Since each of us has different usage patterns and different focuses in the hobby, there is really no "Better or Worse" rig, but there *IS* the one that matches more of the features that matter to you specifically. If I could find some detailed reviews, or a detailed feature comparison, it could help me decide which rig matches more of my specific "tick boxes", for example.
I am aware, from others of you here (thanks), that the 30 days try-or-return policy exists.
Call me slow, but it takes me more than 30 days to vet all the features in a new cell phone, let alone an amazingly complex SDR radio. So I simply prefer to learn what I can from FRS and new owners here before pulling the trigger.
I really really wish that Flex had a volunteer referral database of Ham's in each zip code willing to answer questions or demo their rig. Short of putting a few rigs at radio stores or demo sites, that would really help. I would LOVE to speak with a 6600 owner on the phone, or visit one for a demo. The least they could do would be to set up a west coast and east coast demo location so people could drop by a see one in action.
Thanks for being patient with me :-)
Neal - N6YFM
The 7610 has a built-in server which works very very well. However, it doesn't have a panoramic display the begins to compare with the Flex. It has no panoramic display at all remoting that gives the Flex an edge. However, I like the sound of the transmit audio on the 7610 much better than that of the Flex. All of the Flelx's I have heard have a subtle scratchiness to it and never have felt their audio quite compares to the best of the other rigs. All-in-all, I still prefer the Flex.
"The least they could do?" No, that's actually quite a big effort - offering a thirty-day trail period in your shack with your antennas, amplifier, etc. is a perfectly fine way to market the radios. The moment Flex puts a showroom in LA and NYC you will hear countless hams complain how inconvenient it is to get there from their QTH, and if you move it other Hams will complain about the location.
I am probably not in your area but I will be glad to answer any and all questions you might have.
My name is Mark, WS7M. I currently own a Flex 6600. Prior I had a 6500 an Icom 7300, flex 6300, and flex 1500.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until you do... Here is my take:
Recently I had to decide if I was going to upgrade to the 6600 from my 6500 or take the jump and go 7610 or even an Anan 8000. Before I tell you more I think it is important to list my likes and dislikes:
1) I don't need knobs. Computer interface for me is perfect as I am on the computer all day long anyway. When I do want knobs I can use a small inexpensive DJ controller that plugs into the computer and I get all the functionality of a VFO knob and much more
2) I have long wanted to do remote. I rarely sit in my "shack" for days on end. I will go there, then later be in the kitchen, perhaps the great room to watch football or if it is nice out on my deck. I do travel a little so having remote would be nice for that. I have yet to find ANYTHING that remotes as well as the Flex radios do. Yes there are new competitors and there are those that have remoted using remote rig for some time. But with flex it is plug and play for the most part.
3) My op desires are CW primarily, SSB some and digital. Flex allows me to do all of those very easily. Remote makes digital a little more tricky but it can be done. When I do op voice I get OUTSTANDING audio reports.
4) Programmability. I am a software developer so having a radio I could talk to with code for little things was important to me. While Icom has the CIV interface I had used it years ago and struggled with it. I know people use the Anan remote but it looks harder to do.
So with those biases in mind:
In looking at the 7610 there were two big road blocks for me: 1) I'd have to switch my learning and focus on the CIV protocol which would set me back a very long time. 2) I found that the maximum tx bandwidth on that unit to be about 4k. I could not find a way to go wider. I also could not find a way to set the rx filter width wide open either. One thing I like to do is gather the audio data (not I/Q) and run it through some programs I've written to look at stuff. I like to look at very wide slices like 14k.
In looking at the Anan there were two big road blocks: 1) I was told by an anan user that I should not expect to do well using the anan on my laptop over wifi. I do that all the time with my flex. 2) I have two friends with anans. We spent almost 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday on the air listening to them banter back and forth about buffer sizes, various settings and it was kind of hilarious how deep it got.
Last thing for me:
I only have one piece of radio equipment sitting on my desk. That is a Yaesu FT-991 that can do HF as a backup but mostly does UHF.
The rest of my equipment: Flex 6600, SPE 2K-FA, PalStar HF Auto tuner sit out in a shed 25 feet away. I don't hear the fans, I have virtually no noise at the desk.
I can completely operate all of my gear (except the FT-991A) from anywhere as long as I have a basic, reasonable internet connection.
So I made my choice to stick with Flex. The flex folks have been very good. When I have a problem generally this forum or FRS themselves have a solution.
I cannot say the same thing for Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood. I had a Kenwood TS-2000 for a while that went the regional repair shop 3 times. Each turn around was close to a month. Often the radio came back with a different problem than it left with. I ended up selling it for parts as I could not vouch for its ability to operate.
I am N6YFM, Neal Pollack, Torrance, California, (Los Angeles Area).
Info good on qrz.com bio page. Been here in the Los Angeles region all 60 years.
N6YFM <At } ARRL dot nET
What do I think now after having the 6400M for 1 1/2 months ... Well the hdmi jack I just had to have has been a nightmare since day 1 and has yet to change ... the 7610 got version 1.06 and is basically bug free now .. while Im still dealing with startup inconsistancies on occasion, organizing profiles and having to manually load one each time i start the rig along with incorrect outdated docs and many yep its being tracked and oh yea thats a bug we knew about for a while now but its on our list.
Although I am basically satisfied with the 6400M and like it despite all the listed issues above if I had to order a rig today I think I would get the 7610 since it would be a better fit for me now that they took care of the issues with it.
The flex is still too dependent on now an internal computer that I have no way to correct the operation of and now worse yet another windows computer so now its 2 computers and 2 os's and 2 software messes or 3 or 4 if you count ios or iphone.
I find I spend most of my time working with the computer instead of using the radio while im learning how all the software works since its totally different than standalone operation on the radio.
Hind sight is 20/20 and a learning experience is what you get when you didnt get what you thought you wanted. I still love my flex3000 running on bootcamp win 7 on mini imac i7 with 16gb ... solid no win 7 issues and Darren making it better every week.
You make your decisions and take your chances ... Your Mileage may vary ...
Nine months ago, as a potential customer, I made a suggestion that Flex set up remote access to a radio for this very purpose:
After 3 months, the idea was marked as "under consideration" by Eric at Flex. It got some votes, but probably insufficient as it has not yet been implemented (AFAIK). Fortunately though, as a result of that post, I was offered remote access by several generous owners. I found this very useful and subsequently bought a used 6500.
I thought that was in the 'true spirit' of ham radio - Perhaps those or other owners might do the same for you?
Better still, this might remind Flex to implement the suggestion. Good luck Neal. 73
It's a great idea and I think it could make a great "sales tool for sure. Maybe just not that easy to do for Flex as a company?
A year from now the Icom will be less than $3,000, the Flex will likely remain at $5K.
That is not an inconsequential price difference for many potential buyers.
I would compare a 7610 to a simple Apple iPad device, and the Flex to a Windows 10 Laptop computer.. iPad boots up fast, simple operation, all the apps must be a specific specification to not HOG the internal processor. A Windows 10 laptop with an i7 processor, terabit hard drive, 16GB of memory, very fast, HDMI, USB 4.0, USB "C", will support big advanced programs and have unlimited capabilities and flexibility...
The Flex radio takes 2 minutes to boot up, no big deal, lets you select what software version you want to run, that is a feature called flexibility,, Only the Flex Engineers and software developers, working behind closed doors, in a secret room,, shielded to all outside RFI, and Satellite spy cameras, know the true potential of the radio... And paying a modes $200 to go from 2.xxxx to 3.xxx in the future, no problem, Flex will spend the time and capital dollars to do that if they can get a decent return on their investment.. You get what you pay for.. Facebook is FREE!!! But they make billions! So Data Mining was no surprise to me,, We gave up our privacy a long time ago..
Most radios are built for today's usage, Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, but the Flex appears to have a very bright future with what its ability can be with software enhancements.. As long as they put a lot of horsepower under the hood to allow the Firmware programming to grow, their should be a lot of exciting things to come in the future..
I think the 7610 group has made dozens of suggestions on improvements, why it would not do this or that.. Why it does not have a "B" VFO tuning know on the radio?? But we know ICOM rarely does much more then fix bugs.. Then they just STOP making changes.. So a lot of us are counting on Flex to continue to make changes for improved performance and add more FEATURES to the radio,, We see this with new Apple IOS and Windows 10 software.. The 7610 will never go down this path, but Flex will..
At first I was excited and used 7610 for about 25 hours on the lower bands and it worked as noted by the prior 40+ reviews. Then I attempted a six meter contact in FM mode with another out of town radio operator and discovered the 7610 was dead on six meters. I returned the 7610 to a nationally recognized retailer who refunded my money. They also took another new 7610 out of the box, version 1.06 software, and encountered the same problem as with version 1.04. I was sorry I sold my 7600 after 9 years use, as it, along with a Kenwood TS-2000X, Yaesu FT817-ND, and FT-857D, all could hear a strong Six meter contact in Pre-Amp modes with signals 60db over S9 (pinning the S meter) whereas the Icom 7610 with Pre-Amp 1 was approximately S7 and dropped to S6 in Pre-Amp 2. Since the six meter noise floor was S7, communications on six meters was not possible.
Both the national dealer and I worked in unison with Icom engineering department to see if the 7610’s lack of sensitivty above 24 MHz in preamp modes (either 1 or 2) could be remedied. I spoke with an Icom representative on 4/09/2018 regarding the 7610 issues on six meters and lack of sensitivity when engaging the preamps. He informed me that Icom would be issuing an errata sheet as the preamp specifications as noted on page 31 in the manual (Section 4-1) were incorrect and that these specifications were erroneously copied from the 7600 manual. He state that after conferring with Icom engineers, they are unable to “resolve my problem” and correct the upper band sensitivity issues with software.
