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Author Topic: Flex 6400/6600 - New User Reports/Impressions?  (Read 65703 times)
KA4DPO
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Posts: 1317




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« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2018, 07:36:22 AM »

Using the General Release SmartSDR 2.1.30 Software and latest SmartSDR for iOS software I am really enjoying my Flex-6600M.

Been hard to not be on the air (when bands allow) and will have to make time to update my blog and review.

A couple thoughts on prior comments:

FlexRadio Systems Signature and SmartSDR products are meant to evolve.  This is a paradigm shift that might seem challenging if you expect to never upgrade your radio. 

Add-in Software, especially non-FlexRadio Systems software, is welcomed.  You can build the station you would like using these software building blocks. While you can build it and leave it be, you also can upgrade as new releases come along.

The new Flex-6600M/6600 and Flex-6400M/6400 radios are "hardware & packaging evolutionary" so they setup, configure and work just like the Flex-6700/6500/6300.  They have better features, improvements under the hood, and changed physical design/layout.  Please remember they replaced the Flex-6300 and Flex-6500 in terms of new production. 

Think station integration with the Flex-6000 series.  While you can plunk a new Flex-6400/6600 in any station, you can draw more if your plans eventually include the PGXL Amp, the 4o3a antenna switches and other related hardware.  Check out the USB-cable based data/automation or use the network integration.   

If all of this is a challenge or the ever-improving nature of the evolution doesn't sit well with you, you can of course set up your Flex-6000 and leave it alone - don't change that software - or pick another transceiver. 

Given the wide range of radio amateurs who are successfully running their Flex-6000/SmartSDR radios, it apparently is not so complex that you would not be able to operate one!  If my 86 year old neighbor can get himself up running a Maestro and a Flex-6300, well I think you can too.

Today I am planning to operate remotely as I have an house downtime between to appointments out of town.  I've previously cased this building and they have awesome internet, so my iPad and headset will be put to use making QSOs for that unavoidable down time.  This is a huge benefit for someone with schedule demands like myself.  Otherwise I guess I would be stuck reading about ham radio rather than doing ham radio for that downtime!

73

Steve
K9ZW

So it sounds like most of the changes for the new rigs are cosmetic.  The only problem I have with incremental software development is that the timeline is not firm so promised features and functions can get pushed way out.  I think they have done a great job considering the complexity of the build but I am just not patient enough to wait or to go through the nut roll of loading and debugging new software.  Sometimes it's a piece of cake, and sometimes it is a huge PIA, and sometimes it doesn't work at all. 

As for downtime, being retired for the last ten years has spoiled me, I make my own down time so that is almost never an issue.  I just would like to see a Flex rig that lives up to it's potential right out of the box without having to worry about my hardware, or wait for software updates, or upload and de-bug third party software to make it all work together.  All of that configuration is tedious and just not for me, I suppose if you are more into computers than radio then it's cool.
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W6UV
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Posts: 1092




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« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2018, 08:28:15 AM »

So it sounds like most of the changes for the new rigs are cosmetic.

I suspect that the development of the new rigs were driven two two things: the need to reduce cost and the need for knobs. The first one is obvious. The original 6000 series used a very expensive FPGA and other components. The new rigs use cheaper parts that have become available in the intervening years. Although I haven't seen one in person, from photos I've seen it looks like they've cheapened out on the enclosure as well. There're other subtle things they've done here to reduce cost that I don't like, primary among them eliminating the XLR mic connector on the back of the 6500/6700 and replacing it with a 1/4" TRS connector.

I wonder too about long-term repairability of these rigs. I've asked on their forums, but have never gotten an answer to my questions regarding the architecture of the front panel of the "M" rigs. It's obvious these front panels have a different microprocessor (because they run Windows) than that used by the rig itself (which runs Linux). The Maestro is literally a Dell tablet inside a plastic case with a bunch of knobs and buttons and connectors for a mic, key, etc. If the 6400M/6600M uses this arrangement, how long will replacement display panels be available for repairs? Everyone knows that model lifetimes in the PC industry are fleeting (with model lifecycles measured in months, not years), which makes me wonder if Flex bought a bunch of the Dell tablets that are used in the Maestro for when these units fail and need to be replaced.

Quote
The only problem I have with incremental software development is that the timeline is not firm so promised features and functions can get pushed way out.  I think they have done a great job considering the complexity of the build but I am just not patient enough to wait or to go through the nut roll of loading and debugging new software. 

