6400/6600 - An Opportunity to Upgrade Connectors?

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  • (Edited)
With the New Flex-6400, Flex-6400M, Flex-6600 and Flex-6600M moving from Prototype to Production, is this an opportunity to upgrade the radio's connectors to higher performance connectors?

  • MICROPHONE The show models had 1/8 inch microphone jacks which seems to be a move downwards from the 1/4 inch and for some models XLR.  Should a combo 1/4/XLR be retained?
  • POWER PowerPoles are not the best power connectors, mostly because they will separate at any tug on the wires unless special precautions are taken.  Is it a time to upgrade to the CliffCon 4-pole (like what radios such as a the Hilberling use - see my article at http://k9zw.wordpress.com posting on May 30th)?
  • ANTENNA The ubiquity of the UHF connector is not the same things as best choice - could N-Connectors (or an option to have them factory installed) be the right choice?
  • ETHERNET As there are several strong reasons to isolate the radio electrically at the Ethernet port, could an Optical Ethernet port be provided?
  • GROUND The prototypes show a simple screw for grounding attachment - as nothing is more fun that chasing a dropped machine screen or nut, could a robust clamping (with all parts retained) clip be provided?

Seems a great window of opportunity to upgrade connectivity in the physical sense!

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Posted 3 years ago

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Alan KB5CUS

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Talk among some hams I know..  Fixing to buy their First Flex Do Not Like the idea of a (3.5mm I think ) Mic input. I also would like the same (XLR) that I have on my 6500. Also not a fan of Powerpoles...
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Michael Coslo

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This close to the rollout, 3-4 months -  I suspect they have all of the physical matters pretty well settled, parts ordered, I wouldn't be too surprised if the PC boards are ready to roll.

I guess the solace is that no matter what is on it, someone will be upset. 

Anyhow, a direct conversation with Flex might get a direct answer. A grounding screw might be addressed,  but the rest of the desired changes would almost certainly delay rollout pretty significantly, and just upset a different group of people.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Also, in order to add all this, the price of the radio will increase. This is not what Flex wants to happen. The radios were made for a very competitive price point. I think Tim addressed the mic plug and mentioned even the cost of the plug and the man hours to install is above budget. Everything has been carefully worked out.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Hi Bill - I missed Tim's discussion - can you point me to it?

The incremental retail costs above the selected connectors are pretty light, and in cases like the UHF/N swap the components are physically compatible.

In my case charge me the little bit more for a better product if they have to!

Would be worth it to me.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Most hams think the almighty PL259/SO239 is "better" at HF and they see no reason to change. Even well respected people like W8JI say that it's better.

My reason for using Ns was the availability of NOS Andrew connectors on hardline. However when working with them I found them to have numerous other mechanical and electrical advantages. 

Ria
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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I needed no additional reason other than how an N-connector maintains electrical continuity for both shield and core when the barrel is not tightened down, something that is hit & miss with the UHF PL259/SO239 pair to prefer N-Connectors.

The lesser impedance bump is most likely not going to be heard, but anything that can "smooth" things out makes later TDR work more accurate.

We shouldn't forget that there are a lot of different grades of PL259/SO239 connectors, many not made very well.  Some are quite easy to smoke at QRO. 

I've had minimal feedline problems and tower/remote connector problems since standardizing my shacks on N-Connectors.

I also have all N-Connectors on all the hardline.  Antenna Switches, Baluns and the like have all been ordered or retrofitted with N-Connectors. 

73

Steve K9ZW

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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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When you have W3LPL and K3LR saying that PL259 connectors are great, the whole ham crowd shouts, "amen!" What's more is that they don't even solder it the way the mfg intended. They use a whole different method that adds to the impedance bump but they claim is more mechanically sound. 

In my contest club I was pretty much chastised for using N connectors. 

So I wouldn't even try. Most hams would just stick an adapter on it, and complain. 

For HF it makes almost no difference. Even up to 70cm you can live with it. 

