Flex 6500 with Maestro Noise Reduction and Noise Blanker

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I'm considering buying a Flex 6500 with the Maestro. This would be a second radio for me along with an Icom IC-7600. I'm considering either the 6500 or a Yaesu FTDX-5000 or FTDX-9000 (I can get a used 9000 for about the same money as the Flex package I am considering). 

I'm primarily a SSB phone operator in public service so I sometimes spend several hours on the radio. Good noise reduction and listening comfort are important to me. I believe several years ago there were some issues with the NR and NB features in SmartSDR. How well has that matured since then? How well the NR and NB features currently work? Does the NR and NB work different in the Maestro than in SmartSDR?

The Flex 6500 and Maestro combination look like it would be awesome to operate, I just wouldn't want to spend that kind of money and be disappointed in features such as NR and NB that are very well implemented in radios such as those I referenced above.

73 Chris AK4SK
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Moose

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Posted 2 years ago

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David

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The Maestro is a hardware knobs and button solution and uses the same software SSDR so there is no  difference on the filtering. I have found the filtering to be very good. One of the issues is learning how to use them effectively. I would suggest if possible you visit someone local that has a FlexRadio and try it out or do a remote session with someone. Keep in mind they offer a 30 day trail that you might want to consider.
(Edited)
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Moose

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Thanks. I'm going to buy used as I do with almost all amateur gear I purchase.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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YEah! What David said (+1)

The 30 day money back guaranteed is a fantastic deal and probably the very best way to see for yourself if NR and NB.... and don't forget WNB, work at your location with your antennas and local noise sources. My personal experience is that all of them work great. WNB works extremely well for me.... but it doesn't for others... 

Even if you get the Maestro you will need a PC to get the best out of the radio as some features (Band data) require a computer to be interfaced with an amplifier.

A well behaved maestro will also require a solid network... more so if you plan to use WiFi. 
All of these things will present themselves as either insurmountable problems or as non issues once you try the combo for 30 days in your radio shack. It is by far your best option, I am not sure if you have the 30 day money back guarantee with the other radios.... 

Good luck!
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Moose

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I'm in need of a computer upgrade anyways so no worries there. I would make sure to get one that was more than adequate.
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Tim Ellam

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I had a FT9000 which I sold to acquire a 6700. Nothing at all wrong with the 9000 and it is a great radio. The concern I had is the 9000 was maxed out in terms of DSP and hardware upgrades. I went with the 6700 primarily for the NR and filtering. In that respect the NR and WNB are light years ahead in the 6700. I have substantial noise on 40 which the 9000 just could not address. The NR in the 6700 easily deals with it and made the band a pleasure to use during the IARU Contest.

Tim VE6SH
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Moose

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Thank you for the comparison. One reason I'm hesitant on the 9000 is how old it is. The NR in the FTDX-5000 is amazing and I understand the 9000 to be comparable. I like the identical dual independent receivers in the 9000 and some of the other features over the 5000.
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Burch - K4QXX

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I've not used the NR much on the 6700 but the WNB works pretty good at my location on most bands.  I have horrible powerline noise right now and 6-20 meters would be almost unusable most days without the WNB.
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John-K3MA

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I have not used the rigs you mention but did own a FTDX3000 at one point.  With the rigs I have owned and compared the Flex with it is my opinion that the Flex is trailing behind in NB and NR (also ANF) capabilities.  That being said it is also my opinion that Flex is leadingor at leas par in WNB, AGC and Filtering capabilities.  WNB requires proper adjustment of the AGC to work on the types of noised it was designed to reduce.  It does very well.  Additionally, the correct use of AGC and brick wall filter selection often produces a better result than the use of NB and NR.
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John-K3MA

