Flex 6000 with Midi Controller

  • 9
  • Idea
  • Updated 3 years ago
I'm a long time lurker, and recent owner of a Flex 6300. I love pretty much everything about the radio, but feel I'm missing out on all the fancy knobs and buttons on something like a TS990. 

So I started working on a project to use a MIDI controller  (i.e. music related) to control the Flex. I wanted to see if anyone has done anything similar or just get feedback in general.

I have some information about a proof of concept at the link below along with a video of it working. I'd love to hear any ideas or comments.

http://www.highorbit.com/index.php/flexbuttons
Photo of Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

  • 39 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes

Posted 4 years ago

  • 9
Photo of Bob G   W1GLV

Bob G W1GLV

  • 652 Posts
  • 109 Reply Likes
Why would you want knobs on a radio that is so advanced that buttons and knobs get in the way.
Photo of Steve W6SDM

Steve W6SDM

  • 622 Posts
  • 280 Reply Likes
Bob, for contesting, having controls available without having to re-focus makes a big difference.  Being able to control two VFOs while keeping WIndows focus on the contesting software is a big help.  Also, having basic controls like volume, mute, and a few others depending on how you operate, also helps. 

The FlexControl does a good job of this as well, but the PowerUI type interface just has more options that are more available. 
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3969 Posts
  • 1225 Reply Likes
You hit the nail on the Head!  I would LOVE to add my Hercules DJ LE Controller to the control options, especially for contesting & DXing.
Photo of W5XZ - dan

W5XZ - dan

  • 564 Posts
  • 83 Reply Likes
nice job Kevin! DH1TW used a Herc midi with PowerSDR, see:http://www.dh1tw.de/powersdr-ui
 it's kinda nice because it has two BIG knobs..73, W5XZ, dan


 
Photo of Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

  • 39 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
Awesome! I had not seen that before. Seems MIDI controllers lend themselves pretty well for something like this
Photo of KT0NY

KT0NY

  • 4 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
The Hercules controller is terrific with the older Flex radios, and I'm sure it would be with the new ones as well. It makes all the difference when you're working a split CW pileup. You can tune both VFOs, turn the sub-rx audio off and on, and adjust the gains, all without touching the mouse.. It makes QSOs easy that you would never otherwise get.

Tony KT0NY
Photo of Tim - W4TME

Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

  • 9148 Posts
  • 3466 Reply Likes
This is exactly the "ham craft" we had envisioned by allowing people to write applications that interface directly with the radio hardware.  Ham radio is evolving from the days when we built radios from discarded TVs (been there, done that) to creating specialty apps and interesting control surface interfaces like Kevin's MIDI controller and the K6TU iPad app.  Interesting times are definitely ahead.
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3969 Posts
  • 1225 Reply Likes
Absolutely!  Running a program like this with a DJ Controller would be almost like having Al's (NN4ZZ) double FlexControl Knobs, and Stu's (K6TU) all in one box next to the rig!  And if this could be linked via the WAN, it would really be neat!
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1706 Posts
  • 580 Reply Likes
Hi Kevin,
Nice work!  I currently use 2 of the FlexControl knobs with my 6700.    They are very nice for some functions like tuning, volume control, and AGC-T.  The large weighted knobs have a great feel and if I could add another one or two for things like CW speed control or RIT, XIT I would.   

Some people want to control the radio from the keyboard only, some like using the mouse and others like knobs and buttons.   The great thing about the FLEX architecture is everyone can have it their way (at least the potential is there).

Maybe some day there will be a new control with about 4 large weighted knobs,  a dozen buttons, and a place to plug in my paddle.  

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
Photo of Roger Rockwell/na4rr

Roger Rockwell/na4rr

  • 69 Posts
  • 10 Reply Likes
I love it.  Keep up the good work.

roger
Photo of Steve W6SDM

Steve W6SDM

  • 622 Posts
  • 280 Reply Likes
Toby's midi DJ controller was great.  I used it with my 3000 and later with my 5000.  Having the two big knobs to control each VFO was great.

Here's an idea - instead of using a DJ controller, how about a matrix of pots, sliders, and some switches that could be user defined as far as function?  That way, we could build our boxes from the basic plans and make them fit our own style of operation.  I would guess that there would have to be some sort of electronic interface between all the pots and switches and the radio, but it would make a nice project nonetheless. 
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3969 Posts
  • 1225 Reply Likes
Hi Steve,
My Hercules DJ Controller IS exactly that... Two Big knobs, and a lot of smaller pots, sliders, buttons, and rotary encoders that when using the PowerSDR-UI modification of PowerSDR allowed me to program a function for every knob, slider and button on the thing.  (about 40 of them)  Do a Google search for Hercules DJ LE controller and have a look.
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3969 Posts
  • 1225 Reply Likes
That is awesome!  And exactly what I have been hoping that someone would write!
I put forward an idea of a Midi-to-API translator program last year, hoping that someone would jump on it.
Over a year later, you have thought of it yourself.  I guess great minds run in the same rut!  <grin>
But I haven't learned enough C# to program it myself.  

