My "local" radio store, Radioworld, has some Flexradios on demo and they seem nice.
But I'm not sure whether I should get a used Flexradio such as a 3000 or 5000, or should I go wholehog and get the 6300? Or should I look entirely at something else?
My ham activities consist of DX chasing on SSB on 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters and I'm just getting into digital modes now. I don't work any VHF or use FM, I don't get into contesting and I don't need multiple receivers (I can only listen to one at a time anyway).
I live in a high QRM urban area where outdoor antennas and clotheslines are not permitted so I'm getting by with an attic fan dipole connected to an automatic tuner mounted in the attic. My hamshack is in the basement. I'm presently using an FTdx3000 with good results but I'm interested in improving things more.
Background QRM on a good day in my QTH can be S9.
I'm still sort-of in the doghouse as it were for my purchase of the TS-990 which really proved to be a very expensive failure here despite the firmware upgrade to V1.10. It's noise suppression schemes remained utterly worthless when combined with high QRM and restricted antennas. I gave up on it 2 months after it's expensive purchase and only recently was able to sell it at a considerable loss.
My FTdx3000 and it handles the QRM quite well at a much lower cost than the Kenwood failure. I don't wish to repeat that costly exercise in seeking this SDR technology. I'm sure my wife would not understand.
For these conditions which SDR radio would work best and still save some money for me? I don't feel any need to possess the latest gadget, just something to help me overcome dreadful QRM and restrictive antenna issues.
So the upsides:
As software based radio the future is limited to the software you choose to run and what is produced but already there are some exciting things planning and happening. One is full remote operation (if you have an internet connection) of your radio.
You need a computer to run it. This is not something you can pack and take in your car. It is a base radio (in my opinion) and while it could go mobile, you gotta have a laptop or something to control it. Now flex is coming out with the maestro which will probably make this comment invalid so we'll see hams with flex 6000 series radios in their RV and a maestro that they can move around and even take outside. The maestro is like a kenwood (but better) front in for your radio.
Now I'm no expert but in my opinion the noise reduction in the flex hasn't been great and their are posts here complaining about such. But one thing that I personally think is far better is the simple filtering in how you can so easily using your mouse drag the filter back and forth. There is also the TNF (tracking notch filter) which I have not used much. In short with just these two things I'm able with my limited skills to hear the signal I want to hear if it can be heard.
To test this idea I went to a CW pile up which sounded like strange doorbell music everything someone would call. I began to expand the display and work the filters until I found the dx station. It took some doing but in about 5 minutes I was listing only to him and those exactly on his frequency. All this with just filters.
I have confidence that if you go for a Flex6300 you will find it fascinating and enjoyable. But it is a computer based radio. So unless you go for the maestro then you will not be turning knobs unless you come up with some other solution. You'll be using your mouse a lot more for control of your radio.
That being said you will need a reasonable computer for this. While there are guys here running it on the pippo low end computers I frankly think since it is "software" defined radio that you need a computer that can run that software easily. This is not difficult to come by at all but if you don't have one now you are looking at added expense.
I also believe if you buy a flex6300 the resale will be good. So if you get into it and find out it is not what you wanted after all it probably holds it value a little better than a kenwood. I can't say this for sure, I'm only guessing.
So my recommendation is the 6300 but only you can decide if that is what you want. I personally would not go for the older models. The 6000 series is the current platform and software releases will target that.
Good luck and hope you find what you want!
As for noise -- Flex is actively working on noise mitigation technology for Smart SDR. While they have made nearly miraculous progress with correlated noise, some types are not so well handled. Your results may vary. It is likely - although by no means certain - that future advances will help your situation.
The best bet, of course, is to knock down noise at the source. I imagine you've done some work in this area. My QRZ page has some suggestions, and KY6LA developed an excellent presentation with even more good information (search the Community for a link).
Sorry there's no certain answer. I can say that SDR makes a huge difference in performance and operating pleasure. Welcome aboard!
