Change required to SPE amp connection when upgrading from 6500 to 6600?

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A question for those of you who have SPE 1.3K or other SPE amps and who have upgraded from the 6500 to the 6600 - is there any change to the rig <->amp connections that are needed due to the upgrade?  Or, is it a simple swap in/out of the rigs and replug the connectors?  Thanks in advance - my 6600 is supposed to be ready any day now.
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Duane, AC5AA

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Posted 7 months ago

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Bill Axelrod

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Duane,

     I have a SPE-1.3.  Have used it with a 6300, 6700, and a 6600.  Just connect the key line, coax and you are on the air.  Just be careful to not overdrive it.

73...   Bill K3WA
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Should be identical. Just make sure you set up the USB cable correctly. 
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Paul W5PF

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I just upgraded from a 6500 to a 6600. I did just what you inquired about. I unplugged the cables from the 6500 and then plugged them into the 6600. When I installed the 2.0.17 SSDR all the ports which I had for the 6500 carried over so everything was set up. I already had the SPE programmed so that the drive levels were set correctly. It took me about 3o min to swap out the radio and install the new SSDR.

A very painless process.

Paul W5PF
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Duane, AC5AA

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Thanks everyone - that is what I was hoping.  
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Rob Monsipapa

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Duane, I'm getting this same set up. I ordered the 6600M at Yuma hamfest 2weekends ago and just ordered the SPE 1.3K with the built-in ATU. Are the cables anything unique? I know Bob, at Expert Linears has a guy who builds the correct cables for this setup but they are $75 a pop!

Thanks
Rob -AK7RM
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Mark - WS7M

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If you are not doing it on your 6500 you should be running a USB to serial cable from the rig to the SPE amp, set the SPE amp in Flex CAT mode and then your drive level can be configured on the amp when online for each band and antenna.

But yes, most cable should just move right on over.
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Duane, AC5AA

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Mark - I'm not currently set up this way but would like to be.  One question - the USB -> Serial cable - is it a standard USB/Serial (FTDI chip) or does it have to be rewired for the amp end?  I have a set of Dan's cables, which I have not used due to a lot of confusion about whether they are correct or not (mine was the first set I think  he made for the 1.3K)  Thanks for any light you can provide!  
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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It's a standard FTDI USB to serial connected to CAT A (or CAT B). The amp cable is the standard CAT cable wired as follows:

9 pin (USB to serial FTDI) -------->  15 pin (Amp)
Pin 2 (RXD)     ------------------>  Pin 9 (TXD)
Pin 3 (TXD)     ------------------>  Pin 1 (RXD)
Pin 5 (Ground) ------------------>  Pin 4 (Ground)

Dan's cable should be like this, plus anything else he wired (eg. auto power on of the amp with the exciter). 
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Mark - WS7M

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That is exactly it.  I purchased FTDI cables that were recommended here on amazon and they worked fine.  It seems the flex is a little finicky about them being true FTDI cables.

I also finally took a slow data and did the march up and down the bands tuning using the AMP and I have to say it is pretty nice.

The upside is if I have the amp on and I change bands the amp tuner just locks in.  If I don't have the amp on (rarely) then I still need to use the tuner in the HF auto or the flex.

I did find some areas of my loop antenna that the tuner in the SPE amp was not too happy with.  Places I'd oped before using the HF Auto which I think can tune a much larger mismatch, not that it is a great idea mind you.

Anyway for the common areas I operate:  40m CW, 40m Digital, 40m phone, 20m a little 30m and rarely some 80m it is a nice setup.  It just tunes instantly.
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Duane, AC5AA

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Mark - does this require an ALC line to be connected as well for this configuration to work?
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Mark WS7M

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Duane, no I do not use the ALC line.  I tried it and it did some strange things.

What I do is run the USB to serial cable from the flex (it has to be one the flex understands) and I have it wired to the SPE 15 pin port for input 1 using the RS-232 pins for TX, RX and ground.

I then have the CAT mode in the SPE set to Flex for input 1.   Once you get that setup right and working two things happen:

1) The SPE amp follows your flex radio band for TX.  So whatever slice you set for TX the SPE amp will change to that band.

