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Author Topic: Best SDR bang for your buck  (Read 13842 times)
VK5DO
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Posts: 79




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« on: March 04, 2011, 01:54:24 AM »

Hi All,

I've been looking at SDR for a while and contemplating a purchase.  I've been researching the Flex radios, HPSDR, Softrock and a few others.

One point here though - I'm not a big builder type of guy.  I'm happy to just buy something and expect it to work.  I had been particularly intersted in HPSDR until they stopped selling "factory" assembled and tested boards.  That killed that idea.  I'm not too impressed with some of what I've heard about Flex and most of the others have limitations that I'm not having to endure with my normal radios, so why should I start now.

I guess my question is this;  What's on the market (that I've missed) that comes either assembled or partially so (like the formerly available HPSDR cards) that can output 100W on all HF bands with all modes? 

I think it's only the Flex 5000.  Is that correct?  Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Yours,

Dene
VK5DO
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N3EVL
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Posts: 40




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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2011, 04:22:09 AM »

As I understand it, the HPSDR boards that TAPR produced but which are no longer available are about to become available again via another party in the US so there should not be a problem putting the major pieces together.  Not sure of the time scale but I think it's supposed to happen this year - check with the openHPSDR reflector for more accurate timescale info.  The "Alex" pair of boards the complete the transceiver set, providing RX and TX filtering and relays, and a 6m preamp is also reported to be imminent (here's hoping!).

In any event, if an out-of-the-box solution is what you are after, HPSDR may not be for you since it is essentially an ongoing experimental effort (but a very exciting one!).  Some of the pieces do require assembly and some surface mount soldering so keep that in mind.

If you want HF and 100W capability, dont care about 2nd RX or some of the other extensibility features of the Flex 5000, the Flex 3000 is another one to look at.

It appears that much of the other offerings on the market are RX only.

73, Pete, N3EVL
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WB6RQN
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Posts: 484




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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2011, 08:51:29 AM »

Well, that probably leaves out the SoftRock but before you do that, consider this. If you don't mind fiddling with getting things going, you might consider buying a Softrock that someone else has already put together and put in a box. The newer "Ensemble RXTX" boards are transceivers and have a tunable local oscillator (VFO) that provides continuous coverage for at least two bands and the spectrum in between. Someone even produced a case for it. You just need to connect it to a good sound card (that part is important -- don't expect your computer's built-in sound card to do a good job) and get the software running. It will definitely require work but you won't have to build anything and you would get to experiment for not a lot of money. That is a good way to see if you want to do this.

But you would still need to add a PA to get your 100W.

If you want a production transceiver, Flex is the only company making all-band 100W SDR ham transceivers. Yes, the Flex 5000 will do what you want but I would recommend the the Flex 3000. It is single receiver, 100W, 100% duty-cycle, radio in a box about the size of a laptop computer. It is the least troublesome of the three Flex transceivers. (I know, I have all three.) I drag the 3000 everywhere and subject it to all kinds of abuse. (I have made up a complete portable HF station in a back-pack with the 3000, an SGC tuner, a MacBook Pro, and a small MFJ switching supply, coax, rope, antenna wire, insulators, etc.) Frankly, it is my favorite of the three Flex radios although not as flexible as the 5000 or near-pocket-sized as the 1500. (A 1500 with a top-of-the-line netbook would make a lightweight portable station especially if you want to run digital modes like Olivia, PSK31, and CW.)

It isn't completely fair to judge the Flex radios by what you read here. For every one person screaming about how terrible Flex is there are literally hundreds who are happy with their Flex radios. (I have helped many of them.) There is no question that Flex has its problems and bugs, most of which have been highlighted here in excruciating detail. The current beta release of software still has bugs in it but for most people it just works. (I am still dealing with some beta 2.0.19 bugs in the 5000 but they do not show up in the 3000.)

