Should I get maestro and forget using the computer ... I have a Flex -6500. Advantages vs disadvantages?

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KA1RYF

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Posted 3 years ago

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KF4HR

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Why not enjoy both?  If you buy a Maestro you'll be able to switch back and forth between it and the PC as you wish.
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Walt - KZ1F

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That might pass as a viable alternative if you had a 6300. With a 6500 you'll lose 1/2 of what you paid for plus spend an additional $1300+ for the privilege.
(Edited)
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KA1RYF

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I was wondering about that ..... so, use both as KF4HR suggests ....?
Thanks!
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Kevin

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Walt... not sure I understand what you are saying. With a 6500 the SSDR has something the Maestro does not have? I don't own a Maestro but keeping an eye on them for a possible future purchase.

Kev
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Mark Erbaugh

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The 6500 supports up to 4 slice receivers. The Maestro only supports 2.
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Jay / NO5J

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I have a Maestro and a 6500, I like being able to operate 2 slices, without using the SmartSDR GUI on the monitor. When working 20m Digital I tend to open up a slice for Fldigi at 14.070, and another slice for WSJT-X at 14.076. Not having SmartSDR displayed on the monitor, frees up a lot of desktop real estate for loggers, and spotting apps, etc. My Maestro sits directly under my monitors behind my keyboard.

Kind of like having a 3rd monitor to run SmartSDR on. It lets me control the radio without the mouse stealing focus from the logger.

When I need more slices, I use SmartSDR, But multitasking more than 2 slices is complicated. 

I like having both options.

 SDRgadgets

73, Jay - NO5J

(Edited)
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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This pretty much parallels my operating position when I am not in "work" mode.  It is also convenient to be able to listen to the bands without having SSDR-Win running on my PC where I can easily turn or turn the volume down.
(Edited)
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Kevin

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Jay - could I contact you offline to ask some questions about your fldigi and wsjt-x setup? If so, is your address on QRZ.com OK? Mine is valid.
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Jay / NO5J

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Kevin

Sure, I'm good on QRZ.

 SDRgadgets

73, Jay - NO5J

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KF4HR

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Walt is probably eluding to the fact that the Maestro can only see 2 slices, so if you have a 6500 and use the Maestro, you can't access all 4 slices (at once).  Then again, 4 slices get somewhat crowded on a 12"-15" laptop screen. 

I change from my PC to my Maestro on a regular basis, depending on where I am in the house.  I find this is the best of both worlds.
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Brian Hemmis

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Unfortunately you can not use your big monitor and use the Maestro at the same time. That has been my biggest disappointment. I'm hoping they get this resolved and also the ability to easily use the Maestro as a remote ASAP. If not I'll probably sell the Maestro and go back to the 6500 and the FlexControl knob with my 27" monitor. Here's hoping or it's gone. YMMV. 73, Brian K3USC 
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Walt - KZ1F

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If you have a spare $1300+ burning a hole in your pocket and overbought your radio, buying 4 vfos when you only needed/wanted two, that the Maestro is a passable deal. It's that simple. Maestro only supports two vfos (a reasonable limitation since I rarely have used three vfo's much less four.

FlexRadioSystem will be more than happy to sell you as many as you like. Remember too, the ONLY thing a Maestro is good for is running with a Flex 6000 series radio. If you are true blue, not an issue. Should you decide at some point you'd like a different option as Windows 10 is just too painful, the Maestro has to be part of the deal, as it serves no other uses. Think of Maestro purchase as 'doubling down' on the vendor...any vendor. My Elecraft linear and ext tuner will work with any radio I buy, including a Flex 6500. The previous was neither an indictment nor praise for either product or the vendor.  Just go into this with your eyes open. If you are still w/i 30 days on the 6500....that decision can be revisited.

One last thought...some will say 'yes, but someday FRS may do <fill in the blank> with your Maestro". Don't make any major purchase on the hopes or promise that someday it may become a <fill in the blank>.
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Kevin

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Discounting other specs your original comments about the 6300 and 6500 make sense to me now. And as you say, it is a doubling down on the commitment and I'm still not ready for that.

I'm hoping these 6000 series radios take off so much that other hardware and software developers jump in to fill in the blanks. If an SSDRfw alternative came out which smoothed out the GUI and added some features I'd be into that. Something on the Android platform would be nice also. 
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Eric - KE5DTO, Official Rep

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Note that our API is available for anyone that wants to give this a go.  I'm genuinely curious about which things you would want "smoothed out" in the GUI and which added features you would want to see.
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Kevin

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Hi Eric... some thoughts.

