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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur (inc. HF+6M+VHF models) | FlexRadio FLEX-1500 Help

Reviews Summary for FlexRadio FLEX-1500
FlexRadio  FLEX-1500 Reviews: 67 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $649
Description: The FLEX-1500 is a low-cost, QRP SDR that is positioned to allow ham radio operators the ability to experience the incredible capabilities and just plain fun of operating an actual software defined radio without breaking the budget. It comes packed with features that make it ideally positioned to be the ultimate low cost, high performance QRP rig and IF deck for VHF-microwave transverter operation.

* Two-tone, 2 KHz spacing third order dynamic range measured @ 14 MHz of greater than 80 dB
* Full HF/6m transmit capability - General coverage receiver
* Built In Test Equipment (BITE) for hassle free calibration
* Multiple RF outputs for transverter IF or "full gallon" QRP operation
* Dedicated Receive only antenna selection for use with the transverter IF or the 5W PA Transceiver port
* Simple USB interface to the computer eliminates messy cabling that plagues other QRP software defined radios.
* External connectors for band data, asserting PTT, headphones, key and microphone
* Simple USB interface to the computer eliminates messy cabling that plagues other QRP software defined radios
Product is in production.
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K7LZR Rating: 5/5 Jan 1, 2013 01:24 Send this review to a friend
Incredible QRP Rig!  Time owned: more than 12 months
If you are looking for a small radio with truly great performance and big-bucks features then look no further.

Since the Flex 1500 is a Software Defined Radio, all of its operations, features, and functions are defined within the software. Because of this, the radio is able to offer features which are either very expensive or not available on conventional radios.

The Flex 1500 is a pleasure to use. The panadapter lets you see signals within a 48khz wide segment, and filters can be varied infinitely in real time while you watch and place signals into or out of the passband as needed. This alone puts the little Flex miles ahead of most other QRP rigs.

The Flex 1500 must be used with a computer in order to complete the system. I found the software to be very easy to install and configure under Windows XP.

To sum, I think that you will be very pleased with this rig.
KO4CH Rating: 5/5 Dec 29, 2012 18:35 Send this review to a friend
Super radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
All I can say is wow.
I have been hamming since 1961 and have went through some pretty good radios like the MKV Field,Jupiter,Yaesu 990, Icom 746 pro and many others, but none had the features that this little jewell has on receive. 2 receivers, panadapter, record/playback on the fly, choice of 3 band or 10 band equalizer on both Xmit and Rcve, filters that are limitless, auto notch and multiple tunable notch filters, NR and on and on.
Do yourself a favor and buy one....You won't be dissapointed with it unless you just don't like looking at your radio on a computer.
The sound on this radio is outstanding.
My hat is off to you Flex radio. Keep up the great work.
See you on QRP.
W3NRL Rating: 5/5 Dec 2, 2012 14:58 Send this review to a friend
Year Later  Time owned: more than 12 months
It's be a year now and still having fun with this little qrp station, i just picked up a new laptop the other day with more memory and faster processor and the radio works with a smoother response and i love the CW operation with my paddles.
For those of you guys having trouble call Duddley (at Flex)he is great guy who has helped me many times.
Now thinking of selling my ft-2000 and getting 5000 or 6000 series.
well hope to work you guys on the bands
best of dx
NN6AA Rating: 5/5 Nov 18, 2012 18:44 Send this review to a friend
wonderful  Time owned: more than 12 months
the flex 1500 is a great qrp rig.... i enjoy using the 1500 mostly on cw..... i also own a flex 3000 and its a piece of sorry i bought the the 1500 is a different story....must be the difference between usb and firewire ....the 3000 being firewire and the 1500 us usb.....what a difference.....cant understand why flex engineer's chose to use firewire... firewire was dead from the start of it being available on some computer...firewire now is about to drop of the edge of the earth....i dont think firewire was good for anything....anyway the 1500 rules....
K4DSP Rating: 4/5 Oct 26, 2012 12:03 Send this review to a friend
Good radio for most applications  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Toward the end of the summer I borrowed a Flex-1500 and used it as my only radio for a period of two months. During that time I operated SSB, CW, RTTY, PSK31, and even a little SSTV. I operated on all bands 160m through 6m. I did a lot of ragchewing as well as some DXing and even some contesting. I did some shortwave listening and a lot of broadcast band DXing. In short, I've exercised just about every aspect of this little radio and have become pretty familiar with it. So this is a fairly long review.

