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Has anyone successfully connected CW paddles to a Mac running SmartSDR for Mac?

I was able to assemble the interconnection as described Section 7 in the SmartSDR for Mac - Software user guide, and it does work, but not well. I added the two capacitors described in Section 7.1 to prevent "bounce". However, it is not a satisfactory set up on my system. It is very difficult to come off of the left (dit) paddle in time to get the right number of "dits". It is even difficult to stop the dits in time with the keyed speed set well below 15 wpm. At anything over 20 wpm it is nearly impossible to send accurate CW using the iambic keyer function in the SmartSDR software.

I wondered if anyone has experienced this and worked through it to find a solution short of connecting a straight key, which I would rather not do.

Best Answers

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

    I tried it when it first came out with similar results.

    What I think is happening is that while the mechanical part works (sending a dot or dash) that the LAN part is very variable resulting in strange things happening.

    Even your home LAN is not a constant speed. The Network switches can buffer packets.

    This is why the Maestro sends actual ASCII characters over the LAN as it eliminates that issue. Each character you send is decoded to an ASCII character and then that character is sent to the radio and the software in the radio sends morse elements.

  • SmittyHalibut
    SmittyHalibut Member ✭✭
    Answer ✓

    Yep, what I designed is basically a small, integrated, single board version of what you put together.


  • K7JV
    K7JV Member ✭✭

    That is an interesting and very viable thought. I was thinking that since the "switching" input to the Mac from the paddles would produce a side-tone in the Mac, essentially without delay. But it hadn't occurred to me that some of the processing might be in the radio instead of the Mac. I do know that the problem does not exist at all, when using the CW paddles connected to the Maestro, whether the Maestro is on the network with the radio or miles away using the WAN to connect with the radio.

    Dang! I was hoping that CW using the Mac might be a possibility. But I do think it will be a straight key only process.

    Thank you for your input. I was hoping someone would chime in and say, "Yes, and this is how I made it work." 😊 I've not delved into the possibility of using the keyboard for my CW input device, but my typing skills are horrific compared to my paddle skills, such as they are.

  • snacey0103
    snacey0103 Member ✭✭

    I have the same problem and same question with SmartSDR for Mac and my Vibroplex paddles. Unfortunately, I don't have a Maestro and the radio is connected to my LAN via WiFi - not CAT6.

    Do you think that Marcus, the creator of SmartSDR for Mac knows about this issue yet? I may connect with him to see if there is anything that can be done.

  • K7JV
    K7JV Member ✭✭

    Snacey0103, thank you. That would be great. The description of the "hook up" in the software users manual describes the cable adaptations that need to be made, and I was able to find the components. I purchased a cable that had a ⅛" stereo male on one end and a DB9 connector on the other. (I did have to change the pin connections from the way it came to the connections required by the configuration in the manual) I also purchased a cable that had a DB9 connector on one end and a USB connector on the other, and it had the necessary electronics built into the DB9 end to interface the two. My initial testing showed the significant "bounce" on the dits, so I did add the .1 micro-farad capacitors described in the software manual which it called for, for exactly that purpose. I will note that I did not see any improvement when I added the two ceramic capacitors. So I did everything as described in the manual, but unfortunately no joy.

    If you have access to Marcus, that would be a great idea. 👍

  • Steve - AK0M
    Steve - AK0M Member ✭✭

    As I prepare for some down time due to knee surgery and being away from the shack desk during prime contest season this fall, I am looking for the latest recommendation for connecting paddles to my Mac running SmartSDR. Any updates to this thread for best way currently to do this satisfactorily?

    In the Windows world, it looks like WKFlex and a winkeyer at my laptop (maybe the new WKUSB-AF?) is the solution in that environment.

    How about for my Mac laptop?


    Steve AK0M

  • Arizona Mike
    Arizona Mike Member ✭✭

    When I contacted the developer in regard to CW on the MAC using SSDR for zMac he was extremely short and not helpful.

    very disappointed.

    had a similar experience with the Dax and Cat using his app.

    finally switched to SSDR on Parallels/Win 10 and everything working.

  • K3SF
    K3SF Member ✭✭✭
    edited October 2022

    check out xkey at

    Mario is the creator of xdax and xcat for Mac

    see youtube demo

    hope this helps

    Paul K3SF

  • Steve - AK0M
    Steve - AK0M Member ✭✭

    xkey looks interesting but it appears that teensies are not available.

  • Arizona Mike
    Arizona Mike Member ✭✭

    As a second or perhaps third effort, I tried changing the various ceramic capacity values in an effort to affect proper CW ops on Mac SSDR. Spent the better part of a day this week, but unfortunately no luck.

    I am not sure if the developer of SSDR Mac ever operated CW with paddles on the mac, but the only benefit I see at this time to his effort is a side tone to the Mac. CW ops are finicky and there is no way I could develop a reasonable fist timing.

    When software developers advertise their programs with a certain feature or ability and people base their purchases on that promise or feature, I expect the feature to function properly. Please don't get me wrong, I think the developer has a very nicely designed and functional product. I would suggest he place a note in the description that the CW keyer is a work in progress and not completely functional.

