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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | ELAD FDM-DUO Help

Reviews Summary for ELAD FDM-DUO
ELAD FDM-DUO Reviews: 35 Average rating: 4.7/5 MSRP: $1450
Description: HF+50MHz SDR QRP transceiver with direct sampling technology.
Product is in production.
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VE3BXG Rating: 3/5 Jul 18, 2017 07:06 Send this review to a friend
the FDM-DUO user experience - some problems  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
First, some context to help you understand my review. I am not an experienced radio guy. I am new to amateur radio having received my operating license in July 2017. I do not have advanced electronics skills - I wouldn't be able to build or tinker with my rig. I'm just someone who loves radio (got into SWL when I was a kid) and wants to enjoy the adventure of ham radio. That's the perspective with which I am approaching the ELAD FDM-DUO - my first ham rig.

I am not going to comment on its technical performance. That has been covered elsewhere (for example, a review in QST last year). The general view is that from a technical perspective this rig is a solid performer.

I want to talk about a few aspects of the user experience that I think require improvement. First thing I found odd was that in order to do an upgrade of the TX or RX firmware, you have to open the case because the relevant USB ports are inside the box. Why was it designed this way? Why make the user go to this trouble? Why couldn't the ports have been made accessible from the outside?

Second, ELAD is an Italian company and this is evident (not in a good way) from the user manuals for both the radio and the SW2 software that accompanies it. Both read like they have been written by someone without full command of English, which means the manuals are not always easy to understand. Surely the company could have hired a technical writer who was a native English speaker.

Related point - technical support is based in Italy, which means dealing with a 7-hour time difference. And there is only one person who handles tech support requests from North American, which means delayed response to your problem. (I am currently having an issue where my laptop suddenly stopped recognizing that the FDM-DUO is connected to it.)

Finally, the FDM-DUO is advertised as a rig that works either standalone or computer controlled. This is true, but I find the standalone experience awkward. From a design perspective the front of the box is very clear - just a small screen and a few knobs and buttons. But this means having to scroll through lots of menus and combinations of button-pushes to get where you want to go. Not intuitive. (On the other hand, computer controlled operation is easy.)

Hope some of you will find this useful.
K7QHO Rating: 5/5 Jun 7, 2017 16:57 Send this review to a friend
Value for the dollar - unbeatable  Time owned: more than 12 months
First off I'll show my cards up front and say the FDM-DUO is a marvelous piece of equipment having used it over a year now. It is a capable complex piece of equipment when interfaced with external procesing power(PC). It's a simple piece of equipment when used stand alone. Stating that it can be both simple and complex, are not contradictions. The FDM-DUO can perform as a simple single-mode transceiver or be deployed as the hub of a multi-mode station capable of operating any of the modes allocated to amateur radio.

Reviews are opinions and opinions are naturally subjective so divulging from whence the subjective position comes from is a reasonable expectation for the reader and warranted by the writer. I'm paid to do electrical engineering; 40 years in digital/analog design, ILS, control, communications, nuclear power and analytical instrumentation background. I've been in amateur radio for 40 years with big gap. I'm not a degreed engineer. I'm not an expert. I paid cash for the FDM-DUO and not beholding to any OEMs.

I will compare the FDM-DUO from an operational perspective and leave the test bench data to others. Equipment that I've own/owned and operated over the years is my only experience on which I can draw conclusions and make comparisions. I'm remiss that due to a 40 year hiatus from amateur radio, due to travel and raising a family, results in a relatively small "A" vs "B" list. Some of the gear is real old and some contemporay with little in between. The RX/TX pairs are some of the best examples of their period and hold up quite well considering how many years have elapsed since their design. There's 3 transceivers 2 Yaesu's and one Drake. Baseline equipment experience; Collins S3-Line, Drake 2B/TX7/RX7/TR7, Yaesu FTDX3000/FT857D, Halicrafters SX-122 and two tripple conversion homebrew receivers employing mechanical filters and Wadley loops.