I'm still waiting for FSK, which they've occasionally hinted at, but have never delivered. It seems to me that for the last year or two they've been concentrating on remote operation and SO2R crap. Remote operation is fine, but not when they've seemingly put everything else on the back burner to concentrate on that aspect of the product. I don't want or need this capability and would rather them address some of the performance issues with NB/NR, FSK, etc. They also seem to have gotten into bed with the superstation contesters. I can only imagine this is mostly for publicity purposes because very very few hams in their potential market routinely put several hundred thousand dollars into rigs and antenna farms. For every K9CT there's thousands of average hams who just don't care about features like SO2R and $7K amps.
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K4JK
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Posts: 456




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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2018, 08:42:17 AM »


I'm still waiting for FSK, which they've occasionally hinted at, but have never delivered. It seems to me that for the last year or two they've been concentrating on remote operation and SO2R crap. Remote operation is fine, but not when they've seemingly put everything else on the back burner to concentrate on that aspect of the product. I don't want or need this capability and would rather them address some of the performance issues with NB/NR, FSK, etc. They also seem to have gotten into bed with the superstation contesters. I can only imagine this is mostly for publicity purposes because very very few hams in their potential market routinely put several hundred thousand dollars into rigs and antenna farms. For every K9CT there's thousands of average hams who just don't care about features like SO2R and $7K amps.

I agree, they are chasing Elecraft and trying to make waves in the contest game for better or worse. And I couldn't care less about boutique features like remote operation, adding a FreeDV dongle or that crazy amplifier (which you STILL can't buy) either.

I think they are trying to check too many boxes at once... They are pretty successful all things considered, but I have to wonder how much better the features in SmartSDR would be if they had concentrated on that rather than trying to woo contesters (90% of whom you would have to pry their K3s from their cold dead hands.)
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KA4DPO
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Posts: 1317




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« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 09:29:02 AM »


I'm still waiting for FSK, which they've occasionally hinted at, but have never delivered. It seems to me that for the last year or two they've been concentrating on remote operation and SO2R crap. Remote operation is fine, but not when they've seemingly put everything else on the back burner to concentrate on that aspect of the product. I don't want or need this capability and would rather them address some of the performance issues with NB/NR, FSK, etc. They also seem to have gotten into bed with the superstation contesters. I can only imagine this is mostly for publicity purposes because very very few hams in their potential market routinely put several hundred thousand dollars into rigs and antenna farms. For every K9CT there's thousands of average hams who just don't care about features like SO2R and $7K amps.

I agree, they are chasing Elecraft and trying to make waves in the contest game for better or worse. And I couldn't care less about boutique features like remote operation, adding a FreeDV dongle or that crazy amplifier (which you STILL can't buy) either.

I think they are trying to check too many boxes at once... They are pretty successful all things considered, but I have to wonder how much better the features in SmartSDR would be if they had concentrated on that rather than trying to woo contesters (90% of whom you would have to pry their K3s from their cold dead hands.)


Yeah they might be spreading themselves too thin but that is a business decision that time will answer. 

W6UV made an excellent point about the cost of the FPGA's being used in SDR.  We all know that the cost of components will continue to decrease as the processing power continues to increase.  I still hold that in ten years analog radios will mostly be a thing of the past.  Interesting times.
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K7JQ
Member

Posts: 1282




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« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2018, 10:34:07 AM »

IMO, the K9CT station is an anomaly in the contesting world. All the other superstations that I know of still use the box with knobs. The contest club I belong to has many long-time, hard-core contesters (a few world-class operators) that only operate K3's. One famous guy uses a pair of TS-590's. For the most part, they all could care less about spectrum scopes/waterfalls.

But, as the older generation dies off (sorry to say that), the newer breed of younger, more computer-savvy contesters (and regular ops) could eventually change the landscape to a Flex-type radio choice with constant streams of updates and revisions. No problem for them to handle. Most old-timers are creatures of habit and resistant to change, with a few exceptions.

All I know is that these forums are filled with "Help...I can't get my radio to work with this program", or "This software update changed all the settings and made things worse", etc. Combining ham radio with various computer operating systems, to me anyway, is still a complicated process, with many PITA pitfalls. Many just want to take it out of the box, hook up an antenna, mic/key, plug it in, and operate. Then again, I'm one of those old-timers Roll Eyes Cheesy.

73 and enjoy what you have,

Bob K7JQ
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W6UV
Member

Posts: 1092




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« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2018, 02:17:13 PM »

But, as the older generation dies off (sorry to say that), the newer breed of younger, more computer-savvy contesters (and regular ops) could eventually change the landscape to a Flex-type radio choice with constant streams of updates and revisions. No problem for them to handle. Most old-timers are creatures of habit and resistant to change, with a few exceptions.

