Flex or a box with knobs?

  • 5
  • Question
  • Updated 3 years ago
  • Answered
Greetings,

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.

73, K5HP
Monk
Photo of Monk - K5HP

Monk - K5HP

  • 25 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes

Posted 3 years ago

  • 5
Photo of Mark - WS7M

Mark - WS7M

  • 1257 Posts
  • 472 Reply Likes
Hi Monk,

As you might expect here on the Flex forum you'll get mostly a bunch of people saying go for it, it's a great radio etc, etc.  I have to join in and say "Yup me too!"

But I am also willing to step back from my love of Flex and examine it for what it is:

1) It is a computer based radio.  For now, unless you buy a Maestro which is not out yet, the ONLY way you can operate is to run SSDR on your computer (or Dogpark SDR if you have a mac).   If you are computer comfortable this will be no issue.  If you are not it may be a big issue.

2) When Maestro comes out and assuming you buy one you get the best of both worlds.  SDR + knobs.  BUT for maestro to work well you need a good network (WiFi or cabled) since it too must talk to Flex radio over ethernet.  If you don't have a network or you don't want to get one then this solution will be difficult.  To my knowledge there is no direct cable setup that is easy to use but Maestro is not out yet so I can only go on the videos and reviews.

3) If you enjoy seeing the spectrum then there is NO OTHER OPTION than flex in my humble opinion.  This is for me more than half the fun to be able to watch watch is going on on the 14 kHz segment of the band I'm looking at.  The pan adapter (graphic display) has real use in that you can expand it and zoom in so-to-speak so you can see that signal hidden in the muck or between bigger signals.  No better radio in my opinion for that.

4) If you are an ear person and do lots of listening Flex excels there too.  My ears are aging but I can tell that Flex has a great sound.

5) SmartSDR is a complex program.  Although even an icom7xxx is complex.  It takes effort to learn and to make it work well.  One thing flex gives you over other "knobs and box" radios is that you are already working on a computer to run SmartSDR.  To do digital modes is simple.  You just run the software use the provided DAX interfaces and it just works.  No need for a signalLink USB or other interface as you might need for a knobs and box radio.

6) The sky is the limit.  The flex SmartSDR software is at V1.5.1.  It can do so much but there is so much left that it can do.  I can't wait until we see say version 4.0 and what features will be available.  With most knobs and box radios you are limited by the knobs and the box.  IE they can update the firmware but only to the limit of what the knobs and box allow.  I see the flex platform as a way around these limitations.  Sure there is a limitation based on the flex hardware but I think the opportunities for new things are much greater since it is "Software Defined".

7) As far as fighting windows updates, drivers, etc.  The best advice I can give is to stick with a clean computer and OS that is well known.  At this point that is Windows 7.  Ensure it is clean, don't do any updates or add stuff you are not sure of and it will run reliably all the time.

I could go on with this list but here is my bottom line:

1) The Flex series radios is exactly what got me back into radio.  The spectrum display the options for building upon the platform excite me.

2) If you want knobs and box then get a flex and a maestro.  You'll have the best of both worlds.

3) If you are looking to save money, now is the time.  I think Flex still has some refurbished slightly used radios on hand and you'll get all the benefit for less money.

So I can't recommend Flex high enough.   Lastly if you get one and find you really are not fond of it, you can probably sell it for a very good price.  IE you won't lose much.
Photo of NX6D Dave

NX6D Dave

  • 308 Posts
  • 94 Reply Likes
Just a clarification:

One can connect any 6000 series radio to a computer, or to Maestro, with a single Ethernet cable.  The network then consists of two nodes who exchange contact information and form a local link net.  This is all automatic (and if it isn't, any number of us can straighten that out in a Hurry).  No network switch, DHCP server, etc., is necessary.  I run my 6500 this way from a Surface tablet when I take it on the road.  Quartzfest is in a couple of weeks.  I'll be running SSDR, DXLabs, FLDIGI and WSJT-X on the tablet as long as the power lasts.
Photo of Monk - K5HP

Monk - K5HP

  • 25 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Many thanks to all who have replied to my query. Thanks to you all I am even more perplexed :-) . Seriously a lot of information has been gleaned from this exchange as well as information from those who emailed with their input. Thanks again. I'll let you know my decision when that decision is made. No doubt I'm leaning toward the Flex but .........
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes
A caution, those that bought the 5000 thought their radio would continue to be improved for years but Flex has stopped doing so. The past is the best predictor of the future. Do you see the forgotten child (5000) talked about here?
Photo of David

David

  • 301 Posts
  • 49 Reply Likes
That is risk with any product. At least for the years they owned the 3000 and 5000 they were getting updates. With traditional radios what you buy is what you have for the life of the radio. New radios might get firmware updates but that typically isn't at the level Flex has been providing. The update from Flex include new features or functions and not just tweak to the existing ones or fixes. In the case of mobile phones it is worse you buy it and if lucky they might be providing updates in two years before they completely drop it. TV's, PC's, etc. all have a history of becoming the forgotten step-child. I fully understand that at some point Flex will bring out a new series running on xyzSDR and that will stop the development for the 6000 series SmartSDR and only maintenance updates for some brief time after that.

