I am new to the Flex community. I joined to get insight into the Flex and it's nuances. Being the age I am and knowing this may be my last purchase as the base radio for my new station, I am very interested in making the best decision. I am building my retirement home on land that will allow the long awaited antenna farm, separate bldg for ham shack etc. The last thing I want to do is purchase a radio I am ultimately unhappy with. Having said that I am concerned with the myriad problems reported in the community. Although I am completely enamored with the Flex capabilities I do not want my retirement years spent fighting windows updates, quarreling with third party issues and, in general facing a new problem every time I turn around. I would really like to hear from satisfied Flex owners of course, but also those who may say "don't buy and here's why". My other choice would be the K-Line so I'm really torn. Thanks in advance for your input.
I've had a FLEX 3000 and now a 6500. I have friends with K3S, Kenwood 990, and ICOM7851s.
All great radios, with the new style receiver in them. Lots of nice smooth operating knobs. I still like my 6500 better. Tho I am only 69, I can still learn not to turn a knob.
BUT, if you NEVER want to worry about Windows updates, third party issues, or FLEX software updates. Then don't buy a FLEX, nor a ICOM, nor a Kenwood, nor a Elecraft, cuzz they all have software updates also that must be applied, and Windows software to interface to the world.
So, Never... might be just sit back in the Lazy Boy and watch TV.... BUT, my smart SONY TV does updates via wifi and the cable box does too..
First, THE RADIO: Top notch. You can't do better. I absolutely love mine.
The problems are pretty much all related to WINDOWS and its vagaries. Windows has always been an issue in the computing world.
I have a MAC. When I first got the radio, I bought a copy of Parallels, in order to be able to load a copy of Windows on my Mac to run the SmartSDR software. It works GREAT! I didn't get the SOUND back and forth between the computer and the radio, but that was no big problem because the radio is rack-mounted in the closet behind my operating desk, so I was able to run the speaker and mic cables through the wall and right onto my desk. So I never gave much effort into making the sound work.
THEN DogPark Software came out with DogParkSDR -FOR MAC, and that doesn't have any of the Windows sound issues. It works perfectly, whether I use the physical speaker and mic connected to the radio or use my Mac for audio in and out.
THEN K6TU came out with K6TU REMOTE, so I can use my iPad, and again I have NO ISSUES. Everything works perfectly, even the AUDIO IN AND OUT. I can even use my Bluetooth HEADSET while I walk around the house and yard with my iPad.
NEXT: The MAESTRO should be coming out shortly, and I've got one on order. That will give me yet another way to use the radio.
NEXT: SSDR 2.0 should come out in maybe the first six months of the new year, which will give me WAN access, so I should be able to use the radio remotely from distant locations.
Feel free to contact me directly if you want specific questions answered.
As for the move from the traditional physical knobs and buttons radio to SDR it was an easy change over for me. The SSDR brings a new life to the hobby for me. Being able to see the whole band(s) on the panadapter point and click to an active station, find an open frequency, or see which bands are active is a great pleasure. SSDR makes if possible to try our and do digital mode easily without extra hardware or cables. Those are just a couple of the many additions to things SDR makes possible or easier to do. There are also knobs and buttons add-ons for the Flex so those are not completely lost features.
You will find comments on either side of the traditional vs SDR. I recommend finding someone local or willing to let you remote into their radio and trying it out. Also take advantage of Flex Radio's 30 day return policy. If you find in that 30 day period (make sure it is 30 days that you can take full advantage of) and you find it is what you are comfortable with even return it with just a loss in shipping costs.
New radios at this price level are not an easy decision. You are doing the right thing to ask around and read up on all the comments. Good luck.
The Flex 6000 receivers are incredible. Best out there. It would be wrong to compare them to the others, even.
One knob is essential, though. Get a FlexControl. Very worth it.
Finally, the ability to remotely operate your rig is huge. Nothing better than the Flex in that regard. If you eventually don't feel like making the trek to the rig, it is as close as your laptop or iPad,
I appreciate your concerns as I have recently made the same decisions.
