Give us a Choice with the S Meter

  • 3
  • Idea
  • Updated 1 month ago
  • Not Planned
Flex S Meter - I'm sure there are many users that would appreciate the ability to have the S meter work as it does in a traditional analog receiver.  The S meter counting empty FFT bins and so forth is fine, as is the receiver being a perfect spectrum analyzer.  That aside the ability to use the S meter as a relative indication of signal strength has been a long held tradition.  So how about a software switch to allow the end user to do this?  50 uv makes S9, kick in 30 db of preamp and the meter reads S9 +30, with 0 db preamp and the antenna disconnected the S meter reads S 0.  Allow the end user to have an S meter the way S meters have worked for decades, not as a precise measurement tool, but a relative reading as it has been with Collins, Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom, and so forth.  I am proposing a software switch to allow the user to have either the "Flex" (so called) precision S meter, or a traditional S meter as the user so chooses.  Any hurrahs here! ??  Come on, I certainly can't be the only one irritated by this!
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Rex K0KP

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Posted 2 months ago

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K6OZY, Elmer

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I assume you have tried clicking on the dBm/S meter in a slice?  It toggles the view from dBm to S meter.

I doubt introducing a "broken" S meter will be considered.   Good thing it's an open API platform and you can write your own meter then!
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Bill -VA3WTB

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You are irritated from having a lab accurate signal meter? This is the high tech world of Flex radio and direct sampling. your asking for an inaccurate meter on the Flex?  I don't think so..lol
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Cheers Bill.   My thoughts exactly.
The comedy here is that on eham.net, a fellow called Zenki goes ballistic all the time for lack of calibrated accurate S-meters on Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, etc.
But HERE,  Rex wants the old un-calibrated relative style back!   (No offense Rex, but you will make Zenki's head explode :-)   [good entertainment indeed!] )

That said, as mentioned by K6OZY, with the API, there is no limit to the number of third party utilities that people can write and provide.     (In a perfect world, there is also little limit to features that FRS can build into SmartSDR and the firmware, but you do know that FRS does not employ thousands of programmers like IBM or HP?)   Hence, just like with DDutil and SliceMaster and FRstack, it makes perfect sense for some third party to build a general purpose metering application that would let you pick and display all types of metering options for the rig.

Cheers,

Neal
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Rex K0KP

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I'm probably too dumb to no how OM.  Golly, I like spenting sevral thoosand dolars for an S meter that reeds S4 with know anntena cunected and fer the abilaty to wrote my own softwarz.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Yup you did, welcome to direct sampling
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Michael Coslo

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Hi Rex, there is a fellow who wrote an analog meter applet for SSDR. It might be adaptable for your needs. I removed it from my computers, and am embarassed to say. This might be able to suit your needs www.kd0zv.com/woodbox.zip 
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Victor Gavron

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This is a neat app! IMHO, it is easier to see an "analog" meter than the horizontal bar.  I don't think precision is that important in this context.
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AA0KM

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(Edited)
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Rex K0KP

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Sorry Bill !  This is an IDEA for an OPTIONAL software switch to go from (so called) lab grade to relative.  I doubt there is such a thing as a lab grade S meter anyway, as there are several S meter standards in use.  Who is to say what the lab grade standard is?  Flex is great, but the engineers at Collins, Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu and so forth are not idiots either.  Just saying.  OPTIONAL SWITCH PLEASE!
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Rick WN2C

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Rex why in the world would you want an inaccurate S meter? You can always tell your contacts that you have a dutch meter and tell them their signal is 10 to 20 over anyway.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Rick, oh no..don't start all over again.
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Rick WN2C

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I'm sorry

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W7NGA

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I always thought my signal report to the other station was a function of how badly I needed their QSL card!
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Rex K0KP

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The Kool-Aid stand is open.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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As it says, not planned.
The engineers at all the companies you mentioned are not idiots as you said. but an SDR radio works in a much different manner then all those radios. And yes you could use the Flex in a lab or a test bench to calibrate other radios and there is a standard. Voltage= S unit.
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Rex K0KP

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Bill - sorry.  So what is not planned?  Taking suggestive and creative ideas from your customers or taking future purchases?  This is an idea, and no Bill, an S meter should not read S4 without an antenna connected as like you noted there is no voltage at the input!  This is starting to remind me of Gotham antenna claims.  :-)  (Tongue in cheek and in a friendly spirit)
(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I take it you did not read the link posted here for you to read? in that post Steve explains  this in a way most of us can understand.
Without an antenna there is always voltage, internal. The receive bins are always being read,there is always voltage in the bins, they are always active. This is what the meter reflects. This is how direct sampling works in the Flex. It is working correctly as designed.

