Icom 7700 vs Flex 6400M, 6500, 6600 ????????

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I own a IC-7700 and am thinking about making the switch but there are no comparisons of the 7700 to the Flex. Before I give up my big pretty radio I would like to hear from someone who has compared the 7700. I am a big DXer and work CW, SSB, RTTY. Any help would be appreciated. 
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Fred W2FMQ

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Posted 2 years ago

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Rich - N5ZC

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Fred,

I can't compare rig's as I've never operated a 7700.  I will tell you the interface via DAX for RTTY and the other digital modes is very easy to use and there is no need for an external black box interface.

I went to the 6700 for the SO2R capability as my previous setup was always a challenge.  The previous rig was a K3 which was an awesome radio.  The issue was the external black boxes kept losing their settings (and I'm sure it was an end user issue so I won't mention the makes), which I became frustrated with.

From a dxing perspective, having SmartSDR display the band spectrum on a large monitor is just great.  The ability to watch a couple different bands at the same time is also very helpful.  It's very easy to identify where the dx is listening.  I normally just turn the volume down on the 2nd receiver and watch where the activity is. 

If you have several antennas to chose from adding a 4O3A Antenna Genius makes jumping around from band to band very easy as well.

I currently have my KPA-500/KAT-500 amp/tuner combo plugged into the usb port on the back of the 6700.  The amp/tuner follows right along with frequency or band changes.

The setup is a point and shoot system.

Rich - N5ZC
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Kevin - KS0CW

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Rich, I'm interested in interfacing my KPA/KAT-500 combo... any setup pointers would be appreciated or is it plug and play? Tks/KS0CW

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Rich - N5ZC

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Kevin,

Download this, it gives instructions on how to setup different devices including the KPA500/KAT500.  You'll need two USB cables, one for the amp and one for the tuner.

http://www.flexradio.com/downloads/usb-cable-interface-guide-pdf/

Rich - N5ZC
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Kevin - KS0CW

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Thanks Rich....
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AH0U

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I gave up my Icom and went with the 6700... and the 4O3A Antenna Genius is super..I also use the 4O3A relay extender with the Genius so I can switch the direction of the phases arrays... The big challenge at first was I have in the 6700 basically two radios but I have only one Alpha 9500 so how could I use the one amp. with two radios?? Fortunately 4O3A also has the 1A2R switch . Now I can switch between radios on the 6700 and the switch puts the Alpha inline with the correct radio automatically and the Antenna Genius selects the correct antenna... now I can operate SO2R with one amp.
(Edited)
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David

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The 6500 is close in spec to the 6700 with fewer slices and pans to help in your finding comparisons. From a numbers standpoint Sherwood has the 6700 and the Icom IC-7700.

http://www.sherweng.com/table.html

Here is post that might be of interest.
https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/flex-6700-k3-kx3-ic-7800-cq-wwdx-ssb-shoot-out

You're doing the right thing to ask for people's opinions, reading up on reviews, find a local you could try the radio in person, or do a remote session with. If after research you find yourself leaning to the Flex but on the fence still then maybe  take advantage of Flex's 30 day trail and compare side by side on your own.

At the end of the day it is a very personal choice. What is great for others may not be perfect for you.
(Edited)
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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A few years ago I ran tests at Rob's WA3IHV who has an IC-7700 and Flex 6700 on digital modes

Bottom line the 6700 outperformed the 7700 by 3 -6dB on digital modes like JT65 where the best copy on the 7700 was around -20dB and the 6700 was around -26dB

When we went to using JTDX on my 6700 we can copy -29dB regularly. Impossible on the 7700.

We also used to use an IC7800 in contests but it has long been put out to pasture by the 6700

Flex SDR's are an entirely different class than the Icome Legacy Radios
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I think the 6600M could be the perfect replacement for your Icom.

You get to have knobs and a very nice display, 2 independent receivers (SCU) and a radio that you can remote in from the get go with SmartSDR 2.0. which will come standard with the new radios.
The M version gives you the screen which will make it an easier sell down the road, and an easier transition for you. Once you get a hang of the software you might want to use both in tandem (which you are supposed to do at a later version of the 2.x software)
FRS offers 30 day money back warranty.... and they might even offer a decent trade in value for the 7700.

However, it is a new radio, you will not get it until the end of the year and as with any new hardware, it might have issues. You will be on the cutting edge of what FRS has to offer and that might come with bugs, which get resolved at later dates with software upgrades.

My 2 cents.

Its fun being in the market for new gear! Enjoy it.
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Rich McCabe

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I have a 6500. I also have a 6600m on order.

And finally,  I have a IC-7800 for sale :)

Love the flex. 7800 never gets turned on.
(Edited)
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Jeff Shelton

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I've had a Flex 6500 for almost two years and used it quite a bit on SSB and digital modes, and a little bit on CW. The club I belong to (NASA Wallops ARC) recently got an IC-7700, and I've had the chance to use it a few times.