So yes Flex has stopped development of PowerSDR and moved onto SmartSDR but I wouldn't consider it a show stopper for going with Flex. Just a realistic understanding.
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes
The difference is with concrete radios they are done when shipped. With the 5000 and much more with the 6000 series they are partially done when sold (remember no FM, ineffective noise blanker, and more?).
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 4166 Posts
  • 1329 Reply Likes
The issue for the Flex-6000 series is NOT knobs vs. no knobs. It is RX performance, filtering, TX quality, panadapter, upgrade-ability, And general quality of operation. My 6500 is the best thing I have ever had in the shack in 41 years.


Many have mentioned the FlexControl Knob and. the Maestro. Both are good options. I have a FlexControl and really like it.


Another option to add flexible, redefinable knobs, sliders, and buttons is to get a DJ midi controller such as the Behringer CMD controller (about $60 on Amazon) or the larger Behringer. William has written some very fine software for it that turns it into a very fine control instrument for the 6000 series.


Yes, you are going to be tied to Windows, but you want to have computer logging, contesting, DX spotting, and other ham software anyway, don't you? Most of us do. So a computer in the shack isn't a big deal. Yes, those who are pushing the bleeding edge of unfinished Win 10 need to reinstall their SmartSDR software and reconfigure things every once in a while. But it doesn't take all that long once you master the process. There is lots of help here on the Comminity, too.


Are there other good rigs out there? Yes. Do any of them offer the potential, even if it is not completely implemented, that the 6000 offers? In my opinion, no. As has been said, we are only on software v.1.5.x with v.1.6 on the way soon. We get between two and four major updates a year, each one adding new features and performance enhancements.


The 6000 is the rig that just keeps getting better.

If you can handle a bit of learning curve, and can still learn a new trick or two on the computer, you won't be dissapointed.


But, as has also been said...invest in a good antenna system, too. It makes a big difference. No matter how good a receiver you have, if the signal doesn't get down the coax you will never hear it! Even a hex beam will make a 6000 series shine.


Ken - NM9P

6500 owner for over two years.
(Edited)
Photo of KM6CQ - Dan

KM6CQ - Dan

  • 173 Posts
  • 34 Reply Likes
There are a lot of nice comments I have enjoyed and read here. I will simply say I know only use two radios. I really like my KX3 as a second shack rig and for travel. I have had my 6500 over 2 years now, I have never regretted purchasing it, and I have not lost intrest in it. It keeps getting better. I can really appreciate a K3S, but I have no reason to buy one. 

Best Regards,   Dan KM6CQ
Photo of Lee

Lee, Elmer

  • 680 Posts
  • 286 Reply Likes
The Yaesu FT-1000D was a pretty good radio but it had one problem, key clicks.  Yaesu knew about the key clicks but never fixed the problem.  If you owned a FT-1000D you basically were just screwed.  The problem was in hardware, as in if you want it fixed get a new radio.  Flex on the other hand could cure such a problem in one software update.  

The 6xxx radio is a server.  The actual "radio" resides in the box.  The software/computer part is a client.  As such you can access the "radio" from any where on the network with any computer running a copy of SSDR.  In the shack I use a i7 windows 8.1 box to connect to my 6500 or 6300.  In my office I use a i5 windows 10 box to connect to my radios in my shack which is at the other end of the house.  I've built out my system using a solid state amp that band follows my radio, and an antenna switch that also band follows and automatically selects the correct antenna.  I also have a KW auto-tuner, and it's setup so I can force a tune from any SSDR client on my network.  I have several programs that connect to my Flex as clients.  I have a logging program called DXLab, a program  SDR-Bridge that connects me to CWskimmer, a utility program called DDUTIL that allows me to control several peripheral pieces of hardware, a memory program called FRStack which I use as a software customizable bandswitch, a digital program called winwarbler, and a couple of contest programs N1MM+ and Writelog.  All of these connect to the server as clients, and my radio can connect to them from any computer on my network.  I can have my office computer connected to my 6300 and my shack computer connected to my 6500.  DDUTIL also has a built in macro language which allows me to perform multiple software tasks like: center pan adapter, set pan adapter band width, set mode to CW, set filter band width to 100hz, set power, set noise blanker etc all with one button push.