The DUO is a small package ( 7.0 x 6.1 x 2.7) and weighs in at 2.4 lbs and requiring 13.8 vdc @ 500/2200 mAdc RX/TX. With this small form factor, front and rear panel realestate is at a premium requiring assignment of multiple functions to knobs and switches when operated stand-alone. The monochrome display is properly context related being bright and well contrasted. The back light coloring reflects Band, Band edges, Operating Modes, I/O source/destination etc. by user assignable 0-100% blending of Red/Green/Blue LED intensity. Its worth mentioning that the user settable parameters are numerous, somewhere near 90, Thus permitting the operator to have it his/her way. All the standard user paramters are available such as CW breakin release delay(0-1000mS), Key/Paddle, Power output, Noise gate threshold, AGC on/off, AGC Delay, TX BW Hi-Cut Lo-Cut, Number of Antennas Used, Aux Audio Output etc. its quite extensive making for a usable platform. As an example because there are 3 seperate USB control channels Transmitter, Receiver and CAT I've configured the transmitter section as a 0.0 dBm 0 to 54 MHz signal generator. By setting parameter menu item #33 "TXOut" to 0dBm the full capabilities of the 384 MHz clocking rate of the 16 bit DDS transmit block is routed to the SMA connector on the rear panel marked "0dBM". Simultaneaously with this I'm still using the 128 MHz sample rate 16 bit direct conversion block receiver block.

Other capabilities worth mentioning are:
8 independant receivers in 2 sets anywhere between 0-54 MHz
Sound card built in
RF, IF and AF spectrum display
Record digitize RF spectrum direct to wave file to replay, set date, time, frequency when to record
Shortwave or DX Cluster stations displayed on RF spectrum

So this my opinion and its only my opinion. You decide and do further research on the WEB. If you have time go look at the excellent youtube videos produced by W8KFJ they are done in 3 parts and trully professional. I have re-watched these several times getting something new each time. Again its both simple and complex to get the full power you must devout sometime, buts its fun.

I'm busted, I've again shown myself a happy ham with this rig. My old gear can not compare with the new gear. Period, end of any comparision. But the reality is once you've taken the time, more than a few weeks, and learned to drive a performance car the old frame doesn't measure up, it just can't. Do I still like to take the old gear for a spin?, sure but when it comes to top end performance even the FTDX3000 sits in the garage, neglected. When I have to pull signals from the mud this has become my go to rig. Trasnmit audio quality comments/reports on SSB are numerous and mostly unsolicited. IF you want a knob per function ratio of 1:1 then the TS990 would be a better match. Its not a rig for everyone but as far as SDR's capable of stand-alone and augmented operation its unbeatable for the dollars compared with the others. Hope this helps and good luck on your. search.
AE5X Rating: 2/5 Jun 4, 2017 18:03 Send this review to a friend
Didn't like it at all  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After not quite two weeks my Duo is on its way to a new owner.

My initial frustration with the radio's functionality only increased as I implemented more and more of the radio's capabilities. I came to appreciate that spec not often mentioned in reviews and lab reports - ergonomics. The Duo is capable of both stand-alone and linked-to-the-computer SDR - unfortunately, the sorry state of ergonomics is abundant in both modes.

In stand-alone, as mentioned previously, changing the CW speed of the rig's internal keyer requires the operator to either be transmitting or to access that function two menu steps deep. Some functions in SSB require the radio to be transmitting as well. If Flex, Elecraft or any other ham rig manufacturer had such a requirement in any of their radios they'd never hear the end of it. And rightly so. But Elad is new in the ham market so such mis-steps are evidently tolerated by those giving this radio favorable reviews.

I wish Elad well and hope the next iteration transceiver incorporates more sensible operation.

Still in CW, I had forgotten how much I appreciate (and need) QSK. Six years with a K3 and two with my Flex have spoiled me. It's 2017 - let's dispense with relay switching, especially in a QRP rig.

Moving from stand-alone to computerized-SDR requires three USB cables for what my Flex does with a single ethernet connection (in retrospect I should have seen this as a warning sign). And still, after all that, I have to access some functions on the Duo's front panel - they are not available to be controlled via SW2 (the Duo's software) on the PC - important things, like CW speed, RF output, etc. Almost anything to do with transmitting has to be done on the Duo itself rather than in the software. That is because long before the Duo, Elad only made shortwave SDR receivers - and they run the same version of SW2 as the Duo transceiver.

For Elad, transmitting is an afterthought and no dedicated software for transceiving exists. And it shows when you get to the nitty-gritty of actually operating this rig. The numbers look good, the ability to customize settings is fantastic...but actually putting this thing on the air for anything other than the occasional QSO is sure to have you pining for your other radio, whatever your other radio is.

A large number of the Duo's functions require keyboard shortcuts. Important functions like changing the frequency step of the mouse wheel is a keyboard-only function. There are others - you'll need a good memory and frequent operation so as not to forget (or a cheat sheet). On my Flex, that and all the other functions are built into the software as they should be. Click and be done - no cheat-sheet required, it's all right in front of you and completely intuitive and/or labeled.