The radio stack should be detachable. In fact, each of the modules should be detachable so I can place them on the screen (not in the main window) when, where and if I need them.

The volume slider for the slice, both on the individual slice controls and in the stack has the hotspot set incorrectly. Only the top half of the slider control works.

Using a mousewheel over a control usually only affects that control. For instance, WSJT-X hovering over Pwr and using the mousewheel adjusts the power. Hovering over the receive slider adjusts the receive slider. Within SSDR, it's just frequency.

The sliders are narrow. Try landing on 50 exactly and you have to barely nudge the mouse to get it where you want. Being able to use the arrow keys for an active slider would help. Widening the controls would help also. And, as mentioned, the mouse wheel being active for more than frequency would help.

Unlike most applications windows shortcut keys were ignored. This eliminates the use of many keyboard macros and makes using any macros more difficult.

In many applications, hovering over a control brings up a small box with an expanded explanation of the control. Most apps allow this to be turned on and off.

When you transmit, SSDR tries to place the line indicating the VFO frequency in the middle of the display. For instance, on WJST-X when I expand SSDR's view to show 5 KHz across the display and then transmit, the yellow line shifts to the middle of the screen cutting off half of the view.

The controls under "Display" are fairly limited. In particular, the common .pal file could be used to allow waterfall customization.

SmartSDR must be running to even listen to the radio even if another program like Commander is controlling the radio.

A lot of the controls seem redundant. In the radio stack the RX panel basically does what the flag does plus or minus some things.

There is no indication of when the global profile has changed or even which global profile is active at the moment.

The waterfall/panadapter could be so much more useful. Interfacing with a DX Cluster or a skimmer could provide some very useful information when DX hunting.

Markers (with color and/or annotation) could be added to the display to mark interesting frequencies, band edges or other operating aids.

Help should include an About... with a check for updates.

Some controls in the Radio Setup panel could probably be brought out to a menu or even a new panel in the stack. I'm guessing there's a reason for they way they are - like the controls are physical-radio-centric and I think that makes sense.

Why would the S-meter hide the signal strength in dBm? 

I'm probably getting nitpicky but I hope the point is made. There's a whole lot about this radio to love. In fact, I think many of the complaints I here are not so much about the radio but how things are presented.  I understand it's a lot of fun to put out new products like Maestro and SSDR for iOS and such but SSDR for Windows is in need of some work. All else aside, it is still the primary interface to the Flex radio that many people use. It seems to be a place where there really is some bang for the buck available. Take a look at some of the software written around SDRPlay and such and I think some might agree, SSDR is looking a little dated. Take a look at how some other professional Windows applications are presented.

73,
Kevin K4VD
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Eric - KE5DTO, Official Rep

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Thanks for the detailed input.  I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.  A few follow up questions/comments:
Unlike most applications windows shortcut keys were ignored. This eliminates the use of many keyboard macros and makes using any macros more difficult.
Which Windows shortcut keys are you trying to use and what did you expect them to do that they didn't?  We haven't intentionally done anything to circumvent these keys that I'm aware of.

In many applications, hovering over a control brings up a small box with an expanded explanation of the control. Most apps allow this to be turned on and off. 
These are called tooltips in the software world.  We have some of these in SmartSDR (and more in the latest Alpha version).  Which controls were you hoping to see these on?  I am not aware of an application that allows you to turn off tooltips.  Can you give me an example of such?

SmartSDR must be running to even listen to the radio even if another program like Commander is controlling the radio.
This actually isn't the case.  We do close all of the existing Slices when SmartSDR is closed, but other applications can open Slices, tune them, etc without having SmartSDR running.

A lot of the controls seem redundant. In the radio stack the RX panel basically does what the flag does plus or minus some things.
The Active Slice panel is indeed redundant to what is available on the Slice Flag.  However, it stays put.  It was requested and delivered based on input from the community and can be hidden if it is not preferred.  

I think you are suggesting that there are some UI ergonomic design issues that could be addressed (easier access with less mousing/clicking, etc).  I completely agree that we can improve there.

Overall, you've pointed out some bugs and some good ideas for improvement.  This is really valuable to us.  Thanks so much.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Eric,
There are also many requests on the "idea list" with many votes that ask for improvements to the SSDR 4 Windows application. There are too many to mention them all here but they focus on usability, readability and functionality. Many have been on the list for several years and could be considered as "buff and polish" to smooth out the GUI.

