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Author Topic: Flex 5000a - Can Not Take it Anymore  (Read 101826 times)
K9IUQ
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« on: February 28, 2011, 07:23:37 AM »

This morning I put my 1 yr old Flex 5000 up for sale on eham and qth.com. The reasons are many. I have been waiting for a year for Flexradio to get their act together and get the 5K to work as well as any analog radio. In this I have been disappointed. Flex Just can't do it. I have decided that Flex Promises just do not cut it any more. I am tired of waiting.

MY 5K still does not have a stable PSDR 2.0 version.NB and especially NR still do not work as well as a cheap knobbed radio. FM mode is not functional and no repeater splits/tones for 10 mtr FM fun. 6 mtr reception will not match the performance of even my Icom 7000. I could go on and on with the 5K's shortcomings but I won't. I have said it all before right here on eham.

I think my biggest disappointment has been with Flex enthusiasts. Never have I met more egotistical, fanatical, sometimes maniacal hams. Hams who want to be blind to Flexradios many shortcomings. Hams who continue to make apologys and defend the Flex's quirkiness..

Stan K9IUQ
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WB6RQN
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2011, 09:17:49 AM »

Well Stan, I certainly understand being frustrated. I certainly hope you find what you are looking for out there. If CW, RTTY, and PSK31 are what you like to do I would certainly consider a K3. I have always liked Icom radios too. (Well, I never really liked my IC-706mkII but it was small and it did work.) Maybe one of them will satisfy you.

FWIW, I agree that FM doesn't work right (no preemphasis, no deemphasis, no CTCSS, no DCS). It is experimental. And I got my Flex 5000 to use as an HF rig, not an FM rig.

To me the most important things are basic receiver and transmitter function. After all, things like NR and ANF won't help you if you can't hear the station in the first place. In that respect I find the outstanding filtering to be much more useful and important than NR or ANF. And I like that I can separate a really weak signal from a strong one right next door, like only 100 Hz away. I don't know of any other receiver that can do that.

I hear people talk about problems with the noise blanker but it certainly appears to me that it works. I get significant reductions in noise floor for some kinds of noise but not others. But that has been my experience with all noise blankers. I guess it just depends on the noise source. I wonder if there is any sort of real test for NB effectiveness? Perhaps Rob Sherwood would take that up.

And I'm sorry you don't like the people either. Yeah, some of them can be pretty rabid. But perhaps you should ask why these people are so fanatical? Why are they not fanatical about some other radio? After all, there are a lot of radios out there that have specs as good as the Flex 5000 and don't have the bugs. What is different about the Flex?

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that you don't see the difference between the Flex 5000 and other radios. It appears to me that, to you, the radio is just the sum of its features, no more, no less. You appear to attach equal importance to NR and FM operation as you do to basic receiver function. You also seem to disregard the way the system is designed. To me the ability to change the software to enable new features, also the ability to do band-wide functions such as being able to demodulate all of the signals in an entire band, offers so much potential that I cannot imagine going back to a traditional KWM1-like transceiver. The Collins all-in-one transceiver introduced in 1957 set the standard for all transceivers to this day. Yes, there have been incremental improvements but when you get right down to it, the latest transceivers from Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, Elecraft, and Ten-Tec are just improvements on the basic KWM-1 concept. If you think about about it, you can do everything on a KWM1 that you can do on a K3 or an Orion, but none of them can run CW-Skimmer ... except the Flex.

So, from one way of thinking, you are 100% right. There are bugs in the Flex 5000 that are taking a long time to fix. NR and FM don't work very well in the Flex 5000. If you want to armchair ragchew on 80m or check into your local 6m FM repeater, you aren't going to be as happy with the Flex 5000 as you might be with something else. But if you want to experiment with the things that are going to be coming over the next couple of years, the Flex, warts and all, is the ONLY game in town.

And I really do hope you find what you are looking for. I hope your next rig makes you happy and does the things you want it to do. I'm sorry that the Flex 5000 wasn't it because I happen to think it holds the most promise. But life is too short to be unhappy with the things we own.

GL OM. I hope to see you again down the log.

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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K0OD
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2011, 10:08:54 AM »

Quote
"FM mode is not functional and no repeater splits/tones for 10 mtr FM fun. 6 mtr reception will not match the performance of even my Icom 7000.

You shouldn't have trouble getting a good price for your 5000A.  I see very few of them for sale.

