IC-705 or what the Maestro should have been

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When I first bought the Maestro, pre-ordered based solely on hype, I thought it was genius! That was until I started using it to realize it was just a glorified tablet with a FlexControl attached to it. No bluetooth headset? No way of logging any contacts? Thin sound out of a crappy microphone? Oh well, expensive little toy.

Back then (3 yrs ago) I thought, and even wrote about it, that the Maestro should have been a Flex 1500 replacement. A 5w QRP radio that allowed you to jump into the Flex SDR world. If you liked it, you could then buy a 6xxx and use it with the Maestro.

Imagine being able to take you maestro, with a battery inside and have a portable QRP radio with a screen!!..... Back then I would have been happy with HF alone.....

Move forward to today and Icom has presented the IC-705. A portable radio 5w (with internal battery) or 10w with 13,8v power source. HF VHF and UHF!!!

Bluetooth!! GPS for logging!! WiFI and LAN capable. Little screen to see the signals and even reception of air band! And for about the same price I paid for the Maestro back then.

I got a square nylon bag for transportation and paid extra for adjustable feet with my Maestro.

The IC-705 gets a cool backpack.



With your purchase you get a whip antenna that works in VHF and UHF.

And the battery that works with the radio is the same one used in the ID51 and ID31 handhelds.


To think that the Maestro could have been that....and much more.....
Kenwood is out of the amateur world. Yaesu is producing crap like the 818 or the 891.
Icom is the only one producing exciting equipment with no significant competition from anyone.

Maybe it is the fact that I have not been able to enjoy my 6700 all Christmas season because I have a "license break" issue that Flex is unable to resolve... or maybe I am just tired of waiting for Flex to become what I thought it could be and I am finally ready to move to greener pastures.

The IC-705 definitely look cool and it might not be a surprise to see it up there in my wish list.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Posted 1 month ago

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Doug

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Maybe you should have posted this on the Icom user forum OM
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Why would he say to post on the Flex forum? the 705 is not a Flex product...du
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Doug

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Doug told him nothing of the sorts. This post was started to cause trouble here and he has followed up after this with a lie saying I told him to post here. Nothing but a trouble maker.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Not very sharp... I have 1800 post but I come here to make trouble?... FACE-PALM
(Edited)
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Doug

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Sal I don't care if you have 8000 post, you posted a lie about me and you owe me an apologize at the very least.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Really? You still don't get it? FACEPALM x100
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Robert Kearbey

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Sorry you just don’t get it Om. But if you had a 6xxx at home I can tell you how much fun it is away from home with my little laptop and maestro. Ft8, fldigi cw logbook etc.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I own a 6700 and a Maestro with V.3.
I have had a Flex radio since the 1500. Have owned a 6300, 6500 and 6700.
Used SmartSDR since 1.3
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Maybe it is the fact that I have not been able to enjoy my 6700 all Christmas season because I have a "license break" issue that Flex is unable to resolve... or maybe I am just tired of waiting for Flex to become what I thought it could be and I am finally ready to move to greener pastures.


A license break? that Flex can not fix? what does that mean? So you could not enjoy your radio all Christmas?
And moving on means what? your leaving Flex products?
Photo of EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I have a trouble ticket opened with Flex Bill. I will give them the opportunity to fix it. 
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Flex radio fixed my license break issue.. Took a while but I am finally on the air with the 6700. Thanks Eric!
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Val DM1TX

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Yeap! they have great support I can confirm that. You just have to ask.
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Gene Duprey

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Personally, I love my Maestro when remote or around the house. Never received any crappy sound reports from anyone, whether using a hand mic or a my Shure 55. My brother in California says my audio on the hand mic sounds like I am in front of him.  My iPad also works great with similar reports.

Gene, K1GD
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I've done my share of Maestro....

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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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And other means as well.....

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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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As per the Tiny sound....
The original Maestros came with the FHM-1 which lacks the punch of the FHM-2 which might be what you are using with your Maestro.