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Moose, further to my earlier comment.  If Noise mitigation is your biggest issue then you might want to look at the Anan SDR's.  It is my experience that OpenHPSDR has better tools for you in this area.  However, you give up some other things that might be important in your decision.  That being said you might want to try the Flex on the 30 day offer and decide if it works for you in your shack.  Anan does not offer such a option but their pricing is much lower.  I would caution you to make a decision based upon the tools available NOW not what Flex might develop them to be.  History has shown that software functionality improvements can take much longer than you think or would like and sometime even get kicked to the side of the road in favor of other things that come up along the way.   Just as a side note if  you looking for the radio that does everything well you might not find it.  At least I have not.  Everyone I have tried could have used an improvement that I found on another radio.  Eventually, I settled on the Flex as it has most of the things right that I need/want for my style of operating.  The K3 also checks all the boxes for me.
(Edited)
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k3Tim

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Hi Moose

Whereas you wish to buy used (a good idea BTW) the 30-day test drive doesn't work. 

It would be advantageous if a "local' fellow ham with a 6k could demo it in your shack. Then you could see first hand how to operate it with an experienced person looking over your shoulder. The noise reduction would be tested on the particular noise at your QTH. I have a 6500 + Maestro + Bat that I can take backpacking but I'm to far to hike.

I have had good results with NR to reduce background general static noise. Fortunately there is no noise present that requires the NB or WNR.
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Moose

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Tim,
That would be good. I did get an email from somebody offering to allow me to try their 6500 remotely. I may give that a try. It also may just be worth the extra money for the 30-day test period.

Chris 
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Walt - KZ1F

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Moose, in the past I've been very critical of NR. I generally work the upper bands, 20, 17,15, 12, 10 and haven't found NR to even work there. I saw some mention using it on 40. As it happens I was on 40 last night and thought I'd try it. It actually works much better there than on my previous attempts. It could be the release, it could be the band, it could be both. Just to let you know.
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Moose

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Thanks Walt.
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HCampbell WB4IVF

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Per your previous postings, were you ever able to resolve your problems with your Flex 1500’s NR and NB?  Generally I’m happy with the NR/NB in both my 6700 and ICOM 7410.  But while I much prefer the 6700 in most other respects, I think banking on one radio’s NR or NB to be better than another’s in addressing noise issues at a specific location and for a specific noise source is a crapshoot.

Howard
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Moose

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No. My understanding is that NR just didn't work well with the 1500 and AGC-T was how noise should be dealt with. I got the 1500 as part of a deal where the other included equipment was what I really wanted. So I gave it a try and sold it when I found out I wasn't really satisfied with it. I addressed your last statement immediately above. I agree, but that is the only basis for comparison I have.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Interesting, I thought (still do) NR on the 1500 was outstanding!
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Moose

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To be more specific, it was the NR function in the software (PowerSDR?) that I was referring to. The NR available by adjusting the AGC-T did work somewhat for me. However, when the NR function was on there was a sound artifact that was introduced at the same time. The NR did reduce noise, but the addition of the sound it caused made the net result ineffective to me.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I understand but that has never been my experience with NR on the latest version of PowerSDR. Several SmartSDR versions ago NR on SmartSDR paled in comparison with NR on PowerSDR. It is way better today but I still find NR on PowerSDR slightly better and the main reason is that I have never experienced sound artifacts with the 1500 NR and in some settings I do with SmartSDR.
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Moose

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Ok. I have yet to use SmartSDR at all yet.
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Walt - KZ1F

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Something to consider is a 6300/ Maestro combination. The 6300 has only 2 slices (vfos) and Maestro only supports two anyway.Plus, it is my understanding Flex has 6300s for sale used. So, presumably they would be used prices with warranty.

The main thing, which David suggested if find som who can let yoau play with theirs.The main obstacle you'll have is the ergonomics (no knobs or switches) which of course Maestro addresses.
(Edited)
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Moose

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Thank you Walt, I will consider that as well.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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There is a dynamic here that needs to be articulated.  Noise is one of the most complex waveforms you will encounter in the RF spectrum.  The waveform "signature" can be characterized by how well correlated (periodic) the noise is or not (very random). Noise characteristics are going to vary, even from the same source.

Unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all" noise mitigation solution.  This is exemplified by comments made here where some say the NR , NB or WNB works great, where others do not find it as effective.  This indicates that that generally, there are not systematic issues with the current noise mitigation features.  Are they perfect? No, there is always room for improvement and fortunately, these features can be completely replaced with a software upgrade.