First, the most important part of the Flex is not in the little metal box that says "Flex" on it, but the computer that sits on your desk and interfaces with the Flex itself. If you don't have a fast and capable computer you will rob yourself of what the Flex can offer, and you'll get frustrated very quickly. The software that runs the radio (and in fact implements all of the filtering, modulation, demodulation, and audio processing) is called PowerSDR, and it requires a fast computer to run well. (Accordingly a lot of this review would pertain to any of the Flex radios since they all currently use PowerSDR.) I used a 2.6 GHz Intel quad-core system with 8GB of RAM running Windows 7 (64 bit) and a very fast graphics card. That's probably overkill, but it ran PowerSDR flawlessly and also allowed me to run other applications (logging, digital mode software, contesting software, etc.) at the same time with no issues.

Second, you have to know the limitations of a 5w radio. I am not a dyed-in-the-wool QRPer, but I have owned and operated QRP rigs through the years. I worked all continents and lots of countries with this little radio running 5w. But I am also not one to beat my head against the wall, so for some of my operating I used an external 100w amplifier.

I absolutely love the receiver. Really, really love it. There are better receivers in terms of absolute performance, but for 95% of hams out there this one is plenty good enough. The filtering options as well as the spectrum display options just make this radio a joy to use for listening. The difference in the brick wall filters in PowerSDR vs. the crystal filters in my other radios is often astounding - the Flex wins hands-down. I found myself enjoying the audio fidelity afforded by a 2.9 or 3.3 KHz SSB filter. I can use a wider filter on the Flex and still get less adjacent interference than I do with narrower filters on my Yaesu FT-1000MP due to the steeper filter skirts. On CW I often used a 250 or even a 100 Hz filter. No ringing, just a nice CW note coming through. For AM operation the synchronous detector works well. For me the Flex-1500 would be worth the money just for the receiver alone. It is plenty sensitive, even on 10m and 6m where it could hear anything my other radios could hear. The 1500 has an external RX antenna input (something the more expensive Flex-3000 does not have) and I made good use of it on 160m and 80m with a RF Pro-1B Magnetic Receive Loop antenna. The Flex-1500 and the RF Pro-1B would make a nearly perfect receive-only setup for everything from BCB through 30 MHz.

On SSB I got excellent audio reports. There is a 10 band equalizer where you can tweak your transmit audio to your heart's content. There is also a compander, a downward expander, and some other audio processing aids. Whether you're part of the ESSB crowd or looking to stand out in a DX pileup the software has you covered, and you don't need to buy a pile of external audio gear. One downside is that the 1500 does not support VOX operation due to a limitation in the hardware.

The digital modes are well supported provided you purchase a third-party application called Virtual Audio Cable. VAC allows you to run your favorite digital mode software (Digipan, DM780, FLdigi, etc.) or SSTV software (Chromapix, EasyPAL, etc.) without having to hook up any cables or fiddle with external interfaces. Everything's handled in software and stays in the digital domain. As a result I experienced no problems with RF getting into audio, even when running with the 100w amplifier feeding my SB-220 on RTTY at 750w. PSK31 works really well with this radio, especially if you're running at 5w. One criticism regarding digital mode operation is that the VAC software is darn near mandatory - I can't imagine what a hassle it would be without it - so you need to plan to spend the extra US$35 for VAC if you want to operate digital modes.

Speaking of virtual ports, if you want to use CAT (rig control) for stuff like logging or contesting (so that your application can be aware of your frequency, mode, etc.) you will need to get some software to implement virtual serial ports. You assign a virtual serial port to your Flex and tell your logging program to talk to it, so there are no serial cables. There are a number of virtual serial port applications. Some are free, some aren't, some work with Windows 7, some don't. I got Virtual Serial Port Manager from K5FR. It's free to licensed amateurs, but you have to email him and ask for it. The Flex uses the Kenwood CAT command set.

