UK/EI DX Contest (cw leg) findings N1MM+/6300/Soft Winkey/1.6.17/OCFD/400w

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Some findings from my first contest with the above setup:

1) No focus return to SSDR from N1MM+ despite have the having this set to N1MM,UDP port 12060 and 1000ms in radio setup dialogue box? I'm new to N1MM+ and SSDR (usually use K3 and WinTest, but the soft winkey doesn't work properly with it) so found it really frustrating having to use the mouse to constantly have to click in the N1MM callsign field every time I touched a control in SSDR. Learned the up/down arrow keys were RIT in N1MM which helped. This is mad as took a few Qs to know that up key was RIT down??? It occurred to me that successful contesting with a Flex really lies in knowing all N1MM+ key strokes to control the radio (need to look into this to see how much of the flex can be controlled from N1MM i.e. filter width etc).

2) The soft winkey seems to work 95% of the time. When it doesn't work it always seemed to have a glitch on the first letter of sending. Every 20 qs or so would mess up causing me to hit the esc key and send again. Setup shouldn't cause varying results? What I was hearing seemed representative of what was being sent as it almost always resulted in them sending their call again. This was hampered by the sidetone sounding distorted and gravelly during the switch from rx to tx (noisy contesting conditions) so it made it hard to determine if there was a sending mistake with the first letter.

3) Noticed on several occasions that I could see better than I could hear. I could see the blip on the screen but couldn't hear it (despite it being in the passband but slightly off center). After a while I noticed that small differences of RIT would then allow me to work them??? So without the bandscope I wouldn't have known something was there to alert me to fine tune RIT. I've never noticed this with the K3 and P3 combo, I could always hear what I could see in the bandscope....amazing/hole in hearing/problem with FFT taps not overlapping and factored properly???...I don't know!

4) One of the massive advantages of this radio is that controls in SSDR work during TX. This used to frustrate me with radios like the K3 who's implementation locked controls during tx.

Its been a long and rocky road with the 6300 so far. The latest sw/fw has given me a working radio for the first time in my 4 months ownership (broadband tx splatter fault, hardware fan failure, sprung bpf filter board etc etc). There is no comparison with my K3 rx performance however, with blocking and noise level bouncing up and down evident on the flex with strong adjacent stations (contest conditions). I know its not a fair comparison, the 6300 was my toe in the water with SDR and I'd need to now move to the 6500/6700 so as not to compare apples with oranges?  I think I need to do some reading on N1MM+ and determine its extent of control of the flex. This will be the deciding factor for me of whether or not I can use it successfully for serious contesting. Maybe also I need to purchase the flex control tuning whee,l but whether app focus works with that now worries me.
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Douglas Maxwell

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Posted 3 years ago

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Douglas Maxwell

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P.S. Also with regards the winkey emulator and N1MM, I can't seem to get PTT to work? I need to set the delay in SSDR to 300 to stop QSK at 30WPM. Not sure what I have done wrong in setup. I have port 4 setup for PTT and port 7 setup for winkey in both SSDR CAT and N1MM+ but no sign of PTT during CW. its like being back in the old K2 days with no PTT.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I think the Flex Control would have made your experience much much better. As you can set it up to control, for example, frequency and tap it once to change to RIT. With DDUtil you can customize a bit more than with the SmartSDR flex control setup window. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Douglas Maxwell

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Thanks for the reply. I notice the flex control is £109 here in the UK from WSPLC (equivalent $157) this seems a lot for what looks like plastic? I suppose its function over form? I feel a little guilty buying a buttonless radio then having to buy a plastic crutch for it ;-)
(Edited)
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Mal G3PDH

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It is better than appears on the picture, quite solid, heavy and smooth/easy to use
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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57% in taxes... it is getting outrageous in Europe.
My advice... try www.drele.com he seems to be the most decently priced of the european vendors.
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Douglas Maxwell

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I recon it's the dealers in the EU that are at fault. I don't mind my money going to Flex but the "middle man" dealer cut is ridiculous. In most cases, if you calculate the cost of buying an item direct from the states (tax on item, duty, postage, tax on postage, handling etc) the price in the UK will be inexplicably higher, but not so much as to make it an unattractive alternative to the risk of buying a single item direct. When you add in economy's of scale in cost/postage etc. that the dealer gets, there really is no doubt they are taking a healthy cut.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Try http://www.4o3a.com/index.php/products/flexradio-systems
Not sure what is the status of Montenegro, but I am pretty certain they have applied to join the EU. They have the FlexControl for $99 and taxes and shipping might make it lower priced.

I understand your point. I really don't get some of these vendors. I think earning a customer should be valued above making the greedy cuts as middleman. They add no value, why should they get so much? Do they cover shipping to the US if there is a problem. Do they offer their own help desk or refer you to FRS'? 