Tim - KI6LSB
So ideally it would benefit me and make my wife happier if I could spend less. Hence my references to the 3000 and 5000 series Flexradios.
I have owned both a 3000 and a 6300. The 6300 was amazing when it came to QRM and had ears like you wouldn't believe. I could reach DX that I had not heard on the 3000. I sold the 6300 to a friend I loaned it to while moving in preparation to upgrade to a 6500. I am now planning on going all the way to 6700 and already have a Maestro on order.
Not sure if this helps but after having the opportunity to use all the 6xxx models at an all Flex field day I can tell you that I would own nothing else. All 6xxx models are amazing on HF it just comes down to what you want for features. It is really cool to have different band slices up so I can switch bands when that rare DX shows up. The Flex also provides more bandwidth than conventional radios so I can have the entire band on the screen all at once.
I'm completely sold on Flex and so will you be.
Pro SDR: You will quickly love, love, love the Flex Radio Panadapter. Whether it is the 6300's SmartSDR software or the 5000's PowerSDR software, the ability to _see_ and _react_ to a pileup will put many more stations in the log than you can imagine. Compared to that, what follows is small change. They also both have what amounts to "dual watch" which isn't quite a second receiver, but is close enough for DXing purposes. That, too, is a great value and not typical in this price range.
Pro 6300: You can successfully chase DX with this radio. Since September of 2014, I have worked 252 DXCC with the 6300. If that had actually be "starting over" I might have worked maybe five or ten more. I have nearly 1,000 on DXCC Challenge (way more had I been starting over). Also at or near WAZ on 10, 12, 15, 20 and 40. All since September of 2014. Great built-in support for digital. No external devices or dongles. Great ability to remote.
Con 6300: Many basic features, such as setting up two slices for "split" as you would expect, are missing. The new software has not been optimized for DXing yet. It works well, but it takes a little added effort compared to PowerSDR, which is more mature.
Pro 5000: Best value for the money anywhere. You should be able to get one for between 1200 and 1500 dollars these days, perhaps a bit more if "loaded" with the added options. Very mature software, sets up well for DXing.
Con 5000: Uses Firewire (support will probably linger a long time, but it is a question). Also, not really suitable for remote operation. Support for digial, while not requiring any dongles, needs third party software which some have found a bit rickety.
Basically, for both, it boils down to whether you can live without knobs. There is the new Maestro product that should enable what we might today call "the best of both worlds" but if your money is tight, I suggest doing without and learning to embrace the software GUI as your radio interface. If you can do that, you'll have more fun than you can imagine with this radio.
I've never owned a 3000 or 5000 but I did own the 1500 flex. Nice little radio but it had some strange gotchas that you only find after using it for a while. I then took the plunge and got the 6300 and enjoyed the heck out of it for 26 days when Flex (dang them...) tempted me to upgrade to the 6500.
I have not had enough time to learn to love the 6500 but everyone tells me I will. So far its so similar to the 6300 I have not noticed much however it does seem to hear a little better to my deaf ears.
So my advice. Buy the XYL a new set of ear rings and a nice dinner and beg her to let you get the 6300 at a minimum. I don't think you will be sorry. And as George mentioned above, start doing what you can AFTER getting your 6300 to knock down your noise at the source.
Once you've done all you can perhaps the timewave ANC is worth it.
You have some challenging operating conditions which a Flex 6300 could help. My recommendation would be to start with the Flex 6300 along with a Pixel RF Pro Magnetic Loop receive antenna. That setup would cost less than the price of a Flex 6500 if your on a budget. The Magnetic Loop antenna fits in most attics and could help in reducing your noise issues. I've used one with my 6300 and it's amazing. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. I'd be more than happy to share any info.
Would suggest 6500 over the 6300, but that's my opinion. Once you get hooked, you will want more. FlexRadio now has a "Trade Up" program, so it may be possible to get a certified used radio with full 2 year warrantee for a very reasonable investment. BTW, you will not find a finer company to work with than FRS.
Now, maybe sell your knob radio, use your best diplomacy at home, and you will be a happy camper.
