FlexRadio System – Major SmartSDR Update/Upgrade

This is easiest left in FRS’s own words:


SmartSDRTM v1.1 Available On Time and Exceeding Promised Feature Set

FlexRadio Systems is pleased to announce the availability of SmartSDRTM v1.1.  SmartSDR v1.1 for both the FLEX-6500 and FLEX-6700 contains a wealth of new features – a number of which are over and above those promised in the public roadmap.  In the installation package are the release notes, which have important information about the features and caveats that are important to know.  Please read the release notes, as there are several important notices with v1.1.  Our team has worked hard to provide not only the features promised with v1.1, but also many new features that we feel will enhance your operation and provide more fun for your operation.  Here’s a partial list of the new features we are releasing with SmartSDR v1.1:

Double the number of panadapters and receivers for a total of four (4) of each for the FLEX-6500 and eight (8) for the FLEX-6700.  With more panadapters you will be able to simultaneously view up to 4/8 bands at once to monitor band conditions.  Increased slices opens the opportunity to monitor digital portions of multiple bands or the same band, have multiple receivers setup to work liaison on HF nets with multiple stations, etc.

Digital Audio eXchange (DAX) for seamless support of 3rd party digital programs.  With DAX, digital sample streams are routed directly from the radio to your PC and made available on DAX channels.  Much of the confusion about cable numbers and which virtual cable belongs to which receiver and transmitter is gone.  Each DAX channel is clearly labeled appropriately such as “DAX Audio RX 1″ and “DAX Audio TX 1″.  Each slice can be routed to a DAX channel on the fly in the SmartSDR client and all of the channels are created for you on installation of SmartSDR.

Promised with SmartSDR’s introduction was up to two simultaneous digital channels for digital software out of the radio.  We are pleased to announce that every slice receiver in SmartSDR has the capability to run DAX simultaneous to other receivers.  So on a FLEX-6500, up to four (4) DAX Audio channels may be run at once and on the FLEX-6700, up to eight (8) DAX Audio channels may be run at once.

DAXIQ streams added for wide-band data output.  In addition, with SmartSDR we promised DAXIQ streaming of I/Q samples at up to 96ksps (96kHz).  We’re pleased to announce that we have DAXIQ streaming running at up to 192ksps in v1.1.  For v1.1, we have DAXIQ streaming at your choice of 24, 48, 96 or 192ksps.  You may have up to four (4) total streams running simultaneously, but only up to a combined output rate of 384ksps today.  This allows you to run 96kHz of four bands into CW Skimmer from a single radio.

Both DAX and DAXIQ are network clients and may be used on multiple PCs on the network.  That means that you can run multiple digital mode applications all talking to the same radio but using different bands and modes at the same time and on different computers if desired.  We believe this is ground-breaking technology for amateur radio.

New filtering algorithms with sharper filters in all modes plus lower latency for digital modes. With SmartSDR v1.1, we are introducing variable sharpness filters which offer the best filtering when needed to eliminate incursion of sideband splatter from adjacent channels or very narrow CW filters, but also relaxes for lower latency with wider CW filters and latency-sensitive digital modes such as PACTOR.  The filter sharpness is automatically selected based on operational mode and filter width as selected by the operator.

Active Slice Control Panel.  A new Active Slice Control panel has been added to the right side of SmartSDR for Windows giving you immediate access to most slice controls in a single location without having to open up slice panels.  This allows the operator to collapse all slice panels and operate receivers entirely from the Active Slice Panel which will follow the selected slice receiver.

Tabbed control panels in SmartSDR.  All control panels on the right of SmartSDR are now under a tabbed control that lets you add or remove these panels at will.  In addition, you may rearrange the panels by dragging them to a desired location.  This lets you customize the layout of the SmartSDR control surface to match your preferred operational environment.

Advanced SmartSDR Persistence memorizes previous states.  Persistence capabilities in SmartSDR now remember key details about your operation on each amateur band.  Power, filter, and slice settings, panadapter levels, etc. are all remembered by amateur band so returning to the band later will quickly restore all the values back to their previous settings.  When appropriate, settings such as microphone and CW settings are memorized by mode rather than band or slice.

