FlexRadio 1500 and IC-756 Shootout

I have been pulling my hair out trying to get my dual-core HP running Windows 7 to work with Writelog and the Flex 1500. It could create and assign ports but then it would fail and I was struggling to get a virtual audio cable connected so I could run Writelog’s CW reader (Don’t tell anyone in Contest Club Ontario or I’ll be drummed out of the province-wide club.)

(That’s me with the IC-756 with the laptop on top of it to the right. The big screen is the pano display from the FlexRadio which is the tiny box to the far left of the image. Very cool for seeing if there’s an open frequency nearby or if some big lout is starting to crowd onto your frequency.)

I figured the next best thing was to setup my IC-756 and Writelog in the Windows 7 machine using my MicroHam interface and see how that went. It went just great with the sole exception I couldn’t get an audio path to work. Had rig control and CW keying and memories but no CW reader. Humm.

Went to the regular Saturday 6:30 a.m. breakfast of the Oakville ARC and Greg, VA3GGF, opened my eyes when he said why don’t I just plug a line out from the 756 right into the computer. The CW reader didn’t need the MicroHam Keyer II interface to read CW it just needed audio. Duh!

So during the CW SweepStakes contest I tried again with no luck. Huh? This makes no sense until I realized that Windows 7 wasn’t passing the audio. I fired up an old ancient decrepit Toshiba laptop and loaded Writelog and the Microham. Everything worked. The Microham and Writelog assigned ports worked so there was rig control and CW keying. I plugged in a couple of audio cables into the Microham and back to the laptop and now I had my CW reader.

Cool. So now I had my old IC-756 running with Writelog. (This means no matter what I’m ready for CQ WW CW at the end of the month.)

Just for fun I fired my FlexRadio 1500 on the Windows 7 machine and it ran (as always) perfectly but I still can’t get a full interface with any software yet. Writelog, like I said,  is just plain unstable for some reason and N1MM I haven’t figured out and the same goes for HRD. That will come. This is all operator issues.

Now here’s the shootout part.

During SS there isn’t much room on the band as a lots of guys are crammed into small windows of spectrum space. I listened to the same signals on the 1500 as I did on the 756 using almost identical dipoles at roughly the same height and position. Signals on 40 meters where loud, loud, loud and each guy was pretty much on top of the next guy.

After a couple of hours of listening I think I can offer this:

My conclusions are that both radios heard pretty much the same signals even those right now into the mud. Occasionally the 1500 would hear a signal in the mud that the 756 couldn’t hear and a few minutes later the situation would be reversed. This is likely an issue with the antennas which are almost the same but not quite. The signals I was using for testing were at the noise floor.

In all cases the 1500 could go to narrower filters (much narrower filters) than the 756 and the 1500’s sound was much more musical and relaxing than the 756. It gave the feeling that the Flex could hear better than the 756 but the differences in practical terms were minimal.

When VA3EC fired up with 100 watts just 360 meters north of me both radios were equally affected when working close into Harry’s signal (within 10 kHz) but neither radio found it hard to work in so close. The Flex with its superior filtering was less affected by close in signals.

The 756 was more fatiguing to listen to. It had a harder note and off frequency splatter sounded choppier. The Flex can show an audio scope pattern to the received signals and these just off-frequency signals looked like spikes and maybe the guy’s transmitter wasn’t so clean.

So which one is the contester’s choice?

For reliable contesting I’d buy an IC-7600 (I haven’t got my hands on a K3 yet.) but that’s dependent on getting Writelog or any other software program like N1MM to work on Windows 7 of course.

But for the 22″ panoramic display plus the way better and narrower filters and lovely almost relaxing quailty of the audio note itself, the Flex 1500 at $600 is amazing. (Not perfect but who of us is?) If I can get it to fully integrate with one of the contesting software packages I’ll be a very happy camper and might consider using it as the main contesting rig with a 50 watt amp and autotuner.

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About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.

One thought on “FlexRadio 1500 and IC-756 Shootout

  1. You have a very practical way to conduct the shootout, real world conditions. I also find my IC756 irritating to listen to. I have blamed the DSP, it reminds of the very early CD players only worse

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