You've never mentioned 6-meter deficiencies before. The 5000a with its pandadapter is a hoot on VHF. I worked about 42 states and 10 countries last summer with mine, just using a 2-element beam at 25'.  Even heard a couple of Japanese stations. Only problems I detected were a few minor birdies on the panadapter. Analog radios can have those too.

"10 meters FM fun"  Ok. I bought the $50 10-meter FM card for my old Kenwood transceiver and used it once or twice and that was during a hot sunspot peak long ago. Yawn!
---

So what are you going to replace the 5000 with?

Hope you've followed the grumbling on K3 discussion sites. I chose the Flex over the similarly priced Icom 7600, the successor to the well regarded IC-756 family. Heard a 7600 on the air yesterday that sounded like a tin can on a string.

Flex has some shortcomings, hopefully temporary,  but it surpasses expectations in other areas. You never seem to mention its many strong points.   
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KF6QEX
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 12:54:03 PM »

Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL ,  you  continue to write in brochure-eze, ie (don't worry about the rain, wait and see the pretty rainbow, I'm sorry some people drowned, but the rainbow will be verry pretty).

For a  science teacher you seem to have a better nack in writing ad copy or maybe fiction.
I don't know if your mistakes are due to lack of information on your part or an intended misrepresentation.
Either way, it seems your posts are poorly researched and inaccurate.
Your incorrect statements could end up misinforming a lot of people.

Below is an example of what I am talking about.... I would have no reason to doubt it, except I already knew it was wrong.

A
Quote
but when you get right down to it, the latest transceivers from Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, Elecraft, and Ten-Tec are just improvements on the basic KWM-1 concept. If you think about about it, you can do everything on a KWM1 that you can do on a K3 or an Orion, but none of them can run CW-Skimmer ... except the Flex.

and

B
Quote
But if you want to experiment with the things that are going to be coming over the next couple of years, the Flex, warts and all, is the ONLY game in town.




From the cw skimmer web page: ( http://www.dxatlas.com/CwSkimmer/ )
----snip----
System Requirements

    * Operating system: Windows ME, Windows 2000, or Windows XP. The program may or may not work on Windows 98 SE and Vista, depending on the quality of your audio drivers. Windows 95 and Windows 98 GE are not supported.

    * CPU: Pentium-4 2.5 GHz with a wideband radio, or 1 GHz with a 3-kHz radio;

    * Ports: one COM port for the radio CAT control;

    * Receiver:
          o 3-kHz receiver - an ordinary transceiver or receiver, with 3-KHz audio output;
          o SoftRock receiver - a wideband receiver with quadrature output and fixed center frequency;
          o SoftRock on IF - a combination of an ordinary receiver and a SoftRock working on receiver's IF;
          o FR Space SDR-IQ and SDR-14;
          o SRL QuickSilver (QS1R).
          o HPSDR Mercury,
          o Microtelecom Perseus.

      CW Skimmer can be used with the SDR-1000 and Flex-5000 radios via a virtual audio cable.
----snip-------


As for the only game in town....
there is always the softrock, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/softrock40/ (where you can actually get your hands on the components)
and even softrock in a box http://www.sdr-cube.com/  (skip the computer altogether)



My name is Dimitri and I'll be here all week.

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W6UV
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Posts: 536




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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 01:29:23 PM »

Stan,

Sorry to hear that you're selling your 5K, but I understand your reasons. I'll miss your commentary here after yours is sold.

Let us know what you get to replace your 5K.

73, Jerry
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WB6RQN
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Posts: 484




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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2011, 02:07:53 PM »


For a  science teacher you seem to have a better nack in writing ad copy or maybe fiction.
I don't know if your mistakes are due to lack of information on your part or an intended misrepresentation.
Either way, it seems your posts are poorly researched and inaccurate.
Your incorrect statements could end up misinforming a lot of people.

My statements are correct.

CW skimmer will not do wideband decoding without an I/Q receiver. Sure it will decode a 3kHz chunk using a standard receiver but that is not what I am talking about. And you did catch me in forgetting to add "wide band" to my original post. I don't normally think of narrow-band decoding in a non-I/Q receiver being of particular interest. So, yes, I forgot to add "wide band".

Softrock is not a production transceiver. It is a kit and even then is not complete. You have to go to several places to get things like an enclosure or you need to roll your own. You need an external sound card also.

HPSDR is not a production transceiver. You cannot take one out of the box, plug it in, and turn it on. It is also a kit. Not sure if there is a complete package with enclosure you can just put together heathkit-style.

Perseus is not a production transceiver. It is a receiver only.