Just so you know, I *am* happy with my Flex radios and I can't think of any other production radio I would rather have. (I know, I am just a fanboi who has been brainwashed and refuses to see reality. Wink )

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
« Last Edit: March 04, 2011, 12:10:18 PM by WB6RQN » Logged
W4HIJ
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Posts: 367




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« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2011, 10:33:47 AM »

Speaking strictly from a "bang for buck" standpoint. I'd say the Flex 1500. It's a full featured radio for under 700 dollars that pretty much rivals top of the line knob radios in receive performance. Of course, you want a 100 watt radio so I would suggest the Flex 3000 as well.  I've owned the Flex 5000 and only had to sell it because of some family financial issues. I now have a 1500 because it's all I can afford at present. If I could afford it, I would dearly love to have a 3K or even another 5K.
 I'm sure I'll be labeled a dreaded Flex fanboi too for saying this  but for my money, they simply cannot be beat. The issues you hear certain people whining about on here are disappearing rather quickly now as the software gains more and more maturity. Even with the small amount of issues left, the advantages far far outweigh the disadvantages.
73,
Michael, W4HIJ
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WS4E
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Posts: 199




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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2011, 11:18:05 AM »

>I'm happy to just buy something and expect it to work.

Well, SDR is a very experimental field so its mostly about KITS if you want real bang for the buck.  The pre-built are all very high end premium products for a select few and not mainstream and you pay for being part of a small market.

Personally I think you can't go wrong with the Softrock for bang for the buck to get into SDR.  $20 for a single band receiver, $59 for an all band receiver, and $79 for a QRP Transceiver. The kits are make of a very very small number of components compared to most traditional radio kits, and you can find pre-build ones if your not interested, in fact Tony Parks often assembles kits to break the monotony of assembling the kits in the boxes and sells them for just a little extra on the message board.  And many people take the QRP and add an amp for a fantastic value in SDR.


Its an incredible product for <$100.
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KF6QEX
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Posts: 587




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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2011, 07:30:48 PM »

Quote
Its an incredible product for <$100.

For a good time click:
http://www.kb9yig.com/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/softrock40/

Smiley
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WB6RQN
Member

Posts: 484




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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2011, 10:30:39 PM »

This eham forum is the only Public forum where one can speak opinions about Flexradio without censorship. Opinions and facts here can promote Flexradios or be detrimental to Flexradio.

Just because the speech is free doesn't mean it is accurate and unbiased. Wink

You and some others appear to me to be biased against Flex. I certainly admit that I am biased for Flex. No bones about that. I think that I have good reasons for my bias. YMMV.

So when I think you are being unfair, I will probably say something. When you think I am being unfair, you will probably say something. It all works out in the end. Smiley

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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KF6QEX
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Posts: 587




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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2011, 06:40:55 AM »

Quote
So when I think you are being unfair, I will probably say something.

Ahh...that's the closest you've come to admitting why you are here!

As or biases....
Again to borrow a phrase :  I certainly admit that I am biased against you.  No bones about that. I think that I have good reasons for my bias. YMMV.

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WB6RQN
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Posts: 484




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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2011, 12:34:24 PM »

Ahh...that's the closest you've come to admitting why you are here!

No, I am not the Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau. OTOH, I have fancied myself to be the David Niven sort. Wink

Quote
As or biases....
Again to borrow a phrase :  I certainly admit that I am biased against you.  No bones about that. I think that I have good reasons for my bias. YMMV.

You are biased against me? I can see you disagreeing with me or being biased against some view I hold but being biased against me? That's just ...  Roll Eyes

73 de WB6RQN/J79BPL
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KF6QEX
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Posts: 587




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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2011, 04:30:58 PM »

Quote
You are biased against me?
Since I have stated from the beggining that I find your sudden pro-flex-posting-storm  here suspect, your dismissive eye roll is amusing.
The tone and  content of your posting history does nothing to put my suspicions to rest.

I'm more of a Columbo fan.

Oh...one more thing...
Quote
Just because the speech is free doesn't mean it is accurate and unbiased.
And just because I am biased, doesn't mean I'm inaccurate either.

