Or I guess the new 6K series in general. I am a previous owner of a 3K & a 5K, and enjoyed them. I mentioned to a 6500 owner I was thinking of ordering a 6300. He responded " Good for rag chew and ESSB, but NOT DX or contest " ...... So, what's your take on his comment? I wish I would have had him explain. He has owned everything, and currently had the Icom 7800, and the Kenwood 990 as well as the 6500. And what other considerations besides the 4 slices vs. 2 slices? Trying to see if another 1800.00 bucks is something to consider.
Thanks in advance!
Steve / NZ4Z
With due respect to your friend, perhaps his issues are not so much the radio as his DX/contest style.
So do you want $1800.00, an Icom, a Kenwood, or, 2 or 4 better receivers and 1 transmitter that are controlled with 1 set of "no" knobs, Those 2 extra, and better receivers are what cost the extra $1800.00. The fact that they connect to the other 2 better receivers and transmitter, without CAT cables, and coax, and power cables, and use the same set of "no" knobs for controls, and take up no additional space in the shack when not needed is just further icing on the cake. You either have plenty of space in the shack or can afford a bigger shack, or you compromise. How can he have an expert opinion on the features of Flex 6XXX series radios, when those features are being continually improved and some haven't even been added yet? He's talking about one of the "old" Flex 6XXX's not one of the current ones. Maybe he should download the updates, and reevaluate his opinions, or download and update some new ones. Oh and if the huge number of "no" knobs available aren't enough, additional "real" knobs and buttons are just $99.95, and an unused USB port away. No soldering required. I like my 6500. I have no opinions about Icom and Kenwood other than they make quality boat anchors.
Close in dynamic range is far above anything else I've used. Actually a bit amazing in a contest situation.
While it might be nice to have more slices to monitor activity elsewhere, not having them hasn't been a great handicap.
As was mentioned previously, I suspect the answer was based on the number of $$ that had been spent and there was a need to justify the expenditure.
A 6500 would be great, but for me, I'm not sure it would be worth the much higher cost. It has other capabilities besides more slices, however, and for some, these are needed (wanted).
I have, however, had the chance to see contest stations, and discuss contesting with people that DO contest quite a bit and that are very good at it.
I think the key work here is consistency. Contesters look for consistency in their setup, making sure everything runs very smooth, that there is very little time wasted and that problems can be resolved quickly.
They ideal contest station allows for very quick operation, no RF of any kind, super stable logging and quick work of any multipliers. They also have a complete backup of everything that can be online in mere minutes. They also look for comfortable operation that allows you to get the best out of the operator, no distractions, no issues.
With all those aspects in mind they setup their contesting station with the proper antennas and arrays to work the mode/band combo they decide to enter in the contest. They have antennas in the directions that yield more points, no wasting time turning rotors, or staying several minutes working the odd DX that has the big pileup. They pretty much have 2 or even 3 of everything.
The Flex 6000 series radios are great performing rigs, but many of the devices that have been develop for the "serious" contesters have not been fine tuned for the flex yet. There isn't a logging program that can quickly interact with the Flex radio without using middleware (such as DDUtil). There is no Band data being send from the radio to make SO2R or quick band changes a smooth operation. The Flex Control knob, in the current version of SmartSDR doesn't allow the level of customization of the buttons and wheel (as you have in PowerSDR) and you have to rely on DDUtil or N4PY software to do what should be done directly on the Flex software. Finally, the use of a single computer to run everything becomes the weak link. You have to have 2 computers, setup identically and ready to take over if the first one fails. If you could run the Flex radio out of the USB port with a device such as the Tmate 2 by woodboxradio without the computer then you could have an extra layer of safety and not be so dependent on the PC. If one computers fails, you have your laptop ready to go with your logging program, but the radio and the running done on a specific frequency never stops.
Contesting can be done with any radio, with any logging program, heck, you can do the logging on paper if you want to do so. Winning contest, getting up there in the ranks, and having Flex radio be the radio of choice will require a bit more that an excellent receiver. Many successful contest stations still use radios (such as the FT-1000) which are not even close to the performance of the previous Flex radios.
In a contest station we are talking about considerable investment that has already been done getting the equipment that gives you the edge (filters, listening antennas, stacks, arrays, hot switching, amps, etc...). There is a paradigm shift, and I am sure and confident that SDR radios will be the future of contesting. But in order to do so, the features of the hardware and the software will have to be based on what top contesters demand.
Working DX, rare ones, breaking pile ups, in that area, I think there is very little out there that can compete with a Flex 6000. Tell you friend he is dead wrong in that aspect. :)
But when it comes to serious contesting we still have a lot of work to do to get the software up there.
In the case of the 6300, in order to see action in other bands with the second slice I need an antenna that can listen to those bands, such a log periodic or a hexbeam or a multiband vertical. Ideally I would like to listen on ANT2 while I operate on ANT1. However, that is not possible. I can have different TX antenas on ANT1 and ANT2, but I can not have a different RX antenna on ANT2 for the second slice, because the 6300 and 6500 only have once receiver. I can do that on a 6700 though. This means that in order to do SO2R I need to get two 6300s or one 6700. Two 6300s would make more sense from the backup point of view.
Anyway, I am really looking forward to ver 1.4 of SmartSDR and later iterations. Remote operation through the local network opens a new realm of operating possibilities. I can wait for the very serious contesters to start using Flex radios, that will lead to new features that we will all enjoy in our Flex radios.