2) When the SPE amp is online it will limit your power on the flex to what you set in the SPE amp. This is done using the "Power Control" setting in the SPE amp.

The power control setting is somewhat hidden and not obvious.  But basically for each of the amps main power settings (in the case of the 2K it is LOW MID MAX) and for each input you can specify the PC (power control) percentage.  This is shown in the picture below.

The way this is set is kind of strange.  On the 2K you put the amp in operate mode then you use the left/right arrows also labeled +/-.  As you click on these the PC: label will appear above the band.   The number is the percent of your max flex power you want to use.  In this picture they are using 35%:



This is the percentage of your flex radio "max" power.  In radio setup in Smart SDR you can set your maximum transmit power.  In this picture I'm set to 100.  



So the 35% from the amp would be equivalent to 35 watts roughly.  Obviously if you set a lower max power for your flex this could change some.

But what will happen once you have the cable in place and working is your SPE amp will follow the TX slice band.  Whenever you put your amp in operate mode the power level on your flex will be set to the percent specified in power control on the SPE amp.  When you take your amp off line your flex power will return to whatever you had set prior.

When the amp is online you will not be able to change the power using the slider in SmartSDR.  The SPE drives the power continuously over the CAT connection so trying to adjust the slider will result it in popping right back to the number from power control in the amp.

The nice thing is using the +/- arrow buttons on the amp you can adjust this level in real time as you are using the amp.

This even works using their USB based terminal software.

My SPE 2K is fully remote.  I mean it is installed in a shed about 20 feet from my op position.  So I always run the USB term software to control the amp.  Using that software I can turn the amp on/off, adjust all the settings including the power control.

All of the power control settings and antenna settings are automatically saved by the SPE amp so once you get everything set it is a simple matter of turn on the amp, go into operate mode and you are good to go.

I do not use the SPE 2K FA tuner.  I have an HF auto tuner that I think does a better job.   So my process is:

Change bands
Take amp out of operate mode
Hit tune button in SSDR at 5 watts
Let HF Auto tune
Put amp back on line.

The process takes about 30 seconds

I have considered using the AMP tuner but just not made the jump yet.  I find the SPE amp tuning to be a little tricky.  I have to start tune on SmartSDR then I have to hit the tune button on the amp and if I don't do things exactly right it doesn't tune.

I wish it were a 1 button press or like my HF auto, totally automatic.

in either case I have a couple things to do to change bands.  I am shooting to make band changes fully automatic but just not there yet tuning wise.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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I have considered using the AMP tuner but just not made the jump yet.  I find the SPE amp tuning to be a little tricky.  I have to start tune on SmartSDR then I have to hit the tune button on the amp and if I don't do things exactly right it doesn't tune.
On the 1.3K-FA once you tune, it remembers the settings. Yes, you do have to press "TUNE" on SmartSDR first to send a carrier and then press the tune button on the amp to initiate the tune cycle. But you only do this once. Start at the lower edge and move up 10kHz segments at a time. Once you have it tuned it, it will automatically recall the settings based on frequency data from CAT, pretty much seamlessly. 

The HF auto I find to be more complicated because it needs RF sensing to tune. You can do a CAT based setup but it is not officially supported and requires an additional piece of software. I have a friend right now who is tearing out what is left of his hair right now because of this, it's really not suitable for contesting because you need to do a tune cycle every time. With the 1.3K or 2K tuner it's set and ready to go based on CAT. 
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Mark WS7M

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Ria,

Fully agree.  I just have yet to make the jump.  With a single click of a button on my rPi webpage I can bypass the HF Auto.  Maybe this weekend I will try to get tuning solutions programmed into the 2K and see how it works.

Do you happen to know if these stored tuning solutions work even if the amp is not online?  IE barefoot but amp is powered on?
(Edited)
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Duane, AC5AA

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Thanks for an excellent description, Mark.  I also have an HF Auto (and the tuner in the amp, but I don't use it).   My antennas are more of a "challenge" for a tuner, and, thankfully, the HF Auto works for most situations I need it to.  I appreciate your time in writing this up.