I ended up with a modded microphone with a couple electret capsules in series which work "OK" with the Maestro.
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Gene Duprey

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I’m using a Yaesu microphone, my Maestro was a CPO unit and no microphone included.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I do not know why the defensive reaction right away. I hope, dearly, that Flex can become what I originally envisioned.

A true merging of the digital domain with the analog domain. A fresh perspective on the tired model that ham radio was becoming.

But, FROM MY PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE..... they have fallen short. The Maestro cannot use a Bluetooth headset.... come on!! I can connect a bluetooth headset to a wristwatch now a days. I have to keep it plug to an outlet so it won't die on me and it will boot up if there is a power outage in the house. When it does it won't turn itself off and you can end up producing burn-in on the screen.

it is far from what it could have been. Again, my opinion.

I can barely modify anything on SmartSDR..... the beauty of SOFTWARE is customization, skins, avatars, modifying to your needs.

When I see that Icom comes up with a device that does what I think Flex could have done 4 years ago I feel sad.

And that is all I am saying.

I am not attacking anyone. No need to defend them...




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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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I view the Maestro as intended for control of a 6000 series radio (a) away from a computer with SSDR; or (b) for those who prefer knobs to mouse control.  I think it serves these purposes very well. 
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I do not know why the defensive reaction right away. I hope, dearly, that Flex can become what I originally envisioned.

Perhaps because your promoting another product that they suggested to you to post it here? and you did for them.
Nice to read your opinion here all is good. I think I should mention that the Maestro was never ever to be a stand alone QRP transmitter. It does very well what it is intended to do in spades. And it is a very nice peace of ham gear as well.
From what your saying it sounds like your on your way out the door. Good luck...
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Perhaps because your promoting another product that they suggested to you to post it here? and you did for them.

You really need to pay more attention to the posts and reread them a few times before replying. I guess my comment *smiley included* flew way above.....
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Robert Guertin

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I'm not agreeing with his gripe but Flex should be pumping out software to keep the radio in the forefront of the industry. I'm assuming they have more than one programmer. I haven't seen an upgrade for a while.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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In my opinion Robert, Flex is making software that is industry leading. Some of the features are only found on a Flex and with so much ease.
Remember they only release about four times a year. So yeas it has been a few months since the last release witch was Sept 17 2019.
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Robert Guertin

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In my opinion Flex has deserted it's closest users in favor of the rich guys. Not everyone can afford a $7000.00 amplifier. Again that's my opinion. The little guy has ask for many nice must have software items but that fell on deaf ears. That list has got to be in the hundreds. Sorry for the venting, but thats how I feel.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Robert, did you take part in the Flex customer survey a couple months ago. There were a number of selections on the survey from data collected from the most wanted features from Flex customers. So you see, the things we are asking for has not fallen on death ears at all. In the last statement from Flex some of those features have already been started. but we need to be fair here, some of those features will take a lot trial and much testing to get it ready for us. It takes time.

As for the amp? I too will never be able to buy an amp of that level. The PGXL is not one of the most expensive amps on the market, but it is not cheap either.
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N1DZ

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Mmmm... with Flexradio I can enjoy the full SmartSDR  experience on my small Surface go in a hotel room anywhere using my big antennas at my home QTH. 
Not sure if the Icom 705 can do that.
Having said that the Icom 705 looks like an amazing little pocket radio for outdoors fun. Kuddos to Icom. 
I might get one but do not see it replacing my Flexradio 6600.
Cheers Maarten
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Paul - K6HR

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You know what they say about 20/20 hindsight! It looks like the 705 was three years late!
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David Pearson

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The IC-705 is very impressive.   It has computer connection, VHF and UHF.

Very very nice, butttt the hardware might be nice but what about the software.  Does the IC-705 use the same software as the other models.  I would need to review some more videos and maybe to play with one to get a good impression.    I still like my Flex 1500 with my Surface Pro 3 tablet.  Would like to have VHF and UHF. 


By the way I am still waiting on a new Flex 1500 replacement, maybe IC-705 will set the bench mark for this replacement.  

My 20/20 hindsight, I did good getting the 1500 and 5000.  I still use both of them today.