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W9OY
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2011, 11:07:36 AM »

According to stan's fanboy def I guess he would be the pentultimate anti-fanboy.  He likes to blindly promote himself as truth justice and the american way but I think anti with a touch of paranoia is closer to reality.

73 W9OY
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KC8IUR
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Posts: 156




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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2011, 11:08:24 AM »

According to stan's fanboy def I guess he would be the pentultimate anti-fanboy.  He likes to blindly promote himself as truth justice and the american way but I think anti with a touch of paranoia is closer to reality.

73 W9OY

Well then who is the ultimate fanboy, if stan is the second to last?

Although you did say PENTultimate, so I suppose you could have meant fifth to last? I don't think that one is even in the dictionary.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2011, 11:11:21 AM by KC8IUR » Logged
W9OY
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2011, 06:00:01 AM »

Stan is clearly not a fanboy nor even a pentultimate fan boy.  Not sure who is the ultimate Flex hater, but I for sure didn't want to give Stan top billing.

Oh I am a fan boy.  No question there.  I don't know my ranking as far as fan boys go, but I'm certainly up there.  To be a fan of something is not a crime.  To be honestly enthusiastic about something is not perverse or ridiculous, nor is it a reason for another to heap ridicule.  Stan uses the word as a pejorative.  It's a personal attack by him on those of us who enjoy the radio and the experience it provides.  I have an incredible amount of fun with my Flex radios.  There is always something new to do and something new to learn rather than just leaning back in your easy chair with a gold microphone shoved up in your face complaining.  While I was typing this the T30 came up on 80M and I gave him a call.  Small pileup but a lot of JA's to try and work through.  He was Q5 even though it's an hour and a half past my sunrise.   The only reason I could hear him is because of the beam steering feature of the diversity set-up in my Flex 5000.  If I turned off the beam steering I lost him.  Personally I find that amazing that in the middle of March, I can hear Kiribati an hour and a half into the sunrise on 80M   The fact that there were only half a dozen stations in the pileup was testament that not many others were hearing him either, but I sure was. 

Oh wait I guess that's too positive!  I need to get some negativity going here.  Let me mediate:  grumble grumble grumble CW   grumble grumble grumble QSK  grumble grumble grumble 160 spur  grumble grumble grumble "they didn't fix it fast enough" grumble grumble grumble "they kicked me off the list for acting out all the time"   Now that's better   

73  W9OY
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WB6RQN
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Posts: 484




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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2011, 02:34:35 PM »

... grumble grumble grumble "they kicked me off the list for acting out all the time"   Now that's better   

Well, maybe not quite. Frankly I assumed that Stan had been kicked off the Flex lists as he said but Tim corrected me when I mentioned that in a message to him. He said he did censure ("moderate") Stan at one point for some ungentlemanly postings but that was a one-time thing and Stan was never kicked off the lists. Stan unsubscribed of his own accord.

Now I was not there and I do not know for sure who did what to whom but it does appear that there may be two sides to this story.

Regardless, let's talk about radios.

And speaking of radios, if people recall, I was going to post a query about the the ADAT-200A. I did and I received a nice reply which sparked an exchange of emails with Hans, HB9CBU. He informed me that the radio is readily available. It appears to be a nice replacement for an analog HF transceiver. Unfortunately it does not have a digital I/Q output so it doesn't meet that personal (to me) requirement.

But if someone wants a direct sampling SDR transceiver and doesn't care about having only analog outputs, it might be very suitable.

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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K0OD
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Posts: 2520




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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2011, 09:08:04 PM »

Quote
I received a nice reply which sparked an exchange of emails with Hans, HB9CBU. He informed me that the radio is readily available.

OK. I'm not surprised the $5,000 or $6,000 radio is readily available. I know of just two in the U.S. 

What did Hans say about the status of his ADT200A "project?" How are the long promised enhancements coming? 

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