I can do nothing about the QRM here since it is generated by local house automation in my neighbourhood and it's connected SMPS noise generation as well as solar panel inverters/chargers by neighbours and industrial manufacturing in the area.
Looking at the fund and weighing things, I do not see the 6000 series being in my future now. It is simply not something I can dare spend anything on despite it's apparent superiority.
I think I'm going to have to take Larry Loen WO7R's advice and go with a good used 5000 instead, it's probably closer to my price range.
Thank you for your good advice, everybody, and have a great day!
73s geo VE3GZB
Your wife's approval / disapproval is another matter. Can you cook? Consider cooking classes. Can you work a washer / dryer? Do you have any pre-nups restricting your options?
I really love my 6500! It receives VERY quietly, but when I have noise, I haven't found the NB or WNB to be effective at all on the types of noise that I have at this QTH. Other people have reported the NB and WNB to be very effective on their noise.
BTW: while I've lived in Colorado for over 40 years, I am originally from the Province of New Brunswick, where the Aurora Borealis made radio reception impossible frequently.
The best thing you can do to improve your station is to address the antenna situation. Consider a "Flagpole" antenna, or a vertical in a tree or a long wire along the fence line.
You should definitely jump into the 6300 with both feet. You will be miles ahead of where you are now, but it won't make your noise go away like moving your antenna out from under your roof.
How can I 'sell' this ?
Well ... lets take last nights run on VK9WA (Willis Island) for example
On 4 bands I was able to bust big pile ups as I can see where the op is working, where he will 'appear' next in the pile up and where that corresponds to a hole ..
You can see the pile up swirling about it moves up and down with the DX
But I was able to put myself in a hole time and again and bust pile ups even a huge 10M pileup of JA NA and EU!
WNB/NR is great and I just LOVE the waterfall / pana - I will not go back to a radio with a tiny display .. even on my Surface Pro 3 its brilliant !
The 6000 series is not yet perfect ... lets be frank .. there are still some rough edges BUT .. its a hugely capable radio and one if you like SDR's that you would find a bad experience.
I had a 1500 and hated the damm thing ... I really had to take a leap of faith with the 6500 but wow its amazing! So much so I now own two and the TS590's are gone and I did think they were awesome!
So .. grab the 6300 .. its a lot of capability for the money, a 6500 takes you a step further ... 6700 is nice but a lot of radio ... I decided 2 x 6500's would suit best!
The rest of the feature set like IP based connectivity is great .. for me DAX is fantastic ... CAT ops are still .. messy ... but I have no doubt that will come right.
Overall I think you would not be unhappy with the 6000 ... go try the road test you got offered ... I bet after you run out and grab a Flex 6000!
When I first got my 6500 I was living in a seniors housing project, I had an antenna but it was very short limited space.. and a lot of QRM, often worse than S9. I went through a lot of radios before getting my Flex 6500. I tried Kenwood, ICOM, Elecraft and even the Yaesu FTdx3000. One of my main goals was to find a rig that could handle my severe QRM. The 6500 was the best radio for operating in this environment. The noise limiting & reduction was fantastic! Besides the the noise handling, it's great not being tied down to any particular part of the house... I can operate on my laptop from anywhere my WiFi can reach and in future over the internet.
The money I wasted on other radios could have bought a few 6500s.. I should have bought the 6500 in the first place, it would have been cheaper.. I still like playing with some of my other radios from time to time but the Flex 6500, it is my favorite rig. Now I'm waiting for the Maestro that I have on order..
I moved into my new QTH - I bought a house this fall... very little QRM now.. no antenna restrictions... I even had the power, phone & cable lines buried... Now I can play all I want, I'm a happy camper!
73.. Ken - VE5KC
I would hope that your post was sincere and before you make up your mind at least go and do the test drive offered by the gentleman above. I mean you post was asking the base question of should I go for 3000, 5000 or jump all the way to the 6000.
It seems to me the overwhelming response in this forum was do the 6000 series. You won't regret it.