One of the big advantages of the Flex in a contest is the filter - particularly in a CW contest. Being able to see the signal, see the QRM, and filter or notch out that QRM is a competitive advantage - especially when it's a multiplier that you really need. However, most contesters don't bother with signals that take much time or effort as the idea is to make the most contacts. That's why the radio isn't as important as the skill.
All Flex radios work seamlessly with N1MM+ and cluster software. If you're working assisted, that's another advantage. In many cases a few clicks of the mouse will log the contact, I don't even touch the keyboard.
I can't think of a single advantage that a 6500 or a 6700 would give a contester. Now, they would help on on DX, particularly on a weak signal because of the preamp. Nevertheless, I have worked both WAS and DXCC in a single day, during a single contest using my 6300. The radio is certainly contest capable.
Here is what I think....I had the 6300 and in all honesty it did all I need,,,,,for DX and some contesting. Did not really need a 6500.
I upgraded to 6500 for a few reasons:
1) On a 6300 (like most any radio) 2 slices is all you have if working split...you cannot watch other bands...4 slices let's you run split AND watch/switch back & forth... 2 other bands.
2) I like the little better pre-amp/ATTN
3) I like the pre-selector on ham band feature, even though it is only effective it you are on 1 band.
4) I guess I thought long tern...the 6500 with it's faster processing might do better with new stuff coming down the Flex road (I may be wrong on this)
5) I thought it would be cool to have balanced audio in...but have not used it yet.
So, if $$ are not that big a deal for you...get the 6500 (or 6700)
However if you get a 6300....you will still have a great radio good for DX and everything else.
I do believe there is some things coming along soon that will make it a better contest radio.
Other heavy contest oriented hams here can explain that.
I also use N1MM+ for contesting. I upload the contest logs into Log4OM when I am done and then send them to LoTW. N1MM will key the Flex for CW contacts and it has a voice announcer to play your pre-made WAV files, so it's an efficient contesting package.
Having said that there are also very old arguments about having to eye-track the GUI instead of blindly reaching for knobs. That's a subjective thing so can't be "resolved", but can be at least partially mitigated with a FlexControl.
Other minor issues include the requirement for both RX slices to use the same antenna and that SmartSDR in general isn't fully featured yet - but will be eventually.
On the positive side, having a panadapter and being able to tweak it for custom views is terrific, even more so when running split.
And if you are running non-assisted you will either sit at a spot if you have power, or low power and go up and down the frequency looking for contacts. If you are doing the latter, the possibility to see the whole band with the panadapter will be fantastic, and I imagine it will give you a bit of an edge.
The biggest issue would be to have a solid and stable PC to run it all.
I am not a contester. But during the last CQWW contest, I worked over 200 contacts in slightly over 2 hours. I intentionally skipped US contacts and tried for DX contacts. I would say 65 percent of the contacts were DX. I had the 6500 connected to N1MM logger. I could work an s9 signal next to a s9 +20 easily with the filtering on the radio. I worked up the band as Salvador mentioned. If there was a pileup, I would leave a slice on the station's freq. and shut of the sound to the headphones for the slice. I would keep an eye on that slice as I moved up the band. When I could see he/she called a couple of times to get a response, I would put TX on that slice and turn on the sound and work them. If the 6300 can hear or has similar dynamic receive range as the 6500, someone would be hard pressed to show me a better radio. I do not think that the current receive is as good as it will get until after future software upgrades! At the time I bought the 6500, I did not know that there would be a 6300...LOL. My choice was simplified. Have fun Steve.
Also check out http://cart.flexradio.com/Previously-Loved-Equipment_c_44.html for great deals.
add in a good radio and the fun gets going very fast.
I believe the Flex radio 6300 on up are perfect for single op contesting. There are some hardcore types that will complain about latency but I think even at its worst it probably loses them 2-5 points. Just a guess on that.
I think it goes as follows:
Novice op, 6300 - Pretty good. You will learn a lot, probably do better than a novice up op with a non pan radio.
Skilled up 6300 - Probably tough to beat
Novice op on 6500, 6600, 6700 probably way better than the notice op on the 6300 because the radio filters are just better.
Skilled op with 6500, 6600, 6700 probably can't be beat in single op with good ant.
But that being said there are those guys that take an old Drake TR 4 and blow the group away. So ti really depends.
Forgot to mention DX:
Quite frankly I can "see" what is going on. It is simply easy to figure out the right place to call the DX station. it works like this. When they are working a freq and sending callers UP they will call a station. You watch where that station replies. You have a 50-50 chance that dx is going to scroll up or down. You can watch for the pattern. Then call where you think they will be.
If you have even a reasonable signal you will bust right though.
I have a very modest station. I have 280 foot horizontal loop about 30 feet in the air. I have a 2K amp. I regularly bust pile ups using this technique and get a call within 2 or 3 tries. The other guys with knob radios and no pans just don't stand a chance.
Sometimes I cant see the caller so I have to guess but eventually you will see a station and you can apply the technique above.
I also have a Flex 6300. I also owned the 5000 and 3000. I have every award that ARRL offers, i.e., DXCC, 5B DXCC, CW DXCC, Phone DXCC, WAS, 5BWAS, etc. The only one I'm missing is Honor Roll.
Could I have done better with 8 slices versus two? Maybe. But unless you have the desire and stamina and skill to go after DX, expect mediocre results.
I will also add that CW skills are as much a contributor to DX award results as the radio. If you don't know CW, do yourself a favor and learn. Your chances of busting a pileup are much greater with CW than SSB. Also, finding DX "strays" at the bottom of the band is much more likely.