Why have you stuck with Flex? How far back does your relationship go? Have you purchased various models or are you sticking with the first model you purchased? Why?
If you have another radio on your desk, when do you pick it over the Flex? Is the other radio an SDR? Have you tried other SDR radios and ended (or come back to) Flex?
If you do have another radio side-by-side you must have done some comparisons. Is there something about that other radio that you wish Flex incorporated?
Make a prediction... three years from now will you own a Flex radio? Why?
Don't stick strictly to the questions. But maybe try to make this a discussion about your feelings on the overall Flex ecosystem and not so much playing defense or offense. I'll give my answers and predictions later.
I have been with flex for 17 years, I started with a Flex 3000
later I bought a Flex 6500, now several years old.
Both radios have been wonderful.
I liked PSDR, I was part of it's growth for many years, waiting for features for years.
But I like SSDR better, smoother,,cleaner,, easy to operate,,already optimized for max performance.
And HD graphics, It has some features not found in PSDR I love.
I think personally Flex is a great company to deal with. Lots of reasons.
I like the thin client aspect. Anything that is still thick client I don't want it.
I have had many different radios, non SDR,, I will stick with SDR
I would not go back to an old fashioned rig.with knobs...
My first HF rig was an Icom IC-740. It got me on the bands and I remember it fondly. BTW the antenna at that time was an AEA Isoloop 2nd version. Sold the 740 and got a used TS-850SAT. There was a big difference in the RX on the 850. I loved the RX audio on that rig. Over time I added several filters from International Radio for CW & SSB. I swore that I would own that rig until it was pried from my dead, cold hands.
However after a while I was the mood for a newer rig as the 850 was getting long in the tooth and several components failed for the display. Did a lot of after reading about the Flexradio SDR-1000, downloaded the demo and played with it. The panadapter was a revelation. Imagine being able to see a chunk of the band you were on! After that I ordered a SDR-1000 figuring that it would be cool to play with but that the 850 would be my main rig. Well after the 1000 arrived I never turned the 850 on again. The panadapter was everything I could hope for. Now I could see how the DX and how they were running the stations that wanted to work them.
Shortly after getting the 1000 I disconnected the TS-850 and stuck it on the shelf as I no longer used it and never looked back. The panadapter had me hooked. Making a chunk of the frequency spectrum visible was so powerful that it made the 850 look, well old fashioned.
Even though the way that the 1000 connected to my PC was kind of buggy I quickly grew addicted to its amazing performance. And the panadapter was to die for.
Well not too long after purchasing the 1000 the Flex-5000 came out. Once I read that it only needed a Firewire cable to connect to the PC and that the performance had improved I decided to sell my SDR-1000 to help pay for a 5000A. Since I still had the TS-850 I also sold it on ebay to a ham in the Czech Republic (my families origin BTW. How ironic). The package included the TCXO, built-in tuner and computer interface. Looking back he got a great deal.
So now I have had the Flex-5000A for 18 months and have to say that it is the best rig I have ever owned. Being able to see how DX is operating in the panadapter is a huge advantage. Plus there are regular software updates that sometimes make a quantum leap in performance. Is there any other rig like that?
Here are a few other things that set the Flex-5000A apart from any others. You will NEVER have to buy any filters. All filters are digital being built into the software. And you can reshape them as needed. Being brickwall they are very sharp. For you high quality audio freaks there is no need for any external SSB/AM processing equipment as the software TX EQ probably does everything that you need. Do you want a voice keyer? There is a free program that you can download. And for you CW ops there is a built in keyer with 9 memories. I have operated a lot of contests and never used anything except the built in keyer. I have a Begali Simplex Mono that is going on ebay as I have never used it (sigh). Another nice thing is that you can buy a RX only preamp for 6 meters and put it the RX chain. Last of all there is no need to buy an interface for digital modes. All processing happens in the software. And the amazing online group is always available to help.
On the other hand it is not the prettiest rig on the block. After all it is just a grey box that sits under my desk next to my PC. No knobs or anything, just a bright blue light telling me that it is on. I look in the ham mags and think how cool the IC-756PRO and FTDX-9000 look. But if you look at the performance specs of the Flex-5000 it ranks among the best ever built. And even though I don’t have the greatest antenna system I rarely hear any DX that I can’t work. Please note however that you will need a decent PC to get all of the performance that you expect.