I have never had a windows/SSDR compatibility problem with either 8.1 or 10 but I run a pretty plain vanilla  setup with both of those operating systems.  Flex has a "Alpha Team" which are a bunch of users that devote hours and hours of their time  tying to break the latest alpha version of the software, to save you, the non-alpha user from suffering the slings and arrows of poorly performing software.  As problems are found Flex flags them and fixes them before the software is released into general use.  Flex has created 2 API's which allows users to write custom software to interface with their radio.  One API is called "waveforms" and it allows new modes to be integrated into the radio.  There are presently 2 modes FreeDV and D-STAR which have been incorporated into the radio by this method.  By incorporated I mean a button shows up in the mode choices in SSDR and all the proper I/O routing occurs automatically.  

The point being there is a LOT more to this box than just being a radio transceiver.  It has huge expansion capability and is the central control point for integrating an entire radio station.  In addition the Flex offers true full duplex so you can listen and transmit at the same time.  The 6700 is capable of SO2R out of the box.  It's an amazing ever growing ecosystem that allows you to delve into different aspects of the hobby almost at will with little need for upgrades, except the upgrades just keep on coming as new features are created.  One day your radio is one way and the next you load an update and you have a brand new cutting edge Noise Blanker or something like that.  The radio is plastic and malleable as opposed to fixed in stone like the FT-1000D.

One thing I don't like about Elecraft's business model is the need to always pay more money to get more features.  You buy the radio then you need 2 dozen filters and another dozen modules just to get a decent radio.  With a Flex you just buy the thing, plug the sucker in and have at it.  All of what was said about Flex's customer service is true.  My 6300 was a very early pre-production radio and I had a firmware glitch.  Eric KE5DTO the VP of software development, remoted into my radio and discovered the problem from 2000 miles away.  I was amazed at his facility with the programming.  My problem turned out to be an unpublished character embedded in my serial number, which occurred since my radio was pre-production.   He figured it out in about 10 minutes.  

Decisions decisions  

73  W9OY 
Photo of Barry N1EU

Barry N1EU

  • 495 Posts
  • 123 Reply Likes
Yaesu knew about the key clicks but never fixed the problem.  If you owned a FT-1000D you basically were just screwed.  The problem was in hardware, as in if you want it fixed get a new radio. 
Very soon after the key clicks were discovered to exist, easy mods that completely fixed the problem came out and were well publicized (e.g., http://n1eu.com/Mods/1000Dclick.htm ) - Sorry, nobody needed to get a new radio.
Photo of Lee

Lee, Elmer

  • 680 Posts
  • 286 Reply Likes
Actually the "fix" did improve the key clicks but destroyed the QSK in the radio.  The issue was never satisfactorily resolved.  

73  
Photo of Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin

  • 84 Posts
  • 6 Reply Likes
Monk,
The main thing you need to ask yourself is what type of operating do you hope to achieve with a new radio? I myself seriously looked at purchasing a flex radio. I already had a k3 and really liked it. I not only am a day to day operator but a contest operator as well.

My decision was either a 6300 or the 6500. But once joining the community it seemed that most of the issues with the flexradio was not hardware related but software related. I am an accountant and it seemed that the flex was more of a WIP or "work in process" then anything. I guess I was not looking for the challenge of the what if in each new version of the SDR software.

I realize that Elecraft, Icom and Kenwood come out with new firmware upgrades. Some more than others. I was very content with my Elecraft but was looking for something better then what I had with my K3. I finally decided on a new Kenwood TS-990S. I am very satisfied with my choice. Even though I am younger then you are I saw "too many bugs" and "What if's" with the SDR software.

I don't want you to think I am Flexradio negative individual. But I was looking for more stability in my radio then what Flexradio is offering at this point in time. If you like the day to day challenge that flex has then go for it. But perhaps look at the 6300 so at least you are not putting out major bucks. Just thought I would add my two cents. Mark Griffin, KB3Z
Photo of Lee

Lee, Elmer

  • 680 Posts
  • 286 Reply Likes
I have not experienced any "day to day challenge".   I download the latest software, boot it, update the radio, and go get on 40 CW.  It runs like that till I load the next update where I rinse and repeat.  As far as performance I worked 6 band DXCC and 84 countries on the 7th band in 6 months on the 6300 all using a vertical antenna, all on CW.  6 band DXCC was my day to day challenge.  Instability in the radio was not an issue.

