Current/past K3 owners: Your experience with a 6000 series radio?

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I am thinking about selling my K3 and going with a 6000 series radio.  Most likely, the 6300.  I am wondering what owners of a K3 think of performance-better, on par, or worse?  

I have owned a Flex 1500 before so I am familiar with PowerSDR and the workflow needed to make it all work.  

How about contesting with a Flex?  

I have a SteppIR BigIR vertical and a KPA500 amp that I would be using with the flex-any gotchas or things I would need to be aware of?

Thanks and 73,

K5RHD

/randy


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Randy Diddel

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Posted 4 years ago

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Mike Hoing

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I run a flex 6500 and think that it is superior, I know others may not. While I am not a world class contester I have been able to sustain run rates of over 100/hr on ssb contests and I think I could go faster if I had better antennas. Your apps and antenna should work very well with this radio many Guys are running them. Just need to get it set up with SDR Cat so they talk well.

I do mostly search and pounce on CW and it hears well I am able to narrow it down quite nicely and work them if I hear them.

Mike
N9DFD
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I have come first in my section in a couple of contests using a Flex easily beating the K3 crowd on SSB.

It helps that the Flex is attached to a SteppIR MonstIR and my station was totally automated for contest workflow.

That said SSDR needs to integrate Spots into the panadapter display to really simplify and facilitate contest workflow.

On The Other Hand. There is no contest whatsoever when working weak DX or in a pileup Flex rules the roost with the visual display giving me a significant advantage over the virtually blind K3.
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K2CM

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I have both the K3 and the Flex 6700.  The K3 does not require a computer to run, so it is good for portable operation where you don't want to take a computer and wish to use a paper log.

The CW filtering in the K3 is good; but, the F6700 beats the K3 and  every other rig out there.  I like being able to watch multiple bands at the same time on the panadapter.  I work one band, and watch for openings on the other bands....really slick!

On annoyance with the F6700 is that the logging programs only log contacts from "Slice A".  If I want to work someone on "Slice B", it does not get correctly logged.  A capability to call the active slices "Slice A" should fix this issue.

No panadapter on the standard issue K3....a bummer in my book.
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Andrew O'Brien

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Contest logging with N1MM seems to show Slice A and Slice B in two separate log entry windows.  Essentially "VFO A" and "VFO B" SO2V mode. . Andy K3UK.
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Randy Diddel

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I should add a couple of things.  I do have the 2 SUB RX in the K3 along with the P3.  One thing I would miss is the "Diversity Mode" during times when the bands are suffering from bad QSB. Do the 6000 radios have anything like that? In addition to my BigIR vertical, I have my SUB RX hooked to a Pixel Mag-loop.  

I am not a CW OP (yet).  I am mainly a SSB and Digital mode guy with emphasis on JT65, JT9, and PSK31.

As far as portable ops goes, wouldn't a laptop with a good graphic GPU suffice? I am already dragging my laptop around to events like NM QSO Party and Field Day with my K3 for logging. For real lightweight portability (SOTA), I have a KX3 and log on my iDevice. I would consider getting a KXPA100 companion amp (for NMQP and FD) for the KX3 if I bought the 6300.

I also should say that I like the K3 and I have no complaints about it.  I also liked my Flex1500 when I owned it-especially for the use in digital modes once I got it all set up with VAC & VSP settings.  I am wondering just how much greener the grass is with a 6000.

How forthcoming have promised features been?  In other words, are things getting added regularly?  My experience with Elecraft has been exceptional in this regard.  My KX3 is NOT the same radio I bought in summer 2012 and it is a better radio because of it-one of the greatest reasons to buy an SDR in my opinion.

Thanks for the thoughtful input so far and for not turning it into a flame-war. When you are talking about the kind of money these radios cost, it is something I want to think about a bit before I commit.

73

K5RHD

/randy




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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Ur noting going to get diversity unless u buy a 6700

Digital. With the release of Digital Audio Exchange DAX - Flex is superb at digital modes because u don't need any external hardware ker connections. Digital is now native

Flex has published a SSDR roadmap and so far has always exceeded everyone's expectations as to their scheduled delivery and features. That said, there are still a lot of features to go.

I travel a lot. In fact, I,am currently in Paris. I run my 6700 remote in SanDiego via my iPad - from 17 different countries now. That is the ultimate in portability.

INMNSHO K3 and Flex (with a nod to Heiberling) are the best radios in the world.