The last reason that I love this rig is that it was designed and built in the USA.
The only comparison was the 5000 vs a TS850SAT. The 5000 had CW QSK issues, noisy, and also a number of spurs, deaf on 6m (the 850 did not have 6m). The 5000 was slightly better as a receiver, on SSB transmit, about the same. The 5000 rx held up better in contests like FD, great filters. PSDR could be hard on my computer CPU and I was always chasing latency issues-sometimes causing myself much grief. No such issue with SSDR. The 6300 and now the 6400 would be much better then the 850 if I still had it. They are much better in my opinion than the 5000 - for the stuff I do.
I do have a Drake C line that I use for flashback moments but no contest with the 6400, as expected.
I don't plan on moving away from Flex. Perhaps I'll upgrade Flex hardware one day though for now there is no reason, other than OLSS.
Then along came the 6000 Series. I was blown away with the idea of direct conversion at such wide band widths.
I placed a preorder for a 6500. Saved money up and sold older equipment too. I was working in the oilfield at the time and making great money. Them OPEC decided to flood the market with cheap oil. Work almost came to a complete stop. I had to withdraw my preorder and use the money for more pressing issues.( eating.and paying bills)
By the time things picked back up, the 6500 and 6700 Signature series was out. ( lots of complaining then too)
The along came the 6300 and I preordered one of those, after a couple of interesting talks with Matt in Sales. ( whom some here think the things he told me was my imagination) I got the 6300 and really enjoyed it. But, all along I still wanted a 6500. Trade up program came along about the same time as the sale of our home. I had enough left after paying to buy our new home to trade my 6300 for a 6500. When I called to order, Gerald himself answered the Sales phone.( Matt and others were out because it was Christmas time) He took my order, and gave me shipping instructions. My bank rejected the transaction, ( using my debt card) because the amount I was needing was above my daily transaction limit.
This is where Gerald gained my admiration . He told me to contact my bank and explain the reason for the large withdrawal and to get them to raise it temporarily, so the transaction would go thru. This was on a Friday evening and too late to get anything done till Monday.
Gerald had the radio shipped to me before I could call my bank Monday morning. ( it shipped Sat am) It arrived Monday AFTERNOON right after I shipped my 6500 to FRS!
That is one of several reasons I own a Flex radio. Service way above what ANY other company would begin to do.
I might gripe about software issues, but, NEVER, EVER, about their devotion to Customer Service. From the top down, they are a first class company.
As for comparisons between other radios I have or had, most made in the last 20 years or so, have ONE single advantage over my current Flex radio, the 6600M....and even the 6500 and 6300.....( but not the 1500 or the 1000)
And that is in the area of the Automatic Notch Filter.
Every non Flex radio ( other than my boatanchors) beats SSDR in ANF performance. Hardware wise, it's no contest, the 6000 Series wins hands down.
THAT is why I would be hard pressed to part with my 6500M. In my use case, even though it aggravates me at times, I cannot go back to even an ICOM 7300 ( compared for seversl months alongside my 6600M.) Because the ONLY place it topped the 6600M was the ANF. I would have even considered a 7610 too. But, I got a opportunity to try one out. And I liked the ANF and selectable meters( analog or bar graph) But, the panadapter on the 7610, just like the one one.the 7300, was abysmal. I couldn't stand it. Not even as a spare radio. My boatanchors fill that spot.
Sorry for the long post. But, the subject fit what I needed to say. Some think I'm disruptive to the Community. I don't feel that way. I simply think SSDR can make the hardware perform BETTER than the competition. And with basic features that should just work.
ANF, NB Squelch( all mode) are NOT future features. They.are things at the base of every modern HF radio.
Other than that, I would have to be in a tight financial spot to sell my 6600M.
Looking back, I’ve owned Hallicrafters, Heathkit, Drake, and ICOM. And now Flex, mainly because Flex seems to be the most innovative and forward-looking of the lot, and as I don’t need to mention, their support, which has never disappointed me.
My ICOMs are rock solid, but they are the same as when I bought them years ago. I did consider the 7610, but to me the GUI/display functionality and integration leaves something to be desired, not just compared to Flex but to other SDRs (including receivers) as well. ICOMs DSP is excellent though.