I do like the capability to fix bugs and introduce new features by issuing a firmware update. The American companies (Flex and Elecraft) seem much more likely to do this than the Japanese companies.
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N6YFM
Member

Posts: 824




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« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2018, 02:30:26 PM »


I'm still waiting for FSK, which they've occasionally hinted at, but have never delivered.


Hi W6UV:

Can you expand on why FSK matters so much?   For the last two years I am running true FSK
on my Icom  7300 in RTTY contests, but only because some web articles "said" it was "better".
But in truth, there have been an equal number of articles and tests that claim on the RX end I can not tell
AFSK from true FSK (unless the AFSK is done by a LID who over drives and distorts the audio).

So while FSK might be potentially a little safer for newbies that don't set an audio drive level properly,
it will in fact sound and look the same on the  receiving end.   So is it that big a deal?

Also, I suspect if Flex promised it, they might one day get around to that software update.
But again, for now, is it a real show stopper?   Why?

Cheers,

Neal
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N6YFM
Member

Posts: 824




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« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2018, 02:44:45 PM »


I agree, they are chasing Elecraft and trying to make waves in the contest game for better or worse. And I couldn't care less about boutique features like remote operation, adding a FreeDV dongle or that crazy amplifier (which you STILL can't buy) either.

I think they are trying to check too many boxes at once... They are pretty successful all things considered, but I have to wonder how much better the features in SmartSDR would be if they had concentrated on that rather than trying to woo contesters (90% of whom you would have to pry their K3s from their cold dead hands.)


Just to play devil's advocate for a minute;   Is there a rule that says what segment of the market place a free-market private company like
Flex or Elecraft is required to focus on and cater too?

Perhaps Flex and/or Elecraft assumed that they could make more money by accepting that Kenwood/Yaesu/Icom own the mass-market,
and instead chose to focus on the high end, like Ferrari and Lotus.   Nothing wrong with that.   Someone has to be Nissan.   Someone has
to be Toyota.  Someone has to be Ford.  And someone has to be Jaguar and Ferrari.

We don't bash Ferrari for not catering to the Nissan or Ford crowd.   Why bash Flex or Elecraft for focusing on high end customers, when it is
OBVIOUS by their price structure and advertising that they are not real interested in the low end or mass bell-curve.  Else they would have
offered a $1000 radio long ago.

Just my distorted opinion.
Your mileage may vary.
[Feel free to correct me with a Clue-Stick, since most other hams do anyway...]

Cheers
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W6UV
Member

Posts: 1092




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« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2018, 02:46:49 PM »

But again, for now, is it a real show stopper?   Why?

It's not a show stopper. I want it because it's the elegant way to operate RTTY.  AFSK works, but is kludgy in same way CW is kludgy on the Collins KWM-2 (it generates CW by applying a tone to the SSB circuit).
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N6YFM
Member

Posts: 824




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« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2018, 03:30:27 PM »

But again, for now, is it a real show stopper?   Why?

It's not a show stopper. I want it because it's the elegant way to operate RTTY.  AFSK works, but is kludgy in same way CW is kludgy on the Collins KWM-2 (it generates CW by applying a tone to the SSB circuit).

That's completely fair.
By the way, do you have a Flex rig yet, or are you shopping like me?

Cheers
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W6UV
Member

Posts: 1092




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« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2018, 04:03:15 PM »

By the way, do you have a Flex rig yet, or are you shopping like me?

I have a 6500 and a 6700 and am considering a 6600 or 6600M.
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KG0AQ
Member

Posts: 14




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« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2018, 04:58:05 PM »


"There is a workaround to get WSJT to work but it is not a Flex issue."  (yet it still requires a work around)


Hi KG0AQ:

I am the orig poster, and still don't yet have one of these radios, but am thinking of buying.
But KA4DPO's statement above for WSJT-X, had me a little concerned, but when I read the following
thread from Flex, found with google, I can't see that any workaround is required.

https://helpdesk.flexradio.com/hc/en-us/articles/202037343-Configuring-WSJT-X-and-SmartSDR-for-Windows

That setup is no more complex than what I do for my Icom or Yaesu rigs.
Can you expand?   It looks fairly simple and straight forward.

But anyway, thanks for the other remarks.   Sounds like the performance of the RX is great.

Cheers,

Neal

Hi Neal,

Those specific instructions are the ones I originally used and had issues with. I don't remember the issues exactly but I found a flex user recommend the following method for WSJT.

Set the rig to: Flexradio 6xxx   
In the network server box I used the local host plus the stock TCP port in SmartCAT:  127.0.0.1:5002
Set the PTT to CAT and your off to the races.
Everything works great now and I have JTAlert following and sending logging info automatically to the DXLabs suite.