If the Flex-1500 has an Achilles Heel then CW (which comprises a lot of my operating) is it. The USB interface results in some delay, however slight, from the time you press the key or paddle until the time when the sidetone starts and the radio begins transmitting. Despite all my efforts I was never able to find a software setting that allowed me to reduce the latency to the point where I could effectively use the internal keyer or sidetone. (Try sending CW while listening to a delayed version of your signal - it'll drive you nuts.) In the end I did what just about every other Flex-1500 user has probably done - I turned off the internal keyer and sidetone and used an external keyer on CW. I have heard anecdotal reports of people getting CW to work properly but I was never able to speak to anyone in person who actually solved this problem. The ARRL (in their review of the Flex-1500) was not able to solve it either. But even using an external keyer operation on CW is anything but smooth. I would just rate it "usable." There are occasional low-level pops or tones on key-up that are annoying to me. A Ten Tec this ain't. My old DX-60B and Drake 2B combo makes a smoother and more enjoyable CW setup. In defense of the Flex there are lots of applications (such as music recording and performance) where USB latency causes people grief, so this problem is not unique to the Flex-1500. But it was a real issue for me on CW.

Whether you'll like the Flex depends largly upon how open you are to a new radio user interface. While you can get the Flex out of the box, install the software, and be up and running reasonably quickly I found that it took a lot of tweaking and installing some third party applications to get things just the way I wanted. If you're obsessed with having everything just perfect you might find yourself on an eternal quest with this system. You can fiddle with the settings for the rest of your life, but at some point it's best to just get on the air and start working people. Don't expect everything to be perfect at the beginning, but if you persevere, and if you can embrace the concept and user interface of PowerSDR, and if your computer is up to the task then you'll be happy. But if you are easily intimidated or frustrated by computers and software you should keep in mind that the computer is a major component of this radio.

Personally I'm not at the point where this can be my only radio, even with the addition of the 100w amplifier. I've already mentioned CW performance, but one of my other interests, RTTY contesting, was awkward for me with the Flex. RTTY contesting software requires frequent use of the mouse, meaning you have to take focus away from the PowerSDR window. But to tune the radio you need to move the mouse back to that window. If you're "running" vs. doing S&P it's not a big deal, but I'm not a big gun, and contesting for me involves a lot of S&P. For contesting in general I missed having a tuning knob and I never did get comfortable using the Flex for contesting.

I wish eHam had a wider scale for reviews than 0-5. I'd give the Flex-1500 a 7 if they did.
73 de Doug K4DSP
K3ROJ Rating: 5/5 Oct 4, 2012 17:13 Send this review to a friend
Ideal QRP/Shortwave   Time owned: more than 12 months
Already own a Flex 5000A but thought I would try a QRP rig for a change since it is so easy to setup using a USB 2 connector. In fact, the 5000A and 1500 can be operated at the same time. Just for the heck of it, have made contacts (mostly CW) with the 5000A, then switched over using the 1500. Most hams were impressed that my signal didn't drop that much from 100 to 5 watts. It is perfect for anyone into VHF/UHF/Microwave acting as the I.F. transceiver.
WB0FDJ Rating: 5/5 Sep 5, 2012 16:13 Send this review to a friend
A lot of bang for the $$  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This is an update. I bought a Flex3000 and have been using it, off and on, for months. A great radio but it is now, for the time being, retired to the shelf and I am using the 1500. I thought I needed something with 100W but rarely used it at that power level. And the clattering relay got on my one last nerve. I am finding that I like this radio a little more every time I turn it on. I am using an external keyer with the 1500 and that eliminates all of the CW issues, with the added advantage of being able to easily adjust speed without trying to find the mouse. I find myself using all of the incredible features that come in the SDR software. WSPR runs smoothly. I own the usual suspects for QRP (817, 703 and a bunch of kits) but this is my day to day radio. If you do QRP you should get one of these. Seriously. Earlier review follows:

I am a long time QRP op so I already know the "only 5 watt" issue is a non issue. About 3 years ago I bought a new IC-703 which is a very nice QRP radio, with great features, for the same dollar investment. There is no comparison between the two.