Well no one of use can know your personal situation or financial situation so we all need to push that aside. Only you can decide on those issues and you are right, they really are not any of our business except I think several people mentioned things like price differences and antenna costs etc.
Anyway here is my final point and I think if you are interested in this hobby and clearly you face not only noise challenges but also perhaps antenna and space and financial challenges that you do at least one thing for the benefit of yourself:
Take the gentleman that offered up on his proposal to come to his place and run the 6500. That can't cost you much more than a little time and effort to get over there.
You might still come out of this deciding as you mention above about the 5000. But before you lay any money down I think you owe it to yourself simply by making this post in the first place to investigate (at almost no cost) the 6500 running at a local hams shack.
In the end you will probably enjoy whatever you get but don't go into your 5000 series deal wondering if you should have at least test driven the 6000.
You probably understand the people answering your question have a decided perspective not only on vendor but model. There are advantages to SDR and there are disadvantages. The only way you will know for sure what works for you is to play with one, either Bill's or one of the used 3000 or 5000 or even 1500's, which used are around $500. If you fall in love with it you can always get the 3000 or 5000 and the 1500 is a ''second rig". If you don't, you likely can sell it for what it cost you.
Hope your still following this thread you started.
Read all the comments made and sort out the great advice given. Everyone of us has unique situations, and we all seek out the best solution as you are trying to do. Your antenna is doing what it is suppose to do, and that is receive noise. Its up to the radio to filter out the noise. To aid in filtering out the noise, a resonate antenna away from power lines is the best recommendation I give.
I Googled Earthed your street, not sure if you are on the inside or out side where the green belt is. However, for an outdoor antenna, think about using a SteppIR vertical (Put a British Flag on it!!). As one person above said work on your antenna, then buy the 6500 or 6700. (Also search out Youtube videos)
I run all bands on both the 5000A and 6500. My 5000A is now delegated to VHF & UHF SSB. The negative comments you hear in our local 80 meter chat groups are from people that 1) don't understand the new technology, or 2) maybe cant afford the radio and the extra stuff that needs to make a great station. I will be updating my QRZ and internet sites soon and I do post stuff there. you are welcome to contact me for station setup......Good Luck OM
You might want to consider a Zerofive Flagpole Vertical. I'm sure it will be far less in price and you will get it much sooner than ordering from SteppIR. That would be my recommendation when it comes to a vertical that you don't want your neighbors complaining about it. I have a zerofive vertical, not the flagpole version, but the 33 foot model I have works quite well on 10-80 meters. Give them a try, you won't be sorry you did. Mark Griffin, KB3Z
As Mark has suggested, a vertical disguised as a flag pole works very well. I too have a zerofive vertical, I started with a 29' hidden in the back corner of my yard (spoke to neighbors first). It was up for about 2 years, I have since graduated to the 43' vertical with fold over so that it can be easily folded down and hidden.
My only other suggestion would be this. Seeing that you really can't hang anything outside, perhaps you might want to consider Dstar!. I'm sure you have heard of the mode. Icom manufactures the rigs and all you would need is either a local Dstar repeater or DVAP. You can talk to the whole world via all the Dstar reflectors.
I realize HF is great, and I agree with you that you would like to stick with it. But at least with Dstar you won't have to worry about interference or your Housing Community getting all bent out of shape because you do something that might destroy the supposed scenic beauty of the area. When you said that you can't even hang up a wash line with them getting their bowels in an uproar I can't believe a community would be that narrow minded.
I certainly hope you knew about all the restrictions before you moved there. Trying to be polite, but that would be too much for me to take, even if I wasn't a ham. George, best of luck with what you are trying to accomplish. There are HF antenna's that you can attach to the side of your house. But I get the gut feeling that you can't even do that. Not to be nasty but I'm surprised they even allow you to breath the air in the community because of the purity it seems they are trying to force on the people. I certainly hope I have not offended you. If I did, I apologize with all sincerity! Mark Griffin, KB3Z