I also figured out the RTTY split issue in Fldigi.
Edit the Com port connected to FLdigi in SmartCat to:  Auto Switch TX Slice to DISABLE
I can now work split in RTTY with the click and xmit method where the DX is listening!

As for all the Flex haters on here. There are plenty of Icoms, Kenwoods, Yeasus and Anans that may suit your needs? If you don't like Flex don't buy one. Bashing products goes nowhere with me. If I own a radio I don't like I sell it and move on.  Try to move on...it's less stressful and remember...it's only a hobby!

73 Dan KG0AQ

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K4JK
Member

Posts: 456




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« Reply #27 on: February 13, 2018, 07:09:50 AM »


Just to play devil's advocate for a minute;   Is there a rule that says what segment of the market place a free-market private company like
Flex or Elecraft is required to focus on and cater too?

Perhaps Flex and/or Elecraft assumed that they could make more money by accepting that Kenwood/Yaesu/Icom own the mass-market,
and instead chose to focus on the high end, like Ferrari and Lotus.   Nothing wrong with that.   Someone has to be Nissan.   Someone has
to be Toyota.  Someone has to be Ford.  And someone has to be Jaguar and Ferrari.

We don't bash Ferrari for not catering to the Nissan or Ford crowd.   Why bash Flex or Elecraft for focusing on high end customers, when it is
OBVIOUS by their price structure and advertising that they are not real interested in the low end or mass bell-curve.  Else they would have
offered a $1000 radio long ago.

Just my distorted opinion.
Your mileage may vary.
[Feel free to correct me with a Clue-Stick, since most other hams do anyway...]

Cheers
It's not a question of Ferrari vs Nissan. I don't mind paying the money for the radio equivalent of a Ferrari, if that's actually what I get. Early on everyone was led to believe that SmartSDR would eventually have most of not all the features of PowerSDR.

Flex's at that point were more like a Ferrari Kit car... Lots of flash and dash but when you popped the hood the lack of features in the SW left a bit to be desired. SmartSDR is still lacking in that regard IMO. This is my main complaint. Don't get me wrong, the receiver is great, but the functionality of the SW it not yet what I would like to see. They added a few useful (to me) things, but a lot of the stuff I wanted to see was never added to SmartSDR. Instead we got remote operation, DV voice, a promised $7k amplifier, $2k tuner, lots of stuff to get the Maestro to work right, things geared towards contesters, and so on and so forth. None of which I care about for my primary rig at home.

Then they told everyone that they would stop putting new features in V1 and you had to cough up another $200 to upgrade. I got tired of waiting and didn't feel like forking over more money so I sold my 6500.

Their business/marketing decisions are out of alignment in what I want from a high-end SDR. End of story. It's not wrong or right, it just is what it is.
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ex W4HFK
W6UV
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Posts: 1092




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« Reply #28 on: February 13, 2018, 10:05:54 AM »

Then they told everyone that they would stop putting new features in V1 and you had to cough up another $200 to upgrade. I got tired of waiting and didn't feel like forking over more money so I sold my 6500.

That's really the crux of my dissatisfaction with Flex--they go after the glitzy, shiny features few people use and neglect the meat and potatoes features the average ham wants and needs. I'm still on V1 because I don't see the need to pay $200 for remote features I neither want or need. I'd rather see them spend their development resources on things like better NB/NR, FSK, and lower latency than direct it all towards pandering to the superstation contester set.

BTW, what did you buy to replace your 6500?
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KG0AQ
Member

Posts: 14




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« Reply #29 on: February 13, 2018, 10:23:57 AM »

Then they told everyone that they would stop putting new features in V1 and you had to cough up another $200 to upgrade. I got tired of waiting and didn't feel like forking over more money so I sold my 6500.

That's really the crux of my dissatisfaction with Flex--they go after the glitzy, shiny features few people use and neglect the meat and potatoes features the average ham wants and needs. I'm still on V1 because I don't see the need to pay $200 for remote features I neither want or need. I'd rather see them spend their development resources on things like better NB/NR, FSK, and lower latency than direct it all towards pandering to the superstation contester set.

BTW, what did you buy to replace your 6500?

I do agree with your NB/NR remarks. The NBers on the 5000 were fantastic. The NR on the early 5000 releases and 1000 software were great. I really do like the WNB on the 6000 though. I too wish Flex would concentrate on the pure receiver performance issues and less on the contest and remote features.  As I stated in my review, I will be patient but only when it relates to the features that are important to me.  Great conversation. Thanks,

73 Dan KG0AQ
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