After being off the air for a number of years I did trade my trusty 1000MP for a 5000...however , somehow I must have missed the FlexRadio while doing research for a new radio.
I've been playing with the LP-PAN2 and SDRPlay2 as a panadapter in combo with the 5000 and CW skimmer....and so I got hooked on SDR.
With the new 6600 comming to the scene in a few months I wonder whether I should take the plunge?
My main interest is low band DX , weak signal DX in general , digi modes , 6m DX and occasionally taking part in a contest.
Any suggestions , advice...are highly appreciated.
73 - ON7NQ - OP2R - Danny
I will say also that Flex (even though there are negative posts in the forum) does communicate with users and is responsive and very effective on repairs. I think in your case being ON7 you'll be dealing with a distributor but help is always available on this forum to all.
For Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu I think you'd be hard pressed to find a forum where the radio manufacturer, including the company present actually weigh in.
I hope you take the plunge. It's a good radio and a very good company.
My opinion...take the plunge! You will not regret it!
The FT5K is a fine radio. I had two of them but when I saw the ability of the Flex6XXX to fluidly move from mode to mode, I immediately sold the FT5Ks and jumped on the 6500 and Maestro.
LP-Pan/ SDRPlay are a stop gap measure, that is, you still have only one comport on the FT5K. You still have to run some kind of port sharing like LPBridge and port contention can be problematic when you are running other apps in conjunction with NAP3, your logging program or digital applications.
Additionally, LP Pan and an external sound card can be prone to artifacts. It takes quite a bit of work to eliminate them. I gave up!
Moving to Flex, you can sell the LP-PAN, sound card, and any other external digital interfaces (Signalink, PK232, etc.) . Flex does it all via software (DAX- Digital Audio Exchange), making those external boxes obsolete. No more soldering those tiny DIN plugs! Everything you need to run every mode is "in the box". Just boot the application, give it a Flex comport/ PTT, link the app to the DAX channel and you are running.
With the Flex, you can run multiple apps at the same time. I frequently run JTDX and CW Skimmer at the same time . Nothing gets past me on 6M during the Es season! I have the entire band covered with applications. The same hold true for HF. Set-up Skimmer for the CW portion, WSJT, Digipan, MMTTY in the digital portion and you have the band covered.
With the FT5K, you are also limited to Yeasu preordained filter bandwidths while the Flex filters are viable. No more being tied down to what an engineer thought your correct combination
of filtering. Being a predominately CW/ RTTY operator, I find the ability to tailor filter bandwidths, on the fly, extremely effective. In contests if someone moves in close, you simply adjust your filter bandwidth!
I could continue...but you get my message. Flex is the way to go. If you have any further questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (or on this board. I monitor it daily.)
ex.(K5P, K9W, K1N and NH8S)
There is absolutely nothing like seeing the station you want to contact, and the QRM around that station, on a big screen... and visually being able to adjust your receive filters to be precisely where you want them. It's crazy powerful.
Wanna see the whole band? Easy. Wanna see one station? Trivial. If that station is a PSK station you want to talk to... and there's another station 100hz up... no problem, just pull you receive passband where you want it, and the precise width you want. 50hz wide? 72hz wide? 200hz? No problem.
Don't listen to those who are whining about what they don't have. They take for granted what they do have... like brick wall filters. It's because the radio is so good that people whine about stupid stuff...
And don't forget the best customer support in ham radio.
use FLEX Radio !
SDR chart topping performance vs superhet and DSP
Ultimate flexibility and improvements with new software
Network capability and out of the box seamless remote
Better ability to interface with external equipment (amps, tuners, antenna controllers)
A variety of UI options including maestro with knobs if you want it
Dual SCU for basically two independent receivers in a box
7th order filters
What goes in favor of the yaesu:
Their brand name. Let's face it. Some are brand loyal
Yaesu radios have knobs that feel very ergonomic to use. The main vfo knob is one of the best I've used in any radio.