73  W9OY 
Photo of km9r.mike

km9r.mike

  • 425 Posts
  • 62 Reply Likes
Monk,

I too liked the suggestion of just do a 30 day trial period. I think you will see pretty quickly what others are talking about and be able to make an informed decision one way or another at no risk to you if you decide you just do not like the rig.
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 645 Reply Likes
A 30 day free trial is kissing cousin to the 24 hr test drive. It's classic marketing and stacks the deck in favor of the vendor.
Photo of km9r.mike

km9r.mike

  • 425 Posts
  • 62 Reply Likes
Possible. I just think it is a great opportunity for him to determine if the pros or cons have any merit.  He may absolutely love the rig's performance but may decide on another because of other factors. I had zero sdr experience and zero flex experience prior to my 6300 and there was some uncertainty in my decision because of what I heard prior to the 6k series. Once I first turned on my 6300, however, I knew it was a good choice and I have not regretted the decision. In fact they have just received additional business from me. 

When I bought my first couple of cars, I went in with the attitude I hope they give me the opportunity to purchase. Ever since then it has been an attitude of they should be grateful to have my business. Not because I am special but because they should have my best interest at heart. If they don't , I will find someone who does.
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 645 Reply Likes
Mike, I hate sounding old, cynical, and cranky but none of them have your best interest at heart. They are all businesses. They are all in business to benefit the owner. If people 50% of the time test drove the car for 24 hours and said 'nah', they'd stop offering 24hr test drives its a marketing gimmick designed to sell product. When you are house hunting there is a pattern successful agents play. They know the house they really want to sell you. As soon as you enter the house they'll tell you, 'welcome to your new home' . the more a vendor can convince you you own their product, the less you are apt to remind them no you don't.

I don't especially fault the vendor for stacking the deck in their own favor, its business. I do fault consumers for not realizing what's happening.
Photo of Duane, AC5AA

Duane, AC5AA

  • 425 Posts
  • 99 Reply Likes
I've heard the "victim card" used in a lot of places, but never on a 30 day free trial before! Unless you have a good friend willing to loan you one so you can try it out in your own shack with your antennas, etc., this is a really good way to do that. If you can't remember you're trying it out, well then that's not the seller's problem.
Photo of W7NGA

W7NGA

  • 445 Posts
  • 189 Reply Likes
I think once you have experienced the wide-spectrum panadapter and filtering possibilities, you will find it very difficult to send it back. The fact that so many users are now using Windows 10 successfully should convince you to persevere, have fun with the new operating system, and work the world with your new Flex. 
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 645 Reply Likes
Victim card? Too weird.
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes
I didn't know what he meant
Photo of Lee

Lee, Elmer

  • 680 Posts
  • 286 Reply Likes
What Duane meant is Walt's perspective on Flex is they are out to victimize potential customers.  My understanding and experience is completely different because I am not cranky old and cynical.  Seems to me giving a man (woman) a chance to gain experience with an unfamiliar product before making a purchase decision is quite rational and not nefarious.  

I recently saw an add on QTH.com for a one week old Anan 10E selling at a $165 dollar loss.  The stated reason: "just not what I was looking for"  Bet he wished he had a 30 day trial.
 
73  W9OY
(Edited)
Photo of Gerald - K5SDR

Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

  • 825 Posts
  • 1504 Reply Likes
We have offered a 30 day return policy for probably a dozen years now.  It is a great way to reduce the risk to the buyer if the radio does not meet their expectations.  It costs us several hundred dollars if someone returns a radio but it is certainly worth it to us to make sure that our customers are happy.  It does happen occasionally but we rarely get one back.

We are not perfect but we truly care.  If we were in it simply for the money, we would be in a business other than ham radio (In the mid 1990's I ran a business with sales greater than 2X the entire worldwide amateur HF transceiver market and we were not considered a large company).  

We actually love what we do and want each of you to enjoy your radio.  That said, we are not a charity so we need to make money to keep providing the products that you can continue to enjoy.  

Finally, the knobs vs. no knobs and PC vs. no PC debate is irrelevant with the advent of Maestro from Flex and with Mac support from DogPark.

http://www.flexradio.com/amateur-products/flex-6000-signature-series/maestro/
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 645 Reply Likes
Actually no Lee, once again you are deep into conspiracy theory, casting those you don't like to have the worst of all possible traits and motives.

I accuse(d) no one of victimizing anyone. Lee, it's marketing...take a course.
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes

I don't know how Flex makes money on hams. I am cheaper than most and I bought the 6300. I am guessing it's a loss-leader.