Ria
(Edited)
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David Orman

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Your contest club sounds "fun". It does make a difference (even ignoring the impedance consistency and advantages outdoors with weatherproofing and other such things that won't matter much at HF for indoor connectors), you get a reliable connection every time. A well attached Amphenol pl259 mated properly to a respective high quality so239 isn't going to differ significantly in performance on HF from a type n setup, but a type n setup will always be consistent with less attention paid to mating. Also, I really dislike pl259 connectors with braided cable like bury flex or lmr400 uf. Type n is so much easier to work with.

If nobody tries, nothing will change. I don't want everything to be using pl259 twenty years from now; there are plenty of better alternatives.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Contesters don't really like change. The mindset is that if it works, it works, leave it alone. I don't really care what someone else uses but N has worked so far for me, and reading with the TDR it is easier to see an actual fault down the line vs a PL259. But where I use PL259 I use the amphenol 83-1SP and heat shrink the joint. The PL259 is very poor at strain relief, one of my main complaints. I could use the K3LR method but it produces a nasty impedance bump, worse than a regular PL259 connection.

The idea is to have some choice, rather than being stuck with the PL.

Ria
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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That electrical continuity is unaffected by barrel tightness makes N-connectors appeal to me.  

Again if the consequence of a loose connector is a two-day trip with boat schedule to work around, the advantage is huge.

Curious on your contest club, why would they espouse Ludditism to favor good over better?  Seems daft bluntly.

Either antenna connector choice going for the best quality components pays more dividends than about any connector choice you can otherwise make.

Station standardization is useful, and if your station has several hundred UHF connector pairs in place you are very unlikely to change. We looked a retrofitting the W9EVT station, and best guess it would have taken a month or so - just not worth it.

That doesn't preclude while in the process of building up a new station from making a better choice though.  In my stations the incremental cost between types of quality (not economy) connectors was minimal, and other than a handful of adapter for items that it simply wasn't possible to change to N-connectors that was it.

Of course I no longer needed to buy adapters the other way to use the Collins S-Line setup at each QTH.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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It's hardly unique to my club, some contesters were using DOS up to a few years ago. Either way I still use N and I'm happy with it.
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Michael Coslo

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It isn't that N isn't better. It most definitely is better.  When we redid our station we used Hardline and N connectors on everything, even the 160 meter antenna, which put us far into diminishing returns.

Then at the interior patch panel, we have N-UHF adapters for the last 6 feet.  Because that's what the radios have on them. Would it have been better to have N connectors on the radios? Now we're getting into an interesting area. We certainly would have to have a flexible pigtail on the patch panel, there is no way I would work with hardline to each radio/tuner/amplifier combination. 

This isn't being a luddite, it is putting together systems using what the components of the system have. I'd have to have a tuner with N connectors, power amplifiers with N connectors, rejjection filters with N connectors. Until those devices all have N connectors, I'm dealing with adapters regardless. 

And at HF, exactly what quantifiable gain will I get for all of that work?
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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I don't want to convert anyone to N. I just don't want to be looked at as a weirdo because I choose to use them almost exclusively in my station. 
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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Everyone who comes to my house looks up and sees all that aluminum and wire, already think I'm a weirdo, especially my wife. To be a weirdo among all us weirdos would be a badge of honour :) I use dielectric grease inside all my VHF/UHF N-connectors, on HF well keep it simple with PL-259.

We all make choices for our station that others don't like. We make choices that make sense to us for different reasons. I wouldn't waste the effort to put N-connectors on HF but I surely would not criticize those that do. I salute the extra effort to squeeze every micro watt for performance, durability and longevity.
(Edited)
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Weirdo is not politically correct.  We are "eccentric" ;-)
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Michael Coslo

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Oh, I certainly didn't mean to cast any aspersions, Ria.  It was just a convenient place to  chime in.   And I definitely qualify as a weirdo myself. Or alt-thought process. 
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Ross - K9COX

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At times I just stick the center conductor of the coax into the hole of the SO-239 and use a bread tie to secure the shield to the outer threads...works fine.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Just to clarify - using heliax means you don't have ready access to PL259 for it. For the main tower the run is 250'. That's a lot of loss on 10 and 6. When I put 1.5kw out I want most of that at the antenna. This is how I started using N.