Familiarity. The yaesu layout is familiar to many.
Less latency. Yes this can be a concern to some. SDR has this inherent issue
Not having to deal with windows or a computer. (does not apply to 6600M which doesn't need that either)
I am biased. I own a flex. But that's not because I just like the company. I have used others and flex is what works best for me.
As a bonus you also get this awesome user community to help you.
If you are buying a car, buy the car that does what you desire. You would never by a "SmartCar" hoping one day they come out with the pickup bed add on right?
On this forum you'll see lots of whining. Well that is what forums attract. They attract both good question answer discussions and how to discussions but also a lot of whining about this didn't work, I don't have that, why is everything taking so long etc...
As a computer / software professional for over 35 years I've had my fair share of neighbors, friends, relatives asking me what computer and software to buy. I always say the same thing:
First understand what you want to do with it
Second buy something that gives you that ability plus a little growing room
It is foolish to try and stay on the bleeding edge. It is frustrating and often very unproductive.
One of my relatives didn't listen and bought a super hopped up computer that the vendor claimed would do everything my relative wanted for the next 10 years. They forgot to add that it will only do that when it was not crashing and overheating. It turned out to have so many incompatibilities that it was almost useless.
So I posted first. I am going to maintain my stance:
I like flex. My reasons are I like computers, doing radio with a computer makes total sense to me. For some others not so much.
The flex company is far and above anyone else out there. There is not only this forum but a crew of people to help you keep your radio on the air and healthy. In your case I think being over seas you will still have the forum but likely deal with a distributor for support. I've never needed support and I've had 4 different flex radios. All have worked amazing.
I like to "see" the band. I often spend more time just watching signals than working them. For years I tuned my old Kenwood across some squeal. I was told they were artifacts of the radio and called "birdies". Now that I'm into golf I wish I had more birdies but that is another discussion. Now with my flex I can see "birdies" and I'm convinced they are not artifacts of my radio. In most cases they are some other thing in my house or neighbors house that is making noise. I find the shape of signals on the display to be fascinating. For example there are these sweep ionosphere things out there that rapidly run a signal up and down the band. I can see that where as in years past it was just a momentary beep on my current frequency.
As Peter says the ability to zoom in and filter is unmatched. During field day I often found two CW stations almost on top of each other. With a quick zoom and pulling the filters around I could isolate the one I wanted. I don't even use the tracking notch filter. I just don't need it for what I do.
Remote operation. To do remote operation with any other radio you will need to buy a few things. When Flex releases V2.0 which you would get for free as part of your purchase remote op will be built in. This means you can sit at your laptop at a starbucks and monitor or work the bands. No special equipment required. This may not appeal to you but it comes as part of the package. With FT radio you will probably need to do something like RemoteRig and that will be the purchase of a few things to get it working. Alternatively you would spend money on something like remote ham radio. Cool big stations but it costs a lot and there are no panadapters to "see" the band.
Remote "local" operation. Get a reasonable Windows laptop, a headset with a mic and you can run your flex COMPLETELY from anywhere you get a reasonable WiFi signal from your router. I've operated from my great room chair watching TV. I've operated from the back deck in shade.
Unlike Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu the flex is an open API system. By this I mean Flex publishes the API to control the radio over the network connection. This opens the door for people to hook programs into the flex and that means you have more options. I've already built a few programs for the flex and will continue to do so.
If you still want knobs then go for the version with the attached Maestro. Or get one without and buy a Maestro along side. With either of these options you can still run SmartSDR on your computer or a laptop or use the Maestro knob interface when you want. So many ways to use it. Many more than with any other radio.
So ya... I could keep going... but I think you get the point. It will be different, but it will be better in my opinion.
Mark - WS7M
How could you possibly evaluate the FT5K against a radio that is not in production? I'd recommend you wait and see before you make the plunge.