Photo of Steve W6SDM

Steve W6SDM

  • 625 Posts
  • 283 Reply Likes
I'm not cheap.  I'm just poor.  :)
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes
I am cheap and that's why I am not poor. For example I want the Maestro and was willing to wait until it was available but they would take my deposit to freeze the price until 2.0 came out. I will never pay more than the "introductory price." I am stubborn.
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 645 Reply Likes
Look at it this way Burt, for a mere $200, you have the use of $1,000 for, at least, the next 9 months. It's less expensive than a credit card and you are the lender as well as lendee.
(Edited)
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes
I owe no one any money by not doing bad deals. Paying an additional $200, Flex gets over 25% interest plus I don't have the equipment.
Photo of KF4HR

KF4HR

  • 700 Posts
  • 238 Reply Likes
Hi Monk, and welcome to the group.  First let me say, asking the question "Flex or a box with knobs?" on the Flex forum is akin to logging onto the Corvette Forum and asking, "What's better, a Corvette or a Mustang?"  As another member pointed out, those that don't like the Flex are long gone, so obviously you're going hear biased opinions here, and mostly similar praise if you log onto the ICOM, Yaesu, Kenwood, Elecraft, or any other manufacture forum.  It's not uncommon for people on these forums to champion, defend, and justify their purchase, whatever brand it is. 

I can tell you I have owned, and own, a lot of equipment and up until recently an ICOM IC-7800 was my favorite rig.  And I can tell you I'm not a fan of Elecraft because I think they have a toy'ish feel and I hate their ergonomics.  I can tell you I've owned high end knob radios that present a healthy learning curve.  I can tell you inside of 2 months my Flex-6700 has become my favorite rig and I rarely ever turn my other equipment on anymore.  I can tell you that even though I'm far from being a PC expert, dealing with my Flex and Windows hasn't been a concern.  I can tell you a lot of things but truthfully none of this matters.  What really matters is what rig are you going to feel most comfortable operating?  My suggestion is, find a way to sit down in front of every radio that interests you, at least a hour or two, and ideally with someone who can show you how to put each radio through its full paces. Then you'll know what fits you best.

Good luck with your decision. 
(Edited)
Photo of Alex - DH2ID

Alex - DH2ID, Elmer

  • 971 Posts
  • 180 Reply Likes
My main radios nowadays are a Flex-6500 at home and an Elecraft KX3 for portable work.
I buy American. Why? These radios are made by hams for hams and they have the best support and the best ham forums in the world.
I still keep my Flex-3000, because it is so flat and small, that I can put my notebook on it.
And I still have some extra knob radios for mobile and portable work and my EMCOMM radios are my last YAESU's: a FT-897D and FT-857D. For CW work I use an ICOM IC-756PRO, which is still IMHO one of the best CW TRX.
Years ago I was - trough a ham fried in the army at USAREUR - able to use a Drake line and later, when I was HF licencend I bought only YAESU TRX, all sold since. Now I have come all the way around again ;-)
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes
If you buy, the 6300 is the best bang for the buck. For what you would spend for the 6500, 6700 you could have the 6300 plus great antennas. I and others have pointed out the bias in this forum, keep that in mind. If they indeed have a 30 day trial that is the best solution.
Photo of Steve K9ZW

Steve K9ZW, Elmer

  • 1400 Posts
  • 709 Reply Likes

@Monk

I like my Flex-6700/6300s - - AND I like my Collins S-Line gear.

For any setup YMMV - it is a personal thing.

As a couple folk have mentioned FRS is stand-up and has a very generous return policy, as they know it is a paradigm shift for many folk to switch to an SDR.


Too bad I'm over 1100 miles NNE of your QTH - as I always enjoy doing a "show-n-tell" of my Flex-6700 when folk stop in.

73

Steve K9ZW


(Edited)
Photo of Rick Hadley - W0FG

Rick Hadley - W0FG

  • 595 Posts
  • 129 Reply Likes
As a 69-yr old retiree, I can understand your quandry, Monk.  I can only 2nd the suggestion you attend a large hamfest or convention where you can get a feel for multiple rigs. 2 years ago I lost my airplane to a windstorm and decided to get back into ham radio after a near 10 year layoff.  My then current rig was a Yaesu FT-757, bought new in 1987.  I was on the verge of buying a new FT3000dx before I attended the Midwest Division convention and had a chance to see both the Yaesu, Elecraft and Flex rigs in operation and listen to the dog-and-pony shows from each vendor.  I ordered a new 6500 as soon as we got home and I've never regretted it.  This will probably be my last major rig purchase and I wanted something that was state-of-the-art.  That's Flex, all over. I worked in IT-related jobs most of my professional life and wanted something that integrated well.  My current shack has two computers and 4 monitors.  SSDR, HRD Log, and either my digital program or alternatively CW Skimmer, Flex Stack, Flex Meter and HRD Rotor control are all displayed simultaneously, while the laptop handles things like this.  You can see the layout on my QRZ page.  With just a vertical and a Hex-beam at 25', I've worked more DX than you can imagine in 24 months.  Aside from the new Icom 7100 I just bought for my Jeep, I'll never go back to a knob radio again.
Photo of Clay N9IO