It would be nice to acknowledge them and implement the top ideas. Just do a search and set the parameters to show them ordered by the number of votes. Hopefully the vote count is not forgotten and will be considered to set the priority. Since there is no longer a road map and many of the ideas have languished for years it is hard to tell.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ
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Eric - KE5DTO, Official Rep

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I am aware of the idea list.  I was looking for Kevin's input specifically here, which he kindly gave.  Thanks again Kevin.
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Kevin

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No problem. I didn't mean to present the ideas as mine nor jump ahead of other ideas already documented by the community. Apologies if that how this looked. I was asked and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute.

Which Windows shortcut keys are you trying to use and what did you expect them to do that they didn't?  We haven't intentionally done anything to circumvent these keys that I'm aware of.
Maybe I should have said just shortcut keys instead of windows shortcut keys. But as an example, alt F+x would normally exit a program. But in addition to that, having shortcuts to select slice or toggle agc or any function like that opens each of those functions up to simple keyboard macros. Assignable shortcut keys where the sky's the limit. There's another recent post here which asks about the Shuttlepro but, as the response says, it is of limited usefulness because "SmartSDR does not implement keyboard shortcuts for program features..."

These are called tooltips in the software world.  We have some of these in SmartSDR (and more in the latest Alpha version).  Which controls were you hoping to see these on?  I am not aware of an application that allows you to turn off tooltips.  Can you give me an example of such?
I see some tooltips for some controls but not others. I'm guessing it's because their function should be obvious? Examples are NB, NR, ANF on the RX panel. An example of a configuration setting:



This actually isn't the case.  We do close all of the existing Slices when SmartSDR is closed, but other applications can open Slices, tune them, etc without having SmartSDR running.
I was unaware of this. I had tried to use DXLabs Commander and its user-defined controls a few times without SSDR but as soon as I closed SSDR everything kind of shut down. I guess this is a limitation of Commander? The other part of this equation - not that I'm asking for it to be considered here - is that I've been trying to do a little programming with Visual Studio in C# on the Flex and I pretty much am totally lost. I'm guessing I don't understand enough about how to talk to the radio yet.

The Active Slice panel is indeed redundant to what is available on the Slice Flag.  However, it stays put.  It was requested and delivered based on input from the community and can be hidden if it is not preferred.  
I kind of suspected that. Different strokes I guess and I can respect that. Seems odd to have the duplicate information when real estate seems to be at a premium. I've found my self adjust controls on the RX panel without realizing I was adjusting the wrong slice so I try to stick with the flags. But the flags don't include a filter setting, only an indicator so it's back down to the RX panel. Maybe if the stack could be detached and individual panels brought up as needed we'd be able to bring up an RX panel for each slice. Then I could hide the flag to keep it covering up the spectrum display. Definitely nitpicking now. :)

Thanks again for the opportunity.

Kev
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Walt - KZ1F

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Kevin, were you here yet when I put up some vids of XPSSDR? I ask as it sounds like that is precisely what you were describing to Eric.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Kev,
No problem, I didn't take it as trying to jump ahead.  Actually many of your suggestions are also on the idea list.   Some examples: dockable windows, integrated skimmer and cluster spots, sliders, color schemes and more.    If you haven't already added your vote and comments to some of them it may be worth checking out.  

There is no shortage of ideas for improving SSDR 4 Windows but with all of the other efforts like Maestro, WAN, etc many of them haven't  been addressed yet.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 - HW.................. V 1.9.7.85
SSDR / DAX / CAT...... V 1.9.7.169
Win10
   
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Walt - KZ1F

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Kevin, were you here yet when I put up some vids of XPSSDR? I ask as it sounds like that is precisely what you were describing to Eric.
But the flags don't include a filter setting, only an indicator so it's back down to the RX panel.
In the radio stack there is the graphic of the filter, which can be adjusted on the pan itself but there are something like 9 presets for filters available on the flag specific to the demod mode you are in. To be sure there is a fair amount of software to manage a graphical depiction of the head and tail of the filter. I believe, for myself, I used it once and, at that, what I ended up with was really really close to a preset. I think FRS did a very good job picking the presets.
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Kevin

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Hey Walt. I was here for that but I think it shot right on past me. It has been a very long time since I was anywhere near a Linux machine, RH 6.0 on a VALinux Xeon box I think? Basically I had been through all the OS wars and Gates beat me down.

I forgot all about the filter buttons under the mode dropdown on the flag. I agree, the default filter widths are a good selection but I often make use of the filter adjustment on the spectrum display to clean up some close-in CW. Thanks for reminding me they are there. Oddly, I just noticed the buttons in the flag provide more options than the buttons on the RX panel.

