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Author Topic: Flex 6400M vs. IC7610 Long Term?  (Read 2385 times)
KT0DD
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« on: April 13, 2019, 08:44:37 AM »

 I am currently shopping for my retirement radio, the last one I will probably ever buy. I hadn't heard about the display issue on the 7610 until my last thread I posted. It's probably going to be Thanksgiving time before I buy, so plenty of time for Icom to shake-down the new screens. My finance limit is the $3000 range. I have given up on being brand loyal as I got bit by Ten Tec going way down if not out of business.

I see the Flex 6400M is rated slightly higher than the 7610 on Rob Sherwood's site. I know Icom will be around for 10-15 more years most likely. Don't know about Flex. I don't see huge sales volume via the reviews on here. I also am just a basic computer user, not a computer tech geek or programmer so I wonder how well I will understand the Flex. I know Flex has a much better HDMI display which I like. I also understand the NR/NB is better on the 6400M.

I'm just asking for some thoughts to consider before I plunk down $3 grand. All constructive replies are greatly appreciated.

Todd - KT0DD
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K8AC
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2019, 10:31:19 AM »

Todd: As an old timer who has bought and sold several dozen different rigs over the years, I'll offer some general advice.  When researching a new rig, read only the negative reviews here on eHam, looking for patterns or several folks having the same problems with a rig.  Search for problems associated with a particular rig, with a google search like: "Icom IC-7610 problems".  Read about how the manufacturer has addressed those problems. 

It's very important to understand what you're looking at with the Sherwood Receiver Test Data.  The chart is NOT a quantitative listing of the best transceivers with the best at the top.  Anyone who doubts that should talk to Rob Sherwood about it, or read some of his many presentations on the subject found on the Web.  Note that the list is sorted on the next to last column, which is close-spaced dynamic range.  Any receiver with a number higher than 80 in this column is going to suffice for 99% of the amateur operators in the world.  The exception might be those contest operators who live in areas with a large concentration of stations running KWs and/or high power broadcast stations.  A quick check of your location tells me that doesn't include you.  There are many other factors that are far more important in choosing a rig than the close-spaced dynamic range and those don't appear in Rob Sherwood's chart. 

To me, the human factors associated with the transceiver operation are very important.  I've owned a Flex 6500 with Maestro front end and while it did everything very well, I found it very distracting to have to call up a menu to change something where on other rigs I could just reach for a button or other control to get the job done.  The Elecraft K3, another fine transceiver, has too few controls for the many available functions, requiring you to remember that you might have to press and hold a switch for a few seconds instead of just hitting a button to accomplish something.  Then there's the maintenance issue.  For just about any repair work, you'll have to pack up and ship the unit across the country for service.  Packing and shipping a 50-60 lb. rig is quite different from a 20 lb. rig and shipping charges are quite stiff for the heavier packages these days. 

I followed the 7610 screen problem closely and wrote off the 7610 after reading about owners having repeat failures with replacement screens.  On the other hand, some owners report no problem at all with the screens. 

One other thing to consider: Some brands have common problems that have persisted through decades of new models.  Most of the Icoms I've owned have suffered from leading edge power spikes that could cause problems with some amps.  The IC-756 Pro III didn't have that problem and was one of my favorites.  Yaesu has long had a problem with CW keying clicks and spikes and they still haven't gotten it right.  But, if you're not a CW person, that won't matter at all. 

I'm not sure what you mean when you say the Flex has a much better HDMI display.  I assume you're talking about the Maestro display front end on the 6400 and others, but it has nothing to do with HDMI.  The Flex display with the Maestro technology is perhaps the best display you'll find today - it's a high resolution tablet screen with the sharpest colors and best contrast you'll find anywhere.  But, you may grow tired of cleaning the fingerprints off of the touch screen or of trying to remember just which of the many menus to invoke to make something happen. 

Anyway, best of luck in making your choice and hope to run into you one day on the HF bands.


73, Floyd - K8AC
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KT0DD
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2019, 02:03:04 PM »

Thanks K8AC. I understand Rob's site isn't the final tell all of a receiver, and his close in spaced ratings are primarily important to CW ops and not so important to 100% SSB ops like me. However his list does roughly show the radios in order of price range too which helps for a quick reference.