I also considered Anan because of PowerSDR’s many features, but from what I’ve learned their radios are more of a challenge network-wise, and support is pretty much limited to their forum. They do have a lot of features for tinkeres though, and performance-wise pretty probably similar to Flex overall.
Looking ahead, I hope V3.x will turn my 6600M into a true multi-client radio, my #1 priority feature-wise. But my main wish is that not only Flex but all the other ham radio vendors prosper and stay in business so that we continue to have choices to suit our individual tastes.Howard
My personal favorite jump out at you quality? The clarity of the audio is unsurpassed! I can't think of any radio with better audio, be it voice, digital, cw, anything.
de Roger W6VZV
Customer service, you can actually talk to the President and one feels connected in case their is a problem
The perfect combination of knobs (6400M).
Don't need a computer (M).
Can operate remotely.
Two year warranty.
Can see 7-14 MHz at a time (6400M)
I am cautioned about giving any.
Then I took the plunge and bought a Flex 6300.
And with SSDR, I was GobSmacked. Panadpter and waterfall was how I saw Ham Radio should be.
And here we are, a few years later, and no one else is anywhere near SSDR - Except for DogPark, which is a beautiful different take on SDR radio.
The radios most often mentioned in this rarified air are the K3S and the IC-7610. Neither have a panadpter remotely close to SSDR, and while the K3S is a fine radio, the panadpter option for it is very inferior.
I like the integration of other programs, and how the MacOS end is catching up for useful programs. If I could just get N1MM for MacOS, I'd be in fat city.
My biggest wish is for a Linux version of SSDR.
Which brings me to the minus portion of the radio/software. <P>
If a Windows update comes along tonight, would you trust your health and welfare to SSDR working the next day? Because the Flex chosen operating system is just not ready for prime time, and is unreliable.
Unless you use W7 - that's a fine combo.
The radio is fine for a base station, but it's big and not really portable. (Maestro to the contrary not withstanding). For mobility, I use an Elecraft KX3. And if all else fails (EMP attack?), I still have a Kenwood TS-520S ready to go.
Chacun à son goût. Your mileage may vary.
I started with Flex late in 2007 with a 5000C after waiting for it to arrive since the previous Dayton. I loaded it into a plastic sled to walk in to my remote site to install it. I promptly hooked the DC up backwards because of aging eyes. My heart sunk but thankfully, it was only a blown fuse. My point here is that I like putting things together (usually several times....).
I added a 5000A a while later because when you operate remotely there's always a gotcha waiting for you and I decided that I needed two of everything so I could continue after a visit from Murphy. I like putting things together. When the VHF/UHF module for the 5000A was offered, I jumped on the bandwagon and patiently waited over 2 years for my turn to return my radio for the upgrade. That was a very dark time for Flexers. The anger expressed by more than a vocal few toward Gerald and company was way beyond what anyone deserves but he and Flex persisted and for that I was grateful.
Next came the Limited Edition 6700 and the 5000C was removed from service. Even later the 5000A was removed and a 6300 was installed.
For me, system design and integration is what gets me going. I'm no operator and probably the world's most lazy DXer, but I sure do enjoy working DX when I can, to see if the station I have built really works.
I was drawn by the prospect of having bleeding edge gear and the hiccups that occur didn't bother me. I remember the early 5000A/C days when users were writing code for PowerSDR and especially how ED W2RF successfully wrote the QSK code after a lot of failed starts. Talk about updates, you could have a new radio EVERY day back then. But things are different now and that's the way it is.
I would not consider myself an experimenter as Gerald and many others are, but rather I'm an early adopter. Fits and starts are OK because I know things will get fixed in their time.
When the ARRL first reviewed the 5000A they complained about the GUI interface by calling it "Ugly Betty". I think I'm correct in saying that Gerald took that comment to heart and shortly after Flex started coming out with skins to give PowerSDR different looks to please the folks who were concerned with these sorts of things. I remember speaking with Gerald at Dayton a bit later and expressed to him that I felt that skins were a waste of Flex's resources when they could be adding or fixing features and his response to me was that if skins would sell radios then it was going to be skins. Looking in hindsight and as a self employed person, I see that small businesses always have to make these sorts of decisions.