Clay N9IO

  • 572 Posts
  • 142 Reply Likes

Monk,

I will simply say that the pan adapter is one of the biggest advantages you will enjoy in either DXing or contesting.  The rock solid filter skirts are absolutely amazing.
I run a Flex 6300 with a Six-Pak antenna switch and an Acom 1000 amp.
The Flex Control knob is essential to me.  I really don't need a Maestro and I would be just as happy without it but I really want to see where this is going and want any advantage I can muster so I ordered one at Dayton this year anyway.  (I suspect that It's going to get really interesting, soon!)

I generally run one slice with XIT on split (XIT/RIT are not limited to 9.99 kc as in legacy types of the past).
The Six-Pak two antenna switch I have connected to both antenna ports 1 and 2.
I transmit on port 1 but port 2 allows me to select any of my antennas for receive (whichever is quietest, VERY versatile).
I use the transverter port for my small receive antennas (EWE, pennant).

RTTY is a breeze with DAX, super clean.

Between LOTW and the Flex 6300 my DXCC count is rising rapidly and I couldn't be happier.
I am having so much more fun in the hobby than I have since I began in 1973 because of the 6000 series radios.

Gerald said in an earlier post "If we were in it simply for the money, we would be in a business other than ham radio"  I am very pleased to see a man (and staff I might add) that is as passionate about the hobby as I consider myself.  I am totally amazed at the programming talent they have on staff.
These folks are rewriting the books make no doubt, I am happy to be in this place and time in radio.

I will NEVER go back, NOPE!

So whatever you decide, good luck best DX.  Hope to meet you OTA sometime.

73' Clay N9IO 

Photo of Gary L. Robinson

Gary L. Robinson

  • 252 Posts
  • 54 Reply Likes
Monk,

To get the ALL the benefits of a SDR radio you HAVE TO have a computer. Some people may disagree with that BUT one of the benefits of having a SDR rig is that you CAN write your own software to suit yourself. That is just ONE of many benefits of SDR - not necessarily the main one - depending on what is important to you.

Since a computer is needed for the full set of benefits of SDR, you will have to cope with computer problems from time to time. Henceforth, your computer skills and knowledge will directly affect how you feel about your SDR experience.

Of course, when Flex delivers their Maestro product, you could get one of those and use it INSTEAD of a standard computer and get MOST of the benefits of SDR and NOT have to worry about Windows updates. As long as Flex updates the system that Maestro uses I think you would have less chance of experiencing series problems.

So, it depends on your computer skills and knowledge - AND what you want. I wanted to get entirely away from using knobs, etc. And I "live" in my computers and while I have a had a few problems, none have been serious or taken long to fix by myself.

But many hams don't have extensive knowledge of computers, Windows, and software. And it looks like they can get most of the SDR benefits with the Flex Maestro product - which looks like it may come out in January. My understanding is that it can be used remotely OR locally with a Flex 6000 series rig.

It may be the best of both worlds if the thought of fighting Windows worries you about SDR.

---Gary WB8ROL
Photo of Monk - K5HP

Monk - K5HP

  • 25 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Thanks for the comment Gary, I know my way around a computer pretty well due to the years I spent as a high end security integrator installing and maintaining access control systems and several hundred camera CCTV systems. The "box with knobs" was slang verbiage and made it seem to some that was my preference. I actually use HDSDR and the dongle now and much prefer CAT to the myriad menus, extended menus etc. The Flex is what I will get, just had to throw it out there one more time since I strongly believe in getting as much info as I can before pulling the trigger. Thanks again for the comment. One thing I've gleaned from this post is this. I will go with a dedicated PC for the radio and 3rd party ham apps and not be connected to internet and that should help stability problems.
(Edited)
Photo of KY6LA - Howard

KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

  • 3700 Posts
  • 1550 Reply Likes
I think you want to be connected to the Internet BUT make sure Windows updates are turned OFF
Photo of Monk - K5HP

Monk - K5HP

  • 25 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Yeah, I grabbed the utility you posted the other day. Why would I want to be connected to the internet?
Photo of Monk - K5HP

Monk - K5HP

  • 25 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Well, now that I think for a moment, I guess callsign lookup , DX cluster and other things just wouldn't work :-))
Photo of Duane  N9DG

Duane N9DG

  • 80 Posts
  • 28 Reply Likes
While HDSDR is wonderfully useful for running with just about any piece of SDR hardware that is imaginable. It is not the most user friendly in terms of day to day use and controls manipulation. SmartSDR is much better from a user experience perspective, as is PowerSDR. Ditto for the effort to set it up.