I currently own a 7300 for my main rig and I love it. I adjusted the 7300 keying delay for my amp and it doesn't spike on keying. I love everything about the 7300 except one thing, no factory DVI or HDMI out to a monitor for the spectrum scope. For this, I have to upgrade, as I don't want to do a bunch of kludging kung-fu to adapt a SDR receiver to my computer and interface it to my 7300. I hope in a few years they come out with a 7310 with a DVI/HDMI in back for this purpose, but I doubt it. So, I have to choose between the 7610 and the Flex 6400M as they are in my absolute maximum price range. I used to call them fish finders and poo-poo them as eye candy until I used my 7300. I find it an extremely useful tool for hunt and pounce activities and to see where adjacent interference is coming from.

Todd - KT0DD
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KX2T
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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2019, 07:22:17 AM »

Hi Todd, I have owned a 7300 before I bought the 7610, before the 7300 I owned for a few years a FTDX3000, all of these radio's were FB, the 7610 was like ice cream on the pie over the 7300 but for the sheer investment dollar and fro what you get the 7300 is one hell of a radio, everything works on the 7300, its very intuitive to use, maybe not as many knob as others but fro rag chew, DXing and even contesting the 7300 does a great job but remember there will always be something better around the corner its just how much you are willing to spend for the little bit extra. If your a CW op the 7300 has excellent selectivity and on par with the 7610 in which both measured on Robs lab at >110db ultimate channel selectivity but the 7610 does have the front panel pitch control along with excellent APF. On SSB there really close, both radio's have excellent notch, PBT and the pnly thing I could detect is that either the RX chain or audio chain was slight better/cleaner on receive but here again both have very excellent Noise Blanker and Noise Reduction DSP. On transmit the absence of replay noise is a CW op's dream on the 7610 and the 7300 does have a slight bit of noise with the relay but to be honest I use headphones when on CW so I just don't get the bitching from other op's in this area cause unless you have your shack somewhere in your home were you can use external speakers to copy CW and your YL is not telling you to turn down that annoying noise well headphones are a ham's best friend. The only thing I find is maybe a problem with the Icom radio's in general is there is almost way too much sensitivity, there is no need to use any of the pre amp stages on most of the HF bands and recommend using the RF gain control on the lower HF bands, ARRL lab tests proves this one out compared with many other radio's in the marketplace.

AS far as the Flex 6400, from what I hear the jury is still out on the Noise Blanker working properly, to be honest they should have addressed this long ago since the one in there 5000 worked far better, there noise reductions seems to work along with the AGCT control which is like the RF gain control on the Icoms. If you buy the 6400 not the M model you have to be comfortable with point and click computer always needed for full operational control or buy there Maestro for a front panel control which is also very portable. If you desire a front panel you would go with the M model which is nice but to get the max out of the full operational control of this radio they do recommend a computer be slaved with it as well. The sensitivity of the Flex radio's without pre amp engaged is between -12 to -15db lower than the Icoms W/O pre amp on so in an A/B comparo the Flex will appear to have less noise cause its less sensitive W/O pre amp, just check  the ARRL lab reviews and you will see the numbers play this one out.

As far as performance the 7610 and the 6400 are very close as far as being on par with each other in lab tests, there is no real win here either way and the little radio with a big hart the 7300 is not far behind but just in case you have another ham down the street or operate in a multi operator station during contest the 7610 does have the digi select front end filter on both receivers plus each receiver has its own 15 band band pass filter network as well, the Flex 6400 has only one band pass filter network and once you set up the receiver or as they call it a slice on another band the band pass filters in the flex are turned off, only the 6600 and the 6700 have this feature.

It's your call on spending the $3k mark for a radio over what you have and if you need the added features or not, for what is on the marketplace sold today there are allot of fantastic radios today that eclipse what was out just under 10 years ago but you have to decide what is real important to your needs.
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K0UA
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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2019, 07:45:16 AM »

You do know that you can have a nice big full size (how big is your monitor) display of spectrum and waterfall on the 7300 for zero dollars don't you? No mods to the rig either.  Just load up N1MM+ contest and logging software, and it will take your USB serial output set to 115,200 bits per second, and turn that into a really nice waterfall and spectrum display,  AND it will also put all of the TELNET spots of each stations callsign over the spikes of the spectrum display and you can use your mouse to click on them and move the rig there. All of this functionality for zero dollars.  You mentioned you were a SSB op so you probably don't care about the full break in relay clacking of the 7300, but you can quiet it down a bunch with some plastitac put over two of the relays, the one in back for the amp keying and the T/R relay up front in the 7300. It makes many dB of difference in the "clack" of using full break in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nasSxs_ueK4&t=62s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYyb4fqBa8k
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73  James K0UA
ARRL Missouri Technical Specialist
KC1GWX
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2019, 05:20:56 AM »