I have several friends in Liege, Belgium who run Flex Radios and seem to be very happy with them
You might want to contact Janny ON5PO and get his opinion - he especially uses it for digital modes wherein the Flex not only excels but from my experimentation easily outperforms external boxes for digital.
I spend several months a year in France (just returned to USA on Sunday but returning to France at the end of August) where I remote through to my California Station from our apartment in Provence and cottage in Provence.
Perhaps if you have time you might visit the Ham Radio 2017 in Friedrichshafen next weekend (its about 7 1/2hrs drive from you via the A4) where they will have several models on display and working. You can also talk to their local EU distributor at the show I suspect that they may have remote stations setup to the USA and Germany so you can actually use the radio at the show with real antennas..
Personally there is nothing better than trying the radios hands on to get a real feel of what it might be able to do for you.
While the Yaesu 5000 is a fine radio.. it is using end of life Legacy technology that was designed in the early 1980's and has been reoptimized to squeeze that last bit of performance available.. there is very little that they can do without it costing huge sums of money to make that technology any better.
OTOH.. the Flex uses modern Direct Sampling SDR technology which is clearly still in its infancy and yet easily outperforms the older legacy technologies. Each new update to software is like getting a new radio with even better performance. Yes there are always some software bugs that need to be fixed but they do get fixed and things get even better..Really exciting stuff.
So, bang for buck and a great future. I think Flex is the only way to go. Did I mention that they are a great bunch of folks to work with? And what other radio has the company president and several of its technical/support staff on the reflector, or even hosts its own reflector? Who else even will discuss their future plans? Yes, software is the radio. But to add to that, the company is also the radio. You won't be disappointed with a Flex product.
As both an avid Ham and also commercially involved in defense work, the flex has opened our eyes to so many possibilities.
You could not meet a more diehard knobs and dials kind of operator than myself, I have hundreds of black box radios I collect and love an some of the more high end are the IC7850, TS990 and previously an FTDX5000.
My personal advice is that you will be doing yourself a big favour in heading towards the Flex, I have the Flex6700 with the Maestro and as a Ham I learn something new and incredible everyday.
From a commercial point of view, we developed encryption software that is used in Military applications and we are enjoying easy integration to the Flex series. We are very interested in the Version 2.0 (allowing remote hotspotting etc )which we are in communication with Flex and have received incredible support regarding the applications we have in the middle east currently.
I think one of the pleasures of the FlexSystem is its ease of use, I have played with the Anan System and in no way am I knocking it, its a very effective and commercial grade product, but the flex for someone like myself who has little time in my day to be working out sometimes complex permutations of the Anan, (with incredible results though) the Flex is very plug and play and this suits me personally and also our customer base worldwide.
So Danny, how does it compare to some of my high end radios, the receiver on the Flex has features which are far more effective in dealing with noise and effectively, its just a better receiver on all fronts. As a transmitter, not a huge difference to be honest, runs perfectly into our Acom Amplifiers we have here(we are the Asia Pacific Acom and Optibeam Dealers) and has a very good range of equalisation on board that works well.
I was never a huge fan of the FTDX5000, more personal choice than any particular criticism, but love the TS990 and the IC7850 I have here. The embarrassing point is showing people the radio used most which is generally my IC7850, and then showing people the highlights of the Flex6700 with 8 screens open and then the maestro which gets used all around the house. I actually just sold my IC7300 I had in the bedroom as I sincerely love the Maestro for a dozen more reasons than the IC7300 Icom Sdr radio. People love my IC7850, but once I start rolling over to the desk with 8 band slices up, and I start showing the various ways to combat any noise, it becomes clear that Flex have surpassed Icom in this area.
I was very fortunate, a Flex6700 and a Maestro came up secondhand and this was very incentivized by its great price, it came with a super HP computer with the most incredible graphics card, two screens etc. The Maestro actually came from a separate sale from a mate in New Zealand it was all meant to be. The great news is that we get to evaluate a system that has done some work as we see applications for the Flex Product worldwide with contracts we are currently involved in. I retrofitted a number of our manpack applications to the Maestro for a bit of fun and we then used one of our test radios to communication back to and basically, it was just too easy, no dithering or data packet losses, just 100% in all testings.