Enhanced panadapter display averaging.  With SmartSDR v1.1 you have control over both the speed of panadapter updates as well as the degree of averaging on top of the speed.  When reducing the panadapter update rate, all frames are used in the radio for better averaging, but preserving network bandwidth.  The additional averaging control adds a peak-weighted average which emphasizes signal peaks as it smooths out the noise baseline in the panadapter.

CW Audio Peaking Filter.  A new CW Audio Peaking Filter has been added which emphasizes audio signals at the pitch frequency of CW reception.  The APF raises the level of the desired CW signal, adding gain above adjacent signals to help you pick out weak signals in the presence of other signals or noise.

Hardware ALC for external power amplifier operation.  ALC provides a convenient way to reduce the output power of the FLEX-6000 Signature Series transceiver when driving external power amplifiers.

Automatic re-centering of Panadapter on Zoom.  Now when zooming in on a panadapter, the active slice or alternately the closest slice receiver will be re-centered before the zoom to quickly close in on the signals of interest.  Zooming without re-centering is still provided by using a click-drag on the frequency scale at the bottom of the panadapter.

New REMOTE POWER ON capability.  The remote jack on the back of every FLEX-6000 has now been enabled as a method to turn on or off your FLEX-6000 transceiver on or off. Now with a simple relay or external control device, your FLEX-6000 can be started and stopped under your command.

Master oscillator calibration capability.  Each FLEX-6000 Signature Series transceiver has an ultra-low phase noise oscillator for the best low-noise reception.  Unlike other transceivers that must be opened on a periodic basis to adjust the frequency of the master oscillator, SmartSDR now allows frequency calibration with just a software control.  Simply provide a reference signal or use WWV and enable frequency calibration.  SmartSDR will measure the offset and update the master oscillator and store the result to ensure you are always on frequency.

Improved Antenna Switching Logic with broad QSK support.  With new antenna switching logic, every conceivable operating condition has been considered individually and the optimal radio antenna solution that ensures the best operation is now computed automatically by the radio.  Even better support for QSK has been added with this change including support for QRQ QSK up to 100WPM using different receive and transmit antennas.

Updated SmartCAT for increased third party software support.  Several new commands have been added to CAT to support additional software programs and broaden the software that works with the FLEX-6000.

Add RIT/XIT support including operation with FlexControlTM.  Both RIT and XIT have been added including basic operation with the FlexControl.

Improved slice display for narrow band operations (CW, digital modes).  The slice receiver indicators have been updated to include clarity for narrow band modes and some digital modes such as PSK-31.  Key down to RF and slice tone output for CW is world class at less than 8ms.

For more information on this release or to download SmartSDR v1.1 and the associated release notes please visit the FlexRadio Systems website.

Enjoy your new radio!


Your FlexRadio Systems Team


My local (in shack) update is 100% and I am in-process on the iMac update.  Looking awesome!




Visalia DX Conference 2013 – Flex 6700 in Action with Youtube Video

A HUGE thank you to Howard VE3GFW for his YouTube and write up!

Direct LINK Visalia DX 2013. Flex 6700 – YouTube.

Visalia DX Conference – Youtube Video – Flex 6700 in Action

Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:29 pm (PDT) . Posted by: “Dr. Howard S. White”

I have posted a video of the Visalia DX Convention with the First Public Demonstration of the Flex 6700

Visalia DX 2013. Flex 6700 – YouTube.

Not too much about the Convention but mostly the radio in operation…

The Flex 6700 radio was definitely working but clearly it was a beta test unit.

I did manage to crash the software at least once and many features are yet to be fully operational.

For the uninitiated… the radio software is now a simple browse that does NOT need a major computer system
All the processing is now done inside the radio with its own computer power…
it should even ultimately be able to run on your iPad or other simple device…

Interestingly it was interfaced directly to N1MM Contest Logger, a SteppIR DB-18 and an Alpha 9500 so it clearly was set up for contesting.
While I am not the contest Ultra Maven… I personally found the clean simple interface much more intuitive for contesting than my Flex 5000
as you really never need to have your hands leave the logger keyboard. I can see where the Flex will finally be more than competitive, if not excel the K3 for contests.

