ATU high SWR software bug

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  • Updated 5 days ago
I have not seen this discussed much on the community so I wanted to share my experience with my Maestro, 6600, and SDR Software. In addition I thought others should be aware and be cautious.
 
This year at Dayton I traded my 6400 for a 6600. It took about 6 weeks or so for me to receive it. I had purchased the 3.x software for my 6400 and had the same version on my new 6600. 

Early on I began to have problems with the ATU not properly handling the tuning sequence. It consistently tuned to very high SWR values, 3.0 and higher. I had to push the ATU button 3 or more times until I finally got a low SWR. Thinking it was a problem on my end I tried various different antenna configurations all with similar results. 
 
I attended the Boxboro MA. Hamfest on 9/2019 where Flexradio had a booth. I spoke to the Techs that were there and we discussed the ATU and high SWR problem I was encountering. After some discussion the suggestion was to submit a service ticket on the Flex site. 

On 9/11/2019 I submitted a help ticket and after exchanging some ideas on possible causes of the issue I was issued a expedited RMA. On 9/18/2019 I was issued the RMA and it was shipped out Monday 9/23/2019 and received at Flex on 9/27/2019. On 10/4/2019 I checked on the status and got no response. I again checked on 10/8/2019 and 10/9/2019 with no response. Finally on 10/15/2019 I got the following response;

The following issues were found during the problem assessment phase of the service request:
1. Confirmed customer stated issues with ATU as described in customer comments. 
2. Confirmed that the ATU hardware and all radio hardware passes both factory calibration and functional testing. 
3. Confirmed that ATU issue is a FW (firmware) related issue.

Corrective Action Taken or Service(s) Performed:
The following corrective actions were performed to resolve the issues noted above.
1. Installed FW v 2.4.9 and ATU tunes and performs as designed. 
2. Software Engineering is working on FW fix for proper ATU functionality with newer FW.

The radio was shipped back to me on 10/15/2019 via UPS Next Day Air. Total time about 4 weeks.
I received the radio, set it back up and everything worked fine with ver. 2.4.9  
On 11-5-2019 I asked for a status on the hotfix fix because I wanted the newest features of ver 3.x . Especially the multiFlex option among other fixes in the latest version. (definition: Hotfix - update to fix a very specific issue, not always publicly released) 
 When I ask this is the response.

I am afraid that I am not able to provide any additional updates as the status is still the same as you have been previously informed.  The issue you are referring to is defect G7727 and it is currently in the work engineering queue.
Since your question regarding this support ticket has been provided a response, I am submitting your HelpDesk ticket to be closed at this time. If you need additional assistance or have any follow-up questions regarding this support incident, you can re-open this ticket simply by replying to it and we'll continue working with you on your issue.

Thanks for using the FlexRadio HelpDesk. We're here to help when you need us.

I felt there should be a better answer considering this was to fix a flaw/bug in their base software product. I was not asking for additional features or upgrades just to fix a flaw/bug in the SDR software so I could make complete use of the software (3.x) I purchased. I requested this be escalated to the next level. On 11/05/2019 I got a response from Dan as follows;
Hello Ken,

Everyone at FlexRadio knows software bugs can be frustrating to customers and we do our best to not release with them. We are not always successful at that.  I'm sure you understand that making commitments to customers, especially those involving dates, that are not based on grounded truth is a bad practice with many downstream negative impacts. 

Fixing this issue is on our engineering team's list of priorities for the next release of Smart SDR and we do not have an availability date to communicate at this time.  If this ATU function us more important than another version 3 feature(s), we recommend that you use version 2.4.9 in the interim.

If you have any questions or further concerns, please feel free to call me at xxx.xxx.xxxx 

Best,
Dan FlexRadio SystemsTM
4616 W Howard Ln Suite 1-150
Austin, TX 78728

I called Dan the same day to talk and he steadfastly held the company line that he did not know a date when the flaw/bug would be fixed. I asked when he might know and he said call him next week. I called back the following week and left a message. I did not get a call back. I waited a few days and called again and left a message. Still no return call. I called again the following week and did get Dan on the phone. Dan continue to hold to that he did not have a time when the flaw/bug would be fixed. He said on average they put out 3-4 updates a year to the software and that was all he could say. I pushed the issue and finally got Dan to say that they had an internal idea but could not (would not) commit the Company to any date. I asked him who I could escalate this to since while I understand software upgrade commitments, flaws/bug fixes are very different and a customer should expect some time frame when a defect in their product will be addressed. Dan said he was the most senior person making this decision and the only one over him was Gerald (owner). He said if I’d like he could have Gerald call me. I said I would very much like that. That return call from Gerald never happen and I guess I wasn’t expecting it.