I just mention also the incredible communication from Team at Flex Radio, I love that they are live on this forum, they are just 100% invested in you the customer and we are also very fortunate in Australia that Flex products are supported by a very experienced company, Future Systems. For any Australian customers looking at Flex, we import from all over the world for various products and its a matter of have to, if only we could have a Future Systems to ring locally and have local support for a lot of our products. When you do the maths, GST, Duty, Govt import fees, freight etc, Future systems are not making a huge profit and are very good to deal with from all I have heard. The other amazing things about Flex, if you do buy 2nd hand, then simply pay $89USD and any existing warranty is transferred to you personally.
To me, its all just positives, will I sell my 7850 or 990 or any of the other 300 radios here, probably not, but thats the hoarder in me, lets face it, the big box line ups are still a load of fun to look at and use etc but the serious operators are heading SDR and seeing the benefits. I am embarrassed as I have not had a chance to upload some of the great photos of the Flex setup in action onto QRZ.com but we will get that sorted this week. My final opinion, yep, Go Flex and see the difference first hand.
Position and Navigation Systems Pty Ltd
I say this because I was disappointed with my 6700/Maestro combo, probably because in my head I thought the software, by now, would be somewhere else as far as features. But this is unfair to Flex as the software is pretty good and the hardware is fairly amazing. But my own personal expectations were more ambitious than the current result.
Go into Flex appreciating what you get at the moment of your purchase and not spending too much time here waiting for the new software to drop or some feature to happen.
How many software engineers work at Flex?
After 58 years of contesting and chasing DX, my current priorities are as follows:
1. Resolution/Usability of the panadapter
2. Machine/Human interface
3. Weight and size
You might wonder why specifications are listed last. That is because any of the top 10 radios on Sherwood's list have specifications adequate for DX and contesting work. It is more important to me how to bring these specifications to the DX and contesting battlefied than whether or not one radio has an additional 2 or 3 dB advantage in any specific area. I was a hardened "knob" guy until I realized the advantage of band awareness using my vision instead of my ears to determine where I should position my receiver in crowded band conditions. To a casual operator, this is not a big deal. To a contest or DX operator, this is a paradigm shift in operating style.
I have great respect for the Yaesu FTdx-5000, but within weeks of using my Flex 6500, I removed the Yaesu from the table and sold it, not because it was not a great radio, but because my operating style had been altered so much by the 6500. Sure, I had the LP-Pan and PowerSDR-IF working pretty good on the Yaesu, but I did have to jump thru hoops to make that combination work. Then when I had to send in a 45 pound Yaesu FTdx-5000 back to the factory, my back and my wallet paid a significant price. That is why weight and size in number 3 on my list. "Big iron" is a young man's game.
The other epiphany I had after using the 6500 was that I did not have to make a lot of mouse movements in a contest. Using the 100hz CW filter I could burn through the band in the search and pounce mode using the Flex Control and rarely reach for the mouse. No adjusting the width or IF shift by ear as in conventional radios, just LOOK at the panadapter and put the cursor where it needs to be. The shape factors of the Flex CW filters are so steep that it is rare that two CW stations can not be separated. Where else can you find a 1.08 to 1 shape factor 100hz CW filter?
Yes, I have whined as much as anyone about V2 being delayed. But everytime I put my backup high performance transceiver on the desk..... I am reminded of all the advantages of my 6500 and it is not long before I'm back on my 6500. 4 years is a long time for me to keep the same radio in operation, given by past history of a new radio just about every year.
The result.... 3 top ten Multi-Single finishes in ARRL and CQ DX contests in the past 4 years with a modest station.
Today I have made my final decision.
IT'S A GO!
Ordered the 6600 ! ( and another toy....grin )
Any tips to keep my patience ? ;)
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