In spite of the limitations of the beta test software, the receiver performance was astounding.
It appeared that the radio was hearing down to -142dBm (or about S0 – 15db or almost 2 ½ S Units below S0)
BUT what was more astounding was that they introduced DSP gain into the system so that it could hear down to -149 dBm or about the phase noise levels. I am not sure how to measure down to those levels as the thermal noise in my test equipment is higher than that. (The figures are un-calibrated- we will see what Sherwood says)

Adjacent Channel rejection appeared be out of the world….you could totally block an S9+40db signal 100Hz away…..
This would be especially important in multi-stations…. AND you do not Need to use any Roofing Filters

Of course it was really cool to be able to listen to several slices of the band at the same time and easily jump from band to band without losing any information.
They had 4 spectral operational but could only receive on 2 slices… (It will be 8 slices in the final model)

Real World Performance…
Several times we had Armchair copy in QSO’s with Hams who had could barely copy our signals due to their poor antennas and outdated equipment
We definitely could easily copy the very weak DX Stations…

Although I am not a CW Operator .. The CW ops I talked to said it was full QSK with no delays whatsoever…

Flex said they hoped to ship production units within 30 days (maybe by Dayton anyone?) however I am skeptical that they can get everything 100% by then as clearly there is still a lot of software to get right. I suspect that in order to meet that tight schedule, they will ship the first units with a reduced feature set. The good thing about a SDR is that you can easily upgrade in a matter of seconds.

Bottom Line:
When I read the specs and placed my order at Dayton 2012, I knew that this was going to be the radio that will set the bar for the next standard in Ham Radio

However, I was personally astounded by the performance which even in Beta far exceeded my expectations.

Howard S. White Ph.D. P. Eng., VE3GFW/K6 ex-AE6SM KY6LA

Enthusiasm to get my hands on a Flex-6000 series radio? Yeah!



Flex-6000 Series – Little Bits of News – Payment Schedules, Computers, Digital Modes, Videos

First a thanks to Tim W4TME, as he super quickly responded to series of emailed questions.

I was very candid and asked FlexRadio Systems’s Tim W4TME permission to share the information from his answers, so I am not sharing anything that you wouldn’t receive as a reply if you asked FlexRadio Systems.

One of my concerns has been how long will we have to get the rest of our payment together when the radios are released?

It always seems life has a way of “piling on” expenses when they are the least welcomed. Whether it is something we know is coming, like tax payments, or those special financial adventures like needing to replace a car. Just always seems to work out like that.

The question I asked was – How much advance notification will those of us with deposits on the new Flex-6000 series radios receive before payment and shipment? I don’t need an ETA but rather would like to know that the intention is to annouce ETAs x-number of weeks before payment and shipment would happen.

Tim shares: “The plan is to notify you about two weeks before the scheduled ship date and would expect payment by that time.

That seems workable here. Guess I had this worry of a email or call giving less time. Of course I would imagine some of us will swipe a card and settle with our credit card company perhaps spread over a month or two.

Then I asked about computers for the new SmartSDR, as I am thinking of upgrading and wouldn’t want to but something that couldn’t be used.

My question was – On the technical side has a minimal computer spec become available? I’ve held off doing some upgrading to make sure I wasn’t caught out, but it is getting time to replace my station PC.

From Tim “On the computer side of things, for SmartSDR for Windows, we are recommending at least a dual core CPU. The amount of RAM depends on the bit-depth of the operating systems; 4 MB for 32-bit / 8GB for 64-bit. What is most important is having a video adapter that is capable of graphics hardware acceleration. Here is a HelpDesk article that sums up the requirements: http://helpdesk.flexradio.com/entries/22792392-what-is-important-in-choosing-a-video-graphics-card.”

I also asked about digital modes & software – that discussion doesn’t lend itself as well to cut and paste, and is best summarized with Tim’s comment

Per Tim’s email “Initially, digital modes will still need to use external programs. There are some *very* preliminary discussions regarding integrating digital modes into SmartSDR, but nothing has been decided.”

Tim also mentioned that FlexRadio Systems plans to release more videos of SmartSDR in action in the near future.