Ria
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Mike - W8MM

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I have quite a few UHF males for LDF-4!
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Michael Coslo

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re center conductor stuck in the connector and using bread ties to finish the work. My Kind of Ham radio Ross. I pride myself on my innovation and precision work - kinda like this fine job of solderfication! 8^) 
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Michael Coslo

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I wonder. With the complaints about some of the easily fixable items that some are complaining about, do hams not build anything any more?


I have microphones with 1/8", 1/4" and even XLR. Kind of hard for me to figure which type to consider the right one. The same with headphones. My Heil has the larger jack, but it is uncomfortable after a little while, so the more comfortable headset with the 1/8" plug is pressed into service.  If I get excited about it, I'll just put 1/4 inch on everything. 

I know several hams who would be really peeved if the radio had no PowerPole, as their whole station is powerPoled.

Also, An HF radio with N connectors is a real non starter. 

But if for some reason Flex did adopt all of these requests, I'd make pigtails for the microphones (like I have already), and pigtail for  the new connector to my PowerPole connectors, and a UHF-N adapter, since my HF antennas and all my HF equipment uses UHF. 
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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My entire station is N apart from the radios and amp itself. But once coax leaves the shack it's N.



Also I don't see what all the fuss is about with the 3.5mm jacks since Apache labs has pretty much settled on them and everyone is fawning over those radios as a "flex killer."

But I agree that the option (for added cost) of a foster connector and 1/4" connectors would be nice. One reason why I like my 6700.

Ria
(Edited)
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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You do point out the conundrum a manufacturer faces - so do they use legacy connectors knowing the shortcomings because the installed base is wide, or do they use the best they can find at the risk of some folk needing adapters and pigtails?

On 4o3a's gear antenna connectors are a user (or who ever is ordering the unit) choice to make. 

Since some FRS radios arguably are built to fulfill an order with deposit, perhaps the choice could be offered?

I hear you on adapters, as I have to use N-to-UHF adapters to hook in UHF-connector equipped gear as I've used N-Connectors wherever possible.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Michael Coslo

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Well, If I had to re-do my entire system I would think very long and hard about buying a Flex Radio.


And the best power connector is a strong mechanical connection of a threaded rod and bolt. 
(Edited)
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Bill Garfield W1BG

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At HF frequencies, even 50 MHz the difference in loss between connector types is infinitesimally small, certainly not enough to make an S-meter move nor make the difference between copy vs no copy. Even on 150 MHz commercial gear standard UHF connectors at the bottom end are the norm. Heliax transmission line? Sure, but don’t you still need a short flexible jumper at the exciter? In a pinch I too have just shoved the center conductor into the SO-239 with a rubber band around the braid. :)
(Edited)
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Ross - K9COX

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I used a bread tie
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Ken - NM9P

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For a more permanent "temporary" fix, use a stainless steel worm gear clamp....
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AA0KM

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Not having xlr bummer. But fix can be made.

I moved my radio a couple time`s and the check internal fuse and radio shut down would happen.
That had me scratching my head.
Culprit=Powerpoles coming loose.

I agree with the post but as said probably too late.

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Martin Ewing AA6E

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There are lots of connectors available.   I have a soft spot for the ancient Cinch Jones:

Rugged, human sized, simple to solder, rugged!  But not hermaphroditic.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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These are good connectors.  I've not been able to find shielded-pin varieties - are they made?  (So that if the plug is not fully seated it is protected from shorting out between pins, and protected if you hold an energized one in your hand.)