Like so many others who have shared comments here I come for the hollow state era, my first station being a Heathkit HR-10B and Hallicrafters HT-40. This new SDR is so many light years ahead of that I am astounded. Yes, for big knob guys like me there is a learning curve but it is not at all difficult. I'd never done anything with SDR but within 2 days of receiving the rig I had it up and running fldigi and JT-65. If I can do it anyone can.

This offers (as you've already heard) the best receiver for the money. My Ten Tec Jupiter is popular with it's owners because of its nice receive audio. In my opinion, based on A/B comparison, the 1500 gets the edge. Very easy to listen to for long periods of time. And you can do things, easily that either cannot be done on other radios (like dragging a filter edge away from QRM) or can only be done with effort. I recently have used it in the SKCC sprint and during the Flying Pigs Sunday night QRP event and found that it allowed me to work stations that would have difficult-to-impossible with my other radios. Digging out QRP sig's with S-6 backround on 40 meters is something that this kind of radio is made for. The filtering is superb and very flexible.

I'm a CW op mostly and I am now happy with it. The default settings were a little "off" as others have pointed out but tweaking the software has allowed me to run 20 WPM without disaster. It's not Ten Tec break in but it lets me QSO and have fun. For digi modes and SSB it's really slick. 5 watts on JT65 has netted me a fair amount of dx.

As with any SDR there are, well, quirks. I knew that going into this. Day to day though I find myself using this radio and enjoying the hobby a little more. I've also set it up to run as a panadaptor with my Jupiter and the excellent N4PY software. But I find that, since I run QRP anyway, I am not using that as much as I had expected. It's good to have the option.

For the cost you cannot find a radio that will do what this one does. It's a QRP op's dream. And fun!
KA1MZY Rating: 5/5 Aug 18, 2012 20:59 Send this review to a friend
Look what it is compared to...  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After reading reviews comparing this radio to radios costing twice as much, you have to consider that.

This is my first HF radio and I have only had it in operation for a few weeks. With that said, I just made a contact from Southern Texas to a station contesting in Indiana with 5w with a GR5V wire antenna and MFJ auto tuner. No fancy towers, radials or high powered computers. My computer is an OLD single core AMD 2gig CPU with a few gig of ram and several other programs running. I was clear as day and while the other station was putting out a kw of power, The audio was solid. I've copied cw from asia, the UK, Russia, France and listened to many many stations around the world.

Most of the complaints I've seen are from people who want a physical interface. Well, folks, this is SDR. There are no dials, knobs or control heads. If you are using this as a critique, then you dont understand what SDR means and shouldn't have an SDR radio.

I have no interest in buying any of the Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom HF radios after seeing what a simple 5w qrp SDR Flex radio is capable of, even based on my short experience with it. I can't possibly see an advantage to paying thousands of dollars for a button and knob radio when this simple little box will do it for a fraction of the cost, PLUS show me half of the band on the screen that I am able to transmit on. I don't have to ' tune around ' to find a station. I can SEE it on the screen.

The only negative I can come up with is that there is not a MIC included in the price, even if it's an inexpensive one to start with.

G6HVY Rating: 5/5 Mar 21, 2012 15:13 Send this review to a friend
Superb radio that needs physical UI  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As everyone has said, the receiver on the Flex-1500 is quite exceptional. I live in QRN-infested London, with a poor antenna in the middle of S5+ noise (on a good day)), and this radio has reinvigorated my sense of what's possible. I don't own any top-end radios (apart from this), but in the past I've used a number of professional and semi-pro receivers. None compared.

1. Filters. If you can dial it in, it does what you ask.Not only does the filtering act and sound mathematically perfect, things like the dynamic automatic notch are as close to magic as I'm likely to meet. Also, the noise reduction options are most effective.

2. The panoramic display. After you get used to it, and how to deploy that fab filtering and the dual RX mode, it is very hard to sit at the VFO of a traditional radio - like watching a movie on a mobile phone after coming out of the cinema. You see things you'd never hear; all manner of odd little signals jumping around the place, CODAR doing its thing, faults in broadcast transmitters, and when you're stuck into 40 or 20 when they're cooking it's insanely addictive.