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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I have been using my flex 1500 while the 6700 gets fixed... What a fantastic receiver! I almost forgot how nice the NR is on that radio.
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HCampbell WB4IVF

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Nothing at all wrong with comparing Flex to other make radios on this forum.  Flex has even said so, and that thoughtful discussions of this kind are useful to them.

Thanks for posting Sal.  I wasn’t aware of the IC-705.  It’s not for me though, I just looked at the brochure.  What I’d really like to see is a replacement for my long-in-the-tooth mobile IC-7000 (with a small detachable front panel that can be mounted almost anywhere, external monitor port, 100W, etc).   I’d buy one in a heartbeat, be it an ICOM, Flex, or otherwise. 

The IC-705 does look like an interesting little radio with some nice features I agree.  ICOM makes some fine radios and I’m sure it will have a market.

Howard


(Edited)
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Finally, someone who can read my post without trying to pick a side! It is not about which radio is better... The post was about my own opinion on what Flex could have done... They just took a different approach.
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Val DM1TX

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Thank you for posting. Wow!
A very heated topic here. I am a very happy owner of a Flex 6500, a KX3 and dreaming of the IC-705 too. What is wrong with that? I am happy with all of them and it will always be a market out there able to satisfy all. Not trying to replace but to complement. All of them have something that other do not if you see beyond the basic needs of a Ham Op. It is a love and hate story all the way guys, it is never about picking up sides! I have owned Kenwood and Yaesu so far. I needed something else. To be absolutely honest I am now very hard trying to find an old Flex-1500 or a 6300 out there. Looking at numbers the 1500 goes for 400-500 bucks and 6300 for triple that.  I need a 5-10W rig able to send CW and maybe FT8. It would be magic for me if Flex would come with an updated version of the trusty 1500. 
It would surely take the market by storm. I would preorder in a blink.
Coming back to the topic we all see that Elecraft also turned the page into a new era.
SDR is the future of radio. Flex is doing a superb job of leading the pack and I am going to stay and enjoy it from inside the clubhouse of SDR :-)
Whishing you all that you would be able to find a single rig to make you 100% happy and not to take a peak now and then at the competition.
It would be the same (for you out there with kids/teens in the family) to try and buy a gaming console these days.
Which one will you buy? They all play games right?! Ha ha ha! Tough choice. Now go back and try and look at the above topic from a different angle.
73 with love for ALL from Bavaria Germany
Val DM1TX

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Jon, EA2OT

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Since Flex signed a 36M$ contract with the US Air Force, we poor HAMs have been relegated to a second step. No update or fresh news have happened since this anouncement.
Don ́t lose your time thinking Flex Radios will become what you would expect at short notice...

Just my 2 cents
(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Jon, I hear this a lot from people that may not be so informed, here is a little help for perspective.
1} Just a few facts here to share. the last update was Sept 17 2018, so it is almost time for a new update.
2) Flex has had several government contracts over the last 10 years and look at all the radios they created during those contracts.
3) The 6000 radios were created because of one of those contracts.
4) And Flex radio is still committed to Ham radio being their main love.
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Ken Hansen

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I think you trivialize the effort involved in creating a 'portable control surface' like the Maestro, when you equate it to a portable/QRP Radio like the IC-705.

Icom could only make a Radio like the IC-705 after it made the IC-7300. It appears to re-use much of the same interface programming and leveraged off their experience building an SDR-based Radio 'for the masses'. (Look at all you get for less than $1,000 US, it's incredible).

Flex builds feature-rich radios like the 6XXX series radios, ranging from $2K-7K US with 'contest-grade' performance and features (The IC-7300 is an entry-level Radio) - what features would YOU be willing to remove to put a Flex 6XXX Radio into a portable/battery operating radio? How many features can you pull from a Flex Radio and it retains its 'Flex-appeal' for current/new owners?

It would be a MASSIVE effort to build such a Radio without an existing product design to leverage off of., and considerably harder than the effort required to produce the Maestro.

