Still catching up with the world...as we flew back late yesterday and of course, XYL and I are now rushed out of our minds as we head off for 6+ weeks back to Europe next Sunday..
Weather was the usual muggy and rainy Dayton crap weather.. glad I no longer live near the center of the continent
Dayton.. usual FILTHY disgusting arena with overflowing toilets.. As an American I am shamed that Foreign visitors have to see Ham Radio's Mecca as such a worse than 3rd world place..
Flea market was clearly down about 25% less vendors this year and virtually everything for sale was garbage that you would not normally pull out from your own trash. Even the usual hat embroidery places were down to one vendor. I suspect old age plus a lousy weather forecast was a contributing factor.
I attended 2 Forums = Ham Law.. which was terrible this year without Fred Hopengarten.. and SDR - which was excellent with a number of new ideas and concepts being shown...
The Japanese had their usual Legacy HF radios which clearly are no longer selling very well.. Kenwood and Yaesu HF Both areas were totally dead. Icom - who are better showmen.. had some interest in the Overpriced IC-7851 - but it still lacked a modern display capability.. they were misrepresenting the 7851 as an SDR.. which it obviously is not as it is legacy Superhetrodyne technology with a DSP.. Circa 1980 design.. albeit they have tried to address the phase noise issues they had with the 7800.
It was pretty obvious that the Japanese have almost given up on selling HF equipment in the face of superior US Offerings from Elecraft and Flex Radio. The Japanese seem to moved heavily into the VHF/UHF and various incompatible digital modes. Talking to HRO.. they admitted that they hardly ever sell a Japanese HF radio anymore but the VHF/UHF Radios sell well...
However the star of the VHF/UHF were the Baofeng Chinese Radios selling for $24.95... Hard to justify $400 for a Japanese radio that does the same thing. Needless to say the Baofeng were selling like hot cakes.
SteppIR introduced a portable Antenna analyzer for $389 which is visibly superior to the MFJ269@$399. Several of us bought the SteppIR analyzers. Rob WA3IHV and Ben N6MUF bought the CrankIR portable vertical Antennas for DXpeditions.
Elecraft introduced the K3S which is the old K3 with a new synthesizer board to fix the poor RMDR issues that had the K3 down on the Sherwood List. Like the Japanese, Elecraft tried to misrepresent the K3S as an SDR but clearly it is a Legacy Superhetrodyne Radio with a DSP audio stage.. Circa 1980 design... With the new synthesizer board the K3S still ranks second to the Flex 6700/6500 on the Sherwood list. The sales table at Elecraft had 3 sales stations and were lined up 3-5 deep waiting to place orders. Clearly Elecraft still make winning products.
Flex Radio introduced their $999 Maestro Portable Front Panel - Contest Optimized Knobs and Display for their 6000 series.. Clearly it was the star of Dayton 2015. Flex is making a major push into the contest world.. more on that later... Maestro's were selling spectacularly.. both over the sales counter and online.. in fact the order flow online was so heavy that the on line sales site clearly slowed down under the load. Flex had several stations set up that each include a Maestro Front Panel - One demonstrated close integration with N1MM+ Contest Software, One Demonstrated the Application Programming Interface where users are now connecting all sorts of interesting and cool things to the Flex 6000 series.. WITHOUT WIRES. Since all the Flex 6000 series have 95 dB antenna isolation, Flex introduced a SO2R box to enable full duplex in all the 6000 radios. The major benefit is that now a Single Radio can now be used to SO2R contest at about 1/2 the cost and much less complexity of the comparable two K3S that would be needed to accomplish the same result.
Rob WA3IHV and I put in orders for the Maestro.
Italy was very strongly represented. Begali Morse Code Keys are definitely still the #1 CW Key. Expert Amps had their 1.3K-FA Amp on display.. only 16lbs and 1500 Watts.. Only $4,695 Show Special...Backordered by shows end to at least January 2016.
I was particularly impressed with the $1099 Elad SDR-DUO.. (I saw it also at Friedrichshafen 2014) with is a complete Second Generation SDR 5 W Transceiver in a very portable box with Knobs..it runs stand alone or with a computer.. More impressive was when hooked up to a Expert 1.3K-FA it drove 1000W with only 5 W drive... Charlie NN3V bought one.
We normally avoid events in Downtown Dayton...too yucky and dangerous
... But this year the draw was Ranko 4O3A and Craig K9CT - two renowned world class contesters who were the guest speakers..
Top Contesters are like Formula One Drivers.. They push the technological envelop to achieve better and better results.. We all benefit from the technological improvements that trickle down from their competitive experience.
Gerald Youngblood, President of Flex, told us of his design process for the Maestro in which he visited with and listened to top contesters to try to understand what they needed to be able to perform better. With the help of Craig K9CT they design the Maestro box .. with only the absolutely needed knobs and controls and put it in a small enough package that it could fit at the most ergonomically optimum angle for contesting for minimum operator fatigue He then went onto explain the rapid development process where they literally backed the molds in an oven to produce working models for the show in 4 weeks.
Ranko 4O3A's company is well known for making devices such as the Station Genius to integrate any and every possible peripheral device into a contest station. Most important all the new devices are 21st Century Ethernet Speed Connected rather than 20th century slow serial ports. He went over the joint development of the Flex SO2R box to give it the features of the Station Genius as well as enable the Flex 6000 operate as a Full Duplex SO2R station. Ranko's contest station set the new European Record for the 2014 CQWWDX CW contest. His plan is to use the Flex 6000 with the SO2R in the 2015 CQWWDX contest and hopes that the improvements will enable him to shatter the world record. He then surprised us all by revealing that Flex was working with him on the design a Full Legal Amplifier (using 2 - 1400W transistors) - This will be the first totally Ethernet Connected Amplifier.. Flex gave NO PRICES or DETAIL or Delivery Dates.. but likely the main stumbling block will be the usual bureaucratic regulatory approval delays associated with Amps ..rather than engineering or production...
Craig, K9CT, started his talk by stating that "Elecraft should be worried that he was over at the Flex Dinner" He explained the concepts and designs behind K9CT contest station and how the new Flex Contest Suite would not only cut his costs of a SO2R station in 1/2 but more important greatly simplify station configuration, design and contest work flow. K9CT is committed to using the Flex Contest Station Suite in the Fall Contests.
Ken NN9P and I got a totally unexpected award at the Flex Radio Banquet at the Dayton Hamvention as the 2014 Top Flex Radio Elmer.
In case you are wondering, I am not paid by Flex nor do I own any of their stock. All my life I have worked at the Bleeding Edge of Technology and I really enjoy working with others who also invent new things.. Flex has put fun back into Ham Radio for me by pushing me to consider new things all the time...