I really wanted to like the Duo. It seemed to hold so much promise in that it could be used at home with the PC or afield like a KX2. But it is hobbled by its clumsy ergonomics and inability to easily implement even the commonly used functions necessary to operate a radio on a variety of modes.

So who is the Duo for? The eHam reviews are overwhelmingly positive and, for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Perhaps it's an issue of perspective and expectations. And maybe a bit of "we want Elad to do well" that we wish newcomers to our hobby.
G7DDN Rating: 5/5 May 17, 2017 15:08 Send this review to a friend
Like someone switched the light on!  Time owned: more than 12 months
This little radio is pretty much perfect. Not much bigger than the venerable FT-817, yet superior to most radios with a clean big sound and all the benefits of SDR.

Standalone it is a brilliant well thought-through design. I couple mine to a 250w amplifier and it works seamlessly. It is far and away the best sounding radio I have ever owned. As a professional musician, audio is crucial to me.

However that is only one side of the story, as the DUO can if you wish, be simultaneously connected to your PC and work as an 8 receiver setup with loads more DSP done in the PC.

It's a great introduction to how superior SDR is that I bought a second one (red this time!) to take out portable and on holiday!

It would be easy to give up on it while you learn how the FDM-SW2 software works, but just persevere and join the Yahoo group and you soon learn a lot. The best tip is to backup the FDM-SW2 folder in "Documents" so you can restore its settings in case of Windows corrupting the .xml settings files.

Now my shack is a fraction of the size it was, but sounds better than ever. Just invest in a big hi-res screen (or 2!) and a decent pair of amplified speakers to really get the best out of it.

Honestly, I've never been as happy with a radio in nearly 30 years of being in the hobby. It's like someone switched the light on!

And needless to say, the service from Martin Lynch in the UK is second to none.

Thanks to the designer Franco, for making this amazing box of tricks available.
N2DTS Rating: 4/5 May 9, 2017 18:59 Send this review to a friend
very interesting radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
It is a standalone radio that does not need a computer to do most operations, its 8 watts out from 160 meters to 6 meters and is a direct sampling radio like the flex and Anan radios.
It comes with software to run it like a normal sdr on your computer, but as its USB between the radio and the computer, its got a lot of delay using it that way.
But you can talk into and listen out of the radio with NO delay.
While you are doing that, you can look at the big display on the computer screen, and tune the radio by clicking on signals and so on.
The display (software) looks stunning and there is an IF view and an audio view, along with the main band scope that can be sized any way you like, and zoomed in or out even to 6 MHz.
The software supports 8 receivers 4 on one band, 4 on any other, so you could listen on 160 and also on 10 meters, and other crazy sdr stuff like that.

The good:
No latency through the radio.
Great sounding RX audio on the aux and headphone out, I put it into my old Marantz audio amp and it sounds great.
The built in speaker is not bad.
The software loaded trouble free.
The radio menu system is fine, if a bit limited.
TX audio sounds clean and punchy, on AM at max power output the positive peaks are reduced a bit, but not at lower powers.
SSB works great.
Its nice that you can tune the radio and the software display follows, like a great band scope, or you can click on a signal with the mouse and be there, it tunes the radio.
CPU usage is very low, 7% on my crappy I5 box.
Its very small, a space saver.
It has a receive antenna port that can be turned on (or not).

The not so good/different,
The IF window does not stay on top if you do anything on the main screen,
You can not change the filter on the main screen waterfall/spectrum, you have to change it in the IF screen , why?
No band stacking registers, no band buttons on the radio, moving between your favorite spots is hard. Must have band stacking registers in the software at least!
The vfo to memory button does not act like I expect.
The software does not seem to save settings.
There is a big delay through the software, just on RX is about 500 ms, thats the USB port issue.

It would not have been hard to put two buttons on the front of the radio for band up and down like Elecraft does.

I am sure there is a way to navigate frequencies quickly and I just need to find it and use it.
And I could not figure out on my own how to change the mouse wheel step size in software.

Overall, the Anan radio (and even the KX2) is a lot easier to use and navigate around the ham bands. The KX2 remembers where you left the radio on each band and you jump from band to band with the tuning knob.
The Anan (sdr only) had triple band stacking registers with band buttons on the main screen.

The duo works well standalone with NO latency.
It has much better RX audio over the Elecraft stuff.
As a basic stand alone qrp radio it works very well.
As an sdr radio it is not great, the USB delay can cause problems if you want to monitor your signal. The software seems to be general short wave receiver software with many ham things missing and transmit ability tacked on.
All the TX software seems to be mostly in the radio with very little in the software, and what is in the radio is limited.

It can be very confusing to work both the software and the radio itself, some things interact, some don't.

