Wow, hard to believe I haven’t updated this blog in almost a year. Here’s a quick update…
The tower has been up for over a year now, and I’ve worked a lot of DX. Starting from scratch back in March of 2013 I’ve managed to work DXCC Mixed, Phone, and CW, and on three bands. All of this via LoTW. I haven’t filled out a single QSL card, nor do I miss the tedium. I’ll eventually have to bite the bullet and send cards to the DX I’ve worked that isn’t, and probably never will be, on LoTW, but I’m not looking forward it.
It’s the week after the Visalia DX Convention. I drove down early on Saturday morning and stayed the day before driving back up to the Bay Area in the evening. It’s about a 3-1/2 hour drive, but it beats staying in a motel. I met up with several DXers I met at last year’s convention and came home with a much lighter wallet as I ordered a Flex-6500 SDR rig from FlexRadio, who was exhibiting at the convention.
The new rig arrived this morning and I spent the evening rearranging the shack to make room for the 6500.
The rig itself arrived dual boxed and the gorillas at UPS didn’t manage to mangle it. The smaller box contains a FlexControl — a small box with a VFO knob and three buttons that Flex was offering as a show special.
Here’s what’s in the box–basically just the rig, a DC power cable, an Ethernet cable, a software CD, and a hand mic.
Here’s the rig sitting on the desk as I’m getting ready to hook it up. The DC power cable came with Anderson Power Pole connectors on one end and ring lugs on the other. I cut the ring lugs off and replaced them with 45A Power Poles to match the 30A switching supply I also picked up at the Visalia convention. After that bit of work, the rest was a simple matter of plugging cables in and installing SmartSDR-Windows on the PC.
Here’s a shot of everything setup and ready to go. The Flex is much smaller than the FTdx-5000 it displaced on the desk and weighs about 1/4 as much. You can see SmartSDR running on the monitor. I have two “slice” receivers open — one on 15M JT65 and the other on 10M SSB. I’m listening to SSB stations on 10M while simultaneously working JT-65. The Flex-6500 has the ability to open four slice receivers on any combinations of bands.
The box just in front of and to the right of the 6500 is the FlexControl. It interfaces to the PC running SmartSDR via a USB cable. The large knob is the VFO knob and the three buttons on top change the function of the large knob. With almost all aspects of the 6500 controlled via the SmartSDR application on the PC, FlexControl is a concession to those who miss knobs, especially that big, smooth VFO knob, on traditional rigs.
Working digital modes couldn’t be simpler. No cables or sound cards are required. SmartSDR includes an application called DAX which creates eight virtual sound cards on the PC and makes it easy to pipe receiver audio to digital apps such as Fldigi and WSJT-X. Total setup time to get these digital apps configured and running was about ten minutes.
It was time to head out for dinner after making a few digital contacts, but I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time this weekend trying other modes, especially CW. I’ve previously had a Flex-5000A in my shack, but it’s CW performance was less than stellar. I expect the 6500 to be much better. Stay tuned for updates…