So, while your A/B comparison question is reasonable, providing an absolute answer is not achievable as there are too many variables in play.
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Moose

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Ok, thank you very much for that.
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HCampbell WB4IVF

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Moose –

Have you considered a Rx-only, or a more directional, antenna?  I was not a believer in Rx antennas, until I put up my beverages!  Others have reported good results with smaller Rx antennas as well, including Pixel-type loops.    I have a 6700 and several ICOMs, but sometimes none are as effective as the antennas in attenuating noise. 

Howard

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Jay / NO5J

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Ken 

Ain't it funny how Noise (static), turns out to be so dynamic.

It's hard to make noise go away.
We should all keep that in mind.
Sorry, I felt like adding to the noise too!

Jay - NO5J
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Moose

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Howard,
I have plans for a Beverage, I just have made an effort to get everything I need to install one. 
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HCampbell WB4IVF

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Moose -

Great.  I have 2 590' reversible beverages, which give me 360 degree coverage.   They've been described as as antennas that "want to work" for good reason I believe. 

Good luck on yours!

Howard
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Moose

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Thank you for all who have replied, I have learned a lot. In case I haven't mentioned I'm primarily as SSB phone operator and most of that on 40m or below where noise is more significant. I have good ears but not great ears and I almost always use good headphones. I've owned an FT-897D, FT-817ND (with W4RT/BHI NR), FTDX-1200, FT-991, FT-1000 MP Mark V Field, FT-2000, FTDX-5000D, Flex 1500, and now a IC-7600. The 1200 was my first IF DSP radio. It was a HUGE difference compared to the 897 and 817.

I would say the best of the bunch by far was the 5000. It has a NR function that can be set from 1-15. I would typically set it around 5, sometime 8, or maybe 10-12 in really challenging conditions. At 5 the background static was reduced significantly enough that I could comfortably listen as long as I wanted assuming I didn't have the RF gain too high. I didn't exactly experiment, but at settings higher than 5 weaker signals would start to get subtly get harder to hear. In the presence of high noise and strong signals I could set it as high as I wanted, but typically 10-12 was more than enough. If the noise was very high I would set it around 8. I may loose the weakest stations but most still came through. At 15, I would say background noise wasn't detectable at all but it also took out signals that weren't at least reasonably strong. Also, there were absolutely no artifacts introduced by the noise reduction, none. To me the only way this could have been better would be to reduce the noise without gradually reducing the signal strength. That is obviously the challenge people who design NR face,

The IC-7600 that I have now is probably second best with the 1200 close behind. The 7600 will not kill all the noise regardless of the setting like the 5000 will (which I didn't use anyways). However, so far it has been able to reduce the noise for me adequately and without any artifacts either. I've only had it a short time so I'm still learning. It's also my first Icom so I'm not very used to the controls yet.

It would be hard to rank the rest. 2000, 991, 1000MP, 817 (with BHI), 897 maybe. Although I just didn't like the sound of the 991. I could get it to be quite but what remained was harsh and sharp.

So maybe this info will help people understand what I'm thinking about if they didn't already. None of this has to do with a lot of the specs that are out there for receivers, ability to reject close adjacent signals, etc. It has to do with listening comfort in a noisy environment. There are people that would still take a 1000MP over many more modern radios but for different reasons than me.

73 Chris AK4SK
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Jay / NO5J

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Chris

SmartSDR and for that matter PowerSDR both behave in a similar fashion to what you were doing with your Yeasu, Flexradio just calls the control AGC-T. AGC-T is a combination of an AGC, with an adjustable gain threshold, "when" AGC is enabled, and when its off, it serves as a RF gain control.

It's used to control the amount of noise in the audio ahead of the AGC circuit. Use it to eliminate as much of the noise first, before the noise gets into the NR stages and the NR will work much better. If the resulting audio isn't loud enough, there is both a Slice, and Master AF control after the NR in the signal chain, that can be increased to hear more of the signal,

Think, kill as much noise as possible first, then let the software do the rest, and then pass the result to the external speakers, which likely also have a volume control too. 