And if you are so inclined, you can feed DAX IQ output(s) from a 6K into HDSDR and it will do its thing just as if it was being fed from some other piece of SDR hardware. For grins I was able to get a 6500 have 8 simultaneous RX's that way :)..

To me one of the greatest things, and really not mentioned much in this discussion about the 6K series is the amount of multi-band, and multi-mode, "parallelism" that you can achieve with just one piece of RF I/O hardware.

The last few days I have been playing around with feeding the 6500 from my DEMI 2M transverter. With that I was able to setup a 4 MHz wide panadapter to watch the entire 2M band, then another panadapter setup for about 200 kHz width to more closely watch the weak signal part of the band +/- 100 kHz of the 2M calling frequency of 144.2. So I could see and quickly tune in FM signals while simultaneously be copying SSB signals closer to 144.2.

But that wasn't operational "parallelism" enough for me. Because I could, I added a combiner in the RX IF line from the transverter and then patched my HF multi band HF dipole into the RX input as well. So the 6500 was being fed both 2M transverter IF signal, and HF band signals. I then setup WSJT-X to decode WSPR traffic on 630M. And I even fired up another panadapter on 40M copying yet another SSB signal.

So basically I was monitoring multiple signals/modes on 2M, 40M, and 630M all at the same time. None of the boxes with knobs/buttons models at any price can even come close to doing that many different modes on that many different bands, and do all of that at the exact same time. Yes I added some hardware beyond the 6500 itself, but it was trivial to do.

My motivation to play with combining signal sources feeding the 6K was to get a sample feel for what I think the SO2R box will be able to do based on what I seen about it so far. And as part of that what the trade-offs of combining RX input sources might be.
Photo of EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

  • 1773 Posts
  • 545 Reply Likes
For one the possibility of remote operation of your Flex.

I personally believe, and this comment is not directed to anyone in particular, that using a computer nowadays, is as important as being able to read and write might have been 100 years ago. You can either get on board with the technology or slowly fade into the background. No wonder amateur radio operators have been very early adopters of computers.... we are all tinkers!

I love opening a book from time to time, is a great feeling. It sucks that everytime I move I spend more money moving the books around (I tend to move overseas) that it would cost me to buy them new again! I have a vinyl collection and a fairly decent CD collection, over 5,000 albums. They are all sitting at home, in a basement, not to be moved ever again. Not being enjoyed at all. I have great pictures printed and shorted in albums, collecting dust next to the CDs. Thanks to technology, today, I can carry all of that on my cellphone!

If I want to work on my car I can see a youtube video or have the technical manual in front of me on an inexpensive tablet. That wasn't possible 10 years ago. I can find tons of information on the internet on anything... not having a computer would be so sad....

Complaining about Windows (which I indulge in from time to time) while talking about the Flex radio is like complaining about having to use a power supply, coaxial cable and an antenna with any radio.
What are these FRS people thinking? They supplied me with this device that I can't just plug into an outlet!!! I turn it on and I don't hear anything, what is this crazy thing you call coaxial and antenna?? It should just work. Don't just give me knobs, give me a device that works with no effort on my part of any kind.

You buy/use a superheterodine radio and you are supposed to know about impedance and radiation patterns and RF and grounding... what reaction would I get if I go to any amateur radio forum and pleaded complete ignorance on all of those subjects? Will anyone take me seriously?

If someone wants to be on the cutting edge of what amateur radio has to offer today they get an SDR transceiver. If he/she is really brave and can program his/her own software to completely manage a Direct Sampling radio buy Flex's competition (hermes board) and compile your own software. I don't know how to add anything to any radio so I personally like the Flex approach, I use my dollars to "invest" into a company hoping they will deliver with new features. So far they have for me.

If someone wants to enjoy a bit of radio here and there and that someone doesn't care much for cutting edge, get an IC-9100, it has everything, including VHF and UHF and you don't have to bother looking at panadapters or using a mouse or a computer.

If your budget is limited, invest in a great antenna, 500w of power and any radio will do, there are great options in the used market.

But if you are here, asking, is because you already see something in SDR, and the Flex package is very appealing. Right?

I correlate radio transceivers to flying. You can buy an average japanese radio, that is like flying couch. You can get a top of the line japanese superhet radio (business class) or an Elecraft/Hilberling (First class). Great machines, still flying commercial.