Flex focuses on a particular handful of segments in Amateur Radio market - asking them to create a portable QRP Radio is just as big an effort as asking them to create a dual-band 2m/70cm Mobile Radio for your car.

A portable QRP Flex Radio with attached control surface would quickly approach the price of a Flex 6400 ($2K), prompting the question how big is the QRP market for such a Radio.

The IC-705 is designed, in large part, to appeal to entry-level Japanese license holder that have very restrictive operating privileges.
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N2WQ

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The 705 competes with the KX3, which seems incredibly popular based on the traffic on the Elecraft forums. So the attractiveness of the QRP market is relatively easy to estimate.

WRT scaling down the existing platform- a good starting point to consider is eliminating the BPFs and implementing a low power final which will lead to a lot less heat and open up the opportunity for a smaller form-factor. Looking at the enclosure I see quite a lot of space that can be compressed.
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Ken Hansen

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The extra volume is to dissipate heat, I suspect.

Making battery-operates QRP rig is not simply an exercise in reduction, you need to tune power consumption, manage heat issues, as things get closet RFI becomes a bigger and bigger issue (internally), and of course, packaging.

Add to that, the need for a new design to be FCC certified.

Is such a thing possible? Sure. Is it likely? No, not in my opinion - they'd literally have to start from a near blank piece of paper. Re-packaging a 6400 after eliminating the bandpass filters and 100w RF deck and adding a 5-10 watt deck, you haven't really saved that much weight, you've got horrible batter consumption, a completely new & unique chassis, and so on.

Now, if the price was $2K incl. face plate, who'd buy it?

Who buys it if it's closer to $2.5K?

There's no way it would ever sell for anything remotely close to an FT-818 or Flex 1500...

I can't see a path to profitability - of course, having now said that, flex will announce a $999 single-receiver QRP SDR with built-in wifi to support SSDR on Windows or iOS devices! LOL
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N2WQ

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Look at Red Pitaya as what’s possible today as a baseline building block. The board gives you (in software) 8 independent receivers plus an exciter that can power your finals.

https://www.redpitaya.com/n86/new-ste...
(Edited)
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Ken Hansen

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The red Pitaya folks actually turned their board set into a dual-receiver SDR Radio, and it only costs about $2,500.

It is a QRP Radio (producing 20 watts output with a 500 ohm antenna connection impedance (to facilitate use of end-fed, random-wore antennas.

I think the Flex 6400 would be a better starting point than this board set for a Flex portable QRP Radio like the IC-705.

If I was tasked with developing such a Radio, I would leverage off the 6400 product, abandon the idea of incorporating a control surface (maestro), replace the 100w finals with a robust 15-20w set of finals, eliminate the bandpass filters and the ability to use an internal tuner. My goal would be to wedge it into a shallow 1u rack chassis, add an ATU interface modeled after the one in say an Icom HF Radio (an AH-4 interface), and include built-in wifi/Bluetooth for control by either a windows or iOS device or a Maestro. The key to making the unit smaller would require very innovative cabinetry and unique thermal solutions (like water-cooling).

An accessory chassis would hold a 30 amp switching power supply and an antenna tuner (like the LDG IT-100) in a similar 1u cabinet, putting an entire Flex solution in a shallow 2u case, optimized for mobile/portable deployment.

Anything less than that, a fully-capable, SSDR software-compatible device , would struggle to be considered a real Flex Radio.
(Edited)
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KF4HR

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If your aim is owning a low power portable radio, I suppose the IC-705 is one way to go, but personally I have no need for one, nor would I consider trading my Maestro for one. 

I've gone down the low power portable radio road before.  After the compact radio novelty wore off I found myself wishing for more power and more full sized features.  The next thing I knew I was carrying along a 100 watt HF brick amp, large battery or generator, ATU for wide range antenna tuning, laptop for logging/digital, etc.  Controlling my F-6700 with its 2M amp and a 70cm Transverter, all remotely with my Maestro does a fine job. 