DIGU Flag: 100, 300, 600, 1.0K, 1.5K, 2.0K, 3.0K, 5.0K
DIGU RX: 100, 300, 1.0K, 1.5K, 3.0K, 5.0K

A little inconsistent.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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A limitation of real estate
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Walt - KZ1F

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And I am sure that's why they added that facility. I asked only because that's exactly what I did with XPSSDR, each Pan is it's own window (small w) and the radio control is in it's own window. Likely my favorite vid was when I opened two pans and stretched each window across 2 monitors, Then I had 2 20" monitor. Now I have 4 monitors the orig 2 20" which now flank 2 24". I discovered something interesting though. I can not stretch the pan beyond 2 1/2 monitors before the spectrum display won't increase anymore. I don't know who imposed that limitation. I suspect it is flex as once I breach that, for lack of a better word, max X, the updates stop flowing to the spectrum (upper) viewport, the waterfall works just fine at max width. I am guessing the updates stop when x exceeds 4,000 pixels. I don't recall seeing a published upper limit. Which is not to say it doesn't exist in print somewhere.

And you're right, the 9th is for the combo box. At the time I didn't recall whether it was 3x3 or 3x4.

Ah RHEL, I like RHEL. I used to be a regular at the RedHat Summit in Boston. RHEL 7 is, from my understanding, a fully flushed out Fedora 21.I have CentOS 7.1 as an image in my OpenStack cloud along with Fedora 21.

I did kind of smile to myself when it sure sounded like you were describing XPSSDR. For Linux, the pans default to separate windows but in Android they default to pinned as there is insufficient real estate to have separate windows but, they are tabbed so should I open 1+ there are multiple concurrently running pans.

My career went somewhat the opposite of that. I used to be very much a Windows Weenie. Once I got really comfortable with Linux, I severed my interest in Windows, professionally and personally. Actually it had more to do with MSDN.
(Edited)
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k3Tim

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I'm in the "both" camp and Jay hit the nail on the head.

The 6500 with Maestro displaying 2 VF0s is not equivalent to a 6300 as the 6500 specs are superior in addition to the 4 VF0s. I use both Smart-SDR on PC and carry the Maestro about the home mainly for SWL.

I believe FRS is looking at allowing a Maestro and Smartt SDR on a PC to "share" in a future release.

When I was exploring buying a 6500 I debated waiting for more software to be ready before throwing down for the purchase. Then it struck me, s/w updates will continue, they are free (till 2.0) so why wait? That was 2 years ago and I haven't regretted or looked back.

If you can see / try one in person that would be ideal.

GL / Regards,

k3Tim
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Jay -- N0FB, Elmer

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"When all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail."

I have a 6300, a Maestro, an IPad running SmartSDR for IOS, a PC running SmartSDR for Windows, and a couple Macs which run SmartSDR for Windows under Parallels and DogParkSDR running natively. So I have many options open to me.

SmartSDR for windows is my choice for when I want the full, no compromise Flex Radio experience for hunting rare DX. When I'm Contesting, running a special event station or SWL, the Maestro is the champ. When I want native Mac OSX experience with tight integration with MacLogger DX, DogParkSDR is the only choice (however I find DogParkSDR GUI surprisingly kludgy as compared to MacLogger DX.) When I want to have an insane amount of fun while relaxing in my living room's recliner or from a hotel room, DL8MRE's insanely great SmartSDR for IOS is my go-to client.

No matter the operating task at hand (or just my mood), I can pick the right tool for the job. No other amateur radio platform offers this amount of flexibility. The 6000 Signature series truly lives up to the moniker: Flex Radio Systems.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I did the CQWW contest this weekend and I had to go back to SmartSDR as the Maestro failed in 2 important areas., no TNF (below average ANF didnt cut it) and flaky zoom in and zoom out. @Jay, How did you find Maestro a better tool for the contest? 

Signals up and down, noise sources every where, station right on your pass band that can only be taken care of with TNF, constant variations in my transmit width, etc.... All of these functions are almost unworkable quickly with the Maestro. 

Worth mentioning I bested myself with 2,105 QSOs monoband 15m Low Power. The 6700 was a fantastic tool for the job.
(Edited)
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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During a contest (nice to work you btw) your focus has to be on your logging software. A large 2nd monitor you're switching back and forth to a big screen. 1 monitor and you run out of real estate. Maestro and you have a small screen you can glance at. Mind you, I don't have a maestro.