Or you can get a Flex 6000 series which is like getting on board of the ISS or flying in the space shuttle. You are a pioneer and it is not without issues and challenges (Huston we have a problem) but, boy, oh boy, we are going to the Moon!!!
Photo of Ken Davis

Ken Davis

  • 71 Posts
  • 9 Reply Likes
Everything above is true. The question you must ask yourself is are you ready to move into the 21st century when it comes to ham radios. I have a 6300 and it will do everything I want it to do.  I can tell you that my setup is rock solid both on my network and with Windows 10 which I upgraded from W7. It takes me a whole 10 seconds to go from nothing to 20m with audio (I never turn off any of my equipment - No thermal cycles).

I do not have a separate or "NEW" PC to run my 6300. My PC is a HP p6380t Intel 2 quad cpu at 2.5GHz and 6GB ram. I also edit video and audio with the same PC and all the other usual stuff - No issues.

My network connection is also rock solid. I have never seen the Latency reading greater than 1ms. Normall it is always <1ms.

The only problem I had was getting DAX to work with Ham Radio Deluxes' free version of DM780 for PSK31. I sent in a ticket to FRS Tech Support and Dudley had me up and running the next day - operator ignorance not radio issue.

Good DXing in 2016 and 73
Ken
W0KRD
Photo of Rick Williams

Rick Williams

  • 13 Posts
  • 2 Reply Likes
Hi Monk:
I can understand your concerns in that there is something comforting in using the familiar.  You talked about whatever radio you choose as likely being your last radio purchase.  If you think about it, the only reason anyone buys a new radio is because the new one does something better than the current radio, unless the old one breaks.  One of the reasons I bought a Flex is because it can constantly get better.  Better noise performance, perhaps better filters, better feature sets since the stats on the hardware side of the radio are already so good.  If some wizard figures out some algorithm that eliminates 95% of the static on a radio, it is matter of programming, not building a new model.   

Another consideration is that with any new radio, there is going to be a learning curve.  I've operated some radios like a Yaesu 9000 and compared to that, the Flex is to me at least very intuitive.  I received my 6500 Christmas Eve and 40 minutes later was making contacts.  I don't know if you are into digital modes other than CW, but compared to other radios I've owned and operated, getting the Flex setup with digital software is a breeze.  One Ethernet cable and some settings.  And speaking of CW, the radio is wonderful to use CW.  

Ultimately though, for me at least, it comes down to making contacts and there the Flex really shines.  You can look at the entire band and see what is going on.  Finding signals is a breeze and you can monitor other bands at the same time.  I've managed some 200+ contacts.  The filtering is the best I've ever experienced and the noise control is fantastic as well.  

It will come down to your priorities but consider that perhaps many of the issues you read about have already been solved and are no longer issues.  Also, thanks for your time with the PGR!

Best
Rick, KT9B
SR-RC, INPG
Photo of Jerry - W2TXB

Jerry - W2TXB

  • 88 Posts
  • 17 Reply Likes
After owning a loaded 5000A for a couple of years, I was one of the earlier hams to get a 6700, and have not been disappointed. For me, there have been no problems with the Flex radios; mine went back for a hardware fix, and that was totally covered by Flex. The difficult part was being without the radio for a couple of weeks. 

I have never looked at my choice of HF radios as a "knobs and buttons" vs. a lack thereof decision. Rather, the performance of the Flex radios, along with the ability to make major improvements via the software, is what sold me on their products. Excellent product and customer support was also a huge factor.

Now... about the Windows OS... Windows is still the most common OS around and, although we would like a Linux version, it may not happen anytime soon. Just keep your Windows PC dedicated (mostly) to the Flex, and you will be just ducky. Avoid Windows Defender like the plague that it appears to be, and it gets even better. Use AVG or something like that. 

Once you use a Flex, you will be hooked. 
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1209 Posts
  • 467 Reply Likes

You said, " For me, there have been no problems with the Flex radios"

You also said,  "mine went back for a hardware fix,"

What am I missing?

Photo of Jerry - W2TXB

Jerry - W2TXB

  • 88 Posts
  • 17 Reply Likes
There was a hardware upgrade a while back to make the earlier 6700's (and 6500's as well) work with some of the newest software and firmware changes. The radio worked well before the upgrade and worked the same afterward... until I got the next software and firmware upgrade.
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 4166 Posts
  • 1329 Reply Likes
Yes, I remember that for the 6700.  It was actually a performance upgrade, not a defect repair.  It was only for the 6700 if I remember correctly.  At least I have had no information regarding my fairly-early 6500. 
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 4166 Posts
  • 1329 Reply Likes
Monk,
I note from your QRZ.COM page that you are not far from Austin, TX.  You might call for an appointment and see if they will give you a tour and/or demonstration.  I don't know how busy the staff will be the next week or two (assuming the new software update comes out soon.

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies.