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Author Topic: SDR Tranceiver Alternatives  (Read 9866 times)
NI0Z
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« on: June 05, 2012, 08:06:43 AM »

So we have a mixture of Flex and Non Flex users, SDR users and non SDR users here interested in SDR at some level.  We also have former SDR users that have returned to traditional rigs or makeshift solutions.  I also posted a thread on makeshift SDR options, but it really did not get much interest.

So if you don't want a flex system, what are today's options?  They need to be functional.  I do not consider myself a purist, so for me functional means a real Panadaptor with point and click tuning and also the ability to still interface to one or more other software packages like ComCatt, HRD, ect.

I would rather focus on rigs less than 6 years old and that are still supported.  I would also like to see their performance specs around receiving be in the top tier.  Dual receivers is also important with a true second antenna input.  Let's say 10m-160m is also a minimum requirement.

What are today's options?

Let's use this format as an example.

FT-5000MP, DMU, LP-Pan2, running PSDR, ComCatt
Price tag: $7K
Pros: top tier receiving, functional Panadaptor, decent software integrationscreenons:
Cons: very high cost
Rationale: super rig and with top features and performance
Comments: very large foot print and rig is aging with closed ended upgrade path.

In the above example people could opt for an SDR-IQ in place of an LPan.. Ect.  The point is for you to represent your ultimate or Preferred setup to make a highly functional and cost effective solution of cost is an issue.  I think it could be an interesting conversation if people provide their logic behind their choices.

My guess is that this thread will get few responses because the interest in this subject is simply fading and that does not really bode well for the SDR market in general.  I think in part it's because SDR's don't have many new tricks they are bringing to the table these days that are accessible (affordable) by the average ham. 
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 08:26:37 AM by EVERSTAR » Logged

K9IUQ
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2012, 10:01:05 AM »


So if you don't want a flex system, what are today's options?  They need to be functional.

My guess is that this thread will get few responses because the interest in this subject is simply fading and that does not really bode well for the SDR market in general.  I think in part it's because SDR's don't have many new tricks they are bringing to the table these days that are accessible (affordable) by the average ham. 

IMO the biggest attraction to SDR's is the wonderful spectrum scope and point and click tuning. Take that away and few hams would be interested in a SDR. Few hams want to have a radio that is completely dependent on a computer. Ergonomics are horrible.

Personally I am thinking seriously about getting a new radio, one that has a spectrum scope built-in or available as an accessory.  I am not sure I ever want the headaches again of having a computer running a SDR..

Stan K9IUQ
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NI0Z
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2012, 10:50:22 AM »

Stan,  I think you get it!  Smiley

The real true advantages of today's SDRs are really limited and to your point come with their own baggage like a lack of knobs and a computer as an anchor.

Unless one is an SDR purist that believes all filters need to be software based verses hardware based, then the panadptor is what is somewhat unique.

One thing about the Panadaptor implementation in a flex is the ability to see the two receivers side by side on the screen.  I run a vertical along with my beam and so the vertical shows me, albeit it weaker) signals that my beam is not pointing at in the same spectrum or let's me scan other parts of the spectrum for signals.

I know people don't like the Yaesu and Elecraft radios all that much, but I do know you can even get a computer less display for the Panadaptor via an addon. DMU/P3

Anyway, that's the point, for the most part a person could move to a knobbed rig and get most of the same features without the baggage.

So, for the sake of discussion, what would peoples choices be and why?
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2012, 11:28:18 AM »

Stan,  I think you get it!  Smiley


So, for the sake of discussion, what would peoples choices be and why?

Oh I get it Mark, after 52 years of hamming I get it. To me a radio is merely an appliance like a refrigerator, a stove, a vacuum cleaner. It is a tool to make QSOes. It is not something I have ever loved or felt affection for. I use a radio.

The Radio is not my hobby. Making contacts and talking to other hams is my hobby.

I think their are several choices for what I and possibly you are looking for. Elecraft gets it too. That is why they developed a panadapter for their K-3 SDR. Yaesu is getting it and there are quite a few ways to get a panadapter on various Yaesu Radios. Icom got it a long time ago, putting spectrum scopes in many of their radios. Kenwood just got it as their new Ts-990 shows.

IMO the only Company that does not get it is Flexradio. They and most of their users think the Radio is the Hobby.
The majority of hams do not feel this way and eventually -sooner not later - Flexradio is going to pay a huge price for their way of thinking.

Stan K9IUQ
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 11:31:30 AM by K9IUQ » Logged
WA3CCI
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2012, 11:39:23 AM »

K9IUQ  Rating: 5/5  Feb 14, 2010 14:02  Send this review to a friend 
A Different Perspective   Time owned: 0 to 3 months 
I researched new Radios for 4 months. The K-3, Icom 7600 and Flex 5000a were on my short list. I joined the reflectors and read as much as I could find about all 3 radios. I had many private emails discussing the merits of the K-3, a radio I was particularly interested in.

I was using a Pro III at the time. The Pro III was a very good radio.

After 50 years of hamming and countless radios I was bored. I wanted something different, but most of all I wanted better performance than what I already had - very hard to do in the under $4000 range.

The 7600 was scratched off my list. Not a real performance boost over the Pro III. The Elecraft K-3 was scratched off the list for several reasons. I really disliked most K-3 owners that I ran into. Most have a real ego problem. Many are VERY nasty if you ask tough questions that put the K-3 in a bad light. But mostly I decided the K-3 is just more of the same. Same old knobbed radio that I been using for 50 years.

The clincher - Flexradio offers a 30 day money back guarantee - Elecraft does not. Just this fact alone is VERY attractive reason to try a Flexradio.

So I bought a Flex 5000a. 35 days ago. I did not send the Flex back and get a refund. THAT should speak loudly to anyone contemplating a purchase of a Flex.

I will not repeat all the advantages of the Flex radios. Others have already done that here and elsewhere. This says it all for me:

Using the Flex 5000a has been the most fun I have had in 50 years of hamming......

Stan K9IUQ
 
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2012, 12:02:11 PM »

Using the Flex 5000a has been the most fun I have had in 50 years of hamming......

Is this yet another way to attack me? It has nothing to do with the thread subject and yet I am the one who gets labeled a troll. Laughable really. Especially since this review has been talked about many many times before here. Of course this is your first post. Is this the best you can do?

It was and still is a "honeymoon review" like countless others in the eham review section.

I once loved my first wife, until I lived with her for a while and found out all the bad stuff about her. We got divorced.

My Flex 5K was the same. I divorced Flexradio.   Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy
In both instances I made a mistake and I paid dearly for those mistakes.

My views on Flexradio have evolved and changed over the last few years. I am not ashamed of that review. Post and it pass it around as much as you like. It was how I felt at the time. I feel differently now, real experience can change views.

Not stop trying to trash me and get back to discussing SDR Alternatives..

Stan K9IUQ
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 12:39:40 PM by K9IUQ » Logged
KE5JPP
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2012, 12:38:14 PM »

K9IUQ  Rating: 5/5  Feb 14, 2010 14:02  Send this review to a friend 
A Different Perspective   Time owned: 0 to 3 months 
I researched new Radios for 4 months. The K-3, Icom 7600 and Flex 5000a were on my short list. I joined the reflectors and read as much as I could find about all 3 radios. I had many private emails discussing the merits of the K-3, a radio I was particularly interested in.

I was using a Pro III at the time. The Pro III was a very good radio.

After 50 years of hamming and countless radios I was bored. I wanted something different, but most of all I wanted better performance than what I already had - very hard to do in the under $4000 range.

The 7600 was scratched off my list. Not a real performance boost over the Pro III. The Elecraft K-3 was scratched off the list for several reasons. I really disliked most K-3 owners that I ran into. Most have a real ego problem. Many are VERY nasty if you ask tough questions that put the K-3 in a bad light. But mostly I decided the K-3 is just more of the same. Same old knobbed radio that I been using for 50 years.

The clincher - Flexradio offers a 30 day money back guarantee - Elecraft does not. Just this fact alone is VERY attractive reason to try a Flexradio.

So I bought a Flex 5000a. 35 days ago. I did not send the Flex back and get a refund. THAT should speak loudly to anyone contemplating a purchase of a Flex.

I will not repeat all the advantages of the Flex radios. Others have already done that here and elsewhere. This says it all for me:

Using the Flex 5000a has been the most fun I have had in 50 years of hamming......

Stan K9IUQ
 


 And your point is?  The disadvantages of Flex radios are not apparent to the new user.  You discover them one by one as time progresses.  I also owned at Flex-5000a.  I liked it at first and it consumed at lot of my time and attention getting used to it and setting it up.  But operating it day in and day out, those little deficiencies begin to show up.  A few I can live with.   Too many and I am ready to move the radio on down the road.  That is what I did with my Flex. 

When you begin to discover these deficiencies and speak to Flex radio cheerleaders, many blame the problem you are having on everything BUT the Flex.  No way their perfect radio has warts!   Flex denies the problems at first and then when they can no longer deny the problem they take forever to fix it or just try to minimize the problem.  Who uses CW anymore?  Who uses 160 meters anymore?  Who was stupid enough to use a solid state amp with the Flex with its power overshoot problem?  It's not a problem! No...

Gene.
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2012, 12:44:46 PM »

My guess is that this thread will get few responses

Mark, I apologize for the actions of the Flexers. They can not help but attack me and hijack threads. This thread should be about your subject. I feel badly about ruining it for you by posting an on topic answer and drawing K9IUQ hater(s) outta the woodwork.

Stan K9IUQ
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 12:46:33 PM by K9IUQ » Logged
W7SMJ
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2012, 01:35:53 PM »

This is a bit of a loaded question and the answers have so many shades of gray!  It’s really a personal preference to the op. 

I would disagree that a panoramic display is all an SDR brings to the table, but if we limit the discussion to just a plug and play panoramic display then you really only need an XCVR with an IF out and CAT control.  You can pick the SDR receiver that fits your needs and budget like the Softrock, LP-PAN, SDR-IQ, Perseus, QS1R, etc.  Using an SDR strictly for a pan adapter is a bit of a waste in my opinion though.

Now, if you plan on actually using your SDR as the main receiver then the possibilities really open.  The only price of admission is some sort of T/R solution that will protect the SDR from the XCVR transmitter.  You can pair whatever SDR meets your needs with whatever XCVR meets your needs.

My personal choice consists of:
TS-2000X
QS1R

73,
Scott

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NI0Z
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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2012, 02:12:58 PM »

Let's be clear here. I am not doing this to attack Flex owners or even Flex radio.  I happen to be a flex ower right now.  Honestly, I am a newer ham and have limited experience with other radios.  I really liked my new toy when I got it, it was really cool as compared to the Yaesu 897D I have and the Icom 7000 I still have in my truck.

We grow and learn in a hobby like this, we can all change opinions.  I spend a lot of time waiting on big Bertha to boot up each time I want to use my radio.  Leave it on you say, no way, Bertha has 2 600 watt power supplies and can heat a rather large room when left running.  Berta runs windows and if left running can become unstable resulting in even more time to recover before I get to start using the radio.  Then there is Windows patches, always seems to be a new one.  Then there is Norton antivirus and it's updates and scans.  Yup, I could get rid of Bertha, but there is still the rest of the hassle. With just a few hours a week to ham, you can certainly appreciate not wanting to spend too much time waiting on a computer.

The older I get the less fuss and feeding I like to do for computers.  Life is short!  Fun is sparse when your in the heart of your career.  Fun was building a really cool station,   You can read the articles on my website.  I have one called loving the flex 5000.  Integrating the flex is another I have there and pehaps interesting one.  It was all fun, very cool and honestly, hitting a DX today is a amazingy easy!

I believe their are interesting merits to pursing software defined radio.  SDR manufactures have really missed the boat in my humble opinion.  We are still in the infancy where the focus is still more on the hardware rather than the software.

Here is what SDR radios should be.  A small computing platform with the very basic hardware to convert the signal to digital data.  All the filters, DSP should be software plugins that run on the SDR Reciever.  Want to buy another notch filter, AGC, 2k roof filter, you put them in your cart on the vendors website and purchase them.  They then download to your radio.  You only buy what you want and when you need it.  Want to transmit, you add a card, download the transmit plugin/module and any other XMIT features you want.  Again, you can build your radio when you want and how you want. Want a second Reciever, same deal!  hardware if you want another antenna, plugin software module if you want another slice.

In this modle the vendor makes money when they release new plugins.  Yes, we hams may resent that, but the upshot is we get what we want when we want it and only if we want it.

BTW, that radio has add on knobs and display as well.  We are talking about a scalable and upgradeable architecture where your plugins  and your periphials can move with you if you need a new box.  Platform grows and needs more horse power, guess what, you can add another processor card.

Think about the plugins they could make, they go beyond just radio filters.  Want to enhance your Xmit audio, there would be plugins.  Same for Recieve.  Want world clock displays, add it to your cart and it downloads to your radio. Peripherals could be added via Ethernet or USB 3. Provide an open architecture and license the rights to others to produce third party add ons and plugins.

Last but not least, let's not build it on Windows OS, let's pick something like Linux that is really stable and fast!

Now your talking SDR!

There is no such vision yet and for the most part, SDR radio is only just now catching up in emulating hardware.  Maybe the Flex 6K series is showing some signs of advancement, however, it's on a seemingly limited closed end architecture.  In all honesty, it smells a lot like the flex 5k that is now destined to die.

This thread is about looking for alternatives.

So, if we could get past the personal battles and talk about today's realistic alternatives for a state of the art system geared towards DXing, that would be the goal.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2012, 02:33:34 PM by EVERSTAR » Logged

NI0Z
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2012, 02:18:39 PM »

I would disagree that a panoramic display is all an SDR brings to the table, but if we limit the discussion to just a plug and play panoramic display then you really only need an XCVR with an IF out and CAT control.  You can pick the SDR receiver that fits your needs and budget like the Softrock, LP-PAN, SDR-IQ, Perseus, QS1R, etc.  Using an SDR strictly for a pan adapter is a bit of a waste in my opinion though.
73,
Scott

I am really trying to understand what SDR's uniquely bring to the table that say the example I provided above of a FT-5000 with Panadaptor and cat control do not.  Can you elaborate more?
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2012, 02:21:58 PM »

My personal choice consists of:
TS-2000X
QS1R

73,
Scott

I presently own a Ts-590s and have contemplated buying a QS1R many times. However it appears to me I would be stuck with a computer driving a SDR - which is exactly what I did not like with the Flexradio.

Stan K9IUQ
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W7SMJ
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« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2012, 03:19:20 PM »

I am really trying to understand what SDR's uniquely bring to the table that say the example I provided above of a FT-5000 with Panadaptor and cat control do not.  Can you elaborate more?

Well, taking a quick stab at it I would offer the following advantages of my solution:

1 )   4 Mhz of B/W display vs. 192Khz.
2 )   Ability to demodulate digital modes like DRM (perhaps this could be done with psdr?).
3 )   Ability to record 4 Mhz of spectrum.
4 )   Abilty to set up to four independent receivers.
5 )   Superior filtering.
6 )   Ability to achieve on the order of 200PPT frequency accuracy.
7 )   VHF/UHF bands.
8 )   Open architecture.  I can modify the software and hardware if I choose to do so.
9 )   Cost!  Your example is $8K.  Mine is $3K. 

You could even lower the costs by pairing an SDR with something like an FT-857...

73,
Scott
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W7SMJ
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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2012, 03:26:33 PM »

I presently own a Ts-590s and have contemplated buying a QS1R many times. However it appears to me I would be stuck with a computer driving a SDR - which is exactly what I did not like with the Flexradio.

Stan K9IUQ

To each there own I guess.  I personally always had a PC running in the shack before I had an SDR so this isn't a shortcoming to me...

73,
Scott
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2012, 03:51:11 PM »

To each there own I guess.  I personally always had a PC running in the shack before I had an SDR so this isn't a shortcoming to me...

73,
Scott

That is the problem exactly! I already use the PC for logging,cluster spotting, FliDigi for digital modes, Hamcap for propagation,DXatlas, Ionoprobe and chatting on eham.  Wink

Add PSDR for running a SDR and you have lot to keep track off, in fact too too much. Especially if you are doing something like trying to run a Contest. Just try to keep the "Focus" on the right program. It is almost impossible and guaranteed to cause frustration running a SDR, yep I have 2 monitors and it is still difficult. Well it was, I don't use a SDR any more.

Stan K9IUQ
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