Perhaps you think I am picking nits but I *DO* make sure that what I say is correct.

So if someone wants to purchase a production transceiver today that will do what I said it will, the Flex is the only game in town. I don't think it will stay that way but for now, what I said is correct.

73 de WB6RQN/J79BPL
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WB6RQN
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 08:06:34 AM »

Stan, you have made much of the closed-beta "inner circle" of Flex Radio Systems. The funny thing is, just about anyone can be in that "inner circle" if they wish, including you. All you have to do is be willing to try the new versions of PowerSDR and/or firmware in a controlled fashion and give detailed feedback to Flex on what works and what doesn't work. If something doesn't work they expect you to try to make it fail reliably so that they can recreate the problem in the lab. On some versions this process actually turns out to be work, with many iterations of installing, testing, failing, documenting, and reporting. This also requires patience as sometimes Flex has to go through a couple of iterations in order to solve problems. That is why there are some significant number jumps in the public beta release, e.g. 2.0.8 to 2.0.16 to 2.0.19.

I asked to be in the closed beta because I like to see new code. Strange as it seems, I like to test software and try to figure out why it is failing. (I have spent parts of my life running a software QA department.) I also seem to have a knack for breaking things.

You know Stan, given that you were the first person to see the failure-to-return-to-RX bug, I wish you had opted to be in the closed-beta group. I bet this problem would be solved by now if there were more radios in the closed-beta that exhibited the problem. For example, while my radio seems to be able to trigger the "tuning wedgie" bug every couple of days when running WSPR (this is one of the reasons I run WSPR on my Flex 5000 these days instead of on my 1500) it has never experienced the failure-to-return-to-RX bug.

Jerry: you hack embedded code if I recall correctly. That means you probably have the discipline to test and report in a detailed fashion. Why don't you ask to be in the closed-beta group? I don't recall but I think you said your radio periodically exhibits "anomalous behavior". :-)

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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KC8IUR
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Posts: 156




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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2011, 10:21:22 AM »

IUQ, you seem very fired up about your Flex debacle, but you're so filled with vitriol, it's hard for a noob like me to make sense of it all. I understand your feelings. You have substantial monetary value tied up in a product that just does not work the way you want it to.

It seems like you just want a product that functions as advertised. You want something that, in the computer world, would be tagged with "It Just Works". Am I correct here? How long has Flexradio been selling the 5k? It's been at least half a decade, right?
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K0OD
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 10:43:57 AM »


"How long has Flexradio been selling the 5k? It's been at least half a decade, right?"


Selling or shipping? The earliest reviews on eham are from August 2007. I imagine they took orders for some time before shipping started.

W9OY wrote the very first 5000 review which included, "I made some CW contacts and the radio is a dream on CW quiet, brick wall filters, beautiful T/R excellent noise reduction and noise blanking."

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/6626?page=7
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W6UV
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Posts: 536




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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2011, 11:02:06 AM »

Jerry: you hack embedded code if I recall correctly. That means you probably have the discipline to test and report in a detailed fashion. Why don't you ask to be in the closed-beta group? I don't recall but I think you said your radio periodically exhibits "anomalous behavior". :-)

Yes, that's something I would be interested in as long as the releases are reasonably stable. I have so little time to operate as it is that I don't want to be spending all of my time troubleshooting issues that prevent basic stuff from working. Otherwise, I'd be happy to help test the new releases
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KC8IUR
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2011, 12:34:48 PM »


"How long has Flexradio been selling the 5k? It's been at least half a decade, right?"


Selling or shipping? The earliest reviews on eham are from August 2007. I imagine they took orders for some time before shipping started.

W9OY wrote the very first 5000 review which included, "I made some CW contacts and the radio is a dream on CW quiet, brick wall filters, beautiful T/R excellent noise reduction and noise blanking."

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/6626?page=7


Fair point, I forgot about pre-ordering. So it's been in the wild for 3.5 years? That's as long as the life cycle of an operating system. Software bugs should really be worked out in that time. IMO.
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WB6RQN
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2011, 12:50:26 PM »

I still stand by that statement. The 5K has been fun, I am sure I will miss it. It has even been fun talking with my few eham Flexers friends like you, hell I even like Brian.  Wink

Wow! Color me speechless. Wink

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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W9OY
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« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2011, 12:33:57 PM »

Sell the F5K?  Most rational thing I've seen from you in a long time.  Hope your next purchase is more satisfying and less problematic.  Maybe the new Yaesu?  I hear that's today's version of Man's Best Radio.  The Elecraft killer.

Frankly I don't see any reason to kvetch OR apologize OR make excuses over how long it takes to fix a bug or how long it takes to write Deep Impact.  Flex is who they is, big or small or in between, the same as Yaesu or Kenmore or Ten Tec or Elecraft.  It takes as long as it takes and not a minute more.  If you don't like how long it takes then get something else you do like.  Personally I very much have enjoyed the ride from the days of a 3 board 1 watt wonder using visual basic as the programming language to today.  That radio was virtually unusable, but so intriguing.  For me owning this radio and its predecessors has been a total gas. 

Again congrats on coming to your senses and I hope your next radio provides you with as much joy as this radio has provided me. 

73  W9OY
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W6UV
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« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2011, 02:19:58 PM »

Frankly I don't see any reason to kvetch OR apologize OR make excuses over how long it takes to fix a bug or how long it takes to write Deep Impact.  Flex is who they is, big or small or in between, the same as Yaesu or Kenmore or Ten Tec or Elecraft.  It takes as long as it takes and not a minute more. 

As a professional engineering manager, I take exception to this statement. It is, however, typical of the state of the affairs in the industry in general these days: make no promises or commitments and you won't have to apologize for not delivering.

When I run an engineering project, I put together a realistic schedule at the beginning of the project and then deliver according to that schedule. This applies even for new development where there are many unknowns. The unknowns are accounted for simply by building R&D time into the schedule. It takes a good manager, however, to make realistic schedules in the first place, and then rally the troops to meet those schedules. It can be done and has been done--it just takes good, tight management, knowing the capabilities of your people, and not letting feature creep implode your schedule.

Of cource, if you're relying on volunteers to do much of your development, which I've heard is the case with Flex, then all bets are off as it's very difficult to manage volunteers and hold them to a schedule.
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WB6RQN
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« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2011, 04:00:13 PM »

This is exactly why PSDR has had some serious bugs like160 mtr spur, cw performance and the ALC overshoot problem. You Flexers just go with the flow and don't complain. You all sit around telling Flex what a great Radio they have while the major bugs take 1-3 yrs to fix.

Ah. This is one thing I can address and feel free to ask Gerald, Steve, or Greg if it is true. I have continuously addressed what I feel are the shortcomings of PowerSDR with Flex. I don't pull any punches. But once I address it with them and continue to remind them that I consider these issues to be important, I don't stand around and beat on them in public. They are limited in what they can do. What I have found is that the approach I have taken with Flex has caused them to perhaps be more open with me than they are with you Stan. Therefore I probably see more internal progress than you do. If you whip them no matter what they say to you, then they are going to stop talking to you. If you continue to whip them, then they are going to cut you off ... kind of like they did.

I have a list of what I consider to be very important changes. If you are interested, here is my short list:

1. I really want PowerSDR to run on something other than Windows. My preference would be MacOS but I will accept Linux. Personally I want both but let's walk before we run.

2. The user interface needs to be divorced from the DSP processing engine. That will allow people to remote the UI across a network and to build different UIs depending on need without compromising the processing engine itself.

3. Both receivers need to be able to produce identical digital I/Q data streams with proper time-stamping so that remote processing can do inteferometry (coherent diversity from multiple receivers) and do it across the network.

4. The receivers and transmitters must be controllable across the network using something more sensible than old Kenwood CAT commands. The language needs to allow consumers and producers of the data streams to specify their needs from the radio. This must not be limited to the traditional fixed settings for bandwidth, frequencies, etc. This requires a rethinking of how the radio actually works with applications controlling the radio hardware/software in an automatic fashion.

So as you can see, my view of the Flex radio is probably quite a bit different than that of many others. SDR is going to enable classes of applications that we are only just beginning to twig to. I used CW Skimmer as an example in a previous posting (and someone, in their haste to chastise me, jumped on me over minutia and totally missed the point of the posting). It is an application that allows the radio to receive and decode ALL the CW signals in the passband. Take that up a notch and imagine that the system is decoding ALL the DIGITAL signals in the passbands, e.g. CW, PSK31, Olivia, JT65, WSPR, RTTY, PACTOR, etc., at the same time! This is going to be way beyond the processing power of a single computer and it means that you are going to have to use a network of machines to implement the entire "radio". No one else even begins to have a transceiver that can address this -- except Flex.

Quote
They lose sales over it believe me. With the attitude Flexradio and the Flexers have they will continue to be a small company. They are small because they sell a small amount of radios. Without good software they will never became a mainsteam Hamradio provider.