73

Steve K9ZW

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Martin Ewing AA6E

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I think I have seen recessed panel mount connectors that help with this issue.  Somehow, the Jones types are historically appropriate to match the also-very-old UHF connectors!
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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Seems like a small bud box with four chassis-mounted mini plugs matching the 6400/6600 socket pattern would provide a mechanically stable platform and allow the industrious ham the option of making a break out box with any connector, including Molex, Jones, Cinch, Foster, RCA, XLR, binding posts, etc. The shielded box would be "full time" plugged to the back, would be low-cost, and completely open to whatever you like for connections.

Hmmm.... business opportunity?
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Certainly would work, especially if you could design it to "clamp" to the radio providing positive-interface.

I should explain that when one's remote station is 120 miles away, with enough water to require a ferry or boat ride across a straight that was named "Death's Door" for a reason, that having 100% positive locking connectors is desirable. 

In an interface box for the antennas, would it be possible to avoid the mismatch UHF connectors cause?  N-Connectors are pretty hard to "see" with a TDR, but UHF stand right out. 

Wondering if the PowerGeniusXL and TunerGeniusS will have N-connectors as an option like other 4o3a gear does?

Hmm...

73

Steve K9ZW

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Ken - NM9P

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George, I plan to build a similar patch box for the mic & headphone input.  Probably will incorporate XLR, 1/4 TRS, 3.5mm unbalanced mic, 3.5mm mic/headphone combo, and separate 1/4 and 3.5mm mic & headphone connectors.

I might also incorporate 8-pin Foster and 8-pin RJ-45 as well and bring ptt lines in with jacks for footswitch and thumb switch, and tie ptt into the Foster and RJ-45.  It all depends upon how much work I want to put into it.

One think I do know:  Even if I just use the short 1/4 TRS to right angle 3.5mm TRS I already purchased to adapt my 1/4 keyer paddle to my Flex 1500, I will certainly be looking for an appropriate tie-down spot to secure the adapter pigtail to the chassis so that it will relieve the strain on the rig's jack if the cord gets yanked by something.  (my own klutzy feet, my 10 year-old son, or my pets escaping into the shack...)
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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Sounds like a plan, Ken!
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k0eoo

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if any or all of those connectors are a part of a board assembly, then it would require a new PCB layout at this late date....  In one of my past lifes I designed high end audio equipment and virtually all of our I/O connectors were a part of PCB's assemblies making them very hard to change types....
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Norm - W7CK

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I never did like Power Pole connectors.  Down East Microwave uses NEUTRIK connectors on all of their equipment.   Nice connector, push in then twist to lock.  Keeps dust and dirt out of the connector as well.  Powerpole connectors get dirty and after a while you can have a bit of voltage drop due to tarnished connectors and or weak contact.

Norm W7CK
(Edited)
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Who was it that started putting powerpole connectors in transceivers? Elecraft? I think it's a bad trend. I never liked it. Seemed too easy to break.
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Rory - N6OIL

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I see why they are not using NeuTrik connectors, they are very pricey compared to a bag Power Poles but I do like them for ruggedized installations.
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Ross - K9COX

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I use these connectors extensively throughout my home...very effective Image result for wire nuts
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Mike - W8MM

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I spent a lot of my life as an N-connector fan boy.  If everything goes well, they are OK through microwave frequencies.  Constant impedance and all that.  But, I find them kind of fragile if not professionally attached to the cable.  Center pin alignment and depth of attachment are quite critical and can cause all sorts of problems if too loose (arcing) or too close (splayed female segments).  If used outside, even with a weather wrap, I have seen the cable pull loose from the braid clamp and the whole cable "un-plugs" from the connector housing.  I actually began to avoid N-connectors unless professionally attached using professional tools from a reputable shop.

UHF connectors can be soldered (PL-259) to braided coax or can be clamped on to Heliax quite securely.  I think they are a must for reliable field service up through at least 6 meters and quite possibly through 222 MHz.  I draw the line at 432.