3. The audio. I've got mine hooked up via the included virtual cable to my laptop and a decent amp/speaker combo - a $20 bareboard Tripath amp, if you haven't got one, get one - and BC SWL is a different beast. I'm listening now to Radio Turkey, with the filters adjusted to within a few Hz of its audio passband (you get used to being able to see the processing BC stations use), and the quality is far better than any AM station, MF or otherwise, I've heard before. I still find it hard to believe how good broadcast AM can sound. (On the flip side, you really get to hear shoddy broadcasts for what they are.) Likewise, you can winkle out all manner of imperfect amateur signals and tweak for audibility

4. Strong signal performance. I don't think I've caught this thing misbehaving once, even in some thunderous conditions. A lot depends on how well you fly it, but learning how to do that is fun in itself.

5. Accuracy. I haven't got a 10 MHz reference source here better than the radio's own - although I'm going to acquire one - yet I can spot when a station's a few Hz off with ease. You can be a lot more critical of a lot more signals.

Now. Downsides. The user interface isn't nice at all, and while there are things you can do with a GUI to make it work reasonably well with this sort of complex task, FlexRadio hasn't done many of them. It's lots of buttons scattered around the place, grouped by function to some extent, but it's not pleasant and if your eyes aren't that hot (mine are borderline usable) you'll hurt. What's made all the difference is hooking up a Hercules MP3 DJ deck. Contester and uber-geek Tobias, DH1TW, has created PowerSDR-UI, a project to use these desks as control surfaces for FlexRadios, and there's a Yahoo group to support it. With the two big, weighted knobs, a helping of sliders and real rotary controls, as well as a generous number of proper push-buttons, you can lay out a physical interface to your exact requirements. These desks are designed for DJs live-mixing dance music: they transform the SDR experience. Moreover, they're well under $100 and PowerSDR-UI is simple to get going. I'm still tweaking my layout, but it takes radio to a whole new level. Also, a big screen is a big bonus, as is the way that the deck control surface doesn't need focus. You can have other windows open and active and still fully control the SDR in the background.

Haven't said much about TX or computer problems; I haven't done much transmitting (it's a 5W radio that sounds fine) and my this-years-model Win 7 HP laptop just worked. My CW isn't good enough to warrant comment! I've yet to hook in HRD to try digital modes - I've been having too much fun with my ears.

How good is all this? I've never, ever been tempted by contesting: I am now. (It's OK, I'm sure it'll pass.) But for the reasons I love playing radio, which involve immersing myself totally in the experience of diving into a chunk of roiling spectrum and getting every last bit of juice out of it, the Flex-1500 delivers the best, most addictive time I can remember since I first turned on a radio.
WA7KGX Rating: 5/5 Mar 17, 2012 05:07 Send this review to a friend
Great BC/SWL RX  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Even after upgrading to the latest PowerSDR release, the stuttering problems caused by the Windows 7 USB system were frustrating. PowerSDR worked perfectly over a USB2/3 port on a freshly installed Win 7 64 bit system. Alas, windows update broke PowerSDR's ability to use the USB2/3 ports. Plugging the 1500 into a regular USB port brought back the stuttering problem.

I added a USB2 card and plugged the 1500 into that. Voila! No more stuttering. If you have an empty PCI slot a $10 card will do the trick. You may have such a card hiding in your junk box as I did. Do not use that card for anything else!

My attitude toward the 1500 is based on what I already have. I have a grand old 12 tube radio with great AM reception, an ICOM R-9000 with a new CRT, a 756Pro, and several other radios. Your mileage will vary.

The 1500 is virtually unbeatable for AM/SWL listening above 490 KHz. As I write this I am listening to a Mexican station on 540 KHz. There is a strong station on 550, so I adjusted the filter to cut off just above the 540 KHz carrier frequency. I set the lower limit to about 532 KHz and enabled Synchronous AM reception. I am also driving the FlexRadio 10 MHz external reference input with a frequency standard. The result is decent reception of a signal that my other radios can't match. The PowerSDR software has a finely adjustable brick wall filter that does not seem to ring.

Hopefully a future revision of the Flex radios and/or software will extend the lower limit of reception from the current 490 KHz to 470 to cover the upcoming new ham band.

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