it isn't the first call that gets answered by another station. It is the first call heard cleanly, so you can work with this.

    Short story, it will be one of the best receivers that doesn't fall apart in a crowd and with CESSB on SSB TX you will be louder without distortion.


  • johnn1jm
    johnn1jm Member ✭✭

    Thanks, Mike. I do run my mic right out of the flex. I'm not much on cw contesting so I don't worry about that. Most of my contesting is with rtty and I run that with N1MM and that works just fine. In fact I run smart control on my Mac and connect N1MM from my PC just to see if it could be done. Works just great!


  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭

    I am mostly a CW contester and not a big one recently or ever for that matter but here are some thoughts:

    Latency comes in two forms:

    A) time it takes out output your signal to RF

    B) time it takes for you to hear the incoming signal

    Very serious contesters want both of these values to be at their absolute minimum and one person a few years back spent a lot of time measuring the time from key down (cw in his case) to RF out. As I recall the numbers he came up with were comparable to knob rigs but slightly slower.

    In my opinion the difference was not significant but to some it might be.

    But here are the things that I KNOW can minimize latency:

    1) Hardwire PC network and FlexRadio network. Do not use WiFi on your PC. Use a good Gigabit switch with grounded net cables.

    2) Hardwire speakers or headphones to FlexRadio. Do not use network (PC) audio. The latency increases substantially.

    3) Hardwire mic and/or key direct to FlexRadio. Do not use network (PC) audio. The latency increases substantially.

    4) If you use a Maestro, use it ONLY as the knob controller, not as your primary display. In this configuration your PC is running SmartSDR, the Maestro is in knob control mode.

    5) Invest in a nice fast PC. I use nothing less than Core I7 with a minimum of 16G of RAM.

    6) Use digital video from PC to your monitor. DisplayPort preferred or HDMI. These will provide the fastest screen updates.

    Some here might question #4 and #5 but here is the deal. The small tablet PC in the Maestro is not going to perform as well as a fast laptop or desktop PC. If you are seeking ultimate performance for contesting you need to gain speed everywhere you can.

    At our competing clubs field day a gent brought his Flex6300 and Maestro to use. The Maestro was on Wifi. While Field Day is not a serious contest the gent told me of something like 0.5 second audio latency on SSB. Over coffee we talked about the above points and he agreed they would have improved his experience.

    Will a FlexRadio ever compete with say an Elecraft or Icom knob rig? Well it can come very close and you as the contester must decide if it is close enough and take into account the other features the flex has to offer in that decision.

    For our field day this year we used a Flex6500 for all of our digital because it could monitor 4 bands of digital at once. So we could see when there were contacts to be made on other bands. Thats harder to do with non-flex rigs.

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