Where does it all stand now? I continue to use ver. 2.4.9 mainly because I’m unsure what other issue/damage might be caused by upgrading and not having the ATU work properly. I have seen others on the community talk about high SWR, no transmit output, or blown finals. Was any of this caused by the defect with the software for ATU? Does this particular flaw/bug effect any other parts of the SDR software?  Does the flaw/bug potentially do damage to other parts of the hardware? Is this a bigger issue that the software engineers are having problems fixing?
In closing let me say that everyone I dealt with at Flexradio was at all time polite and professional. This is a management policy/procedure issue that that needs to be addressed. I believe every customer not matter what industry they deal with has some expectation as to know when a flaw in a product is going to be fixed. Software bugs that are part of the base product should be immediately addressed and hot fixes issued to those customers affected by them. Customers should be advised when those hot fixes will be available. Ignoring the issue or not supplying a proper answer compounds the flaws and hurts the Company brand.
Ken
AG2K

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Ken AG2K

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Posted 2 weeks ago

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Robby Robertson

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Hi Ken,

I have a 6400 I got about 6 months ago. It already had ver. 3 S/W. I have noticed the same issue with the tuner. I have had to initiate a tune function as many as 6 times before getting an acceptable result. My solution has been to bypass the tuner and memories. I wasted $300 when I bought the rig with the tuner. I use a SteppIR yagi and wires. I stay within acceptable SWR limits mostly. If I need to I can activate the tuner and go through the frustration but that does not happen often. Mostly I use the tuner to match the input of my amplifier.

There are many things I love about this radio and a few that I don't. Hopefully they will get caught up with these fixes soon.

-Robby
HP3SS 
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Erika - KØDD

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Very Good Ken, Thank You, I have a 6500 here and when I got it wrote the check for the v3.1.7 and then a couple weeks later the update to v3.1.8 came along and was hoping it had the fix aboard. Nope.  You know how I temporarily got around it? Bought an external MANUAL do it by hand carpel tunnel generating antenna tuner.

I refuse to pound the radios relays to death, some tuning upwards of 10 button pushes before the thing nails a nice swr...  It's a sweet tuna if it would work on the first button push. There's sometimes I've turned on the tuner with the external tuner almost tweaked in maybe 1.5 to 1.7 showing on the radio's SWR and it sometimes gets it first time, most of the time takes at minimum two clicks.

I pray things get sorted out soon on on the tuner thing.  I'd say for me anyway, its the only thing that's really obvious something's broke. Fortunately I'm not using the radio remote or I'd be mighty bent out of shape.

Usually I'm not a squeaky wheel, but please don't jump backwards real quick or you'll run right into Robby and myself.

Erika DD
(Edited)
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Dwayne - NA6US

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I''m using an external AMP/ATU so the internal ATU is not used. Thanks for the update.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Ken, This is all part of Flex ownership. It is almost impossible for Flex to give a release date as things change in the release development every day or week. Most customers understand this. Flex releases about 4 updates per year. Each update has between 40 to 70 bug fixes in them.
It seems that Flex will have this fixed in the upcoming release. I have no information, but I would look for something near the end of the year 2019. My guess.
As I read the Flex answers they all seemed to be good ones and they gave the facts, not all what we want to hear, but in fact, they are working on it. And testing will take many weeks to complete.

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WA2SQQ

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To be fair. there are always 2 sides to every situation.

As the manufacturer FRS is constantly under fire from customers to expedite the next firmware update. Beta testing software correctly can take months, and it’s impossible to anticipate or simulate every possible scenario that the customers will subject the radio to. The scenario you describe is one of the main reasons why I still use 2.x. When a problem has been identified it should be placed first on the “to do” list. A public acknowledgement of the issue, with status reports, would go a long way.