I want to be clear I have no special link into FlexRadio Systems, I just ask questions straight up and ask permission on what I can share so I am 100% clear what is ok to tell others.

Tim wrote “You can share “

I think it is crucial to be 100% candid when asking for information if one wants to share that information – you need to be upfront. Ethically it is crucial.

So in summary:

  • If you have a Flex-6000 Signature Series on order with an introductory program deposit in place, expect a two-week head’s up when your radio is ready to ship in which to make payment.
  • The SmartSDR Computer needs are modest and the Knowledge Base already has a guide. Pay attention to the graphics card needs though.
  • Initially expect to use your usual Digital Mode Software with SmartSDR – details on how and future options to follow.
  • FlexRadio Systems is planning more SmartSDR videos to be released.

All seems <<very>> satisfactory and with my interest piqued I am enjoying the anticipation!



Flex-Radio releases a YouTube Video of SmartSDR running on a Flex-6700

You can see the new SmartSDR running on a Flex-6700 at filmed at K5FRS, the Flex-Radio in-house club station:

This thing looks so cool! Check out the panadapter and how you can see “way into” the signals!

Flex-Radio is saying “soon, but not until it is ready” on deliveries. That’s ok by me as I do want to put such a bundle of technology to good use when it arrives.

After re-watching the video it is certainly going to be a technologist’s feast of features, capabilities and options with the new series. Very cool!



Flex-6000 Architecture Explained – Steve Hicks N5AC Presentation

An excellent presentation on the new Flex-6000 Signature Series by Steve Hicks N5AC, Vice President Engineering, Flex Radio Systems as filmed by HamRadioNow.

Direct Link to the YouTube Flex-6000 Presentation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCdxAmMsoC4

This Autumn 2012 presentation touches on the vast potential the new Flex-6000 Radio Series will offer. Some interesting tidbits that come out in the presentation are:

  • Internally the Flex-6000 series will use a form of Linux
  • Many of the components of the Flex-6000 have been in Government Flex Radio products for years
  • Flex Radio was an advance recipient of some of the hardware chips, in some cases a year ahead of market
  • Confirmed is the first release of PowerSDR will be local network (not “remote”), which had been previsouly announced
  • Protecting use from ourselves from third-party programming issues in a fully open software architecture is an issue Flex Radio is still working through

Every Q & A session something neat things come up – at this presentation the idea of other internet users “listening in” to a Flex-6000 QSO in progress over the internet was brought up. Another cool idea!



(Note – Retroactively I’m introducing a Flex-6000 Category for readers to search this blog archives.  Will start going back and adding the Category to older posts shortly.)

Is it Soup Yet? – Flex-6000 Series Radios in Beta Testing

The New #5 issue of  the Flex-Insider newsletter from Flex-Radio outlines the progress of the Flex-6000 Series development.  I shortened the release to the key points:

It’s Q4. Where’s My Radio?

A Word from our CEO

I am sure some of you are asking that question so we wanted to provide the answer. The short version is that units will begin shipping to our beta team in November with general availability units to follow in the first quarter. A more detailed explanation of the reasoning is as follows:

In development of the FLEX-6000 Signature Series, we have consistently assumed the position that it is more important to do things right the first time than to take shortcuts.

So where are we? ….

Most of the major [software/firmware] component modules and the GUI framework are in place and we have begun integration of the GUI with the radio’s network API. ……

On the hardware front, our contract manufacturing partner, Austin Manufacturing Services (AMS), is in the process of building pre-production radios.


Assuming all goes well in testing the pre-production units, we will be prepared to release and ramp production volumes when the software is ready.



Gerald Youngblood, K5SDR
President & CEO

The hardware has hit Beta production and some radios will be going out during November to the Beta Test team (guys this means the Alpha & bench built radio testing went well!).  To allow enough time to to do a creditable job of Beta-Testing the general launch of the Flex-6000 Series is now scheduled for 1st Quarter 2013.

Not unexpected given the hints dropped at the various hamfests on the software development taking more time than expected and Flex-Radio’s decision to not show Alpha-Software at these shows.

And I kind of noticed the Signature Series Flex-6700 Jacket was not a winter jacket… <smile>

So the answer to “Is it Soup yet?”  is “Not quite yet… check back in the New Year..”