The AGC-T control is used as a way of telling the software that anything below this point is likely noise, and I don't want it amplified, and anything above this point I'm interested in hearing.

With practice and experience AGC-T becomes an advantage, and something you won't want to be without.

I can almost always find a setting that will eliminate more of the noise.  

73, Jay - NO5J
(Edited)
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Moose

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Thank you Jay.

73 Chris AK4SK
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Walt

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You listen a lot - maybe to net freqs. ?

There is No Squelch on anything except FM.   So if you are used to using squelch on the other radios, you will not have one with this.

There is an add-on third party software that does this, but not the radio itself.  

I did not read all the posts so if this was mentioned earlier, sorry to repeat it - just got off the boat. (literally)

Always fun picking a new radio.
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Moose

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Yes, I do listen to a lot of nets. I don't use the squelch really, I leave it wide open. I reduce the RF gain as needed to calm things down a bit. Maybe I should start using it.

Thank you for the info, that is good to know.
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mikeatthebeach .

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Chris,

I live next to a neighbor that has a Solar Attic Fan ( last 3 years) that puts out
RFI Fast Impulse Noise S9 +10dB signals during the day from 20meters thru 6 meters.

RFI Worst when the Sun is directly over us ( S9 +15dB).

The RFI has gotten so bad, I thought of quitting Ham Radio because of this RFI.

Even the FCC & even the ARRL have not been of any help when the neighbor says go pound sand !

The FCC can not keep up with all the RFI issues today !

Sad state of affairs when our government, FCC, only gives lip service and
does not do it's job anymore for the people.

To the rescue, came FlexRadio with their WNB and NB Signature Series Radio's Features are truly the answer to Fast Impulse Signature type Noise that plagues most hams today.

Decided I try all the top end radio's out there to find a way to win the battle against this RFI beast of interference !

Flex Radio Systems provided a loaner Flex6300 for me and I tried it out and the WNB feature, the ability to get a clean Waterfall with all the Noise RFI at my QTH was simply amazing.

No other rig can give clean Waterfall in presence of Fast Impulse Receptive Noise
from Motors, Power Lines, etc, especially at 25-30 fps fast frame rates for a amazing looking Clean Unpolluted Display Waterfall.

None of the Big 3 Japanese rig manufacturers can do this along with the top contenders on the Sherwood List for Super Clean Display Waterfall and Display Scopes with S9+ RFI Fast Impulse Noise.

On other ( Non-FlexRadio ) rigs, you have to slow down the fps display rates so much and average the sampling to the Maximum to approach a semi-clean Waterfall that you start to miss seeing the rare DX signals in the Waterfall Display !

The Flex6300 was the only rig where signals literally came out of the Noise and with WNB turned On.

The dBm Noise floor drops 10-12dB in the presence of this man-made noise Increasing the Signal to Noise Floor ratio when WNB Feature is turn On.

The WNB, Waterfall Noise Blanker to be more specific is different than the NB
Feature, I use both NB & WNB both turned ON with the FlexRadio here in the shack.

The signals appear stronger on Both the Waterfall & Spectrum display with the WNB Feature On.

It is amazing, the Mathematics & Engineering going on inside that Flex Signature Radio, like Steve at FlexRadio said, it's like having a Cray Super computer under the Hood of the FlexRadio

Other manufacturer's just do it the old way, blanking the receiver and causing distortion and doing nothing for the Display Waterfall.

After using a Waterfall, I will not use a radio without one, especially for finding weak DX !

Believe me, the WNB ( WaterFall Noise Blanker) for the Waterfall is worth it when searching for DX with the Display Waterfall.

In my shack, I tried all the top DX Flagship radio's, Kenwood, Yaesu, Icom and
Elecraft, a few come close to the FlexRadio but with some distortion " artifacts" when
traditional Noise Blanker's are used.

Resorted to using a DXE-NCC-1 to null out Noise with a Secondary Noise Sense Antenna.