It was just after this period that Flex decided to make the move from a company that served folks like experimenters and early adopters to one that served the masses; folks who buy radios and expect them to operate out of the box.
You will have to decide for yourself how successfully they have made that transition, but I'm still tickled to death to have the finest radio a ham can own, even with the warts. I like that I'm supporting an American company and I am happy to say that I personally know some of the Flex staffers and that they are first rate people (Dudley ((retired)) and Abed and Tim and Lori and Steve and Matt and Eric and Gerald, you all know who you are).
And if you'll allow, I'd like to mention one more thing. There's been a lot of discussion regarding Flex's move to accommodate "The Contesters". Yes, I said it, "The Contesters". For many, they are despised members of our fraternity. They ruin out ragchews and have no respect for "Us". You know the arguments. But here's the bottom line, and Gerald has made the point before; that we all are doing the same thing. We're trying to talk to someone else out there in the ether. The Contesters do it faster than we do but they are making contacts just like the rest of us. You may not like the way they do it, but they are using the same technology as the rest of us.
The thing about Contesters is that being competitive folks they will do anything to gain that something extra to make those wining points. And my point is that they drive the technology higher and faster than many of the rest of us might. Case in point, receive filter latency in SmartSDR. They complained that the latency was too great so Flex came out with filter shaping to reduce that latency. The Maestro was produced for the Contesters so they could keep their eyes focused on the logging screen and not the Flex GUI. Do you recall all of the complaining about not having knobs to turn and how folks would NEVER buy a Flex because of that?
My gut tells me that Contesters have driven lots of antenna technology as well. I can't prove it but I bet the 4 square and stacked Yagis were helped along by these same folks. We are all beneficiaries of their competitiveness and while we may not like the cacophony they generate, we have to like the benefits of their drive.
Nothing that I can say will appease the out of the box folks, they want their radio to work and don't want to fuss with things, and I get that. For me, fussing is fun. Sad to say but that's me.
Thanks for the bandwidth.
When I got my first VFO I went nutz!
Later as I got busier I wanted to run my rig from the office, from a hotel. Wasn't really possible. I had a 2400 baud modem and I could change frequencies, I just could not hear a damn thing and tuning to CW signals was very hard. I had PK-232 and had it all running through the 2400 baud modem so I could kind of work CW remotely via command line. I just could not hear.
Out of radio again,
Back in with a Kenwood. Nice rig. Did PSK31 and a few other things but just found the same old radio kind of old. Bought an Icom. Both the Kenwood and Icom were back and forth for repair 3 or 4 times.
Sold them, got a Kachina. Finally a radio I could program. It was just hard to use. Most of the work was outside the radio so it as well was not a great solution for remote.
Out of radio again.
Back in with a 1500. That was fun. But then I got the 6300 and I was hooked. Even with a terrible antenna I found myself transfixed by seeing what I had heard all these years. I now could see what I used to call Birdees. I can see the atmospheric sounders zooming up and down the band.
Now I can totally run my station from anywhere. Home, living room, kitchen, office, hotel, Starbucks. you name it. And that includes running my tuner, amp and controlling all station IO. Plus... I get audio!
So its like full circle for me.
I briefly considered an Icom 7610 when they came out but after looking for a while on the internet and watching the few remote videos I could find, it was not easy to do.
PLUS... There is no radio, I repeat, NO radio that I can program as easily as the flex. Evidence: FlexLogger.
Mark - WS7M
Last note TICK TOCK DAY. Tick Tock Day is observed annually on December 29th. This Day reminds us only two days are remaining in the year.
It was about then I started filling FlexRadio Systems.
When the Flex-5000 was announced I looked in my piggy bank and found it wanting. I saved to the Flex-5000 goal and was able to order one from the second or third run.
At first I struggled as I had glossed over the PC recommendations and tried to operate with a marginal set up.
Got the PC side sorted out and I’m afraid the only time the TenTecs have been back out is for field operations.
Notched a few awards and even took first in a digital mini contest with the 5000.
When rumblings came out that there’d be a new FRS radio coming out I signed on early, ending up with one of the first 6700’s released (I think mine was the third released outside of FRS, and is serial number 11).
I’ve had other radios in the home shack, ranging from boat anchors to a Heiberling.
Along the way I bought a 6300, which ended up in my good friend George W9EVT’s shack along with the Heiberling.