Flex-Radio Flex 6X00 Series – The GPSDO (GPS Disciplined Oscillator) Option

Steve Hicks N5AC has put together a rather informative article on the GPSDO option:

What is a GPSDO and Why Would I Want One?
– by Steve Hicks – N5AC, VP Engineering

All radios need one or more oscillators that are ultimately used to set the frequency where you will be listening or transmitting. If these oscillators are off frequency then you will be listening or transmitting off frequency. How far off frequency? You can tell how far you are likely to be off by looking at the stability of the oscillator and which frequency you are on. For example, if the oscillator is rated as five parts-per-million (5ppm) and you are listening on 1MHz (one million Hertz), you could be off as much as 5 Hz. A typical temperature controlled crystal oscillator (TCXO) for an amateur HF radio is 0.5ppm. To calculate how far off you might be on 20-meters, again we just multiply the accuracy in ppm by the frequency in MHz, or 0.5 x 14.2 = 7.1 Hz. Over time, all oscillators will also drift. These drift specifications are sometimes forgotten, but they are additive to the stability specifications. Aging in a 1-5ppm oscillator are often in the same range of 1ppm or so. So 10 years after purchase, your radio can drift an additional 5-10ppm (70-140Hz). If this drift is the “bad” about TCXOs, the good is that they have very good short-term stability. So even though they can drift a lot over a long period of time, in the short term they are very stable.

Most amateurs know that a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver can help out with this problem. A GPS receiver is designed to solve a system of equations that have variables of time and position. A GPS receiver becomes “locked” when it finds a solution to these equations. The result is that the receiver knows precisely what time it is and where it is. If the GPS receiver continues to track satellites, it will continue to maintain good time and position information. But it is interesting to note that as the GPS solves the equations, there is short-term drift caused by a number of factors. This jitter presents as short-term instability that, should we rely solely on a GPS for frequency data, would be continually moving around our transmit or receive frequency. So in a sense, a GPS receiver is the opposite of a TCXO — it has bad short term stability and good long-term stability.

The GPS Disciplined Oscillator (GPSDO) is the melding of these two worlds to create something with both good short term and good long term stability. How does this work? Because of the aging problem, most TCXOs have either a voltage steering line that allows the frequency to be adjusted with a voltage or a variable control that can be adjusted with a screwdriver. What if we used a microprocessor to compare the TCXO frequency output to that from a GPS and made adjustments over time to the TCXO to keep it in line for long-term stability? This is exactly what a GPSDO is. The GPSDO module for the FLEX-6000 achieves 0.005ppm stability as long as the GPS has an antenna connected and at least one GPS satellite is in view. Comparing with just a TCXO as we did before, we might be off by 72 milli-Hertz (0.072Hz) on 20-meters. So this is the first key benefit of a GPS receiver in the radio: you will always be on frequency.

The second benefit from a GPSDO is the ability to get precise time information. Having the current time is important for a number of ham applications such as contest logging or digital modes and a GPS can help with this. It can also be used to time-stamp data coming out of the radio. Why would you want to do this? Let’s say that you are a net control station on HF and you are coordinating information from a large geographic area. Even with a good station, propagation can work against you and make it difficult to talk to certain geographic areas. Often there are others that are in a HF net that can hear other participants and these other operators can perform the relay service: they offer to relay the message from the station the net control cannot hear to the net control. But what if this could be done in a more automatic fashion?

What if we could take the RF signal from that operator and send it, timestamped, to the net control and his radio could either select between or combine the RF stream from his radio and the remote radio in order to hear better. Performing these operations is easier if you have good information about the relative time differences in the data and have data that is at the same exact sampling rates. There are three pieces of information required to achieve this: the current time, a precision oscillator and an indication for the start of each second of time (1PPS), all of which are provided with the internal GPSDO from FlexRadio. By using a GPS to synchronize the oscillators at both stations and to time-stamp the data, we are able to make better decisions about how best to combine these two RF streams. While this capability (optimal combining) will not exist with the first release of SmartSDR, it is something that will evolve over time.

Though the GPSDO will not be supported until sometime down the road, should one have the option factory installed from the get-go?

Food for thought,