    My solution as discussed previously was to run a 40' shielded/balanced cable from my Mac to the radio which resides in a IT closet outside my office/studio.

    All in all, with the exception of CW, I highly recommend SSDR Mac.

  • Arizona Mike
    Arizona Mike Member ✭✭

    A new SSDR MAC CW update was issued on 10/13/22. Have not tried it yet.......

    The developer writes:

    "The CW Keyer has been improved in several ways (done)"

  • dankeboo
    dankeboo Member ✭✭
    I installed SmartSDR MAC
    App version: A2.4.5:0.-1
    Database version: D4.1.5 (6.3.2023)
    and keyer works fine through USB-c connection....except keyer's speed control does not respond - it is fixed speed around 15 wpm or so...
  • K7JV
    K7JV Member ✭✭

    Since my original post a little over a year ago, I did have success. I purchased two devices that are similar to the two items in the Amazon links below. One converts from a mini-stereo plug (from my Bencher paddles) to a 9-pin serial connector. The second converts from a 9-pin serial connector to a USB connector. And finally, I needed an adapter from USB-A to USB-C to fit my Mac laptop. I don't recall there being electronics in the phono to serial connector, but there is in the serial to USB connector. Fortunately, my Mac recognized it right away, when I plugged it into the USB receptacle. (Mac makes it SO easy!!)

    I'm attaching 5 photos.

    #1 - The pop-up to request approval to connect the serial to USB device

    #2 - The dropdown from the top ribbon on SmartSDR for Mac to get to the CW setup.

    #3 - The CW keyer settings ready to go

    #4 - The CW control for the radio on the "Radio Control" sidebar in SmartSDR for Mac

    #5 - The cable and adapter setup that I'm using

    I found that the speed, sidetone and L/R sliders all function as expected. The Breakin QSK and Iambic "buttons" also function as expected.

    The only observation is that the keyer in the software doesn't react to the timing of my "fist" the same as it does plugged directly into the back of my 6600. It takes a little getting used to, but at anything maybe 20 wpm and under works quite well with little training of my feeble mind.

    Finally, both of these cable devices came with 3' cables, which was as short as I could find. I was willing to cut and re-connect the phono cable to shorten it to a manageable length, but I don't have the steady hand and keen vision necessary to cut and splice a USB cable. So, unfortunately, cable ties to the rescue.


  • dankeboo
    dankeboo Member ✭✭

    I found that the SmartSDR keyer behaved bad when I use a bluetooth headset for audio sound...when I switch the audio output to a mac's speaker or wired headset, it works better.

  • K7JV
    K7JV Member ✭✭

    I found a RS232 to USB adapter with the FTDI chipset in it so I can get rid of the white cable and make it connection from the Bencher paddles to the Mac much, much cleaner. The FTDI chipset is, I think, essential. I fear that the link I posted above may be the wrong link. Right idea, but not sure that it has theFTDI chipset in it.

    Interesting that the bluetooth headset would create an issue. I've not tried that, yet.

  • K7JV - Is there a trick to get the "Qaoquda DB9 9 Pin Female to 3.5mm Male Plug Serial Cable RS232 to 1/8 inch Conversion Cable Cord- 6FT/1.8M" cable to work? I was unsuccessful with that cable and returned it. I made a custom cable to get it to work. However, I'd like a commercial cable. THANK YOU for the motivation and detailed instructions.
  • K7JV
    K7JV Member ✭✭

    Hi, Psunquist. Here is what I'm using, now, and it is quite a bit cleaner with minimal cabling.

    I'm attaching a link to that device, and it appears that it is still available.

    It has a **** lug terminal block inside of it where it was easy to connect a very short ⅛" stereo male plug and pigtail, and made it easy to include the two capacitors that the SmartSDR documentation recommended. It works very nicely. There are four parts to my interconnect cable, now. There is the USB-C to USB adapter, the FTDI-FT232RL adapter, the Serial to phono adapter (above) and a double-female ⅛" phono adapter. Total length about 8".

    I don't know if that helps, but it is a pretty clean way to connect my Bencher paddle to my MacBook Pro for the FLEX SmartSDR program.

  • SmittyHalibut
    SmittyHalibut Member ✭✭

    I've been working with Mike Walker on a device to make this very process easier and cleaner. I've just released HaliKey: an adapter that has a 3.5mm socket on one side, and USB-C on the other, with an FTDI serial chip in the middle. Tip connects to CTS, Ring connects to DCD, Sleeve connects to ground.

    If you connect paddles to HaliKey, they work out of the box in SmartSDR for MacOS. It will also do PTT when in phone mode, and on Windows (Windows doesn't have a software keyer, so no CW there.)

    I hope this helps others.

  • K7JV
    K7JV Member ✭✭

    Looks like you've got a good setup to recommend. The one I posted back in November is working well, too, and it sounds like we may have essentially the same devices incorporated. I have successfully used CW on my Mac several times, now. Also, I found a little iambic paddle. Check out this link:

    I also purchased the metal plate for it, to give it weight and stability. It really is pretty slick. Its adjustments aren't as precision as a Bencher or a Vibroplex, but it is perfectly adequate for my purposes. And it fits in the little box it comes in, in my laptop travel bag or my travel kit!! Good to go!