However, 7/16 DIN is the absolute best connector for high power and good impedance way past 1296.  It has a very robust center pin arrangement that can carry lots of current and it is rarely the victim of tiny misalignments to which type N is so vulnerable.  I use 7/16 DIN wherever I can.
(Edited)
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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I found that the Andrew connectors come with good instructions and the plastic cutting guide is in the box. Never had a problem. Cheap China connectors to attach to RG213 are garbage. Amphenol 82-2-1006 N male are excellent. I keep at least a few dozen of them on hand. I don't have specialized tools just a caliper and an exacto knife, soldering station. Yes they can be difficult for some hams with less than stellar eyesight and who want something easy to deal with.

Ria
(Edited)
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Brian Bedoe WD9HSY

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What's the big fuss? -- Everything is fine here!  hi hi de wd9hsy

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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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Personally, when I had my 6500 I never used the 8-pin Foster and will never use it on my 6700. Why pay so much for a radio then compromise audio with a hand mike. I've used quality studio microphones from day one, so I'm a big fan of the XLR connector. I don't like the thought of 1/8" mic input as it is certainly not as durable as an XLR so I see it as a possible point of failure. Then again I rarely need to unplug the line input connector, only if I'm moving the radio.

Optical Ethernet port, I would think this would have never been brought up in any brainstorming session as it makes no financial or practical sense as it would force every user to go out and purchase an adapter so they can connect to their computer, network, router and Maestro. The Flex haters would have a heyday. 

I use nothing but crimp connectors for both PL-259 and N. I think you would disturb the balance of the universe if an N-connector were to appear on an HF rig.

What did Spock say, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few", but then someone will point out he also said, "Change is the essential process of all existence".

As per the GROUND, I hope the screw shown is not the final solution but just a prototype image. Flex is just too damn smart to leave it this way.
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Paul Christensen, W9AC, Elmer

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>"I actually began to avoid N-connectors unless professionally attached using professional tools from a reputable shop."

Or, using one's own pro-grade crimping tools.   Adding to your point, look at used test gear on the market and you'll see many flared N inner conductors due to imperfect mating connectors and imperfect insertion when threading an N plug onto a chassis connector. 

If an N connector is used at the RF source (i.e., the back of a transceiver), then I'll typically use an adapter as a sacrificial device.  Performance variance due to Z-bumps is almost entirely irrelevant at the RF source.  It's much easier to replace a ruined adapter than a chassis-mounted N connector. 

Power handling of the PL-259/SO-239 combination is better than the N, especially toward UHF.

Paul, W9AC  
  

 
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Dave - W6OVP

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A few years ago several serious engineers (who were also hams) in a serious lab ran serious SWR and loss tests on a number of popular RF connectors and published the results. To the surprise of many, the old fashioned Heathkit favorite RCA jack took top honors. (Now if they would only come out with a decent matching plug.)  Just sayin'... not proposing.

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Dave Dave

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N connectors are better then pl259 ..... but you cant tell the difference unless you have expensive test equipment, pl259 is my preference, especially for HF.

Power Poles do not fall apart if they put together right,  they snap yet do come apart when needed, I mean really do you slide your radio around on a table????   Love power poles... entire shack has them..... there GENDERLESS ............you wont realize how good that is till you use them.

1/8 for a Mic that will be hand held is totally unacceptable, 1/8 inch will not take any abuse, In my case my mic line goes to a mic selector box which is never moved so in MY case it would be ok but still don't want!!!
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Not saying it should be mandatory, just optional. I run hardline and they come with N connectors. Adapters make things a bit messy, especially where room behind the radio is at a premium.

Ria
(Edited)
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Peter K1PGV, Elmer

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I was an N-Connector, anti-powerpole, campaigner for several years. I standardized on N-connectors in my shack, and I banned the use of power pole connectors with any of my gear.

That lasted for a while. I just found it too hard to swim against the tide. Too much equipment comes with the connectors I didn't choose to use, and I wound up with lots of annoying converters.