I am one of those many guys who returned to the hobby after many years of doing other things.
When I got back it, I purchased an ICOM 9100---a good rig but more buttons than knobs and many many menus and sub menus. For me the learning curve took the fun out of operating.
I have a KX3 which is a nice radio, but also has more buttons than knobs-->meaning again a learning curve.
I have a Flex 6500. I have found it by far the easiest to operate. (no buttons (1) and no knobs).
I can be away from the radio for several weeks and sit down and operate immediately. I can not do that with the KX3 or the ICOM. I am a visual person and seeing the pan adapter and waterfall is perfect for me. The GUI is intuitive and the manual when needed is an easy read.
I am not concerned by the "problems" discussed on this forum. Many of the problems are for 3rd party programs which can be an issue for any radio. The Flex DAX system makes most of those problems easy to work on.
I have never had any issue with the radio itself. The engineers and support staff at Flex are the most responsive any where. Perhaps that is because the radio is made in the US (as is Elecraft).
Dare I say, the some of the "problems" are in front of the key board. Also Windows is notorious for difficulties. I had issues getting HRD to work with the ICOM. My only complaint is that full blown SSDR is Windows only.
Others will be more elegant is their opinions.
My understanding of firmware updates on other rigs are very well vetted before vthey are pronounced GA. It comes down to how much you like Windows.
P.S. The Maestro looks to satisfy any need for knobs.
Besides, nothing like putting your paws on the goodies . . . You may find you like a radio as-it-is and will never perform a software update. Or even use a computer at all.
As for me, the Flex was an experiment - I am not sure what kind of radio it will be a year or two from now and I am not convinced that Flex knows either - the software changes as the fussing and demands of the user base change (that is why you see so many feature-fights in here). I have other radios in service and will not give them up for some time, if ever.
I'm a retired software engineer and am happy with my 6300 though I've had more than my share of problems with it in the past. My opinion is that 6x00's are not for everyone. Unfortunately, dealing with Windows-related issues comes with the territory. For me the advantages of my 6300 out-weight the downsides. However, based on your comments I'm guessing you would be happier with a transceiver that doesn't depend on a properly configured Microsoft OS to work.
73, David, N1DNA
I was completely amazed by the receive capability and brick wall filtering--there really is no adjacent channel interference. This is something I think you have to see to really believe. I also consistently received high quality TX audio reports and worked much DX with the 5 watt Flex-1500.
Based on that experience, I purchased a 6300 and recently upgraded to the 6500. The performance is even better. I receive unsolicited praise for the TX audio virtually every time I use the radio. I can hear signals that I can't really see on the panadapter. I can work virtually any mode without external boxes. I check into AM nets where many of the operators are using Flex radios as the basis of their AM stations.
I use our club station K3 regularly. It is a fine radio, but doesn't hold a candle to the 6000 series FlexRadios. It has limited filtering compared to the Flex and a multi-function button interface that is far more complex than the Flex to operate. It is also small, with small buttons and knobs, which I don't find ergonomic. The biggest issue with the K3 is that I can't visually see activity on the band or bands. Once you become used to working with a great panadapter interface that supports multiple bands, it is extremely frustrating to work without the visualization. Sure, you can add a panadapter to the K3, but it is another box and not fully integrated as in the Flex.
I have not experienced issues with PC's or software. I have a laptop dedicated to the Flex and related software that is used for nothing else. I've never experienced any of the issues with updates that are mentioned by some users.
Best of all, the radio is software defined, which means it is easily updated to add features or improve performance.
Lawrence W. Gray, KC1DAD
At Home I use a Flex 6700 as my primary radio...it is just that much better for my style of operating than any of the above Legacy Technology Radios.
Basically in contests none of the Japanese Legacy Technology Radios are competitive anymore...
They are totally overpriced for 30+ year old technology....it really comes down to K3 vs Flex as all Japanese Radio now sit on back shelves unused.
For Contests.. Our CW guys really love the Flex over the K3 as a Run Radio because it has much better filters BUT the lack of knobs make it more difficult to use in Search and Pounce CW or as a Mults Radio
For SSB Contests.. the K3 is a better Run Radio because the knobs make it easier if you need to fine tune a station.. BUT my rate on SSB Search and Pounce is at least double on the Flex over the K3 because I can quickly see where the stations are transmitting and jump on them....I also prefer the Flex for SSB Mults where the tuning does not need to be so fine.
For me personally, the biggest advantage of the K3 is a software program NaP3 (no longer supported by the author) where I can get Spots on the Panadapter screen. However that feature is now available for the Flex on a Mac using DogPark Software.... That is my number 1 item on my Flex wish list for Windows.
I am expecting delivery soon of an a Maestro (Next Month?) to test. It has knobs and may fix the ergonomics of the lack of knobs issue that we currently have for some parts of contesting. If the Maestro works as advertised we will be dumping all the K3's
Technology... The Flex 6700 is way ahead of the curve of every other radio on the market... it ranks top of the ARRL and Sherwood Listings... The Flex can do things like SO2R in a single box and Full Duplex than none of the other radios can do...
Remote: I also operate remotely a significant part of the time as my XYL and I travel as much as we still physically can. I carry an iPad and so far have remoted through my Flex from 27 countries.. it is incredibly easy to do so.. BUT i also run remote inside my house.... so I can be away from the shack and still monitor the bands while watching bowl games. No radio is easier to remote than the Flex as you do not need any external hardware to remote...
Digital: Flex is superb with Digital Modes AND you do not need to buy any additional External Hardware and the myriad of cables that you would need with a K3. When we ran tests on JT-65 using the Flex vs our IC-7700 the Flex would decode about 6dB better than the Icom...
Windows : Windows is a BIG Pain in the Butt... for EVERY RADIO, not only Flex.. Don't be fooled into thinking you will operate without a computer.. You need a computer for logging, digital modes, and Contesting. Most programs are still windows Based... albeit there is a good Maclogger from Dogparksoftware
Most of the Windows issues you currently see on this community are related to people who made the mistake of upgrading to Windows 10 about 2 years before Microsoft has fixed everything. So they are experiencing all sorts of issues with EVERY Program (not only Flex) when Windows 10 automatically updates..
We stuck with Windows 7.. NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER with Windows 7.
Finally.. the Flex is a Software Defined Radio.. Flex regularly releases new features with new software. The Legacy Radios. rarely if ever update new features
Bottom Line: Try a Flex for the 30 days free trial (Something no other manufacturer is brave enough to do) .... I suspect that you will keep it once you try it...
I agree that this radio technology is not for everyone. If you want a turn-key solution that won't change (for better or worse), Flex is probably not your best choice. If you want the best radio that is constantly improving, I think you've found it.
Part of the choice depends a lot on the what you want to do. I run a lot of digital modes, so my 6500 is the radio for me. There is no intermediate analog audio step. Hard to improve on that.
I run some SSB, on evening nets on 80M. I get complements on my signal all the time. My station is nothing but a 6500, a Heil 781 and a 80M horizontal loop at 30 feet. That says a lot about the audio chain in the 6500.
Let me suggest that you hold off making any decisions until you've seen version 1.6.x of SmartSDR. And keep in mind that there is always a serious sampling bias in these on-line forums. People who have had no problems with the software seldom jump in and say so.
And take the advice given above. Go to Dayton, or Pacificon, or Huntsville, or wherever and see these radios and the Elecraft radios in action. You may see something you can't resist, or something you can't stand. In the end it is a personal choice based on what appeals to you.
I've noticed many times that some people will have software problems and go on and on about their difficulties in this forum, but won't submit a help request on the HelpDesk. Yet, most everyone (perhaps everyone) gets their problem solved quickly and efficiently by FRS, at no cost. It's enlightening to know that the help desk is essentially a two man operation. That says something about the real scale of the problems.