I have used just about every sdr software on many sdr radios, and for operating, powersdr into an Anan has the right buttons, does the right things, has all the options and features operators need.
The DUO works well as a standalone radio with the ability to have a very nice band scope with good audio and basic features.

The radio itself seems very well made.
It does not seem fussy about some swr, output is very clean, and it seems impossible to get it to sound bad on transmit.
KC8HXO Rating: 5/5 Apr 21, 2017 17:14 Send this review to a friend
Gnarly!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
After toying with an SDRplay rsp-1, I was impressed enough to venture into a transceiver. This little Italian Stallion rocks. So many things it can do using the software. The ability to stand alone was a deciding factor in my purchase. I don't ALWAYS want to turn on my computer in order to play radio. No need to. Wanna take it out on the patio? Go computer needed. And it costs less than JUST THE PORTABLE INTERFACE for a competitors rig! Add a hardrock50, if you need more horsepower. Love it.
KA1API Rating: 5/5 Feb 13, 2017 16:51 Send this review to a friend
Amazing  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The Elad FDM-DUO is incredible. It works great as a stand-alone QRP rig with knobs and buttons for the most common adjustments, long presses on buttons and knobs for less frequent adjustments, and a full, easy to read and navigate menu for infrequent adjustments. The filtering is amazing and the QSK on CW is great.

Using it with your computer is amazing. I've used PowerSDR, SmartSDR and other SDR software. The free software that you get from Elad is very powerful and easy to use, and may even outshine the others. It allows you to have four concurrent receivers and easily change the TX to either of them, to make working pile-ups easy, Just find the station that the DX is working on the panadapter, click and pounce. Plus, you can open another panadapter with four more receivers. I haven't even scratched the surface of its capabilities but I could use it to break through a couple of pile-ups, with little seat-time with the software.

The rig has eight watts of output power, which is generally enough to work the world, but you can easily mate the rig with an amplifier to provide extra oomph. I am using an Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier and have it daisy-chained with my ALS-600 just in case.

Integration with HRD for logging and DM780 for digital modes couldn't be any easier. It uses the Kenwood rig control interface so just tell HRD that you have a TS-480S and you are good to go. Plus, with digital modes, all the audio goes through the USB cable so no need for an external interface. The Elad USB device shows up in the configuration.

Another plus is the Blue DUO Android app. It allows you to control various rig functions through an Android smartphone or tablet, plus it displays the panadapter and you can click on signals with your finger or a stylus to change to the frequency. In my opinion, this is more powerful than the PX3/P3 options, plus you probably already own/are carrying a smartphone so all you need to pay for is the Bluetooth dongle for the rig.

About the only knock I have on the rig, and it is a minor one, is the tilt feet. They work but it is the only part of the rig that doesn't look as high quality as the rest of the rig. They work fine but I wish they were sturdier. Also, I am using powered speakers and must plug it into the front panel. Ideally, there would be an auxiliary speaker connection on the back. I got a ninety-degree adapter so it keeps the cable largely out of the way.

I've been on the fence about getting an Elad FDM-DUO for a while so I regret not getting one sooner. The recent ARRL review seems to agree with my initial reaction to the rig. I've you've been considering getting one, or are on the fence about getting into SDR, the Elad allows you to dunk your toe in the water. Providing knobs and software, plus the Android app is very versatile, allowing you to choose how you operate the rig.
N8WGM Rating: 5/5 Dec 29, 2016 00:00 Send this review to a friend
A year now and still lovin it  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
It has now been a year since I got my Elad FDM Duo.

It has been an interesting year. The radio itself is incredible. I hear signals that I never heard before. Brings weak signals out of the noise unlike any analog radio I have owned and I have owned quite a few.

I use two microphones at the same time with this radio.....a Blue Yeti Pro and a Marshall MX990 that is highly modified. That seems to be a great combination as I get great reports about my audio.

I did have a problem with the control software that I had to reload. Other than that, it has been fool proof.

I would love to get this radio working on a Linux based computer. They do have software that will allow that now I understand.

I still highly recommend this radio. Excellent factory support and they get back to you quickly if they do not answer the phone.

I just can't see spending almost $3K for a software defined radio that performs about as good as this little $1200 radio. Yeah it is only 8 watts....but you can get a nice solid state amplifier that can put out almost 1.5K watts with only 5 watts or you can get a smaller 100 watt solid state amp and run that monster tubed amp that you still have.