When I had the opportunity to set up a second QTH I bought another 6700, and when a chance to set up a third site developed another 6300.
When the Flex-600 Gen. 2 radios were announced I ordered a 6600M, as I really wasn’t that thrilled about taking a 6700, router and laptop out for activations.
My only suggestions of what could be adopted from other radios are nits. I’m not a power pole fan, and would appreciate a more positive connector. I’d also appreciate connectors on the front of the 6600M. With the 6600M I’d like a matching power supply/speaker with the connectors brought to the front as an accessory.
Before the Maestro I’d suggested to FRS an executive desktop appliance that used a typical executive’s PC as a sort of Maestro less the screen. It got some consideration but was eclipsed by the Maestro.
In another time in my life radios that could do what the 6700 does took a large team and several semi loads of gear. Okay those did something special, but the 6700’s performance is right there.
I’m appreciative of the ears of the 6000s.
Digging into the backend of the 6000’s technology has been fun. I bought a small FGA trainer and worked my way through the basics.
I know there is so much more I can do with a 6700 centered station.
Oh, I do keep a S-Line station at each QTH for a bit of classic operating experience.
And using the remote features of a 6000 I’m able to run digital QSOs in the background many days, and operate phone remotes from hotels while traveling. So the 6000s massively increase my on air time via remote.
I should mention that the way FRS runs internally is to be admired. Along the way I compared notes as I was helping my work transition into a greater place to work.
While I regularly get air time with the latest and greatest new radios at the W9EVT shack, I’m so far from fitting my limits with the 6000s that I’ve not had any urge to order in another company’s radio.
What I see as the next great adventure with the 6000s is the user created software options exploding.
We have a long ways to go before with this architecture.
watt SDR-1000. Had every model except the 5000. Got the
6500 and then traded it for the 6700. Looked at many
since then, and cannot envision any other radio.
The Maestro compliments the 6700 here.
Back when I had a problem with the 1000, (self induced),
I called Flex and asked for Eric's help. They said it
was his day off, they would give him the message and
have him contact me the next day. I had said OK.
Guess what, he called me a half hour later from his
house and got me straightened out. I never forgot that.
That's why I will always support Flex.
73, Jim N9VC
Because of many of the reasons well described above I will keep my 6700 for ever. Only reason for selling would be if Flexradio came out with a contest upgraded 6700 .. I'd figure the current 6700 upgraded with the new 6600'series filters in the same box as the new line design. The new 6800 would then end up at my desk I guess.
If not, my 6700 stays with me to the bitter end!
Before and after getting the 5000 I had a lot of higher end radios on my desk. FTdx-2000, 5000, 9000. Icom 7700, Kenwood TS-990. But I keptgravitating back to Flex as playing with the software and the large panadapter added to the “fun factor”.
I have a 6500 at work and had bought a 6700 for home. Traded. In the 6700 for the 6600 as I did not need the four extra slices or 2 meters.
Like all I have wish list items for the 6600 that I have communicated to Flex and hopefully they will start to incorporate those enhancements in a future release.
Been doing remote since I first got my Yaesu FTdx-5000. Well before SmartLink. But Flex has made remote operating very easy and does not chew up anlot of data on a cell connection, unlike Skype or TeamViewer SmartLink was the icing on the cake!
Today I have a Flex 6600 and Anan 7000dle in the shack
I find the receive more pleasant on the Flex when AGC-T is adjusted correctly. The Flex wide noise blanker is fantastic against powerline noise here. Makes a difference between band open or closed sometimes. I have some Youtube videos showing it in action. Flex has used one of my videos in their presentations.
The Flex also offers easier integration to my software and peripherals in my shack over the Anan. The Anan needs third party virtual audio and virtual serial port software. Setup on the Anan is not as intuitive as Flex. The advent of USB cables plugged directly into the Flex allow for. The amp to automatically cahnge bands, auto tuner to track frequency, and automatic antenna switching based on band. This allows QRO remote operation without need of shack PC being on.
The Anan has slightly better TX audio on essb and better noise blanker and noise reduction, but at a cost of “coloring” the receive audio.
What will the future bring? I don’t know but two of the big Three have seen the light and offer radios with an SDR receiver or are going to release one. (Sorry Kenwood, you are behind the technology!)
This may not have been possible if not for Gerald experimenting on his kitchen table!
I've been in and out of ham radio over the years. I'm cursed with following hobbies into boredom. I've got drones, firearms, Arduino guts, lines of code, camping equipment, action cameras and all sorts of bits and pieces of former hobbies and interests just laying around. Most I never go back to but something always attracts me back to ham radio.
Before my current Flex radios (6500 traded in on 6700) the most modern rig I owned was the FT-1000MP MkV Field (long name but good radio). The rest were QRP or had tubes (which I miss out of nostalgia). I have a KX3 which has little to compare with a 6700 but it fits more comfortably in a backpack and on a picnic table on Skyline Drive. So it's sticking around for a while. Is there a Flexpacker in the future?
I'm not sure I can appreciate all that SDR delivers under the hood. To me, the panadapter/waterfall are the killer features. While there's probably some great technology and magic going on inside chips it's the presentation that counts. I love being able to pounce on a signal and close the doors on it with filters. I like being able to tour the band and think, nice crowd on FT8 and some good CW action below 25 but those SWL stations are tearing up SSB right now. I think adding markers to FT8 signals is a bit overgeeked but think the same markers on CW and SSB are perfect. I like not having to string cables around or re-configure for each mode.
I also get stuck on oddities. Example... I love listening to scifi audio books but the experience is almost ruined for me when the narrator mispronounces some word or phrase (like H.U.D. instead of just hud). No clue why that is but it carries over to other things. For instance, that little bit of noise that a wall wart causes at some certain unused frequency all of a sudden becomes highly visible, distracting and frustrating when displayed on the waterfall. GRRRR! A clicking CW signal on 7.035 bothers the heck out of me when I'm operating FT8 at 7.074. That person tuning up 100 KHz below me - what is he thinking???!!! I can't blame any of this on the radio but it sure is an enabler. :)
I bought my 6700 + Maestro just a week or so ago to replace the 6500. My only fear is that Flex is going to announce the next greatest rig in the world and I'll be left with an old 6700. N5LB's OLSS. Ya. I'm a bass. I've not done anything with the Maestro so far other than some listening.
My rig purchases seem to go on a 3 year cycle. I think Flex will have had plenty of time by then to advance the state of the art by a leap. I'm amazed (and happy) the 6700 is still king of the hill but that's got to change I think. I'd mentioned before it's not so much the guts that interest me as it is the GUI. I am hoping a market develops for replacements and add-ons to Flex radios. SSDR is OK but I'd jump ship for the promise of a modernized, consistent, configurable (not skinable) interface. To this day it strikes me as odd that the filters you can select in the radio stack don't match the filters you can select in the flag. (See previous paragraph concerning oddities.)
I have no doubt the Flex line of radios will be around in years to come but I also wonder about the possibilities of a buy-out. At what point does a small company seek the resources of a larger one to feed further development? From the other side... how long can the big 3 ignore the work of Flex? I understand the dangers of that thinking. The company I work for has bought many other companies and it has not always been a win. But with a small company you have to be concerned with their future. My favorite restaurant recently went out of business because the owner retired.
At any rate, I think Flex has a lot more hard work ahead of them and Flex customers will be the beneficiary of that work. I'm good with that.
Thanks again for sharing.
As an SWL I had Yaesu and still have an FRG 7 and 965. After getting a ham ticket it was Icom VHF and UHF equipment and some I still have. Then I added an IC706 that I still use mobile that seems to have a very good reference crystal. There is also a Yaesu DC to daylight station in a box, a TS480 and Yaesu FM HTs and FM mobiles.
My Flex radio story started with a F1500. A friend had a 5000. Great RX and a big voice for a 5 W QRP radio. Love the visualisation of the spectrum is still active on digital and as a 630m and 2200m excited. When the 6500 with GPSDO arrived I dived in based on my knowledge and experiences. Had a long wait but wow what a radio to listen too. I use it with multiple clients, PCs, a MacBook, the iOS devices and a Maestro. It is used nearly 24 7 doing something. When I have Internet I don't use portables but remote in. I have used an IC7300 but felt blind.
I am interested in an IC 9700 but if Flex had a 144 to 1300 MHz radio I would be all in.
Are the flex radios cheap? No. Do they offer ongoing value and return on investment. Absolutely.