Also it emulates the traditional radio interface so if for example you have a multi op you can bring new operators with no learning curve. K9CT last year during ARRL DX contest made the remark that he just let operators loose on the equipment and they figured it all out. I'm not sure that would be possible if they had used SmartSDR for windows. 
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Walt - KZ1F

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Ria, I asked this once before of someone. Given it is between 8 and 5 on the east coast and you clearly aren't retired yet, are you at work now? 
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Yes, I am at work. I work like 50-60 hours a week. 
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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TNF is the best thing ever on a contest. I can't live without it. It is not available on the Maestro.
Someone not familiar with TNF won't miss it.
I do.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Losing some features is one reason why I did not get a maestro but I did test drive Dave, WO2X's before I even had a flex radio. I can see the appeal for contesters where there is the need for focus and minimalist controls.  However I would like to see maestro improved with some features that are in smartsdr
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Me too
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Joseph, in my personal opinion (I have a 6700 and a Maestro) the answer is NO.
You cannot forget about the PC.

You can use your radio with the Maestro, no doubt about that, but these are the reasons why doing so, without a PC would be a limitation to the potential of your radio.

  1. You cannot use Track Notching Filters (TNF) on the Maestro. The single best thing of the Flex radios!
  2. You can not use Downward Expander (Noise Gate) with the Maestro, invaluable to me.
  3. You cannot work any digital modes. If at least Maestro would decode CW, RTTY and PSK you could do a lot of the digital modes currently used, so you might not miss the PC.
  4. You cannot communicate with external devices, such an amp, to switch bands. You rely on the amp having frequency reader (bound to produce hot switching). Now, this is supposed to be resolved soon, I have been hearing this for over 3 months :) . 
  5. You are limited to 2 slices. I understand the 2 panadapter limitation on the Maestro.... real state.... I really do not share the 2 slice limitation. In SmartSDR, with my 6700 I can have one of the receivers on the 2m band with several slices open listening to the local VHF repeaters (thank god for squelch on FM). Basically I have 1 panadapter with 3 slices opened, while I work HF with 1 and sometimes 2 (Split) slices open. That is a total of 5 slices that could be opened in the Maestro but can't. I don't know why I can't have 2 slices per panadapter and just limit the panadapter number to 2......
  6. The Flex 6000 radios are glorious in a large PC screen. Seeing so much of the spectrum in a 4k 40+ inch monitor is a sight to behold. Even in a 24 inch HD monitor its an amazing experience. While the Maestro screen quality is good, is just "meh!" when compared with a computer screen.
The good news is that, you do not need an expensive computer to run SmartSDR. You probably have a computer already in your QTH to do logging of your QSOs as that is another task you cannot do on the maestro. So you will end up like all of us, with both a computer and the Maestro and trying to figure out where and when the Maestro makes sense for you.
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KA1RYF

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Thank you!!
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Moose

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I don't think I would have bought a Flex 6500 if the Maestro wasn't available. Not to say it isn't great to use SmartSDR on a PC. Before the 6500 I had several different full size radios with every knob and button you could want. I like having a front end like the Maestro to control the radio. Using my hands to control the radio is more intuitive to me than using a mouse pointer. The Maestro has an awesome display you just have to see to experience.

SDR is the future of radio. You're starting to see it from Icom with the IC-7300 and IC-7610 where they are just self contained SDRs made to look like a regular radio. I think we'll see more and more of that until it is the prevailing technology. 

The other thing that is amazing is just how good the Maestro is for being a first generation device. Typically the first try at anything is rough around the edges and it is the 2nd and 3rd generation devices that really start to shine. The Maestro was very well thought out from the start and what you get is truly a first class product.

73 Chris AK4SK
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Maestro is more of a "2nd monitor and keyboard" set of tools where it can free your main screen for other stuff. If this is how you want to operate then Maestro is for you. It's advantageous for contesting, for example. 
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Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

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Official Response
We are all about offering choice: Maestro, PC, Laptop, Mac, iPhone, iPad or combinations thereof. It's like Burger King advertised, "Have it your way."  Pick the "tools" that best suite your operating scenario at the given moment in time.  You can even create your own using the SmartSDR API if you are so inclined.  

We also offer Trade In and Trade Up programs so you are not locked in to your original decision if you want more.  No other transceiver manufacturer offers those choices or the ability to trade.  
(Edited)
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KA1RYF

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I can't thank everyone enough for all the replies .... It has been a great deal of help!

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