They are super quick to change prices when the dollar goes up, super slow when it devalues against the Euro or the Pound. 
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Barry N1EU

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Thanks for the post Douglas.  I've posted elsewhere about the lack of PTT MOX support: https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/ptt-in-cw . PTT via Radio Command also doeesn't work.  And you didn't mention SO2V, but that has stopped working - you can't keep slice B open and have N1MM follow it as vfoB.  But this has also been covered in a separate thread.

I've got a hardware Winkeyer and intend to just continue using it after a brief attempt trying to get the virtual Winkeyer working.

I haven't noticed the "seeing better than hearing" issue on my 6500 but I'll keep an eye/ear out for it.

I hope/believe that Flex is working to fix these and generally improve cw - I also notice a "pop" often on the leading edge of a breakin cw xmsn that I hope they can sort out.

73, Barry N1EU
(Edited)
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Douglas Maxwell

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In all cases the returning signal was just above the noise floor, off filter center, but well within the 400Hz envelope. A few taps of the RIT key and I would become hopeful of making the Q and in most cases did after a few repeats. From no clue to Qs!
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Mal G3PDH

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I think you will find that the app focus only refers to it returning from ssdr to N1MM after you change the frequency. That works fine but not after adjusting any other controls unfortunately. N1MM has to have 'grab focus from other app after freq change' ticked in config drop down menu.
Am using the soft winkey now which seems to work perfectly for me..
Am using a 6500 with Flex control for cw contesting and can confirm no focus problem with that when selecting RIT or whichever controls such as RF or AF gain. Consider this device essential for contest work placed alongside keyboard to tweak frq of stns that call slightly off etc.
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Douglas Maxwell

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Thanks Mal! I can confirm return focus to N1MM+ works on frequency change here also (now you've told me, disappointed it doesn't return after any change in SSDR?). When a Q is marginal I'm looking to adjust the filter width or engage APF or twiddle with AGC threshold and of course someone always comes back when N1MM+ isn't the focus. I can now start looking for why the soft winkey doesn't work here and dig deep for a flex control (good to hear it plays better than it looks...sorry flex ;-)). Looks like I'll have to learn to fiddle less with SSDR.
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Al K0VM, Elmer

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SSDR will return focus to N1MM+ for any action in SSDR IF N1MM+ is configured correctly..  i.e. have the same port number specified in both SSDR and N1MM..





Its likely that the port number is missing in the N1MM+ Broadcast config window..
When SSDR is configured, you will not need to have the N1MM+ 'Grab focus..." enabled.


AL, K0VM
 
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Douglas Maxwell

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Thanks, now I can fiddle with all buttons on SSDR and have focus returned to N1MM. I just kept the default address and port setting, but selected 'Radio' as 'Type of data'. This one tickbox seems to have made the difference.
(Edited)
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Thanks,
I had not gotten that working perfectly either.  But I use a FlexControl Knob and it usually wasn't a big issue.
This will help with those other occasions where it is needed....

Ken - NM9P
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Mal G3PDH

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Al, thanks for that info which has really helped.
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Barry N1EU

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This should go into the knowledgebase or N1MM config document or somewhere.  Great info.
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Steve Jones

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N1MM+ worked sort  of ok here in ukei contest - I was using my 6500 and flex knob with a mix of running and s and p in low power assisted 12 hour section. I hardly ever use rit here and have never noticed a problem running with 400hz filters on all of the time. I do have the left button on the flex knob set up for rit, the middle button for active slice volume, and the third button for agc threshold adjustment if struggling with noise ratio.

I set up four panadapters with a slice on each one, with slice a on my run band, slice b on the band I wanted to see rbn feed spots on in my second radio bandmap (set up was so2r with slice a and b) so I could keep an eye on two other bands for activity at the same time. Sort of worked ok, although I found strange things happening with muting slices whenever I changed band on my run panadapter. I have yet to see the slice a follows tx in operation on ssb or cw - I found I had to manually click on tx after I had moved band; but that could be user error or set up error as havnt got back into the manuals yet as still struggling with dax not working on my main laptop (helpdesk ticket open for over a week now and everything suggested still results in dax driver error - I have spent hours and hours on clearing and reinstalling and am too busy with work this coming week to do any more).

The atu was a pain in the butt - it needs some more work on it I think as per other threads. I try not to use it and mainly have resonant antennas but sometimes have to switch it in as no 20m dipole up at present so was using 80m or 160m dipoles - small changes in freq required another tune, and its memory seemed erratic when band changing.

Virtual Winkey set up seemed to work ok most of the time - Its an improvement from having to use the kenwood ky macros in function keys, and its nice that the escape key now works. I used full break in as wasn't running an amp.