You are right. And I think you can see that they are finally addressing that problem. They should do more to make that clear. I see the progress because I make a point of interacting with Flex in a positive manner and letting them know that I support their efforts to produce a good product and they in turn give me more information about how they are doing things. Something about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar, Stan.

Quote
Hams are cheap. Few will spend $3500 on a radio that does not perform correctly with buggy software. Word has gotten around on the internet and on the air about Flexradio's shortcomings and they are paying the price with lost sales.

That is possibly true. I don't know anything about their sales, whether they are up or down. The issue comes down to whether or not the approach to publicizing Flex's shortcomings helps anyone. I am betting that you would rather have a Flex 5000 that does everything it is supposed to do than to have to go get something else. After all, you already own the Flex 5000. So would I. But publicizing Flex's shortcomings in such a way so that obscure their advantages serves no one except the other manufacturers who have nothing that can compete with it.

You saw my laundry list above. No manufacturer even comes close to having a radio that can do what i want a radio to do ... except Flex. To me they ARE the only game in town. I have no choice. Maybe someday there will be a choice. Of course, if you think in terms of the way radios have always been and you compare the Flex to that then it is easy knock the Flex. But if you think in terms of what is going to be needed in future applications, it isn't even a contest.

If you look back on history there have always been competitions between the old and mature technology and the new and immature. Remember the early races between horse and automobile, and automobile and airplane? More often than not, the older technology won ... for awhile. Not so anymore and the smart money was on the automobile and then the airplane. Same thing at the end of WW-II. The reciprocating-engined, propeller-driven aircraft had reached a high level of maturity when the first jets appeared. The jets were buggy, dangerous, and tricky to fly. Their engines had lives best measured in minutes rather than hours. But in the end, the jet reigns supreme.

We are at the same juncture with amateur radio hardware. The design of the classical transceiver has reached the epitome of perfection with beautiful radios from Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, Elecraft, and Ten-Tec. Along comes Flex. Flex builds something totally new. It is so new that you can't really compare it. Even so, it does compare favorably to the older technology when used as the older technology radios are used. But the new technology embodied in the Flex radios (and others -- this applies to the likes of the Perseus, the new WinRad Excalibur, etc., if they made a transceiver) enables a new class of applications which can never really be used with the older technology.

(Yo, Stan -- this is the SDR forum after all. Smiley )

Quote
And a special comment to W9OY: The new Yaesu Ft-5000 got the highest test ratings ever recorded according to the QST review. QST called the radio the New Gold Standard, the radio that competitors will be compared to. Sherwood Engineering rates the radio way higher than the 5K and The Yaesu is right at the very top of his ratings.

You are right. The new FT-5000 has better specs than the Flex 5000. It is the new Gold Standard ... in the specifications race. It is nice to think that the highest rating in dynamic range in the lab maps to the highest performance in the field. But it is useful to think about how those specs are generated. They are generated by two signals spaced either 20kHz or 2kHz apart. The radios like the K3 and the FT-5000 spec so well because the are optimized to perform well in the test. Their specs depend on the interfering signal falling outside the passband of the roofing filter.

Let's analyze what happens in the REAL world. In the real world there are MANY signals that the receiver is receiving. They introduce all kinds of hash. Some signals are also closer than 2kHz. (Ever work a CW, RTTY, or PSK pile-up?) If the offending signals fall inside the passband for the roofing filter, the dynamic range numbers are nowhere NEAR as high as the specs show. So the specs of the FT-5000 and K3 change depending on how close the signal is to the one you want to receive. Not so with the Flex. Its dynamic range specs remain the same regardless of spacing. The other guys attempt to deal with this by using narrower and narrower roofing filters but there is diminishing return. Narrow roofing filters introduce their own distortion. They have reached the limit of that technology.

So, do what you have to do Stan. Sounds to me like you really want an FT-5000. It is a really good radio. It is a thoroughbred. It is the finest racehorse ever bred. Yeah, this thing I am using, this Flex 5000, is not as good. It is noisy, leaks oil, puts out smoke, and isn't as fast as that racehorse. In fact, it isn't a horse at all. We call it an "automobile". It has quirks but I just can't help but think that, maybe, someday, it will be faster and more capable than that beautiful race horse. Right now, maybe not, but I can see how it could be. And maybe that "some day" isn't all that far away.

But I gotta admit, that FT-5000 sure is a nice race horse. Wink

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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