Not planned simply means what it says, the idea is not planned.
(Edited)
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Rex K0KP

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So you are content with a broken S meter than can't read below S4.  OK ...
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Rex, to show you how it works try this. Place your mouse over the left edge of the pass band filter and move the filter so as to narrow it up, you will notice the S meter reading will drop as you move it. If you keep going and make as narrow as possible the S meter should read near S 1

The width of the pass band filter reflex how many bins are active and being read.
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Rex K0KP

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W7NGA - Yup!  You are correct on that OM!  hahaha

OMG what have I started?
(Edited)
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N5LB - Lionel B

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My 75S3 is 100uV for S-9, my R4C is 50uV, my NC-303 I have no idea, and the calibration varies with frequency.

I like the Flex calibrated meter that tells me the signal level at the antenna terminal and seems to be unaffected by frequency and is unaffected by the preamp.  Absolute accuracy, compared to what, I don't know, but it is repeatable.

On the other hand,  S-meters have been somewhat controversial for signal reports for as long as I can remember and the "live" or "liberal" S-meter is important to some.

Your proposal is not one I would request, but for others it may be important.

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Rex K0KP

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Thanks Lionel, I think I am treading very close to being banned from the Flex site for not drinking down the Kool Aid.  :-)  Seriously, I do love my Flex.  Holy Grail?  No.  But very good none-the-less.
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Michael Coslo

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No you're not. It's just a learning curve. Welcome to the zoo.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Rex your comments are always welcome, you think out of the box. I am just trying to help you understand how the meter works in the Flex and why it does and says what it does. It is not a design flaw. And I don't get your comment about cool aid?
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Rex

You have legitimately posted your request fir a switch to convert the accurate Flex S-Meter into a more traditional innacurate Relative S-Meter similar to the approximations of signal strength derived from Legacy AGC Loops. Since Flex does not use Legacy AGC loops it might be hard to implement

I can understand that many people would gain comfort from the fiction of those readings WHERE no antenna attached implies S0 even though the Minimum Discernable signal is not -127dBm but rather something like -110dBm or S4.

Anyways I Always thought all DX and contest signal reports were 5/9 whatever. Hi. Hi.

While I personally applauded the demise of legacy S-Meters Let’s see how many likes you get.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Continuing with the Legacy Fiction S—Meter.




If you receive a S9 or -73dBm signal and add 30dB gain in the preamp. A Legacy AGC loop will read S9+30dB. But your signal really is still -73dBm at the antenna and all the preamp should have done is reduced your noise floor by 30dB.


But again I can understand how people can prefer to enjoy the comfort of the fiction that a preamp makes a received signal at the antenna stronger because lowering the relative noise floor makes it seem so.
(Edited)
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Hi Howard:

I am also a new Flex 6600 owner, and coming from the analog superhet world, I too was confused at first, actually until yesterday, about the different behavior on the Flex due to the different technology and measurement method.    I would propse that part of this problem, and maybe endless support calls and forum posts, is because FRS has not yet added a chapter to the user manual that is titled  "Coming to Direct Sampling SDR from the SuperHet Analog World?; What is different & What to Expect".    

Such a chapter would have shortened my learning curve by perhaps weeks, and saved a ton of forum posts.
For example, you can see this slow learning curve and confusion here;
https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/6600-maestro-settings-help-needed

Again, the radio works great and has really impressed me as a lab grade tool,
but what I was witnessing, using my previous radios as experience, was not what
I thought.  And without a chapter in the manual, I did not know if I had a problem,
or if it was simply a different design, method of measuring, or what.

So in summary;  It seems that threads like this, and feature requests like this, are
due to people using their previous analog radios as a frame of reference, and thinking
that new SDR radios need to feel/look the same way, else they may be broken.

The solution is having that extra chapter, whereby each and every buyer can easily see the educational material during the first few days of reading.

Cheers,

Neal
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Very Good suggestion
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Bill Roberts

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I and many group members have access to the Wood Box S-Meter which looks like a traditional analog D'Arsonval (sp) meter.  Don't think that's available on the web any longer.  Still, in the direct sampling environment, it mirrors the values displayed on the regular Flex S-meter.

