Milton Madness and the Maestro

I was told all the tables at the Milton Flea Market hosted by the Burlington Amateur Radio Club were sold but even so it didn’t seem to me to be as busy as last year.

Guess it doesn’t matter if you sell all your stuff. Here’s a couple of contesters staffing their table in the parking lot. Think that SB-200 was once mine LOL. Anyway Tony, VE3RZ and Jim, VE3AJ (left to right) seemed pretty happy with sales early in the day.

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A big treat was a demonstration of FlexRadio’s new Maestro controller which works with any of Flex’s 6000 series transceivers. Greg Jurrens, K5GJ did an excellent job of wowing the crowd at the RadioWorld sponsored demo.

Okay so what’s so special about SDR and especially when it comes to FlexRadio’s 6000 series rigs?

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Well to begin with it’s a single-conversion rig. What???

Yup and that means no mixer images and noise like you get in some other rigs. Here’s a comparison of the Flex 6700, the $15,000 Kiberling, the Elecraft K3 and K3S. An Icom 7800 wasn’t considered competitive when compared to this group of top-notch contesting radios.

The conclusion was the 6700 overall winner when it came to listening to extremely weak signals. The old K3 was again considered as uncompetitive but the K3S with its new board was terrific. The 6700 was the clear winner on CW.

Which, of course, brings up the old CW lag issue which was mainly caused by the architecture of USB connection in old computers and was limited to early versions of the older FlexRadios.

I’ve got a Flex 1500 and there is no CW lag. Same for my Flex 3000 (which has a lag issue when it comes to the FlexKnob and again caused by USB issues) which still ranks as one of the best radios ever made by Sherwood Engineering. The 1500 is still in the top 20 easily beating out rigs that cost four and five times as much.

The big issue for contesters isn’t necessarily weak signal work. For them, they want a rig that’s dead-drop simple to use and will keep working without issue for 48 hours at a stretch.

Contesters do like the 6000 series (and the 1500 and 3000 for that matter) ability to reject close in loud signals due to the DSP brick wall filtering. Also the single-conversion rigs are much, much easier on the ears. I always got a headache working contests with my old ICOM rig. I don’t any more with the Flex.

But contesters like knobs. There’s a reason. At 2am with the Flex running separate active windows on your computer for the radio and the logging program, it was often the case that a wrong tap on the mouse button could inadvertently cause the radio frequency to change. This is not a good thing. It’s operator error but still unfunny.

So Flex talked to the contesting community and came up with the Maestro. The Flex 6000 series rigs don’t need a separate computer when you’ve got the Maestro and the Maestro has got real knobs.maestro_iso_726x512

But it gets better. The Maestro can work with the 6000 series over the Internet. That means, you can have your Flex 6000 series anywhere…and I mean anywhere in the world (including up your tower in a waterproof box if you can get power up there) controlled by the Maestro (including in your vehicle if you have Internet off your cellphone).

Not only that but early thoughts suggest the Maestro might allow for SO2R without any additional cables, boxes or modifications! The 6000 series is also said to do amazing things when you’re running the new digital modes as well.

Oh did I mention it’s got a touch screen too!

Holy crap Batman it doesn’t get better than this and the Maestro – Flex 6000 series combo may well be a major game changer. And as far as money is concerned, the Flex technology is no more expensive in 2015 dollars than the Heathkit transceiver your dad built in the 70s.

Of course there’s still the AM crowd on 80 who won’t use anything but a tube rig but they’ve been there comparing goitres since I was a kid. The Flex 6000 series isn’t your grandfather’s radio and I am planning on adding one here maybe in a year or so.

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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.

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