While I definitely prefer my 6500, I will say that the IC-7700 is the nicest "legacy" radio I've ever had the chance to use. Here's where I think each radio has distinct advantages:

FLEX 6500 advantages
-  Spectrum display and interface. The SmartSDR display is much crisper and easier to read than that on the Icom, even with the 7700 connected to an external monitor. Plus, the 6500's ability to point and click on a signal to instantly tune it in is a huge advantage.

- Multiple receivers (slices). Simplifies monitoring the pileup when the DX is working split. Switching VFOs on the Icom is awkward by comparison.

- Digital modes. OK, the 7700 can do RTTY and PSK31, in a clumsy, limited fashion, without an interface, but that's it - you'll need an external interface if you are serious about digital modes. The Flexes have a built-in USB sound card and work great with Fldigi, WSJT-X, etc. Filtering and signal handling for digital (and cw) is also noticeably better on the 6500 than on the Icom.

- Ease of use. My viewpoint may be biased by the fact that I've been a computer hobbyist since the days of the original IBM PC/XT - but I find the mouse-based, point-and-click SmartSDR interface way more intuitive than the profusion of buttons, knobs, and dials on the 7700. (YMMV!)

IC-7700 advantages
- built in AC power supply. I do not understand why most base-station HF rigs still rely on &^%& separate 13.8 volt power supplies. C'mon Flex - it's not like anyone like going to choose a 6000 series radio for a mobile rig.  I would have happily paid several hundred dollars more for built-in AC power on my 6500.

- Related to the above: 50 V finals, 200 watts output. Again, should be standard on base station HF radios.

- Noise blanker & noise reduction. This works better on the Icom than on the Flex. It can make extended listening to SSB more pleasant on the 7700.

TL/DR - they are both really nice radios, but I think a Flex will serve a DXer better.

73 - Jeff N3JS
(Edited)
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Fred W2FMQ

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Thank's for the comparison Jeff. You have hit on some key points and have made the decision even harder.If I didn't already own the Icom 7700 and nothing but good things to say about it. I think it would be an easy choice of the 6600M. The problem is I would have to sell the 7700 to buy the new radio thus eliminating the option of side by side compare in my shack. One not as to point and click, By adding a usb mouse you can do that on the 7700. As for the additional power. In my world it really is not an issue as I run the amp if I need more then 40 watts. Lets face it - everyone is weak signal right now and that is really where my focus is, as it's probably gonna be a few more years before we see good conditions again. 
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Rick Ciotti

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From a DXer who switched from the IC7700 then to a TS990s and now a 6500/Maestro the receivers do not compare.

Operating SSB primarily I found the 6500 brick wall filtering is ideal with strong adjacent signals.

Weak signals appear on the Flex band scope which cannot be seen with the previous radios. Those rigs require a 2+ uv signal to register on the band scope, which is dependent on the scope bandwidth setting.

The Flex 6xxxx is like a true spectrum analyzer which displays signals well under 1 uv. The scope sensitivity does not vary with bandwidth settings like the others rigs.

The receiver information above was confirmed with a HP8935 service monitor.

I don't pay attention to the Sherwood ratings, how the radios perform at my QTH is most important. After 1 month of A-B comparisons, between the TS990s and 6500, the 990 found a new home. 

The 7700 was a pretty radio but with failing PAs, which ICOM refused to acknowledged as a design issue and difficulty with getting parts to repair my PW1 amp (3 months to get a combiner board) I decided to move away from ICOM.

The 6500 is my first Flex and I am 100% sold on it and FR.   

73
Rick
W3DIY
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Flex will give a trade in on the 7700 and give you a 30 day trial on 6600. So you could try the 6600 and either keep it or return the 7700.
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Fred W2FMQ

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I already got a quote on a trade and being on a fixed income the trade would only allow for me to get the 6400M which is tempting but I can't help but feel it is an old lady in a new skirt, meaning its specs are close to the 6300 and I am not sure it is in the same category as the 6500, 7700, 6600 but I could be mistaken about this. But If I am correct then that leaves the 6500 or the 6600 (non M) after the sale of the 7700.
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Ken - NM9P

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I looked at some of the stats.  The IC-7700 only has a single receiver.  The Flex-6400 has 2 slices and 2 panadapters that can tune independently anywhere in the coverage range of the rig.  However only one antenna can be used at the same time.  The 6600 Has TWO SCU's (receiving units) and will have 4 panadapters and 4 slices, any of which can be connected to either of the two SCU's/Antennas.

Sherwood's testing of the 7700's narrow-spaced Dynamic Range was only 78 dB, and limited by phase noise.  Which means that even if a very strong local signal is clean, if he is close enough, your own receiver's oscillator phase noise will create a bouncing noise floor that can obscure weak close-in signals.  You may not notice it in casual operation, but if you are in the vicinity of legal limit stations, it may be problematic.   (you may or may not have experienced this at your station.  I  have experienced the opposite from close-in strong locals who have higher phase noise on their transmitters.  If I am close enough in frequency, I can watch my panadapter bounce away for 10-15 KHz on each side of their signal.

The 6000 series, even the 6300 that is being replaced by the 6400, has better phase noise and dynamic range performance. The 6400 and 6600 will be even better still.

If you don't mind waiting until later in the year, the 6600 with or without the "M" option would be better than the 6500 for several reasons:

6600 has TWO SCU's - which means simultaneous monitoring of two bands from TWO different antennas.  It also allows possibilities for diversity reception, etc.

6600 has Competition-Grade bandpass filters, which will facilitate full duplex SO2R contesting, or full duplex dual band DXing, depending upon antenna isolation and power output (Ranko sugests that if running high power amplifiers, it may need additional isolation filtering, again depending upon antenna spacing and isolation.)

6600 has TWO alternate Receiving antenna ports.

6600 has TWO transverter ports - allowing the possibility of full duplex satellite operation with two transverters.

6600 is said to expect even lower phase noise on TX and RX than the 6500.  Tests of how much lower have not yet been released.

6600 is said to expect even better RMDR and other dynamic range figures.  Again, tests have not yet been released.


However, if you don't need full duplex from a second SCU, and don't need the Contest-Grade pandpass filters, the 6400 would be an excellent rig.  Compare the list of features to see which model would best fit your needs.


All that said... I will have had my 6500 for 4 years this August, and it is the best rig I have ever operated.  

CW and RTTY DXing with splits is an amazing experience.  The great panadapter lets you display the DX station in one slice, and zoom in so that you see individual stations in a 5 KHz wide pileup.  You can abserve the DX's pattern simply by watching the display to see who the last contact was, and on what frequency.  You can tell if he is working up little-by-little, or moving down the band, or jumping around to whatever call is most readable by CW SKimmer, etc.  This visual information lets you plan and place your next call exactly where you think the DX will be listening next, or if he is jumping around you can find a likely "hole" in the pileup where you may be heard.  You can either set your TX frequency with a second slice, or by using more traditional XIT, but in either case, the TX frequency is graphically displayed exactly where you will transmit next.

Phone DXing is almost the same.  You can put the DX in one ear, or both of them, and put the pileup in only one ear (my right) so that you can keep track of what is happening.  balance and placement of both is independently adjustable.  Easily edited Mic Profiles allow you to set up different TX audio profiles depending upon whether you are rag chewing, DXing, working weak signals on 6 or 160 meters, or trying to punch through a thick DX pile-up.  It takes only a second to select a different Mic Profile.  (I have a great many, depending upon purpose and band conditions.)

I now have a deposit down on a trade-up to a 6600.


A few hints before you take delivery.

1) Read and watch videos about how to set things up, how to adjust AGC-T, edit Mic Profiles and fine tune your transmit audio, interface with logging and digital programs, and adjust various DSP functions, such as WNB, NB, APF, ANF, NR, RX EQ, etc.  Driving this rig is not complicated, but it does drive differently.  there is a little bit of learning curve, but it is very intuitive once you wrap your mind around it.  If you don't learn the nuances of SDR and the 6000 in particular, you may experience pilot-error induced frustration.

2) If you don't buy the 'M' model or a Maestro to go with your rig, at least pay the $99 for a FlexControl Knob.  It is a fantastic addition and makes a few often-used features much more easy.

3) an alternative to #2 above, get a Behringer CMD-Micro MIDI controller and experiment with some of the software that is being developed by members of the Community.  Or there are some commercial packages that already have interfaces, among them are N4PY's Pegasus program, and SSDR-IOS of you have an iPhone/iPad and the proper interface cable.  There is some great innovation going on here.

4) Speaking of SSDR-IOS.  If you have an iPad or iPhone, this is a MUST HAVE program.  it allows you to take your show on the road!

Hope this helps.  Apologies for the length.

Ken - NM9P
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Fred W2FMQ

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Hey Ken,It looks like you hit all the points I was/am trying to figure our and looks like you covered the pile up issue, With the 7700 I have to hold the XFC button and move my split around to find my spot or where I think the dx will call next. I am pretty sold on the 6600 as the second rec antenna ( in my case for 6 meters) is a big deal for me. As for the learning curve, with any higher end radio there is going to be a curve, the best part is with my medically enhanced loss of memory I get to relearn stuff all over every now and then.
Thanks for all the research and info
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Rick Ciotti

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That XFC button to operate split was a pain.
The other knob which seemed to be a dummy control was Digi Sel. With contest stations running the legal limit, less than 1/4 mi. from my QTH, it had no effect.