I would LOVE to use my Hercules DJ Controller with my 6500.  Others have mentioned the PowerSDR add-on that Tobias created.  It worked very well, with user-definable parameters for just about every knob, button & switch on the controller.

Thanks, and keep at it!  Also... When will it be available?  hi hi!

Ken - NM9P
Photo of Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

  • 39 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
I guess the big trick is to make the software general enough to work with various MIDI controllers and compatible with different versions of the radio (i.e. radios with more than 2 slices or pan-adapters, etc.).

Maybe if Flex wants to send me a 6700 to develop with, I could pretty quickly put something together  ;)
Photo of Steve W6SDM

Steve W6SDM

  • 622 Posts
  • 280 Reply Likes
One of the things that is really nice about PowerSDR/UI is the ability to assign functions to each button, slider, wheel, or knob.  That allows you to set up a custom operating environment.

Another thing that is nice about the Hercules is that it's possible to label directly on the buttons.   The Hercules midi controller runs about $99 new.

The thing I dislike about the Hercules is that the two big wheels are not weighted.  They work okay but they don't have the quality feel of a weighted control.
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3969 Posts
  • 1225 Reply Likes
There were two mods discussed on the PowerSDR-hi forum. The knobs can be removed and filled either with epoxy, or a plastic clay compound, or plaster of Paris. Reports are that it adds a better feel.
Photo of James Whiteway

James Whiteway

  • 877 Posts
  • 193 Reply Likes
Absolutely outstanding work!
James
Photo of James Whiteway

James Whiteway

  • 877 Posts
  • 193 Reply Likes
Kevin, did you use C# to develop your interface app?
James
Photo of Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

  • 39 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
James,  Yes, I ended up doing it in C#. I've never used  it before (but I'm a programmer by trade, mostly Java and C++, so not a huge leap)
Photo of Bill N5TU

Bill N5TU

  • 49 Posts
  • 14 Reply Likes
Hi, Kevin:

I keep thinking that a control surface such as a MIDI controller would be great.  With my arthritic hands, I could get more subtle control than I can with a mouse.  (That is one of the advantages that my knob radio gives me.)  Go for it!

BTW, I see you're "just up the road" from me.  I live just outside of Springfield.

73, Bill, N5TU
Photo of Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

  • 39 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
If there's any local events, I'll have to look you up.. Ever make it to St. Louis ? The closest I get to Springfield is when I go to "The Lake"
Photo of William Hemmingsen

William Hemmingsen

  • 573 Posts
  • 278 Reply Likes
Kevin, any more progress on this? 

W4WHL
Photo of Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

Kevin LaFata / K0KEV

  • 39 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
Unfortunately, only a little so far. It is something I wish I had a lot more time for. Heck, I made my first QSO in 2 months just yesterday.
Photo of William Hemmingsen

William Hemmingsen

  • 573 Posts
  • 278 Reply Likes
I am working on a similar thing with a midi controller and DDUTIL3.  Since I have zero experience with .net I am using serial CAT commands.  DDUTIL adds more CAT commands that make this possible.  I am just using Processing to write the code.  So far I have 2 vfos, rit, xit, ptt, agct, volume configured sending CAT to DDUTIL.  This works fine, but I need to write a function to get the current status of values from radio. Turns out the midi part was very easy.  

My biggest worry is latency over serial.  spinning the VFO knob fast is really pumping out CAT messages.  For every tick it must do a read and a write to serial.  I wish flex saw fit to implement a frequency up/down command in the 6000 like powersdr.  The 6000 CAT you must write the full freq.  And you must read the frequency constantly to keep them in sync.  Currently my proof of concept just does an initial read, but if I change something via mouse, when I change it via midi it resets.  All these constant read and writes causes latency.  I just need to think hard about the proper sequencing to make it efficient.


I wish I had a clue about .net.  Don't even know where to start.

W4WHL
Photo of Robert -- N5IKD

Robert -- N5IKD, Elmer

  • 488 Posts
  • 152 Reply Likes
This is what ham radio is all about. Good job.
Photo of K4SC

K4SC

  • 23 Posts
  • 1 Reply Like
Excellent!  I just won a new APC 40 on eBay and am anxious to dig in.
Photo of Lee - N2LEE

Lee - N2LEE

  • 275 Posts
  • 143 Reply Likes
Kevin excellent work, please keep us up to date on your progress.