I do agree the Maestro could and should be modified to perform other functions.  Hopefully one day FRS will hire one of the really great programmers out there to enhance the software features of the Maestro.  I'd definitely be willing to pay for Maestro software enhancements.

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roger na4rr

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Thanks for the info.  I just placed my order with HRO
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Perhaps it is a misconception, but having been personally involved with Maestro-like products from very early on (from Q3 of 2013) with what became the Maestro, from the onset what became the Maestro was never intended to be a stand alone radio or ever have its own RF capabilities.

Salvador correctly identifies that the current Flex-6000 range has no replacement for the former Flex-1500, and that excepting the current Flex-6400M/6600M models is focused on providing a "radio server" in Flex-6000 range.  Actually there are plenty of PowerSDR-type Flex-1500 replacements on the market, though I haven't identified any particular one that would be field portable like this Icom.

The Maestro is an awesome bit of kit. 

The Maestro in January 2020 does more than the original design promises, my Maestros always work, and they are a good user experience.

Like many of you I would like to do more with my Maestros, but I do have viable work-around setups & techniques that make a Maestro integral to my operations.

I'm think some later Maestro owners end up confused with what the product offers and the totality of their dreams.

I have OTHER non-FlexRadio System radios for when I want to have everything in a go-kit ready form.  

Now at some time after January 2020 I may look at an Icom-705, though in my case I don't think I will retire my other portable options to make way for the 705 very readily.

I'm not holding my breath for FRS to launch a similar product either.  

73

Steve
K9ZW

Blog:  http://k9zw.wordpress.com  
(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Here is what we know.
The Meastro was never intended to take the place of the 1500 in any way. It performs the things it is intended to do as planned. So missing the boat with the Meastro? Nope.

Flex would have to develop an QRP radio based on the 6000 technology. They likely have talked about it in production meetings but I would bet they felt the development cost is to much in regard to the market demand. Now I'm sure some of you are thinking that the QRP market would support this investment and that the market is strong. But I would disagree. I don't think the QRP market is is that strong although there is a small nich market.

On the other hand Icom does not need to develop anything new. They can simply use older technology from their other radios to make the IC-705.
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Ken Hansen

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I broadly agree, but would describe Icom's SDR-based Radio technology as 'current' rather than 'older', but that's a personal thing.

I agree any offering from Flex would necessarily be based on their current Signature Series 6X00 radio platform/ecosystem.
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Ken Hansen

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The FT-818 is a continuation of the amazingly successful FT-817, ensuring that all prior investments in accessories for the FT-817 will remain useful for years into the future. It will not, in my humble opinion, fade away anytime soon.

Flex has exactly ONE current platform for Amateur radios, the Signature Series 6X00 radios, the 1500 and 5000 series radios are incompatible with SSDR and were, I believe, discontinued due to part availability.

Flex can either leverage off current 6X00 radio technology and software or start over from scratch. The hardware in the 1500/3000/5000 series Radios is unavailable, and I believe they gave up the rights to their PowerSDR software after a certain point.

Used Flex 6300s are about $1,200 on the used market, and supports the very latest release of SmartSDR - that is an affordable entry-point. Flex can not make a radio worthy of the Flex name for $600-800 - any compromises would ultimately reflect poorly on the brand IMHO.

But that's just my opinion, Flex will do what makes sense for them, they know better than I.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Ken, yes that is mostly my point, the IC-705 is only a direct sampling receiver, it is a hybrid transceiver sharing with some of there other radios.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Ken, the reason for ending the 1500. 3000 and 5000 was because PSDR was not able to take Flex in the direction they wanted to move in. There are things they are doing in SSDR that could not be done in PSDR. PSDR had reached it limits.
While Flex was involved in a government contract Gerald wondered about the possibility of doing Direct Sampling in ham radio as they were doing it in the government project. That was the time when a break from PSDR had to happen.
Gerald created PSDR but never had any rights to it. PSDR is open source software.

But to your point, yes parts were harder to come by from the builders of the main boards. Some of the electronic parts on the boards were becoming discontinued. but that didn't begin to happen till long after they stopped supporting PSDR.
(Edited)