This radio is the best one I have owned so far.
GD6ICR Rating: 4/5 Oct 3, 2016 01:29 Send this review to a friend
Superb receiver  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Bought the ELAD a few months ago and have had lots of fun on HF at low power with JT-65HF and PSK and occasionally on 18MHz phone. Superbly simple to use as a stand alone radio but excels when connected to a low noise PC. Small problem is than when the radio is turned on - it occasionally exhibits no audio feeding to the PC software. Other than that - I couldn't ask for better
K4LY Rating: 5/5 Jul 2, 2016 13:16 Send this review to a friend
Recommended SDR   Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The Elad DUO works quite well as a stand-alone transceiver and very well with the free Elad FDM-SW2 software. Having used the many SDR and QRP transceivers including the Flex 1000, Flex 5000. Flex 1500, Elecraft K2, Elecraft KX3, and others, I'll offer some comparisons based on my own experience and after studying of the product reviews in QST.
I'd rate the DUO as good++ for a stand alone rig, almost plug and play. I had it up and running with my first QRP CW and SSB contacts within an hour using a ladder line fed 60M dipole at 60' tuned with an Elecraft T1 antenna tuner. On CW there was no noticeable latency, unlike my older Flex transceivers which also have no stand-alone capability.
In the QST product reviews, the DUO rates well, better than my Flex 1500 and K2, but worse than the Elecraft KX3 in most receiver dynamic testing categories. The QST reported noise floor was a little below the others, including my TS-590S, especially on six meters, so I did a some A/B tests with my TS-590S, known for its excellent receiver. I found no discernible noise floor difference on any band except 6M where the Kenwood seemed to be about 3 dB better. On other bands, signals were equal on both radios. Quick A/B tests of dynamic range on 20 and 40M showed the DUO to equal my Kenwood. There was no overloading or IMD in my limited tests. The QST review gives the DUO very good marks for transmit IMD and phase noise with keying bandwith not as good.
Ergonomically, the DUO is probably almost as good as it gets for such a small radio. The main tuning knob is large and a joy to use. All the knobs have multiple functions, which requires good memory or a cheat sheet! The small Elad LCD display is less than 2 1/2" by 1" with characters almost too small for my old eyes, but using it with a computer obviates this criticism. As a stand alone rig, I prefer the K2 and the KX3, but they are both more expensive and have fewer features than the DUO.
Both manuals, bElad DUO and FDM-SW2 software, are on the USB stick included with the radio and online. There is no no hard copy. They are good, but might be a struggle for the first time SDR owner using the computer configuration. Like the DUO's firmware, the manuals are continually improved. The newest firmware can be downloaded to the DUO, but I have not done that yet.

As an SDR radio with the waterfall monitor and partial or almost complete computer control, the DUO is outstanding. I was already familiar with the FDM-SW2 software which installs quickly from the USB stick included with the radio. The driver was also found and installed quickly. A single, supplied USB cable to a USB port on my old, inexpensive Acer Aspire X301 with an AMD II X3 425 processor and Windows 7 Home edition had everything up and running in a short time. CPU usage was about 15- 20%. I can't say the FDM-SW2 software is better or worse than the Flex Power SDR software. Both are terrific, but different.
A day later I also connected two more USB cables which came with the DUO to my computer for additional transmitter and CAT control. You need three free USB jacks on your computer for complete control although just one cable is sufficient for the waterfall and receive computer control. However, I wanted to use N1MM contest software. The drivers were found found and installed quickly as soon as the CAT USB cable was connected and DUO was turned on. I did some sleuthing on the Yahoo Elad group forum and found the following Elad and N1MM configuration from posts by G4DBN which I'll include here since they worked for me-
On N1MM configuration, choose the generic Kenwood with 3800, N,8, 2, DTR= CW and RTS= PTT. In the DUO menu #37 set CW IN to P+DTR for a paddle or K+DTR for a straight key. In the DUO menu #54 set PTT= IN + RTS. I was able to use all the N1MM CW keying features after doing that. The same settings will work for many other software programs. I have not yet tried to set up N1MM voice keying with virtual audio connections which will also work for many other software programs such as WSJT. G4DBN's setup is audio stream 1 (VAC line 1) connected to AUX output of VRX1. Audio output is 13, the DUO audio device. PTT is set to RTS.
All of the worldwide DUO distributors are highly recommended. I bought mine a week ago, Friday, from ML&S Martin Lynch and Sons Ltd in England the day after Britain voted to leave the EU. The Pound dropped relative to the dollar! It was shipped same day and arrived 3 days later on Monday. I was amazed. I have had a ton of fun and only a small amount of frustration in setting it up and using it QRP on CW and SSB. I'll post a second review after using it a while and setting it up for digital modes and voice keying.
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