Finally, consider the effect of the Alpha Team. This is a group of hams, nearly all of whom are far more skilled and experienced than me, who pour over every detail of the software. Performance, human interface, bugs, features, suggestions, documentation (my area) -- all of these topics and more are constantly being scrutinized. The back/forth communication between the FRS designers and developers and the test team is extraordinary. These radio products are designed by people who use them.
I have read your post and the responses on here have been excellent. However, I took a look at your QRZ page and really don't know much about what your background is other than you really like cw and have spent considerable time learning. Bravo....
Anyhow, you didn't say how you would use the radio or what your interests are. Can you elaborate? What kind of station are you going to build? Depending on your answers, the responses on here could be more pointed and helpful.
If you like cw, I think all of us would agree that the 6000 series is a very pleasant radio to listen to and use for hours. I would definitely recommend that you listen to a few radios and listen to the filtering and effect on the audio quality.
Other than that, I really have enjoyed reading all the responses you have evoked. So are you a DXer, Contester, net person, VHFer, ragchewer? What antennas do you have planned for this radio?
I look forward to reading more in this thread.
73, Craig K9CT
I own a 6700 and an IC-7850. I couldn't make my mind between an SDR or "conventional" transceiver so I got both. I generally use the Flex for receiving and the Icom for xmit. I still like buttons and dials and wasn't willing to give them up. The Flex is more like operating a piece of test equipment (Spectrum Analyzer) than a ham radio. Sometimes it feels 'cold" with no soul.
The flex has the best spectrum display. I haven't used a K line but the Flex puts the 7850 spectrum display to shame. The crispness and signal clarity from the "grass" is amazing.
The choice is hard- Knobs or a Mouse- in my case both.
I also find that I am spending too much time with computer issues trying to integrate both rigs with logging and control software, etc. Lately I'm going back to more basic CW operation with a paper log only and the heck with all the software issues.
Both are good rigs, you need to match your operating style with which rig fits best. 73
You can't go wrong with the K3s. It's a known quantity and the most solid radio available. It's cw performance is unsurpassed. It's subreceiver is superb and affordable. The 6500's subreceiver (aka the 6700) is not so affordable. I do a lot of stereo diversity operating, esp. on 160M, so a good subreceiver is important.
For me, the Flex receiver has a slight edge over the K3 and every other receiver out there that's NOT direct sampling - it simply sounds cleaner. I gravitate to the Flex for phone operating. I think the K3s is the better cw radio. The Flex has a better panadapter but the P3/SVGA is very good.
I think they're the two best radios on the market. You can't go wrong either way. Ergonomics should be a big factor in your decision.
73, Barry N1EU
If you want to learn and acquire new capabilities every once in a while without having to buy a new radio, get the Flex 6000 series. I love getting a software upgrade that adds capabilities to what I already own. I don't think you'll find a better receiver anywhere.
I have read all of the notes above and concur with most of the advice offered. The computer is basically the display for the radio....and get a large 4K monitor (or two!!!) if you really want to be stunned with how impressive a FlexRadio can be!!! Stick with a stable version of Windows. The initial angst of <gasp> NO KNOBS wore off quickly. The "controls" are all logically oriented and require no manual to understand the "menu" behind each knob of other radios.
Since you are building a "remote" ham shack, and assuming you'll have a home WiFi network, the Maestro will be invaluable to you! It has the "radio knobs" AND you can take it into the house.
Yes, we are biased here, but for good reason! The FlexRadio is about as ugly of a radio that you can get....BUT on the inside, that is where the BEAUTY is!!!! Mine sits under my desk and only the mic, headphone and key jacks (and monitors) are on my desk.
The only reason I can possibly think of for not getting a FlexRadio is If you are agoraphobic (fear of open spaces). You will have too much open space on your shack desk!
Best wishes on your retirement! Can't wait to join you!
If you get up to the DFW area anytime let me know. I have a 6300 and a full K-Line that I assembled. You are welcome to play with both. I would be glad to show you both radios, features, performance and anything else you need to make a decision. Email on QRZ is good.
To cut to the chase the K-Line is now the back up and the 6300 is the primary station radio.
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