I run a 7610, purchased about 6 months ago. The screen has notable burn-in issues, but I do a lot of remote operation of the rig so this isn't as big a deal for me. Also, you can easily connect an external monitor if you want a better display. I don't know if Icom has fixed this problem in later rigs. The main reasons I picked the 7600 over the 7300 was that you can connect ethernet to the rig and run remotely without relying on a computer connected to the rig, and the dual-watch features. I will say that the controls on the rig are well designed and changing settings is fast once you learn how they work. I think I probably should have looked at Flex a little more, but I'm happy. At this level I think it's more about what you WANT, as opposed to what you NEED.
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N3HEE
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2019, 09:52:05 AM »

Todd,  

As a Flex 6600M owner I can give you an account of my experiences so far.  I purchased a Certified Pre-Loved unit from Flex in August of 2018.  I saved $500 on the purchase. The unit arrived with a defective cooling fan which Flex took care of immediately. I actually did the repair without sending it back.  Flex support is first rate !  They handle problems quickly and effectively.  My unit also has spurs on 160 meters which Flex has agreed to fix at no charge.

Although there are many things I like about the new Flex 6000 (6400/6600) series radios there is plenty of room for improvement.  The NR/NB and Wide Band Noise filter is not the best.  There is also issues with the Automatic Notch Filter.  CW operators will find issue with the way QSK is currently implemented (not available with ATU turned on).  

I am running software version 2.4.9.  I upgraded from version 2.3.9 for free.  There were some CW, audio and cosmetic improvements in that upgrade.  However, there were things that were broken with that upgrade.  It has been over six months without a fix.  Flex tends to be slow to address software issues in favor of introducing new features.  They have just released version 3 which features multiple user capability.  It is called MultiFlex.  Depending on when you buy your radio there may be a charge for the next major release which was the case for me.  I have decided not to upgrade at this time.  Flex is promising a software release later this year to fix problems in version 2.4.9.

Here are my likes...  

Top Notch Receiver.  As good as or better than my Elecraft K3.
Full duplex operation. Talk on one band and listen on another at the same time. (Flex 6600, 6700 models only)  
Beautiful touch display panel.
Simple front panel controls.
Very nice looking and functional Panadapters both on the unit and in the SmartSDR software version.
Adequate software interface via SmartSDR
Ease of remote control via a laptop, iPhone, iPad etc.  No extra hardware required.  
Great third party software applications that add functionality to the radio.
Very capable antenna tuning unit.
Ease of working RTTY and digital modes via DAX audio system.
Ease of integration with N1MM and other contest logging programs via DAX and SmartCAT system.
Good tech support.

Here are my dislikes...

Poor and frustrating software development and support.
The unit is too BIG for my liking. Hard to place in my shack.
Noise reduction, noise blankers need allot of improvement.  
QSK needs to work with ATU.
Requires a more tech savvy user.  There is a lot of software interaction going on.
Cost of ownership could be high in the long run. (Currently $199 per upgrade) ( According to Flex, major upgrade available approximately every 16 months)


I am having fun with the radio.  There are many things this radio can do that others simply cant.  I also own a Elecraft K3 and Kewood TS-590SG.  I am primarily a CW operator and contester.

Perhaps Flex will have version 3 straightened out by the time you are ready to buy in the fall.  Keep an eye on the Flex Community forum for information and user comments and complaints.

Joe
N3HEE


« Last Edit: April 23, 2019, 10:12:09 AM by N3HEE » Logged

Joe
N3HEE
CW Academy Advisor (Level II)
KX2T
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2019, 01:44:48 PM »