If ur a knobby guy,,then K3 has better contest workflow. If you are computer savy, I would choose Flex
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Al K0VM, Elmer

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Randy,
  I use the KPA500 & KAT500 with the 6500 and enjoy the combination with DDUtil.  All three sit just outside of arms reach and I control them all from the PC.  The interface is to the KPA/KAT is clean and reliable. 
AL, K0VM
P.S. I do not use the ALC connection, just never saw a need for it.
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Lee, Elmer

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What are the actual (not theoretical) criteria you want from a radio?   I also like diversity but I've learned to live without it.  I have a 6300 and just can not justify an extra 5K for that feature alone.  I never owned a K3 but I have owned things like Orions Yaesus etc.  

In terms of contesting the Flex is now tightly integrated with writelog which is extremely fast and reliable.  You can have up to 4 bands being monitored at once with writelog bandmap if you have a 6500 or 6700.  2 if you have a 6300.  It is tightly integrated with CW skimmer and  you can monitor up to 4 skimmers at once with a 6500 or 6700, 2 with a 6300.  The spots in writelog show up on skimmer in addition to independent skimmer spots.  All of this data loads itself into the writelog logging fields.  If you enjoy contesting therefore there is an off the shelf well integrated path forward for your contesting enjoyment. 

The filters beat anything out there.  No ringing or distortion down to 50hz and some times 50hz makes a difference.  I have made contacts with stations 1 dB out of my noise.  As far as I can tell the front end is un-crunchable in any kind of normal operation.  The loudest station on HF at my QTH is 40dB below where the front end fails and the front end does not fail until the last dB is reached.  I did some experiments using 2 full size resonant vertical antennas separated by 175 ft.  Transmitting on one with a separate transmitter I varied the power and received on my Flex 6300.  The 6300 had a specification of compression beginning at +7 dBm.  The radio started to exhibit failure exactly at +7 dBm.  At +3 dBm I could copy stations at -115 dBm with no sign of compression in the 6300 even on the same band.  The limiting factor was wide band noise in my transmitted signal.  On adjacent bands like if I was transmitting on 40 but listening on 20 I was unable to tell I was transmitting at +3 dBm on a antenna 175 ft away except when I tuned to the second harmonic of my transmitter.  Again my radio is the cheap version.  The more expensive versions are even better performers.

The Flex is an outstanding performer in the slightly more esoteric arenas of pro-audio, high fidelity AM radio and of course digital.  Because of software you can connect directly between for example a digital program and the radio with just a few mouse clicks.  Even if you're not into digital it's trivial to get on in those modes and play around.  My particular interest is low band DXing but I've spent a good part of the summer working 6 meter opening using the 6300 and loading up various wire antennas usng the internal antenna tuner and other tuners I have in the lines.  So far I've worked 6 countries in the past 3 weeks with nothing more than I described.  The receiver is outstanding.

Flex has committed to using a "road map" to integrate features and has stuck closely to that map and has generally over produced, that is produced more features than called for by the map.  The last general release was April 30 and the next slated release is in July.  This way progress is steadily made and promises are steadily delivered.

Not to diss the K3 but it is a different kind of architecture so there are subtle and not so subtle differences by nature so a direct comparison is not always possible but for my money I have more FUN/BUCK with my Flex radios than I ever did with analogue radios.

73  W9OY

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Greg

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Not sure where the comment came from about having to get a 6700 for diversity.  The K3 with the sub rx has the best diversity rx right now.  Both receivers are slaved to the same oscillator and it works great.  If you are in an environment with lots of VERY strong signals, the K3 is better with its 140 dB of BDR compared to about 120 dB.

The software support for the K3 is also excellent.

All that said...there are things about the 6700 that the K3 cannot do...and of course we pay for that capability as well.  I enjoy the integration with CW Skimmer thanks to Ed, W2RF and Alex.  Great job and keep it going!  DAX integration is slick but could use some interface improvements, and of course being able to monitor multiple bands at once is great.  As someone already mentioned, you can set up N1MM as SO2V and use one panadapter on slice A and another with slice B.

The NB in the K3 if superior but I hope soon that will change.  Living in horse country I have my own and neighbors with electric fences and they play hell with the panadapter display almost to the point they are useless.

I loved my K3.  I am also enjoying the 6700.  Both great but the 6700 does still need to become more mature in its function and performance....especially in the DSP functions.  Its getting there though. :)

73
Greg
AB7R


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Lee, Elmer

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I think you misunderstood.  Out of the presently manufactured flex family of radios only the 6700 has 2 SCU's and therefore capable of diversity.
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Greg

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gotcha, yes I did misunderstand you.
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AE0MW

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Randy, I have a similar setup to where you're going.

I used a 6300 with a KPA-500 and an BigIR Vertical. I plan to add a HexBeam this fall. The Flex/KPA/BigIR stack work wonderfully well thanks to a 3rd party package called DDUtil. I have it setup to tune my BigIR, lock out TX while it's adjusting, and monitor my power out and SWR via the KPA while locking the system from transmitting during antenna adjustment.

