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Author Topic: A Small SDR Story  (Read 3796 times)
KC4MOP
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Posts: 743




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« on: September 06, 2012, 04:10:03 AM »

A couple of storms ago my SDR 1000 was damaged by a nearby lightning EMP. It was not on or connected to the antenna system. It was connected to a computer that also was damaged by lightning.
FlexRadio Systems did what I thought a company would do that does not want to support older radios, and gave me the bad news. They did not feel that repairing it was going to be permanent. Something about latency and additional components failing later. There is truth to that part. Reality was that it might get to around $250.00 or more to repair.
So, I'm in the market place for a replacement anything that is SDR. Sorry to folks who love to touch a physical radio. I love the SDR world. I get a long, somewhat, with computers, and love the technology. Probably most SDR's and their software will allow one to turn a crappy QSO with nearby chatter and tuner-uppers, into armchair copy. With Virtual Audio Cables, I could use digital modes without a lot of hardware and more cables and plugs.
The offerings out here are few and very expensive. KX3,Flex,RF Space, GenesisRadio,Winradio. Some of these are receive only. So that was not a solution,especially when an RF Space RX SDR was nearly $500.00. I still would not have a transmitter. So back to looking.
The Flex SDR 3000 is almost $2000.00 New. I got scared to look at the KX3 price. GenesisRadio was an almost purchase. A kit, that I could handle building, but they discontinued the G-59 and its 10W PA. "parts were getting expensive, and kit builders would not want to spend more"
I found several SDR1000's on eBay and I wasn't into that bidding thing. I found an SDR 1000 on QTH.com for $700.00 and bought it.
I do not have the budget anymore to do as I please with my SS and School bus driving money and a 7 yr old and wife, who is not working.
A thought hit me for a short while to buy the SDR 1500 and somehow build a PA. for it so, it could drive my linear, OR use the 100W PA in my dead SDR1000. But then the nightmare of joining the two together and band switching the tank circuit on the add-on PA. didn't set well.
I read that the SDR1500 is really not a bad QRP radio. It is only 5 watts max. I am having some hind-sight thoughts that maybe it wouldn't have been a bad idea. Plenty of used SDR1500's for around $500 these days. I wonder.
I do not have evil thoughts toward FlexRadio. FlexRadio did what I was doing as a tech in a two-way radio shop. I would give the bad news that "NOT economically repairable" to the manager many times. There's only so many times you can keep soldering and replacing the same component that fails every couple of months from abuse. The problem was a speaker/mic jack in a Kenwood handheld "professional radio".
So, Flex most likely let the radio sit for several weeks, and from my explanation that lightning damaged it, probably set it up on their test bench. It did not operate and that was all they did. They probably do not have spare boards or a tech, who will take the time to fix it quickly.
MFJ is guilty of the same foot dragging. Slow to fix. And you hope it was repaired properly. But that is another story.
Just blabbering.......waiting for the replacement SDR 1000 and back to Ham radio.


Fred
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KA4POL
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Posts: 2040




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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2012, 05:10:37 AM »

So what consequences to draw?
Disconnect whatever is unnecessary before the thunderstorm arrives.
Even though there are some (not all by far) weird people in the SDR business a similar result could have happened with a non SDR rig. If you want to make a profit the repair business is really not the way to go. That is for tinkerers who got time and do it as their hobby.
My guess would be to check out the circuitry in the radio which lies behind the serial connector.
Anyway, better luck next time.
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K0OD
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Posts: 2560




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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2012, 05:34:24 AM »

Quote
"So, Flex most likely let the radio sit for several weeks, and from my explanation that lightning damaged it, probably set it up on their test bench. It did not operate and that was all they did. They probably do not have spare boards or a tech, who will take the time to fix it quickly."

Sure a lot of conjecture in that un-paragraphed "blabbering." Am I correct that you didn't approve the repair job? $250 seems reasonable. Did they tell you they don't have boards or a tech with time? I've always heard that Flex repair is pretty good.

If you have a 7-year old kid and financial problems, ham radio shouldn't be a priority now. Forget SDR for a time. There are plenty of nice radios from the 80s that can be had very cheaply, sometimes for free. A TS-430, for example, comes to mind.

Glad to hear SDR-1000s have held their value. 
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KC4MOP
Member

Posts: 743




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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2012, 08:24:00 AM »

Quote
"So, Flex most likely let the radio sit for several weeks, and from my explanation that lightning damaged it, probably set it up on their test bench. It did not operate and that was all they did. They probably do not have spare boards or a tech, who will take the time to fix it quickly."

Sure a lot of conjecture in that un-paragraphed "blabbering." Am I correct that you didn't approve the repair job? $250 seems reasonable. Did they tell you they don't have boards or a tech with time? I've always heard that Flex repair is pretty good.

If you have a 7-year old kid and financial problems, ham radio shouldn't be a priority now. Forget SDR for a time. There are plenty of nice radios from the 80s that can be had very cheaply, sometimes for free. A TS-430, for example, comes to mind.

Glad to hear SDR-1000s have held their value. 
You are correct, and I was really disappointed about the resale price for the SDR 1000. I like whistle and bells and computers and handle them pretty well. It's like a few have said, that once you get hooked on an SDR, you would probably not go back to your R390A or Kenwood TS440.
As for the financial end, I was saying that Amateur radio doesn't sit on a pedestal it once did. I'll have to go through more steps during the Summer season to disconnect completely from antennas, computers, etc. As 'POL mentions.
And very true about the repair business. The manager of the two-way shop told me there was no profit having me there fixing radios. It was his presence there to sell and have service after the sale to make more sales later down the road.

Fred
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K9IUQ
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Posts: 1983




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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2012, 08:37:35 AM »

I've always heard that Flex repair is pretty good.

You hear that on the Flex Reflector?  Cheesy Cheesy

I sent my Flex 5K to Flexradio for the hardware upgrade for the 160/80 meter spurs problem. I asked them to completely check out my radio while it was there. I was assured by the Flex engineer it would happen. He told me that was normal procedure to run all factory tests while a radio was in the shop.

When I got the 5K back it would not RX. Neither RX1 or RX2. No RX. I immediately got in touch with the Engineer. He told me to send it back. I would have to pay the shipping to Austin Tx at $75.

So instead of blowing another $75 I took the damn thing apart and spent 4 or 5 hours looking over everything. I spotted 2 cables that had been reversed on the backplane. Problem Solved.

What really pissed me off was Flexradio lied to me. They did NO factory tests or they would have spotted that the radio did not RX. I just figured they did not like me (as you know I was not Flex's favorite customer  Wink) and stuck it to me........

Stan K9IUQ
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KC4MOP
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Posts: 743




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« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2012, 04:05:20 AM »

When my dead Flex 1000 returns, I'm gonna do some digging through those sandwiched boards and with schematics I downloaded from Flex and another Ham web site. I might be able to get it back on the air. The replacement SDR 1000 will be the working example. Yes, K0OD, these darn things are very hard to find under $750.00. The ePay bidding is crazy!!
The bench will be set up to look at the 1000 piece by piece to find the problem. I would bet that some voltage regulators and or pass transistors involved with power distribution were damaged during the storm.
The one shaky area is they get 13.8 volts and use a device to create a bi-polar voltage +/- 15 volts. It will be interesting. Might have to do some re-engineering. If there are problems with logic components and the various matrix's I saw in the schematic, I would be lost.
It might be a good grey matter exercise.
I made a very inaccurate statement of $250.00 The service rep from Flex never told me a dollar amount. He said it was going to get very expensive at $85/hr. + parts. I assumed a higher amount of $500 or more.
I'm sure FelxRadio is good at repairing their stuff. And I should have known better than to tell them it was damaged by lightning.
It helped them to get it off the bench faster and go the "latency" route. Parts will fail later and they do not want any warranty returns on lightning damaged equipment. They quickly emailed, and will send an original insurance letter so I can make a claim.
We did the same thing in the shop I was working. Lightning and sensitive electronics, microprocessors, Logic IC's, etc will fail, usually 6 months later.
Sorry that my original started as a blog, but was hoping there would be other responses of folks using other SDR's and their experiences, when it came to reliability problems. I realize that some do not really care for Flex Radio, but they were in the market place with a complete transceiver with 100W PA. Most of these other SDR manufacturers are QRP or the PA is an expensive option. Or you're on your own to build anything with enough juice to drive a linear.

Fred
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 04:46:26 AM by KC4MOP » Logged
K0OD
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Posts: 2560




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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2012, 12:40:15 PM »

Ok Fred, thanks for the update. Flex radios appear to be quite durable electrically. Most reports of owners sending them back to Flex relate to upgrades, not repairs.

My beloved TS-850 backup radio fell victim to lightning about 5 years ago. The repair from Kenwood East involved about 6 minor parts and cost only about $150. I was braced for much worse news. The 850 still works fine. 
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N4FBW
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Posts: 34




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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2012, 11:44:39 AM »

One thing to understand about lighting damaged electronics is that it is impossible to know the extent of the damage. Some components could fail days, weeks or months from now due to the damage. It's not about the tech's at Flex being lazy, it's about spending a ton of time and money to fix something that may very well fail again.  For those who live in areas with lightning storms, I'd suggest checking out ARRL's equipment insurance policy.
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