Looking to buy Flex for Remote Station Setup

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My first time posting so here goes.... I am thinking seriously about purchasing the 6400 for a remote station setup. I would like to use the Maestro with this radio. Reading other post this seems very easy to do with limited setup time or any needed ip experience. OK so this is what I my ideal station would look like and require. (1) I need it to be fully remote with NO computers attached, I have excellent fiber high speed internet at the remote location. (2) I would like to use the Maestro while remotely operating (3) I would really like to use the KAT/KPA 500 combination, reading i think this combination running completely remote is possible ??

Ok so any input would be greatly appreciated Pros/Cons would be also appreciated ... I cant afford the 6600 or 6700. Series nor do I need them so please advise on the 6400 system ... AGAIN i want this system controlled completely remote with no PC attached if the KAT/KAP will not work please let me know what you think about the 6400 and Maestro

I currently run my IC7300 remote using RemoteTX that runs like a champ, looking too explore the SDR radios

Thanks in advance
Kurt - W1WWA
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Kurt Lautenschlager

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Posted 2 months ago

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Mack McCormick, Elmer

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Kurt,


The 6400 with the KPA 500 is a perfect setup for what you describe. I’ve operated my station remotely from all over the world.


Other items to consider:

1. Internet controlled power strip to turn on the power supply

2. Internet controlled relay to power on/off the Flex 6400.

3. Internet controlled relay to key the radio PTT if you ever need/want to update the firmware remotely. This is not needed if you plan to visit the site for any firmware upgrades.

4. If you have more than two transmit antennas you’ll need a mechanism to change antennas either manually or automatically via USB (BCD or CAT) using the USB port on the back of the radio.

5. The transmitter/amp location should ideally stay below 80 degree Fahrenheit . Freezing temps are OK.


Look at my QRZ page and that may give you some ideas. I’ll be pleased to answer any questions you have to get started.


73,


Mack

W4AX

Alpha Team
(Edited)
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Mark - WS7M

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To backup what Mack suggests:

When operating remote Murphy tends to do his/her worst.  That will be the time when the radio freezes.

So you will really need two levels of control for power:

1) Internet controlled relay to toggle the remote input of your flex.  This is always the first things to try if things are not right.

2) Internet controlled power switch to totally kill power to your radio and any other desired components.  This is the Hail Mary to get things going again and yes I have had to use mine.  Not often but I think one time.

If you do go with a KPA 500 then it can be controlled over RS-232 and it is possible to get IP/Serial devices to let you control the amp remotely.  My FRLogger software can talk over a number of IP serial devices to the KPA 500.  I control my SPE amp in this manner remotely.

Internet/WAN.  For this setup you desire to work well, invest in a really good internet for your remote station.  You will need the ability to reboot the internet modems and routers so a power switch from Digital Loggers can save your bacon.  These can be configured to ping for connectivity and recycle power when needed.  Or you can cycle it yourself.

You didn't mention antenna but you might need control over your antenna, selection, perhaps tuner.  That is harder unless you use an auto-tuner of some kind or your antenna is always resonant like a SteppIR.

My goal for most of my ham life was to be able to operate remote and Flex has brought this to reality.  Many times during the week I login to my station from work, granted it's just across town, but I control my amp, tune, and nab a DX all while on lunch hour at the office.

I traveled to visit a friend to Montana and he typically crashes early at night so a number of evenings I ran my station completely remote.  Made a number of CW contacts from over 400+ miles away.

It is what I've always wanted!  You will not be disappointed.