Just for the heck of it, I switched on my IC 7300 which currently sits with no antenna connected.  It does show S-0.  I'm not asking Flex to change their S-Meter.  Apparently, Icom, probably as a cave in to the knob and dial operators, made the decision to carry over the "inaccurate" S-meter tradition to their version of the direct sampling world.

Who needs an S-meter anyway.  The important thing is that you can hear/copy the other station, right?
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AA0KM

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Unplug antenna and leave radio on and software  turn on some light switches and electric motors or appliances you will see the flexradio is very much listening to local noise floor all the time.

Look at the birdies from you router on 6 meters.!


73 Jeff


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Rory - N6OIL

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The other day I had my TS-830S un-hooked and had about an S-7 reading.
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Rick WN2C

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I thought all signals were 5 9 anyway as evidenced in contests. You're 5x9, what's your call!
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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AFIK none of the Legacy Radios actually use a calibrated RF Voltmeter at the antenna to measure the true received signal voltage.  (There might be some that I do not know about)

Instead S-Meter readings are derived from the AGC Loop, hence when one adds 30dB preamp gain to the radio, the S-Meter jumps 30dB even though the actually received signal voltage at the antenna has no changed and when one removes the antenna, there is no AGC hence it reads S0 even though the radio cannot read a signal below S4 or -103dBm

But heck if it makes you happy to have a fictitious number give you comfort that your preamp in working or your radio is not hearing anything with the antenna disconnected then by all means vote for this idea.

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Wayne

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S meter numbers don't matter anyway since no matter what the level your always S-9 just listen to the contests your S9 even though I had to ask for you to repeat your call sign 8 times your signal is S9 maybe my hearings bad ....
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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You seem to have a point Wayne  :-)

A.  If I am rag chewing with you, and can hear you, I could care less what the S-Meter says.
B.  If I am contesting, yup, it's always S9 replies, so I don't even need to look.

Hmm,  I guess I don't really need one after all!  :-)

But I still think that someone should use the API, and try to make an old analog AGC style
inaccurate relative S-Meter, just to infuriate Zenki and provide new Flex owners with choice.

Cheers,

Neal
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Here is a link to the Woodbox Radio ANALOG S-Meter

https://www.dropbox.com/s/223si9ks962n1av/Smart%20S-meter_V1.6.zip?dl=0 


Looks and feels like one of the Legacy Meters but unfortunately unlike legacy meters it still gives you an accurate reading rather than an AGC Loop Approximation so 30dB Preamp gain does NOT increase the reading at the antenna

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James Whiteway

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I like it. Too bad the developer is not supporting it anymore. Well done graphics.
James
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Bob Craig, K8RC

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As I commented on a similar thread in the Facebook Flex group, "If you've got my call right, you're 5-9 or 599." Served me well for over 50 years...
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Robert Lonn

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  1. My Analog Flex S-Meter is working perfectly.. Calibration is exact, and I love to see the meter move back and forth when receiving SSB signals.. It is very easy to install!! You need two parts.
  2. One part is a Label Maker to print out the work FLEX
  3. The second part is the radio to place the FLEX sticker on it
  4. The result is a FLEX radio with a precision S-Meter!!!

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John - AI4FR

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Let's also remember that many "S" meters on older equipment is user adjustable.
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James Del Principe

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So help me out here. If I short out the input and it still reads S3 or so and I have a pronounced hiss, then isn't this internally generated noise??? And doesn't this serve to mask weak signals?  If not internal, then this speaks of poor shielding.
My analog radios like the FT2000 and FT 847 and quite quite when the antenna terminals are shorted and, of course, the S meter reads zero since there is no AGC voltage generated.
Respectfully, Jim     KD1I
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Bill -VA3WTB

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James,,In the case of the Flex, the internal noise is created by the receiver bins being sampled, Direct sampling....this sampling is working all the time. So without an antenna the bin samples are registered. In any radio there is no such thing as 0 RF in the receiver, a non SDR radio can not measure the small voltages and display them.

On your Flex as you increase the pass band width, you see the S meter signal rise. And if you drag the pass band narrow to very thin the S meter should say S1.

