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.
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.
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.
Best Regards, Dan KM6CQ
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ;-)
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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