Mark - WS7M
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Ora Smith

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Kurt, I use the Flex 6400 with the Maestro and the KPA500/KTA500 in a remote set up. I could not get the Flex to work remotely until they came out with the 2.5 series software upgrade that allows lowering the max packet length. The reason seems to be that I have Centurylink DSL at the radio location - 10mbs down/ 762kbps up and that particular ISP has some quirks. With the new release it works FB, even over low quality cell phone hot spot connections (have to dial back the panadaptor speed when the connection is poor).  The KPA500 and KTA500 have software available that allows them to be operated remotely, but they only have serial ports, so you have to use serial/IP converters with them to be able to communicate. This takes a little  network fiddling, whereas the Flex is plug and play. It also means you have to have a computer with you when you travel in addition to the Maestro in order to control the Elecraft stuff.  The Elecraft units are all pretty automatic, so you could operate without carrying a computer if you were willing to leave the amp and tuner powered on all the time and were willing to work "blind" without being able to see the condition of the tuner and amp and not have the ability to reset them in case of a major fault.  I also use an IP power switch to turn the Flex on and off, ground and unground the antennas, and switch power to the station. I also control my rotator through a serial/IP interface that is on the network. Running all this other stuff requires that I have a laptop with me when I travel (I suppose a Windows tablet would work, but have not tried that).   The bottom line is that it all works fine, but I need either just a laptop running SDR or the Maestro and a laptop to control it all. I really like having the Maestro knobs, but it's a lot of stuff to haul around. Perhaps there is a more elegant approach that would allow me to use just the Maestro. If so, I would very much like to hear about it. I do use a Dell touchscreen laptop, so I have great functionality even without the Maestro.  Happy to try to answer any more questions. 73, Ora W9DJ
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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Won't be operating any digital modes without a computer.
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Kurt Lautenschlager

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Thanks for the input.. i was under the impression that the KAT/KPA would follow the freq from the 6400 with cables readily available from either manufacturer, allowing both to switch bands with the radio? Is that a correct assumption ? Is the PC mentioned only necessary from monitoring the KPA status and I assume this can be done remotely over internet? I thought the 6400 had 2 antenna ports?

So with the input I have so far , I could use the 6400 remote with the KAT/KPA500 totally remote as long as I have a PC at my remote location for moderating the KAT/KPA and I could still use the Maestro for operations of the radio ? And please clarify if the 6400 supports 2 antennas.

I will use IP switches to run the 6400’s power supply
I will use an IP switch to control the KPA500
I have 300Mbps up/down so no issues with band width

I already us IP power strips to control my current remote station so I understand all that.

Thanks
Kurt - W1WWA
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Mack McCormick, Elmer

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Yes, KPA and KTA will follow frequency from the USB port on the radio. You just won’t be able to monitor the amp status remotely. Yes, 6400 has two antenna ports.
(Edited)
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David Decoons wo2x, Elmer

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Here's my KPA1500 monitoring and control from any web browser using Raspberry Pi on network and Node Red software on Pi.

I've got rotor control and 8 switched outlet control from iPhone also.

Dave wo2x


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Kurt Lautenschlager

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Neil

Thanks I understand that, but thanks for brining it up.. I don't mind having a computer at my control site, its the remote location that i don't want to computer ... I don't think I was clear on that , my bad
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Ora Smith

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Kurt, the KPA500 and KTA500 will change band and frequency automatically. The Flex 6400 has two antenna ports - the KTA500 has three and will automatically select the correct antenna if you "train" it properly.  The problem arises when powering on the KPA500. Turning on the AC does not turn on the amp. It needs a command to the serial port to power on and then to move from standby to operate. Also, the Flex does not come on automatically when power is applied. It needs to have a relay contact closed to a jack on the back. I do that with a  relay that I control with the IP power switch. No computer needed in the shack, but it's very handy to have one with you wherever your operating position is.  73, Ora W9DJ
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ik3ghr

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Hi my station with ssdr 6600 works very well so remotely. it is activated from mobile with android. 73
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Michael Walker, Employee

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Hi Kurt

I did a Dayton presentation on this and I have also been running a remote for over 15 years.  Hopefully, I'll get it recorded so everyone can watch it.

I went for 2 years without a PC at the remote end, but it was always a battle to make things happen.

I'm using a Flex 6000 radio with a KPA500.  I am not at the point where I have a web page interface to the KPA500 using a RPI and a Webpage using NodeRed (also described in this community).