Further, I conferred with a preeminent nationally recognized amatuer radio operator (with an engineering background) who previously posted a You Tube video on the 7610. He admitted he did not test the 7610 on six meters when he posted his video, but the morning I contacted him he had coincidently discovered earlier while attempting to engage in a six meter net that he thought his six meter Yagi was 180 degrees out! While on the phone with him he tested the 7610 for 40 minutes using his Kenwood TS-990 and a signal generator on various frequencies at and above 24 Mhz. In A-B comparison tests he confirmed that while the 7610 spectral scope depicts signal increases in Pre-amp 1 and slightly higher in pre-amp 2, the signal does not reach the audio stage. In reality there is an estimated minus (-) 2 db decrease with pre-amp 2 engaged! Now I am back in the market for an SDR radio. I might add the 7600 was phenomenal on my favorite band, 40 meters. The hand mike was superb, the SSB and CW signals seemed to pop out with less background noise, much better than with my 7600. But frankly I refuse to own a radio that does not work well above 24 Mhz. Don’t take my word for it, but those operators who read this posting, try six meters yourself in A-B test mode.
By the way, all readers need to know there is a 1/32” to 1/16” wobble on both AF/RF dual knobs before those knobs engage because each is three-way and disengages that band when depressed. This is irritating but I was willing to live with this fact until I discovered the upper band lack of sensitivity issue.
As soon as Icom comes out with a 7612, or whatever, I will buy one as I love Icom equipment. Meanwhiile I am exploring Flex.
I'm in the same boat as you and am trying to decide on a new rig. The only ones currently on my shortlist are the 7610 and the 6600. I'm still in wait mode because Rob Sherwood hasn't posted his report on the 6600 yet and Dayton is next week and Kenwood is supposed to announce a new rig that's rumored to be closer to the TS-990S than the TS-590SG. Whether it'll be an SDR or not remains to be seen. Even money right now is that it'll be the "TS-890" and will be SDR-based. We'll see.
If you are going for radio only and a computer is not your thing stick with that.
Flexradio is about software and using even more software from others.
Flexradio is great for all things software digital.
No inteface boxes and cables just software on top of software.
As far a specs goes we are entering the zone of a few numbers here and there better.
Reminds me of going from Cassette to CD.The numbers (spec) we are getting very close and the human ear has to be very keen on the differences.
Operations style Computer vs Traditional radio is where its at.
But both once set correctly are set and go so non-issue setup wise for both.
I like messing about computers a little, so flexradio suits me fine but glad to get rid of intefaces on the desk.
But physical interfaces Vs software intefaces you still have to mess with computer/software either way if doing anything digital.
So i chose all out with computer for digital.
I chuckle every time someone gets SDR receiver and hooks it to thier IF-output and tries to be like Flexradio. :)
Got luck ALL in your discission.
Also, does the 7610 have the extreme bandpass filters on contest bands like the 6600?
Many Things that the Flex6600 has going for itself over the IC-7610
1. WNB " Give clean Waterfall Post processing " No other SDR out there
does this, mathematically model Wideband noise impulse and inverts
by 180 degrees and take Noise out of Waterfall & Receiver
( Icom - Elecraft - Kenwood - Anan all do not do this ! )
Great for Fast Impulse Noise - Motor Noise - Power Line Static
Great with the Urban Hams in Noisy Locations
2.) The new Flex6600M can see super weak on the waterfall before they can be
heard ! Try that with any of the others, just won't be the same
3.) Can be REMOTE controlled with very little cables - believe me
( Elecraft is a Rat's nest of cables )
4.) Flex 6xxx Series are only SDR radio's that can be used with a Thin Client
Even Slug Slow DSL with Panadapter from Starbuck's works great !
Do not need a High Horse Power Computer remotely - Cheapie netbook
5.) The Flex6600M has best of both worlds - Knobs or you can
run without Knobs ( Will not miss the IC-7610 )
6.) Flex6600M Great 4K type Touch Screen, slick as an iPad
7.) Flex6600M has 2 SCU's to run Diversity Mode
A DXer's dream com true
( More features that can added in software later by FRS Plasma TV nulling- etc )
8.) With Icom - what you see is what you get
With Flex - Room for improvements
Feels like getting a newRadio with each upgrade where Icom you will need to wait for new features buy a Newer Icom new Radio
9.) WideBand ESSB possible on Flex6600
10.) Digital mods like FT8 are super easy to set up, no sound cards needed
11.) Flex6600 is a real Server type Radio - need I say more !
12.) Resolution on the WaterFall down to 10Hz, only a High Price
Agilent-HP Spectrum Analyzer could do this, Try this with Any Other Rig - Elecraft - Kenwood - Icom - Yaesu, it's terrible WaterFall resolution in their WaterFall Displays
13.) 7th order Band Filters on each of the Contest Bands
I think the Flex6600M is the Best of the Best !
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