The FT2000 is not a direct sampling radio and works much differently then a Flex.
As you know, a Flex hears weak signals really well because of the technology it uses.
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John - K3MA

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I bet Dr. Kelvin if he was alive would disagree with your 0 RF statement.
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Jay / NO5J

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James

And that shorted input was intended to have a 50 ohm load across it, so may not be near as accurate when reading a short. A 50 ohm short will probably give you a different measurement. 

But neither reading, will be a signal measurement.

Noise just IS, it's never 0.

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James Del Principe

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Jay, thanks for the reply but I did use my own 51 Ohm, non-reactive load as well as a short.  Still has internally generated noise to what I consider unacceptable levels.....   Noise, like any other signal, is additive.... so any source adds to the total.
Whether the "S" meter reads S3 or S2 or S4, it still comes from internal sources.

Best 73, Jim
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Bill -VA3WTB

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That true Jame,,internal, in a direct sampling radio and the way Flex samples the bins this is very normal.
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James Del Principe

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Maybe then, and I'm going way out on a limb here, what is needed for operator comfort, is a form of downward compandering like the Flex transmit audio has. That way an operator would not have to listen to that background sound. The level could be adjustable to just clip the unwanted background noise perhaps at the "audio stage" rather that at the frontend. I know the AGC-T can be lowered or even the volume but this is not the same. Those will affect weak signal reception.   Just a thought.    Jim
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K6OZY, Elmer

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You mean a squelch?   That has been a LONG requested feature on this radio for non-FM modes.   I would love that added.
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James Del Principe

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Well, yes, you could call it a squelch. I think of a squelch as all or nothing with a threshold but that could work....if someone would do it.  I 'spose a hardware squelch could be made external to the Flex too but this is an awfully expensive radio not to have one built in.   Jim
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James Whiteway

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Rumor has it, that someone designed, in software, a squelch that could detect speech only. And ignore all other noise sources that could not be identified as human speech. Thereby, keeping the audio off until such time as a human voice is detected.
Pretty cool idea if true. (and it may be)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Jim, the tiny voltage sampled in the receiver bins are not effecting the receive audio.
You may have a good idea there how ever. I find by adjusting the AGC-T on an ongoing basses I can make the receiver very quiet. Also by narrowing the pass band down a bit works well as also.
In order to keep the receiver very open and hearing weak stations I don't know about turning down the front end.

Bye the way, The AGC-T is a more complicated device then some realize. It works just like the DEXP only in reverse if you can get you head around that..lol

So it keeps the noise out when there is little signal, then when a signal is is heard it opens up. This setting is in relation to the AGC setting,,slow,,med..and fast.
Many times if you want to make thing quieter setting the AGC to slow helps and carefully adjust the AGC-T so it does not pump....
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I just use the  squelch in RFSTACKS when I want it.
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James Del Principe

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Bill, thanks for the further input.   Yes, you are correct that the AGC-T can be adjusted downward to make the background quieter but must then be readjusted for weaker signals which then is noisier between contacts. I am on a morning roundtable where some stations are 20 over 9 and others just above the noise level. To optimize, I would need to slide the AGC-T up and down..... bummer. Also, it needs to be reset for different band conditions. I don't want to be a whiner here. It is a great radio but could profit from just one more feature.... squelch or clip or what ever the background sound. There is no excuse for internally generated noise with this. We are not listening to shot noise on our vacuum tubes. HI HI  Should not be too difficult.... just need the will to do it.   I will try the AGC on slow. I usually use medium.      Best 73, Jim
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James Del Principe

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Bill, I am not familiar with RFSTACKS.    Can you elaborate, please?   Jim
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James Del Principe

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James, I don't know if it needs to be so sophisticated as to detect a human voice but just clipping at the noise level should not be too difficult.     Jim
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Jay / NO5J

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Jim

http://mkcmsoftware.com/Flex/Index 

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(Edited)
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Jay / NO5J

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I've got a 50 ohm BNC terminator screwed onto my XVTR connector.
I set a 500 Hz RX filter width.
And all I got was this crazy picture showing SmartSDR reading S-0.
No internal noise visible. No signals either.

Hard to argue with reality.


BTW when I switch it to read as dBm it reads as low as -135 dBm. There is always noise in this reality. It can be measured.


The level varies 2-3 dBm very slowly, but it won't read any lower than S-0.


When I turn off the 20 dB preamp it does read S-1 @ -120 dBm.

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(Edited)