Wow Joe that is an in depth report on the new 6600 series Flex, what I find is there are more radio's out there not just your Flex that will do as good or even best the K3 or K3S, the Elecraft radio's are not the end all high on the shelf rigs that they were 10 year ago and even being in certain area's of Sherwoods list doesn't really make them the best all around radio's to buy, there design, operational ability and ease of use is a little long in the tooth even compared to the Flex.
I looked long and hard at the Flex rigs but were I live and were I will be living is not going to be that dream multi acre qth, it will be a qth that will be more for my YL's liking so having a good NB and NR circuits is real important, having two RX sections is nice like the Flex has slices but the radio I ended up with I use the RF gain control like you use the AGCT control on the Flex but even last year the constant complaint was the software issue. I ended up with the 7610 and yes there were a few bumps, my display just got replaced two weeks back, the newer display looks more like the ultra black background the 7300 had but when I first got the 7610 the black background was not a deep black so the replacement seem good so far. It doesn't have the nice display on an outboard computer like the Flex does but Icom did make the firmware and software to use it with HDSDR which is a close runner up as far as the spectrum display goes but to be honest I don't buy a radio because of its fish finder, I buy it on performance and that is were there are more radio's with excellent performance today then just a few years ago, its more on what features the radio gives you that you will use which makes the buying choices today.
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N3HEE
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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2019, 04:58:11 AM »

As others have mentioned, I would pay very little attention to Sherwood's numbers.  Today most radios have more than adequate performance in noisy urban and suburban environments.  You need very quiet environments and good antennas to realize some of the top specs.

Yes, the K3 is showing it's age.  However though, I can honestly say the NR and NB in the K3 is by far the best I've ever experienced.  I live on a very small quarter acre lot with many wire antennas all in the back yard.  Very noisy environment and relied on the K3 attenuater, RF gain and NR settings to hear and work weak signal DX on 160 meters.  I suspect Elecraft is working on their next generation of radio which they will need to do in order to stay alive in the changing market of SDR radios. 

The AGCT on Flex is superb.  Probably one of its best features.  The NR, NB and WBN are not so good.  Hopefully Flex will start to tweak and polish the basics and stop worrying so much about offering mind blowing new features.  They tend to rely on lots of marketing hype and I fear they are loosing some ground in the ham radio market place.  They have a very small share of the market as it is.

The new Yeasu FTDX 101D/MP looks like a nice radio with many useful features.  It is a hybrid SDR design.  Price is around $4000 for the 100 watt version.

And if you truly want pure performance without a lot of the extras then take a look at the Kenwood TS-890S  Now $400 off list at $3895

I know of some local contesters that are now experimenting with the IC 7610 and find it very good.

So there are plenty of good radios to choose from today. 

Exciting time to be in ham radio !

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Joe
N3HEE
CW Academy Advisor (Level II)
K9IUQ
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2019, 12:35:48 PM »

I am currently shopping for my retirement radio, the last one I will probably ever buy.
Todd - KT0DD

Flexradio sells promises and has for MANY years. They promise this and that but never seem to get around to fulfilling the promises like NR, NB, SPURS (gosh does Flexradio still have Xmit spurs?) Waiting on Flex's software development is an exercise in frustration.

BE AWARE that Flex Lovers have been known to spin and LIE about their beloved radios. Do not take any Flex Lovers advice about their radios. Very few will actually be honest.

Icom has been around in the ham business since the early 70's as has Kenwood and Yaseu. Chances are very good they will out last your retirement. Flexradios like Ten Tecs (RIP) is a cult radio business that has limited appeal in the Mass Market Ham radio market.

Flexradio appeals to techies, and those that crave frustration and patience in their ham life.

Stan K9IUQ
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KX2T
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2019, 07:38:22 PM »

I think what Flex seems to concentrate the most on is its connectivity, they have been promising better performance Noise Blanker and Noise Reduction for years but the jury is  still out on those features from what I have heard from many owners. I had a K3 around 2010 and at the same time the Kenwood TS590, the NB and NR on the K3 was better than the TS590S but I also picked up a FTDX3000 which those two features did work better but to be honest when I bought a IC7300 for a back up everything changed. That 7300 had a far superior NB and NR, especial the NR which had zero digital artifacts plus the NB properly adjusted didn't act like the front end would cave in. Like you a 1/4 acre in the burbs with limited antennas does present a challenge with all sorts of RFI. The 7610 was just icing on the cake but from what I have heard and seen the Anan seems to have the overall best NR & NB with the 7610 coming a close second, the TS890 although having excellent RX specs it seems there DSP programming is still harking back to the way the old 870 was. For us who live in the burbs these feature are far more important than having the best receiver section in the world.
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WB4M
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« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2019, 02:30:29 PM »

