Monthly Archives: July 2013

K9ZW FlexRadio Systems Flex-6700 Update

All is going well with my new Flex-6700 except one serious thing – lack of operating time on my part.

Family & Work commitments have cut into my operating time during the last few weeks.

When on I have continued to be able to dig out DX from deep into the noise floor.  I am reading all sorts of exceptional numbers on both the public and private project reflectors – numbers which mean very much less to me than the in-use experience of pulling out more DX.

The SmartSDR Preview Edition process is ongoing, though the frequency of trail package updates has briefly slowed.  The Beta team is very busy we hear, so the next update is likely to be pretty soon.As for my shack updates, time constraints have slowed down the process of getting the switch gear in place to do full A-B-C testing.  Truth be known I’ve been putting off moving a large heavy cabinet to make room for the new rack in the shack.  It is going to be a half-day effort, which I may well put off until September.



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What is SmartSDR Preview Edition

What is this FlexRadio Systems “SmartSDR Preview Edition” program?  That seems to be the first question any ham I talk to asks about the new FlexRadio Systems Flex-6700 radio.

Especially as not everyone has followed the new FlexRadio Systems Flex-6000 Signature Series program from the start, there seems to be a fair bit of confusion.

Then when you add Limited Edition Signature Series to the equation – well even those of us who have followed things get a bit rushed.

Subject to revision (and correction) here is the deal as best I know:

  1. All of the new Flex-6000 series radios will be “Signature Series” radios.
  2. If you ordered in 2012 up to the pre-order cut-off date, your radio is also “Limited Edition” and will carry that on its face.
  3. Alpha/Beta Testing process, along with constructability input from FlexRadio System’s manufacturing partner were completed with a production ready version of the Hardware slightly ahead of software.
  4. FlexRadio Systems offers an opportunity to join a wider Software testing group to the “Limited Edition” pre-order holders.  To participate a pre-order holder had to sign up.  This group is called “SmartSDR Preview Edition” program.

That “SmartSDR Preview Edition” software is a subset of the eventual production software, with many features not yet “turned on” for the test group.  Software revisions are very Frequent (every week or so).

Participating in the “SmartSDR Preview Edition” program with a new Flex-6700/GPSDO radio, it has the feel of being at a “tech rehearsal” for a play.  The plot is all there, you can see exactly where things will eventually fit, but the focus is on adjusting the music levels, lights, props and all the parts that make the play happen.

  • Circling back the “SmartSDR Preview Edition” program members are volunteers from the “Limited Edition” Pre-Order place holders.
  • The “Limited Edition” group committed to purchase and placed deposits on their radios ahead of radios shipping by as much as 15 months or more.  This group receives the specially marked radio, a second year of software support, a discount, and a few other perks for committing so far ahead.
  • “Limited Edition” pre-order holders who did not volunteer for the “SmartSDR Preview Edition” program will receive their radios next, when SmartSDR version 1.0 is ready.  Their hardware is the same as the Preview Edition, only the software is different.
  • “SmartSDR Preview Edition” program members will receive SmartSDR version 1.0 at the same time.
  • The software support clock starts when SmartSDR version 1.0 ships.
  • The next waves of buyers will receive “Signature Edition” radios, differing by faceplate markings with the latest SmartSDR version.

All sounds more complicated than it is.  And to tell the truth, once SmartSDR version 1.0 ships it won’t matter either.

Hope I’ve helped answer the question!



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All Good Things Come To An End, Someday – Radio Transceiver Models Discontinued

Eventually all good products run their course and for various reasons go out of production.

This spring saw the outstanding FlexRadio Systems Flex-5000A radio discontinued as the combination of being overshadowed by FlexRadio System’s Flex-6000 series and market place economics due once standard parts having become legacy items available only at premium custom run prices collided.

According to news shared by fellow blogger Jeff KE9V TenTec found itself in a parts availability/cost pickle leading to the end of production of the Orion II.

Jeff KE9V reported:

Got a note from TenTec today that included this — “On a rather sad note, about the time you read this message, we will have sold out of the last 566 Orion II transceiver. Unfortunately, due to the availability of some very critical parts plus skyrocketing prices for difficult components, the staff at TEN-TEC decided to discontinue this product. This does not mean we will not trade or sell used and demo Orion’s and Orion II models. We will continue service and support this product as we have done in the past with all TEN-TEC products. Is a new Orion III on the horizon? There are plans for several new TEN-TEC products lined up for the future but at this time no concise decision has been made for another Orion transceiver.”

If you recollect the Orion II was the result of the original DragonBall processor being discontinued, as well as an opportunity to upgrade the product during the redesign.  The DragonBall Super VZ 66 MHz processor of the Orion II seems to have disappeared as well.

Less substantiated is the the rumblings about Icom’s IC-7800, which some Icom representatives have mentioned to present IC-7800 owners that production is unlikely to continued when present inventory is depleted.  There is no word what might replace this nearly 10 year old product.  I wouldn’t stake my reputation on exactly when the IC-7800 new sales cease, as even the list price is matter of confusion with retailers quoting list pricing of $10,000 to $13,500 and “street prices” of $9,800-10,500

Even weirder rumblings surround the button heavy Kenwood TS-990S, mostly that the radio is Kenwood’s “Swan Song” last offering before it leave the Amateur Radio Market.  Despite the performance reports suggesting the TS-990S is basically a TS-570D in wolf’s clothing, it is just odd that a product would come to market with a “last hurrah” storyline.  It is pretty clear that the TS-990S is a brand-satisifaction product and not a performance leadership product.

Interesting higher end of the market.

Maybe there are some neat new products ready in the wings?




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Flex-6700 testing at George W9EVT’s Hamshack – July 2013

Just a few pictures from my testing session at George W9EVt’s mega-shack on Washington Island, Wisconsin over the July 4th Holiday 2013.

Installing SmartSDR Preview Edition was a snap.

The Flex-6700 Powering Up (GPS hasn’t locked yet)

Example of the Panadapter in use (one slice)

I’ll have a write-up on my impression and comparison results this weekend coming.



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Flex-6700 US Island Activation Hits Stormy Weather

Weather has interrupted  the testing with George W9EVT is hosting  on WI-001L Washington Island, and the internet we use.

Pictures and updates will have to wait until my return.

For now here is a video of from the German Ham Show:

As posted at the SmartSDR Yahoo Group list:

Hello to all,


73 to all
Michel F5OZF

Thank you Michel F5OZF



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K9ZW Flex-6700 US Island Activation at WI-001L

As mentioned, George W9EVT is hosting us for a few days on WI-001L Washington Island to let me try the Flex-6700 in an exceptionally RF quiet location with his world class antenna farm.

Everything set up very quick and we’ve been working DX right from start.

I also ran a clean sweep of the 13 Colonies event, including the bonus WM3PEN station. I did do one QSO in the sweep on the IC-7800 as K2H was PSK and RTTY only, and I didn’t bring everything to put the Flex-6700 on digital.

I have filled in some band/mode holes and a couple DX QTHs I hadn’t worked at all.

Did a lot more listening, basically comparing against the IC-7800, with the Flex-6700 showing itself very well!

Will be on periodically for the next several days, depending on what days I need to be home and which I can be up there.

Catch you on the air!



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