Prior to my 6300 I had a 5000, and the setup for SmartSDR is much easier than PowerSDR. The same concepts exist, but fewer 3rd party utilities are needed.

I can't compare directly to the K3, thankfully several other people here have done that already. I will say that there are a lot fewer options in SmartSDR than PowerSDR (and your K3) so your operating experience will be simplified. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not.

If you have a decked out K3 with SubRx etc you may want to consider the 6500. Moving from a fully decked out 5000 to the 6300 I found the 6300 to be too constrained. I ended up replacing it with a 6500 (come on UPS, my KX-3 is givin it all she's got but it ain't enough). Also, 6500's are available, which is always a bonus.

Also be aware that you're moving from a pretty much fully mature system with Elecraft to the 6x00/SmartSDR system which is not. Make sure you take a look at the Flex roadmap. They've done a great job of meeting and in some cases exceeding it but things just aren't there yet and some that are don't work quite right.

-Mike
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Duane, AC5AA

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I recently moved from a TenTec Orion to the Flex-6500.  I considered the 6300, but decided that I already am used to the 2 RX experience and can imagine at least a couple of scenario's where I could utilize 4 slices.  That and the additional preselectors (I have a nearby ham neighbor) were what moved me up to the 6500.  Much as I'd like to have 2m too, I had more difficulty imagining using 8 slices simultaneously, and the justification for the extra $3K just didn't work for me.  Sorry, no K3 experience, but the Orion is in the same league in my book.
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AE0MW

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Well a big one for me was is the way split operation on the 6x00 works. It wastes Rx slices. On SSB I like to actually be courteous and check my Tx frequency from time to time, and with no A<>B button I had to waste my 2nd Rx slice. Then when I wanted to check it I had to Mute Rx1, UnMute Rx2, Listen, Mute Rx2, UnMute Rx1 then transmit. Now granted I don't do that every transmission, but every so often I like to make sure I'm not stepping on anyone other than the pileup. It also makes it annoying to listen for the station the Dx is calling.

If you're using RTTY split, actually finding the station the DX is talking to is very difficult because you have to reassign DAX ports in realtime, I gave up and just started using the XIT and pray method.

A consequence of being limited to 2 Rx slices where my 5000 essentially had 4, is that I cannot work a digital split station while listening for an opening on another band, for instance when W1AW is working the numbers on 20M and I'm trying to work RTTY split on 17. I want to be paying attention to the numbers they're working (0 gets skipped often enough without me missing the call).

The next item is lack of a dedicated Rx ant port. I have a nice size lot, and I'm thinking about rolling out a Beverage or other Rx only antenna for the winter. I'm also looking for some down converters for V/UHF.

Although I don't really care about the panadapter max width when working HF, I have some specific situations that I'd love to take advantage of that panadapter above 144Mhz. 7Mhz is good, 14 is better. I haven't really even started thinking a whole lot about this yet, but it's on my list.

I think that a disciplined oscillator may become very important for digital modes in the future. I already have one, and it seems a pity to not be able to interface it to my rig. I've been researching JT65 and JT9 and they seem to be heavily dependent on stability and time. The next great digital mode may make such precision non optional.

I'm really hopeful for some new skimmer type software. It's not inconceivable with current technology for there to be PSKskimmer, RTTYskimmer, JTskimmer and (go ahead laugh but it's technically possible) SSBskimmer.

I could see some of the 6300 issues becoming a limitation for future software in ways we haven't really considered yet, and although I have historically changed rigs a lot, I don't really think I'll be upgrading from the 6500 for many years.


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Duane, AC5AA

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Why not put the DX station in your left ear on one slice, and the "pileup/calling" freq in your right ear. Or, the way that worked best for me on the Orion, and I plan to use it on the 6x00 is the DX station centered (both ears) and the pileup in the right ear at a slightly lower volume.  (or maybe I'm missing what you're saying.)
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AE0MW

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A personal failing. I've never really gotten the hang of that. I know it works for a lot of people, but I've not really managed to get it to work for me.
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Duane, that is how I do it... DX centered, Pileup in RIght ear.  WOrks very well.  Sometimes on CW I have DX wwith 50 Hz filter centered, and pileup with 250 or 400 Hz filter in right ear to help me find a "hole" to send.  It is nice that I can vary the volume and other parameters independently for each slice.  Also, the super-zoom panadapter almost makes it unfair when working CW split!
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W1IMD

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Randy, I've been waiting for a friend of mine to chime in but since he hasn't I'll do so for him. He is a long time K3 owner and recently purchased a 6300. His comment to me was that the Flex has far less hearing fatigue than the K3. He operates both CW and phone and has many years of operating experience.