As a customer, it cost you how much to ship them the radio? And how long were you without it? And the solution they offered was reverting to an older version? Not good. I had a previous service issue that they refused to provide any info on, that would have allowed me to do the repair. Their solution was “send it in”. Thanks to Google I figured it out and fixed the problem for $2. Just as you did, I reached out to Dan and suggested that they at least consider offering loaner radios, even for a modest fee. Just as I often do, provide a newer / higher tier product as a loaner and I’d bet that 50% of the customers might want to upgrade. Never got any response. Service appears to be an additional money maker for FRS, rather than a support service.

For what it’s worth, in such situations they could have at least offered to reimburse you the shipping cost and extend your warranty for the time they had the radio and were not able to fix it. I think FRS realizes that they make one hell of a radio and to some extent there aren’t any other products that can do what their products can.






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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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I note that Ken states a single push of the ATU button may bring the SWR to 3.0:1 or higher.  I wonder what initial SWR (without the tuner) he typically encounters.  My antennas provide an SWR of about 2.5:1 or so at band edges.  A single push of the ATU button results in about 1.2:1 (6600M, v3.1.8).  I always thought rig internal ATU's were not particularly efficient in tuning matches much greater than 3.0:1.  In any event, I hope that all get their tuner issues satisfactorily resolved.
(Edited)
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Joe N3HEE

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I have found the internal tuner in my 6600M ( SSDR 2.5.1) is capable tuning my non resonant 300 foot horizontal loop (80 Meter) antenna with SWR up to about 10:1.  However, this greatly depends on how reactive the antenna is at any given frequency in which case the internal tuner does not work very well.  It works better in the CW portion of the 80 meter band on my loop.

For the most part if you are just trying to bring the SWR down on a resonant antenna band segment (CW vs SSB) the Flex internal tuner is fine for that.

My external MFJ-998 does a better job.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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It has been my observations that the ATU under 3.1.7/.8 can show a high SWR while independent measurements are okay.  Sometimes the ATU shows very high SWR but the radio is happy transmitting at the expected power.  

FRS is working on the problem and yes it is frustrating, and even a successful re-tune session gives inconsistent results.  

This is an area where a good solid fix would be greatly appreciated by many.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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K9SO

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I'm still a happy v 2.4.9 user. I'm licensed for 3.x  on all my radios but for other buggy reasons than this one I can't use it.

But if I can wait two years for a PGXL amplifier and now going on 3 years for the promised tuner, I suppose I can wait a little longer for a few bug fixes.

I'll modify Bill's comment above and say that " This [waiting] is all part of Flex ownership". 

Fred
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N8AUM

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Same problem also with my 6600, sometimes it takes 6 times to get it to work properly
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KT4XN

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Have the same problem with my 6500 and V2.4.9, have to "tune" several times and sometimes it just won't tune.  SWR will be under 2 when it wont tune
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Jim Gilliam

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I personally think clicking relays and switching inductors and capacitors to find a tuning solution is not the way to go. I will always use my Palstar  HF auto regardless of which radio I buy. Also it is made in heaven for remoting.
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Dwayne - NA6US

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Same here.
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Steven Linley

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I'm on V2.6.1, the ATU worked last week when my amp ATU failed to find a low SWR. The Palstar HF looks amazing (wishlist). but it costs 2/3 of as much as my amp!

Resonate antennas or better and cheaper.
(Edited)
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W7NIK

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Fellow Flex owners, the situation is the ATU on the radio firmware or software has an issue. 
Yes I agree the ATU is not my first choice for antenna tuners, but  for testing purposes  and paying  extra  for the option should be the Flex staff first priority . Regardless if we use the ATU , it should be working period.  I have the  6300 with ATU mine works fine  running 2.61 version.  My set up is  WAVENODE sensors between the AMP and  Power out ,
But for testing purposes the ATU is helpful diagnosing  problems . bad coax, 3 way switches etc. 

But to give the excuse  we have to many changes is not acceptable, the next release etc. 
So i was thinking of trading up to a 6400 so i can multi flex , not this year:(

My issue is the WIFI on the maestro  just all sudden disconnects.
All other devices work fine , so do not blame my WIFI :) 

BUT I really enjoy the FLEX radio. !  Amaziing product ! 
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N8AUM

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My Maestro WI-FI also seams to be deaf on both bands! Wish it had an external antenna option !
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Two things here. First, Flex releases only about four times a year. Flex never gave an excuse that they are to busy to fix this. They have been working on the next release for several months, so yes this auto tune problem is slated to make it into this next release. Because it is to be in the next release shows the high priority Flex has given the problem.

