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Recommended SmartSDR settings for AM mode operation
As an avid fan of the FlexRadio 6000 series transceivers, I want to thank the FlexRadio for developing superb AM transmission capabilities into their radios. FlexRadios have excellent performance on AM with a few proper adjustments and stand head and shoulders above many other the other well known manufacturers of amateur radio gear when it comes to AM transmission fidelity and reception.
Below are some recommended settings for using AM with a 6000 series transceiver and SmartSDR for Windows that I have come up with over the years operating on the HF bands. I welcome constructive comments from other AM operators as well.
When setting the mode to AM there are a number of basic audio and RF settings one should pay attention to ensure good sounding transmission.
First, set your AM Carrier control to around 80. The level number appears when you click and slide on the control with your mouse. The setting of 80 ensures enough headroom to for positive modulation peaks. The SmartSDR software will not allow you to over-modulate on negative peaks but you can outstrip the carrier with audio peaks if the AM Carrier control is set too low and your signal will sound "distorted" on a standard AM receiver. Setting the Carrier above 80 reduces some positive peak capability.
Below the AM Carrier Panel is the TX Filter bandwidth control. You may want to adjust the low and high cuts accordingly if you want something more than communications quality audio. I would recommend a low of 30 and high of 4800 to start for more of a shortwave "broadcast quality" sound. The overall transmitted sound quality will vary on your choice of microphone and your transmit EQ settings. Caution should be taken when adjusting the high frequency cut off as it must suit band and operating conditions. You want to be a good neighbor with your transmitted bandwidth!
Adjust the RF Power control for about 15 to 20 watts with no modulation. This leaves enough RF headroom for up to the 150% positive modulation peaks that the FlexRadio is capable of producing.
Next, adjust the audio input level (either the local microphone or PC audio) gain for voice peaks of no more than -5 dB when operating for the best quality audio.
Under these settings you will be able to attain positive peak modulation up to 150% and negative peaks around 97%. Be careful using the Proc - I would suggest you don’t use Proc at first. If do use the Proc just tickle the compression, otherwise you’ll sound distorted on a regular receiver in AM. The Proc works well on SSB, but not so much on AM.
That's it! Have fun and experiment with your own fine tuned settings. Remember these settings are a best practice for initially setting up AM mode on your FlexRadio 6000 series transceiver.
Note: If you run an amp remember you need to run no more than 20 or 25% of the amp’s rated PEP maximum output for best quality. The biggest amplifiers should be run at no more than around 300 to 375 watts carrier level to leave adequate headroom for positive peak modulation.
Have fun! The Flex will sound great on AM when properly adjusted.
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