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.
P.S. The Maestro looks to satisfy any need for knobs.
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 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 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
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