Every time I have to use a power pole or PL259, I just shake my head.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Yet I remain a passionate anti-power pole advocate. The only advantage of a power pole connector is that it has a nice, long, mating surface. But the fact that they're genderless so you can connect you gear with the wrong power polarity, the fact that pairs of power poles can come apart unless you glue,or pin them, and the fact that they can be easily pulled or fall apart makes me nuts. Anytime I have a power pole connection that I want to NOT fall apart inadvertently, I cable tie it. What kind of a reasonable connector requires that?

Peter
K1PGV
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Too much equipment comes with the connectors I didn't choose to use, and I wound up with lots of annoying converters. 
This is true if you're referring to amateur equipment at HF. For  weak signal VHF/UHF it is almost all N on amateur equipment and other connectors like 7/16 DIN on commercial gear. 

What I found puzzling was the use of BNC on receive antenna ports. But I guess they have to do that if they're also being used for other things. I have to use annoying converters to connect F connectors which are pretty much the standard for amateur low band receive antennas. What's worse is that most of the BNC to F connectors are 75 ohm with a smaller pin so they don't work. So you have to rig up something and often it isn't pretty. 
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Paul Christensen, W9AC, Elmer

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>"What kind of a reasonable connector requires that?"

Not a very good one for its intended purpose.  Imagine the U.S. Military using them as they are used on the back of transceivers. 

I normally use APP as an in-line connecting device for portable equipment - not where it's used on a chassis except when forced to - like the back of commercial equipment. 

The larger, 50A and 75A APPs do work very well and their shells keep the connector engaged when brought out as short pig-tails.  I'm using a pair of 50A APPs on a homebrew, water-cooled LDMOS amp project.  Supply current is 30A per APP from a +60V supply. 

If manufacturers insist on using the small APP, the mating APP chassis connector should be recessed into a channel. At least this eliminates up/down and sideways lateral movement - and takes off much of the wire strain. The mating APP pins are then set back on the equipment's PC board.  Other examples of recessed/channeled connectors include the common IEC AC power plug and the 400 series Cinch-Jones connectors that have been time-proved for decades.

AMP and Molex branded Nylon connectors aren't recessed but the connector fits in an almost tongue-groove style along the connector perimeter and the larger connectors utilize a Nylon or plastic channel around each pin.  The result is a connector with zero wiggling and stays locked together.

As to the N connector, I've come full-circle to sticking with SO-239/PL-259 on most equipment.  At the back of transmitting equipment, a constant-Z connector is a complete waste of time and money - even at UHF.  The need for constant-Z becomes more important as we go further down a transmission line toward the load.  The effects from a so-called "impedance bump" do not manifest until we approach a quarter-wave of distance from the RF source.  Moreover, the "N" is subject to pin misalignment and breakage.  Yes, most of us are careful but in my haste to get something done, I admit to breaking them in the past.  Have a look at used test gear with "N" input connectors.  Much of it has split inner pin sockets.  The SO-239/PL-259 is significantly more robust but not immune to things like cross-threading and PL-259 pins that are over-soldered and cause the mating SO-239 to flare, and eventually break.

Paul, W9AC   

  



 
(Edited)
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W8WD

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Steve,
Although there does not seem to be consensus, I have to agree with you there should have been consideration for an "Optical Ethernet port". SFP and SFP+ standards enable various copper and optical modules allowing the user to have flexibility in selecting an interface not locking customers into a single solution. Unfortunately to implement such a solution takes a lot of development work and product validation. We as customers need to appreciate the validation Flex Radio has to go through to produce a reliable product. 

In my case I have a 6600M and PowerGenius XLTM on order and plan on optically isolating them from my router, computer, Maestro, and antenna switches. I developed a WiFI to antenna switch that prevents lighting strikes to enter my network. 

Brian / W8WD  
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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I'm not going to downgrade from my 6700 just yet as I'm too disappointed they didn't include a peanut or cashew dispenser. I'd get more use of it than an optical Ethernet port, ha ha. Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends.