Why I love my Flex 6500!

  • 6
  • Praise
  • Updated 3 years ago
Over the past weeks I have been running my Flex 6500's on HF in hard combat on TX3X on Chesterfield Island and T2GC on Tuvalu. Been running the SPE1K and my hexbeam and using SSB/CW and RTTY in the pile ups.

I have to say the Flex is a powerful tool in a pile up... here's why I love my Flex!

Until recently I have been running a pair of TS590's, now the 590's are awesome radios and despite price they are very high performance receivers. 

I bought a Flex 6500 having seen what was happening to SSDR and liked what I was seeing. So I pushed the boat out and replaced one of the TS590's with a 6500. I was kinda nervous as my experience with the Flex 1500 was very unsatisfactory.

Anyway .. I bought a 6500 and wow! WOOOOOOWWWWW! Highly impressed and an awesome performer. DAX is amazing easy and integrating with FLDIGI, WSJSt etc super easy!

Sooo ... into battle we go!

Time and again I have been able to bag DX because I can 'see' where the holes in the pile are!

And TX3X and T2GC have been no exception.

Here's T2GC .. 17M RTTY .. not my fav mode!

the mess of sigs above Slice A is the JA pile calling T2GC .. he's working split

Everytime someone was worked the pile would swarm around that freq ... very funny to see!

But T2GC changed his strategy .. maybe prop changed but he reduced the split to 1 up

the JA wall continued where it was .. and I almost instantly changed the XIT freq and called once

BAM .. in the log!

I've done it on CW and SSB too!  Find a hole ... see the pattern ... BAM!

Really impressive filters, RTTY was awesome to see the individual callers .. CW is amazing .. DAX .. I just love ... so easy to setup new software .. a joy even.

Can't wait to see Maestro ... :)

All sounds great ... and it is ... I'd love to see more though ... interfacing the amp has been less than fun, I don't want to have to use a PC to use DDUTIL to drive everything else, give me CAT data on a serial or USB link and I can drive everything else in my shack from it.

Mind you, thanks to Lee W9OY I have been able to setup a relay board and Genovation keypad in the meantime which has also been fun(!).

So .. given the results, I sold the second TS590... bought another 6500 and am selling the SO2R controller ..

Had the 6500 running on VHF too via the tvtr port ...too easy :)  The Kuhne TR series matches it perfect .. :)

Am building a new QTH just now .. should be finished early next year and will have new towers and a complete new shack. I will redesign the new shack for IP built around the Flex 6500's.

I did a lecture on the 6500 at Eastfest .. one of the smaller but well attended events in the South Island of NZ and got chance to show off the 6500, lots of interest .. but hey .. lets not give away the secret too easy huh!

:)

Thanks to the Flex team for a great radio .. the demons of the 1500 are gone and I am sold on the brilliance of the 6000. 

Now please fix the CAT out from the hardware .. and I will be super happy!

Roll on Maestro ... that and the PC screen will rock!

Thanks Flex!

73
Simon ZL4PLM 

Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes

Posted 3 years ago

  • 6
Photo of Mark - WS7M

Mark - WS7M

  • 971 Posts
  • 344 Reply Likes
Simon, amazing praise.

I currently own at 1500 and while I have enjoyed it I too sense the demons.  I just ordered a 6300.  Can't quite justify the 6500 or 6700 but it is great to see your post as it tells me the 6300 will be a great rig.

Thanks!  Hope to work you some time!
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
Hi Mark,

to be honest I need the 6500's simply for the flexibility of transverters and more important the 10 MHz in .. I lock all my transverters from SHF thru VHF to 10 MHz and also now the 6500's.

Also the slightly improved rx performance on the 6500/6700's is necessary for my weak signal work on VHF-SHF and moon bounce which is what really floats my boat :)

Here's a pic of the 144 tvtr connected .. these beacons are about 350 and 500km away .. interesting you can see the JT4G tones as well as a the CW ... and also the peaks and fades over the two paths ...

you just can't see that listening to the beacons direct!

The 6300 will be great ... yes the demons are gone :)

Cheers

Simon

 
Photo of Clay N9IO

Clay N9IO

  • 512 Posts
  • 119 Reply Likes
Simon,
YES seeing the holes and watching the patterns of the DX is wonderful!
I think I enjoy that the most. Adds more fun to the contest as well.
Mark,
You are going to love the 6300 it is an excellent rig.
I use the XVTR port on my 6300 for small low noise RX antennas.
You are really going to enjoy the simplicity of DAX.
RTTY was never easier!
For me another major plus was freedom from RF in the audio and CAT cables.

73'
Clay N9IO
Photo of Marc Lalonde

Marc Lalonde

  • 353 Posts
  • 86 Reply Likes
Hi Simon   

for control your transverter this may interest you 
still have a spare blank PCB here ..

for make it short it Rasberry PI that talk to 6x000 radio for track VFO frequency and
then switch transverter IF and PTT to the right transverter  ,and have 10Mhz clock distribution 
and have web interface for monitoring some status 

http://alphatronique.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
emailed you Marc :)
Photo of John AE5X

John AE5X

  • 28 Posts
  • 5 Reply Likes
What is the primary capability that one gives up by choosing the 6300 rather than the 6500 (besides the number of slice receivers)? I know the 6300 has a lower sampling rate and doesn't have preselectors and am curious as to how that would manifest itself operationally.
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1020 Posts
  • 365 Reply Likes
I wish I had the jacks in the back
Photo of Tim - W4TME

Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

  • 9130 Posts
  • 3453 Reply Likes
@John AE5X - there are several differences.  Other than what you have already listed, the FLEX-6500 has better phase noise characteristics, about 10 dB better dynamic range, the RF preamps have a slightly better noise figure and the cooling fan noise is quieter.  This makes the 6500 better for weak signals work and pulling out weak ones in the presence of strong adjacent signals. 

The FLEX-6500 also has a true balanced audio input, a dedicated RX antenna input, multiple TX Relay inputs and the GPSDO is an available option.

Please don't take these comments above to indicate that the 6300 is an inferior radio. It is not by a long shot. The FLEX-6500 and FLEX-6700 occupy the top row in Sherwood Engineering RX rankings.  All other radios are below them.  For $2499, you cannot come close to getting another radio that performs anywhere close to a 6300.
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3911 Posts
  • 1187 Reply Likes
To add to what Burt and Tim have said.
First, they are both great rigs, but here is a short list of additional features the 6500 has over the 6300...

Balanced Mike input on back panel,
Separate RX antenna input,
More versatile transverter interface,
Wider panadapter, twice as wide.
Double the receivers and pan adapters, important if you do some of the digital modes while also working split DX ops.
Additional keying, relay, etc. outputs on rear panel.
RX Pre selectors,
More versatile preamp - able to add gain at 160 meters. The 6300 has a built in frequency roll off in the preamp at low frequencies. This might be important when using separate, low gain receive antennas.
Ability to use RX antenna port while having transverter connected to transverter port.

There are more advantages. Only you can decide if it is worth the extra $$$ to move up to a 6500.

I am very pleased with mine, but I got it before the 6300 was announced. So I didn't have a choice! Ha.

Ken - NM9P
Photo of IW7DMH, Enzo

IW7DMH, Enzo

  • 353 Posts
  • 84 Reply Likes
I agree with last Tim sentence: here is the way a 6300 (mine) received TX3X about 10.000 miles far away from my qth. It is on 20m via long path.
You can also see and listen to the 6300 filtering capabilities and its ability to listen in the middle of the pileup.

73' Enzo
iw7dmh

(Edited)
Photo of John AE5X

John AE5X

  • 28 Posts
  • 5 Reply Likes
Thanks for the replies. I just put my K3 up for sale on the Elecraft reflector if anyone wants to help me purchase a Flex... :-)
http://mailman.qth.net/pipermail/elecraft/2015-October/223369.html
(Edited)
Photo of W7NGA

W7NGA

  • 398 Posts
  • 164 Reply Likes
most non-digital performance differences will not be noticed and you must keep the price differential in perspective. The monies not spent on the 6500 can buy a cello and lessons, a new Martin or Taylor guitar, a very used piano, a top-end digital camera system, flying lessons, a maxed-out iMac and a new Surface Book, Surface 4's, several Maestros, linear amplifier, antennas, tower, a vacation for you and your wife ... well, you get the point. The 6300 is a tour-de-force and for the bucks can't be beat. You can almost buy 2 6300's and think of the possibilities!

or not <grin> ...
(Edited)
Photo of Burt Fisher

Burt Fisher

  • 1020 Posts
  • 365 Reply Likes
If I buy 2 6300s, hook them in series will I have a 12600? I hooked three DX-20s together and got a DX-60.
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 642 Reply Likes
Yes Burt. But don''t tell others as that seres option will only work for you. Now, when you put them in parallel...whew doggies!!

Photo of Mark - WS7M

Mark - WS7M

  • 970 Posts
  • 344 Reply Likes
I went to Home Depot got some ball valves that fit my coax.  I start a send with my 1500 and the first ball valve closed... when it's done I move the 1500 to the next point in line, open the previous ball valve and close the next etc, and I'm getting exponential growth:

1500 -> 2,250,000 -> 3,375,000,000 etc...

Takes a while to get the hang of it but man-o-man the signal is amazing!  Just don't forget to open the final valve eventually or your coax balloons up pretty fast!

:-)
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3911 Posts
  • 1187 Reply Likes
Come on...April is 6 months away!  <grin>
Photo of Greg

Greg

  • 656 Posts
  • 63 Reply Likes
Or a down payment on a new motorcycle for your next trans America ride :)

73
Greg
AB7R
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 642 Reply Likes
Actually Simon, I pretty much just sat +1KHz up (or +5KHz as the case may be) and worked both multiple bands, multiple modes. What's the first rule of being in the woods..I remember this from my years as a Boy Scout..."if you are lost, stay put, people will come to you, if you keep moving they may never catch up before you starve or get eaten or break something" It works for me, although I only momentarily ever got misplaced in the woods.

All kidding aside, I was pleasantly surprised just how quickly they came back to +1 or +5. Way faster than chasing the perceived last worked station. I played that game with Navassa. Didn't work so well.
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
I think a good rule is .. .listen to the operators instructions :)  .. he suddenly went from UP UP .. to UP 1 UP1  ... so I did go UP 1!

:)

Have to agree with Ken NM9P .. split modes on the Flex are a joy ... and the filters! man I love those filters :)

TS590 number 2 went in the post today .. I have no more analog HF radios in the shack :)

 
Photo of Ken - NM9P

Ken - NM9P, Elmer

  • 3911 Posts
  • 1187 Reply Likes
I finally got TX3X the other day.  I haven't been on the air at the right time to get them on more than one band, T2GC either.  I really need them on 40 meters.  I am only 2 LOTW confirmations short of 100 on 40 Meters!  But I hope to get them later.  But I have worked more DX on the 6500 in two years than in 39 years previously on other rigs.  Partly because it has sparked my interest, partly because it is do wonderful to work splits on all modes - SSB, CW & RTTY. 

Ken - NM9P
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 642 Reply Likes
And the big question: did you retire two year ago? I ask that seriously. When I was working I was pretty much tired up during the week, which meant I'd have to do battle with all the craziness on the weekend.
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 642 Reply Likes
Do you still use the dipole for 40? I put up a sloper for 160-30. It works fantastic. I wish I could spell that the way Arnold pronounces it. FAN-TAZ-tic.
(Edited)
Photo of Lee

Lee, Elmer

  • 677 Posts
  • 285 Reply Likes
I bought my 6300 in early April a couple years ago before it was released at Dayton 2014.  Greg gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to give a new radio they were developing a whirl and I said sure. On June 6th of that year I reset my DXCC to zero to see what I could do using this new architecture/software.  By Nov 2014 I had 6 band DXCC and by Dec 31 I had 6 BDXCC plus 85 on 10M.  By Dec I had 270 countries in the log.  My antennas are a 80M full size vert, a 40M half wave end fed vertical matched with a parallel network, and a 40M 5/8 wave vertical.  30 17 15 and 10 were off the 80M vert through a tuner in the shack.  Power is 1100w.  

I was one of 400 NA hams who worked Iran on 30M.  That contact would have been impossible without the 6300.  Iran was listening 10khz up and the panadapter was bereft of any pileup or signals on which to focus.  The panadapter can actually see "under the noise".  The Iran station was about S4 and Q4 so I had a shot if I could just figure out where he was listening.  I did see an occasional white dot trickle down the panadapter, 10 khz up from the Iran station, as QSB occasionally would allow some coherence to poke it's head above the noise floor.    I started calling  on that freq and had him in the log in just a couple calls.  

I decided to buy the 6500 and I think it's a more versatile radio, but clearly the 6300 is excellent.  I see no particular advantage to the preselector, and the loudest signal I ever experience is 30 dB below where my 6300's ADC crunches.  That station is Radio Havana on 6mhz and I am 400 miles due north directly in his beam path.  They are running megawatts.  I have a 50kw broadcaster 10 miles away and a 10kw broadcaster 2 miles away and as far as my 6300 is concerned those stations do not exist.  If I tune my radio to the 630 meter band I have a broadcaster on 540 with S9 +30 and my band noise is -110 dBm on 472 khz  On any other radio I ever owned that band was wiped out due to intermod.  

So but what ever radio you feel you can afford, you won't be disappointed as far as performance.    Overall though I think I like the 6500 a little better. 