The BIG advantage of having a local PC to the radio is that it really makes configuring your remote station easier since you can do a remote desktop connection to it.    Using a remote PC also makes it much easier to operate from other locations and even easier to lend it to your friends to use.  As well, you will remote a Local PC (or a VPN'd PC) to do Software updates to your radio.  You cannot do a SmartSDR update over SmartLink.

What all remote hams are running into today is that there is no Plug and Play 'box' for the remote  ham.  You have to build your own.

Flex has handled all the RF part for you and made that pretty simple, but it is all the external devices you need to manage.

Doing a remote is done in steps, so start with the basic radio control and then start to add things.  Don't worry about the Amp just yet.

This is my control panel that can control my KPA500, 16 Dry contact relays, Rotator, Elecraft W2 wattmeter and I am still working on the Steppir control.  You could also use this to control antenna switching (I use a 4O3A Antenna switch).  Since it is web based, I can access it from my any web page (phone or computer).

Feel free to ask more questions.

Mike va3mw


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Norm - W7CK

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You can also use an Android app RCForb to control the KPA500 and KAT500.  It's nearly like sitting in front of them.  You can turn them on/off, change antennas, switch from TUN to MAN, etc...   I've used RCForb for many years from all over the world and never had a problem.  You can also use it to control your rig but you won't have the panadapter.  As stated above, it would require a PC with USB connections directly to the amp and tuner. 

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Kurt Lautenschlager

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OK everyone,  thanks for the input.  It Sounds like my best bet is to break down and put a PC at the remote site to control the KAT and KPA I am not apposed to that,  I was just hoping it wasn't nessesary but from all the comments it is highly advisable.

Sooo,  I guess step one would be to purchase the 6400 and get setup and running remote then add the KAT/KPA later on.

Last question.... is the 6400 really that easy to setup remote?  in reading reviews it seems like its almost plug and play? are there any tricks that one needs to know?  or is it that simple?   I am not the best when it comes to IT stuff but, if the directions are clear I can usually muscle through it.

Thanks
Kurt - W1WWA
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Michael Walker, Employee

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Hi Kurt

I think so, but I am the wrong one to ask since I do it all the time!  :) 

However, if you have a typical internet connection, meaning that you have a Modem with a Switch and some WiFi you should have no issue.

It does get more interesting when you have to deal with WiFi Mesh, range extenders or Cellular hotspots that do not have an actual LAN hardware connection, which the actual radio requires.

This YouTube video might help a bit.

Mike va3mw


(Edited)
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Ora Smith

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Kurt, I think doing it a step at a time is a great idea. I found my 6400/Maestro combo very easy to set up. I just followed the very simple instructions and had no problems. The only issue I recall is that on Wifi the Maestro did not like a password with some special characters in it (I think my problem was an apostrophe).  The rig also works great from a laptop using SDR software. I use a touch screen Dell and while it's very nice, I still enjoy the knobs on the Maestro. You might still want to consider running the KPA500 and KTA500 without a computer in the shack. They are set up to do that via serial ports. Elecraft has remote software for download. You will need to put serial/IP converters on your home LAN and install virtual com ports on the computer you use when traveling. There are several vendors for that kind of thing.  Another possibility would be to spend more $ and get a KPA1500. In addition to 3x the power it comes with a built  in tuner and has its own ethernet port. I haven't looked into it in detail, but I think you can just hang it on your network and not have to worry about the serial/IP thing.  BTW, the Elecraft amp and tuner do not require special cabling. The amp very quickly (just takes a "dit) senses frequency and sets itself to the correct band. The tuner is smart and can be trained as to which settings and which antenna to use on each band. The only connections you need to the rig are RF and a keying line. I think Flex does offer a control cable, though.  Flex is coming out with its own amp. It looks like it may fully integrate with the radios. It's going to be quite expensive though - $7K.
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David Decoons wo2x, Elmer

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The KPA1500 can use the Elecraft KXUSB cable plugged from the amp directly into the back of the 6400. Then in the radio USB cable setup you set it up as shown below. The amp will follow the active TX VFP of the radio.

Dave wo2x