Only problem, If I turn my Main Antenna (beam) or the Sun changes position, the RPM of Attic Fan making RFI and with the Sun in the sky constantly moving), the Intensity of the RFI Noise changes and the noise Nuller box needs constant readjustment and as well causes a minimum of 6dB loss.

For super weak signals 6dB can be the difference between making out the DX callsign for that rare DX contact.

Plus the Noise Nuller DXE NCC-1 (Magnitude & Phase Adjust Unit) only works
(160-10meters) up to 10meters maximum.

For Six meters, you are in serious trouble since a NCC-1 type Noise Nuller does
not work at this frequency !

The mathematical way the FlexRadio removes the Fast Impulse from the Waterfall
is amazing, I know I can find DX even when I get this severe RFI Noise now.

I could name all the latest radio's I have tried. Clean display waterfalls at fast fps rates can not be achieved with severe RFI, only with the WNB feature of the FlexRadio 6xxx series radio's.

In my shack, have K3S/P3, IC-7851, IC-7300, had TS-990S, IC-7700, only the Flex
Radio can give me a Clean Waterfall with WNB feature and Distortion Free Noise Blanker NB.

Used the Flex6300 for a week from Flex Radio (Steve), thru the SCDXC DX club, a week later got a Flex6500 been using that, great rig, maybe later may get a Flex6700.

All the DX guys at our DX Club that got their hands on this loaner FlexRadio 6300 have the same reaction to the WNB feature, pure math & science that came together, hams has been fighting RFI Power Line issues, Fast Impulse Noise as us City Dweller's that live in noisier locations, HOA's with hidden antennas and Noise becomes and is a big problem.

The age of the perfected SDR Noise Blanker NB and Clean Display WaterFall Noise Blanker WNB with Fast Impulse Noise RFI is simply the best, specially from the Engineers that understand Communication Theory and Mathematics for coding into the Flex Radio Signature Series Radio's at FlexRadio.

The other rigs sit idle, what does that say !

These are real life experiences and the FlexRadio WNB & NB is the best out there against Fast Impulse Noise Interference.

Why get a radio that may have an so-so effective NB but to find that your Display Waterfall & Spectrum Scope get destroyed ( washed-out) by Fast Impulse Nose RFI
( Power Lines, Motors, etc).

You might as well be a blind person with a cane walking down the street if you trying to find weak DX on your Display Waterfall on your DX radio.

Having a Handicapped Radio (Working in the Blind ) with No clean Display Waterfall & Spectrum Scope is no fun in order to find those weak DX stations !

Belive me Chris, the Flex Radio is the solution, if you like Knobs, then get the Maestro
Unit with it !

Been in Ham Radio over 50 years, this Flex Radio Signature Series 6xxx radios's are simply amazing !

Also, for listening pleasure, the EQ receiver equalizer is great on the flex Radio Signature Series 6xxx radio's.

Hope this will help in your decision to get a Flex Radio.Chris,

73 Mike
(Edited)
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mikeatthebeach .

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Running Version 1.8.4 SmartSDR here with the FlexRadio Signature Series Radios
Great WNB & NB performance many improvements over earlier versions of 
SmartSDR software. 

The WNB is new to SmartSDR ! 

If you want to know how bad the noise RFI is at my QTH watch this video !
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MU7jhCPhaM

The Flex6300 Noise Blanker & Wideband Waterfall Noise Blanker 
Noise Blanker can be seen with this video
https://youtu.be/z-IRH9KSBbQ

Additional video of WNB in action is this video
Signal appear out the Noise with the Mathematically Algorithm
Flex wrote in software to enhance the Signal to Noise Floor in the 
Waterfall in the presence of Interference Static Fast Impulse Noise
Very Impressive - No other Radio does this, in terms of making the 
Signal high after WNB/NB are engaged  !!!

Video Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YPfYFx_2I8

Been putting up with this Interference for over 3 years and No FCC or ARRL help !

Flex Radio Systems WNB/NB are one of a kind solution !!!

73 Mike
(Edited)

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