73  W9OY
(Edited)
Photo of Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin

  • 84 Posts
  • 6 Reply Likes
When choosing a radio you need to consider what you want to do with it. Is 2 slice receivers enough for the way you operate? Or, do you need more? It might be a good idea to watch the variety of videos that are out on Youtube of the various flexradios.

I was once told when I started in Ham radio in 1977. Don't go and buy an expensive radio if your only antenna's are going to be dipoles. It's the hardware outside that makes the radio. For example, if you have a full size 40 meter beam at 100 feet, and you connect a medium priced radio to it and also connect a higher priced radio to it, will you still hear the same stations with the same signal strength? I would say so! It seems most of the differences today between radio's is all the bells and whistles. For example, dual panadapters, a button for this and a dial for that. This filter and that filter. It all depends on what you want your radio to have.

Go out and price a Jeep. The base price is rather inexpensive, but once you add all the options it all of a sudden becomes much more expensive. Maybe that analogy can be used for Ham Radio's!

Mark Griffin, KB3Z
Photo of Mark - WS7M

Mark - WS7M

  • 971 Posts
  • 344 Reply Likes
I certainly am not an expert but I think the comments Lee and Mark make are pretty clear.

First from Mark, the outside hardware.  Without a doubt if you have a rockin antenna for the band you intend to operate you will not only hear more but be able to work more.  Most antennas are a compromise in some fashion in an attempt to handle multiple bands, be small, etc.  If you have the space then a dedicated, optimal antenna for each desired band would be best.  Couple that with the best feed line and the shortest run and you have a pretty unbeatable combination.

So the antenna statements above, here is where I do feel that a better radio will do better.  As Lee said if you have other sources of interference the ability of the radio to deal with that is very important.  I think radios that have the flexibility as we see in the Flex radios definitely offer an advantage and it sounds like from Lee's experience not only does the work well it is one of the few he found that was dead from intermod in his situation.

I remember years ago I met an older guy that wanted to setup a station.  He was about 2 miles from a HUGE AM radio tower.  I never figured out what power that AM station was running but it was pretty big.   This guy had Collins S line equipment and it was mostly useless with that AM station near by. It was almost like you unplugged the antenna cable.  It heard almost nothing.

10 miles away with my less than optimal vertical and a homebrew receiver I was getting lots of stuff.  

I didn't have the knowledge to help this guy but one of the broadcast engineers at the AM station did.  They ended up creating an elaborate series of filters using various means to block the AM and below bands.  He helped the guy run separate RX and TX transmission lines.  The RX line was heavily filtered.  Once these things were in place the Collins started to hear just about everything.  The other problem he had was the AM station was so strong that his TX was interfered with.  So they ended up doing some work there as well.

This was my proof as a teen that where there is a will there is a way.  This old guy through the help of others ended up with a very nice station.

Unfortunately for me I can't currently have big outside hardware.  For now I'm limited in what I can put up.  I have a multi-band Jpole up a 50 foot tree in vertical formation.  It hears pretty well but does not get out all that well.

I am going to investigate some other options over the next summer and see if I can come up with some better outside hardware as Mark says.  But without any doubt the Flex radios are superior to anything I've ever owned.

Mark - WS7M
Photo of Lee

Lee, Elmer

  • 677 Posts
  • 285 Reply Likes
Outside hardware v Radio usually refers to a debate over amplifier v no amplifier in the cost analysis of station design, that is it's about transmitted signal strength.  It generally does not refer to a receiver performance analysis, at least in antennas normal humans can own.  A beam at best is going to give you only a few dB better receive performance for similar effective take off angles.  One of the best antennas you can have on 160 is a Beverage which is a long piece of wire 6 ft off the ground terminated in a resistor.   I would much rather have a 6300 hooked to a effective well defined vertical and/or dipole than a TS520 hooked to a 4 el at 100 ft especially for receiving.  Of course I would prefer s 6300 hooked to a 4 el most... maybe if I win the lotto

My transmitted signal is probably 2nd tier, just below the big guns, at least on 30 and below. The proof is if I get into a head to head shoot out I'm often 2nd or 3rd not first.  My receive capability however is superior because I get so much more information about the behavior of the other operator (DX) and the pileup.  I know exactly where to place my 2nd tier signal so it lodges in the DX's attention.  Truth be told that is the part I find most interesting.

73  W9OY
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 642 Reply Likes
Adages are everywhere. In the case of ham radio, two come to mind:

A good operator with an inferior radio will outperform a poor operator with a superior radio.

Buy the very best antenna you can and put it up as high as you can.

I also agree with the cabling comments. I consider it part of the radiator system.