2nd, If your Maestro is disconnecting it is because of your network. None of your other devices need to move as much data as the maestro does. Radio communications such as the Flex demands a lot from the network. There are a few guys here that can help you with that.
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W7NIK

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Great news thanks for reply, WiFi runs a 4K movie on the tv 90-100mps is the main cable . Hey I am ok it with it dropping out , I think the WiFi antenna on the Maestro is not highest DB gain .
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jacquesbarmentloo

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Same problem with high SWR on tuning with flex6500 with 3.18.
I even sent my 6500 for repair to Norbert Werne in Germany, but according to the Flexradio test, the ATU is good. In the meantime, the ATU has not worked as it should for a few years in my case. According to Norbert, it works well with version 1! With 2.49/3.18 I have to try to tune several times for a reasonable result. The result of the ATU is often worse than without the ATU.
I am disappointed that this is not properly resolved by Flexradio. In the end I have paid € 5000 for a flex 6500 + Meastro, which therefore does not work 100% well.



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KT4XN

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Same issues with 2.49, don't remember the issue with earlier versions.
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Rick Ciotti

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While diagnosing an issue with the SPE setting a high SWR alarm I tested the SPE/6600M combo connected to a Palstar dummy load. With the 6600M ATU on bypass and the amp on standby the SPE and Flex SWR meters were closely matched on all bands, except for 10M. The Flex SWR meter was pegged while the SPE was reading 1.2:1. A search turned up nothing so a ticket was opened. But the 6600M ATU works as it should on all bands with SW version 2.5.1. W3DIY
(Edited)
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Rick Ciotti

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Turns out this was caused by the SPE amplifier. With it powered on, in the standby mode, the 6600M SWR reading was pegged, amp off the SWR closely matched the LP-100A.
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Harold Rosee

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I have to throw my 2 cents in here.  The tuner doesn't work in V3.  That's a fact.  I had opened a ticket before and emailed a couple of days ago for a status.  Got the same reply to use V2.

The other fact is Flex puts out releases when Flex wants or needs to put out releases.  The last V3.1.8 wasn't installing correctly and they put something out the next day.

The tuner is a major issue and should have a separate "emergency release" put out.  It's way overdue.  This is not a simple feature that is not working it's a major part of the radio Hardware/Software that is not working.

I know they can fix it fairly quickly because it worked before.  I think the issue is packaging up a release is a major piece of work and they don't want to do this anymore than they have to.  I am sure the fix is integrated into code for the next release and would be difficult to put out by itself. 

I am not pointing fingers but to say "this is part of owning a flex" is a ridiculous statement.  Flex has been in business for a long time and has all this figured out.  Please don't take away from a great company by saying you have to expect this from Flex.  They are way better than that.

I will close by saying while I have an external tuner it is really surprising to me they have decided to treat this defect in this manner.

Harold
W5ZZT
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I for one did say, it is all part of Flex ownership. Meaning that most people have a grasp of the complexity of correcting any code in SSDR. And most understand that Flex works very hard to improve the software. So owning a Flex means that we take the ride with them, good and bad times.

I personally suspect that fixing this glitch is more complicated then any of us think. How do we know by working on the Auto tuner does not effect many other systems in the radio? For anyone to think that fixing things in SSDR is easy work makes clear they have no idea what they are talking about.

In the mean time if the tuner is a huge problem for your operation than why not help yourself by downgrading to were it works well? In my case the tuner works pretty well on v2.6.1
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Erika - KØDD

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Oh boy here we go again.

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Mark NS9N

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I could have not said it better. Hang in there Flex will fix it. But as others have said, if the tuner function is key to your station working, go back to a working version until the fix is released.
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W7NIK

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Yes we are all still in the experiment design. FLex came a long way already.
Streppir. For years are finding issues still a great design.
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Arvind Mallya

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I did notice the ATU tuning issue, I have to press the button a few times to get a low SWR. I'm running version 2.4.9. I don't remember seeing that problem in the previous versions. Any updates on a fix is greatly appreciated.