I think you will pleased with either radio.  I also second the advice about reading only negative reviews, that is where you learn the most.   Bob Nagy has some YouTube videos about both rigs, and compares them.  I also toyed with the idea of buying an SDR rig and Flex 6400 was on the list and I just looked at one at a hamfest, got to spin the dials, etc.  I think if I bought the 6400, I'd get the one without the display and instead of the Maestro, buy a high-end laptop and use that instead.  For now, I'm happy with my fairly new 7300 and doubt I'll ever buy another radio.  I also don't care about Sherwood figures, my ears can't detect the slight differences.  I'll end by saying if I had to choose today, I'd go with the Flex, if only to  try something different.  No law prevents you from selling it if you don't like it.
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N6YFM
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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2019, 01:34:59 PM »

I am currently shopping for my retirement radio, the last one I will probably ever buy.
Todd - KT0DD

Flexradio sells promises and has for MANY years. They promise this and that but never seem to get around to fulfilling the promises like NR, NB, SPURS (gosh does Flexradio still have Xmit spurs?) Waiting on Flex's software development is an exercise in frustration.

BE AWARE that Flex Lovers have been known to spin and LIE about their beloved radios. Do not take any Flex Lovers advice about their radios. Very few will actually be honest.

Stan K9IUQ

Um, Stan?

The Flex owner that said the following was being 101% true and honest;
"The AGCT on Flex is superb.  Probably one of its best features.  The NR, NB and WBN are not so good. "
And, that also matches my experience with my Flex.   So yet another honest and accurate data point from two Flex owners.

And, yes, when the display issues are sorted out, there is nothing wrong with the Icom 7610 performance either.
BTW, while endlessly arguing about which radio is absolutely the best, and why ALL the others suck, has anyone
noticed that their log is filled with thousands of successful QSO's with other hams that had ALL of these rigs?
I guess almost any of them will work.  Each has some feature that is stronger or weaker, but give me any one
of them, and I can earn DXCC with it.

Hey Stan, I thought, a few posts back, you said you were over your "thing" with Flex?Huh

Confused as usual...
Neal
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KX2T
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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2019, 03:43:32 PM »

Hi Joe, I had an older K3 back around 2010 and also at the same time the original TS590S not the newer version, I thought the NB and NR were better on the K3 but almost lagging compared to the FTDX3000 I owned as well around the same time frame. When I purchased the 7300 as a back up rig in 2017 I was really impressed with the NR and NB, they were simply the best I have used plus got a chance to check out a friends 6500 which I liked the RX but the two controls I use allot in a suburban QTH is the NR and NB. Maybe the newer K3s has better DSP code with there NB and NR circuits but have not been able to test drive one out yet but I can tell you when I had taken the plunge on the 7610 its NR and NB were a cut above in some regard especially in the use of the NR which has none of that hollow effect and when carefully adjusted the NB can be very useful.

I would hope that Flex would work on these two circuits instead of there adding some other means of being flexible but they seem to be happy with the way things are. Untill I see the new Yaesu in person I would have to say the jury is still out and the Kenwood 890s with its K3s like lab numbers although very good there NB and NR still are harking back to the 590S DSP algorithms, they really need to improve that but I am sure this weekend the dealers at Dayton will be selling more than there share cause I have already seen one dealer give a deep discount of $3100, yes it will more than likely be around the $3K mark this weekend.

My operating used to be just contest and DX now its a mixed bag, I listen allot on the CW band with a contact now and then, play in contest but no longer have a decent antenna farm mainly during the SSB ones and some rag chew with friends. Like you said before there are many very good to excellent radio's and it depends which shoe fits your operating style, your mileage may vary!
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N3DF
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« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2019, 08:20:39 PM »


I'm not sure what you mean when you say the Flex has a much better HDMI display.  I assume you're talking about the Maestro display front end on the 6400 and others, but it has nothing to do with HDMI.  The Flex display with the Maestro technology is perhaps the best display you'll find today - it's a high resolution tablet screen with the sharpest colors and best contrast you'll find anywhere.  But, you may grow tired of cleaning the fingerprints off of the touch screen or of trying to remember just which of the many menus to invoke to make something happen. 


The Flex "M" models have an HDMI output connector that operates at a fairly high resolution.  I have mine connected to a 27 inch monitor and it looks great.  I have also enjoyed exploring the new features Flex has incorporated through its several software downloads over the past year. 
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Neil N3DF
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