There was a bug in n1mmplus which caused the previous serial to be logged when you worked a station on another band, despite logging his new serial number - will cause a nightmare for the adjudicators in this one. Whilst running it was fine most of the time in esm but in s and p mode I found it logged the previous serial number even after I had backspaced over it and written the new one in and pressed enter. It has been recognised early on in the contest by some and I understand a work around using f2 rather than enter in esm mode was quickly found to work around the issue and posted on the n1mmplus reflector. 

Its all (flex ssdr and n1mmplus) still work in progress I guess - in my case I think I am going to have to give up on my i3 laptop and buy a new desktop and go through the pain of moving all my logging and lotw etc over to it. That, plus more n1mm so2r learning and set up time is going to curtail my serious contesting for the next few months. A new pc, new install, and a back to basics approach is going to be required for me - shame as I have a sale going through of my 6500 shortly but am reluctant to order the 6700 at present until the pain of the dax upgrade becomes a distant memory. I have an option of another 6300 from a friend who prefers his upgraded k3 so I might just take that option and wait to see what the so2r box does for us in the spring. No Maestro on order here - would want to play with one for an hour or so before deciding on that one.

Despite the growing pains, I still like what the flex gives me overall on vhf and hf contesting - and my hope is that its better to carry on learning than hop off and go back down the traditional so2r ft5k / k3s /ts590sg route, which have their own learning curves.

73

Steve gw0gei / gw9J

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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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"The atu was a pain in the butt - it needs some more work on it I think as per other threads. I try not to use it and mainly have resonant antennas but sometimes have to switch it in as no 20m dipole up at present so was using 80m or 160m dipoles - small changes in freq required another tune, and its memory seemed erratic when band changing."

This is a software defect in SmartSDR v1.6.17 that will be fixed in the next release of SmartSDR.
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Steve Jones

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Noted Tim thanks. Would be grateful if you could remind Dudley that I am still awaiting any further suggestions to try on my helpdesk ticket which is still open and unresolved re the new dax installation - still have driver error despite trying fresh install etc etc. I still cannot therefore use data modes or voice keyer.

thanks, Steve gw0gei / gw9J

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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Hi Steve,

I had a problem with DAX drivers. It was all a matter of Windows 7 updates not installing in my system. You can find more info here https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/smartsdr-1-6-17-installation-problems

I am not certain that is the same problem you are having, but if it is, that solution might help you.

Good luck.
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Ed - W2RF

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There is no comparison with my K3 rx performance however, with blocking and noise level bouncing up and down evident on the flex with strong adjacent stations (contest conditions).
Doug,

I'm curious about your report of blocking by adjacent signals. The way the Flex works, if there is blocking due to an extremely strong signal, it shouldn't matter how near or far the signal is away on the band. If the signal is on a different band and the bandpass filters are active, it is also unlikely to block.

Many CW signals have strong sidebands due to poor shaping. Is it possible that key clicks, for example, are responsible for the interference?

It is interesting that you say such interference doesn't happen with the K3. Could you share more details on that?

Thanks,

73 Ed W2RF
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Barry N1EU

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If the signal is on a different band and the bandpass filters are active, it is also unlikely to block.
My understanding is that the 6300 lacks rx bandpass filters, or am I mistaken?

73, Barry N1EU
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Douglas Maxwell

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There is a band pass filter on the 6300 but there is no preselector functionality (6500/6700 only). This means that the 6300 is entirely reliant on dsp filtering for in-band filtering requirements.
On the K3 you have the benifit of narrow roofing filters in addition to dsp filtering. The combination is IMO hard to beat for seriously close in rx performance.
Of course dirty signals can't be stopped on any radio as the crud is actually in your passband.
I'm not a receiver architecture guru and I'm sure there a few here, but I'd be interested in any views that would put the rx performance of a 6300 above a K3 for contest related performance.
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Barry N1EU

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Douglas, I just searched around and as far as I can tell, there is no bandpass (or "out of band") filtering ahead of the 6300 rx front end.  And the description of the 6500/6700 preselector just sounds like well-designed band pass filters.

K3 has rx bandpass filtering, 6300 does not.

73, Barry N1EU
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Douglas Maxwell

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Hi Barry,
I am sure there is a bpf marked board in the 6300, also I thought I could hear relays click on band change (no atu). Why would the PA not have a bpf in front of it?
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Douglas Maxwell

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At work at mo, will check when I get home.
(Edited)
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Al K0VM, Elmer

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The 6300 DOES have relay switched low pass filters on the output of the PA.

AL, K0VM
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Douglas Maxwell

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Ah OK lpf but no bpf that makes sense. Does that mean if I put a set of dunestars (or similar) bpf ahead of the rx I should expect nearer 6500/6700 rx performance on 1 slice?
(Edited)