Monday, 21 September 2015

Farewell to the Flex 1500

I cannot fault the Flex 1500, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. After almost 4 years use, I have changed the way I do things here, so we have parted company. However, not because of any fault on its part.

For the first three years I used it as a transverter driver. Once it had sorted itself out it did that job very well. It can produce 0dBm, (1mW), and it has all the necessary sockets needed to drive a transverter with separate tx/rx feeds, which is the best way to do it. Then about a year ago I stopped using the transverter and at that point the Flex became less useful.

I used it later on HF as  5 watt rig, and via a linear, but once I did not need the low power outputs it no longer formed an essential part of the shack.

To start with it caused almost total confusion. The early versions of the PowerSDR software simply did not work well. After about six months ownership, Flex got together a series of updates, and then bundled firmware updates along with them. This eventually sorted it out, and after that it worked perfectly.

There were some surprises at the start. I had thought that my Pentium computer would drive it - not a chance. So I had dodgy software and a computer which was too slow, so almost nothing worked. I upgraded the PC by building one with an i5 core and it was perfectly happy with that, and then later used a 4 core AMD chip based PC. Nae bother. After that, few surprises. The display on computer is fabulous, offering band scope, outgoing modulation, phase, ... pretty well everything is adjustable, ... power output of 5 watts is achievable and the thing is stable.

So it is a 5W output HF rig covering all amateur bands from 160 to 6m, or at least all the bands in its "turfed" area. So mine was turfed for the UK. After the UK got 60m, I had it re-turfed to "UKplus", which covered 60m, all of 40m etc. Unless you had a very early one (I did), they all came with UKplus anyway. Then you have the transverter output for QRP - and I did run 1mW from there and worked 4X that way. It connects to the PC via USB, which is a little bit of a snag. The USB connection is a bit low speed and I did have a bit of latency on CW - but I do not use CW much! I am told that you just turn off the break in and use an outboard buzzer to listen to your CW. Or I sent CW from the keyboard.

It worked very well on WSPR and other data modes. As is often the case with SDR radios, you have to set up virtual data and audio cables to run data, and I have explained this on other postings. It was nice to hear from several amateurs who followed my approach and got their Flex rigs to work on data.

Here is an example of me using the Flex panoramic display to show something I could not even hear. My Wouxun 699 handheld seemed to be transmitting for a period after I let go of the PTT. I listened on other receivers but could hear nothing. Using the Flex and the trasnverter I could actually see the sub-audible modulation on the display ...

The rogue transmission is the very narrow trace before the wide click of the transmission ending. Eventually I found a way of turning this off (it was some sort of signalling pulse for commercial use) and check with the Flex that it had stopped. And I have used it for dozens of similar tasks like monitoring my signal, looking for frequency standards, checking frequency stability etc.

So as you might guess, I am sorry to let it go. However, that is the way the FVM shack works. Several cheaper rigs, regularly updated. I do not wish to be tied to a modern day boat anchor.

I hope whoever ends up with my old Flex 1500 enjoys using it. After those first few months, I certainly enjoyed it.

Now, what is next?

Jim

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