Is something wrong with the new Flex (6400/6600)?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W1BG, May 3, 2018.

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  1. W1BG

    W1BG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I had one of the new Flex 6600-M rigs for about 10 days back in March, just long enough to realize it was probably shipped before it was really ready & I had made a huge mistake. A beautiful display, but there were so many problems in the one I got that I quickly grew to hate the thing & wound up returning it. In any event, I was sure glad to see it leave as well as happy to have my money ($5,000) back.

    So what's going on at Flex? Rob Sherwood (Sherwood Lab) has had a sample or two in his lab since at least February, yet there's been no report. This is somewhat out of character, as Rob usually posts his test results within just a few days. Similarly the Flex 6400/6600 review thread on also seems to be locked down & not posting any subsequent reviews. other than the same original 5 reviews each claiming 5/5 results. I can tell you that mine was certainly no "5" by any stretch of the imagination.

    Is someone circling the wagons?
    K1OIK, K0UO, UT7UX and 1 other person like this.
  2. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    When Icom came out with the 7300 it caught Flex by surprise, an SDR that was easy to use and feature packed for a very low price. Hams dove on it because it had an integrated front panel and it worked great right out of the box. When the 7610 was announced Flex felt compelled to compete with a similar radio so they hurriedly ginned up the 6400M and the 6600M. I believe they rushed them to market without solid beta testing and you found that out the hard way.

    My guess is that they are asking Sherwood not to post the numbers because they are likely not better than the Icom.

    As for the 5/5 reviews, there are fans who would give a 5 review for a board with two nails and a screw in it if it said flex on it.:(
    NY4Q, NK2U, KB1YAP and 16 others like this.
  3. W6UV

    W6UV Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Would you care to state what kind of problems you had with your 6600M?

    I read the Flex community forum every day and I have not seen anything that would indicate there’s a systemic issue with the new rigs. If there was, it would have surfaced by now. In the Internet Age you can’t hide things like that.

    Just looked over on eHam at the review page and see no indication it’s locked. The last review is April 12th, which is just a few weeks ago. I doubt Flex has enough pull with the eHam moderators to get them to lock down the review page for the Flex rigs.
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
    N4TTN likes this.
  4. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    Wish I could give you 10 likes for this. Thanks, the whole post was excellent.
    NE1U, K4PIH, UT7UX and 5 others like this.
  5. W7UUU

    W7UUU Super Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Following the "Apple" model

    KK5JY, NE1U, UT7UX and 6 others like this.
  6. N6PAT

    N6PAT Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I own a Flex 6700 and can honestly say it's a real pleasure to operate. The few issues I've had were mainly do to my own fault.

    I think that the problem with the M models is due in part because of the intense pressure that perspective owners put on Flex to hurry up and release the new rigs. You can see evidence of this almost every day in the Flex forums. They yell and scream for instant software releases only to then moan and complain that there are bugs in it.

    If you want to be the first kid on the block with a new toy then don't complain when it has bugs. I always wait until something is out for a while before I commit to it. I'm still on Windows 8 because of all the problems with 10 and I am in no rush to upgrade. The same goes with new releases of Flex Smart SDR software. I did not upgrade to V2 until months after it's release.

    This same thing happened when Windows 95 was released. Those that stood in line at Best Buy for hours (idiots) just to buy a copy at midnight were complaining a few hours later that their device drivers were hosed.

    I've been designing systems for telecommunication companies for 30 years and I can tell you that in software development you either get it fast or you get it right. You can't have it both ways.
    WA3VJB, N5LZY, WA8FOZ and 6 others like this.
  7. WF4W

    WF4W Ham Member QRZ Page

    they gotta protect the value of their overpriced toys - Flex, Elecraft, Apple (mac) - there are tons of brands across all sectors where the value is in the name alone...
    WX7P, WA6MHZ and KA4DPO like this.
  8. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The problem is that if they don't release new rigs the customers will go someplace else so the pressure is intense. The truth is that for a few years Flex was the only game in town until Icom pulled the rug out from under them. And if you read the Flex reflector it is chock full of reports of inconsistent behavior due to software issues, and not just the 6400 and the 6600 either, not many of those even been produced yet.

    So given the cranky nature of Flexradio, the 5000 comes to mind, and the fact that the new Icom rigs just seem to work without issue, Flex has a difficult challenge ahead of them. Also, if Yaesu and/or Kenwood get into the SDR game then the challenge will get about ten times worse.
    NY7Q likes this.
  9. KB9BVN

    KB9BVN Ham Member QRZ Page

    TenTec Jupiter was one of the first widely sold SDR radio. Look where they are now.
    NK2U, W1JAC and KB1YAP like this.
  10. W1BG

    W1BG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I too think KA4DPO's post (a board with 2 nails, a screw and a Flex label) was classic and maybe even closer to the truth than any would like to admit. I can attest that I have encountered an incredibly loyal fan base.

    I also have to admit to being guilty of being one of the earliest adopters. My bad. I had never owned a Flex before and I was won-over by all of the pre-release hype. I had been leaning toward the new IC-7610 but fell in love with that truly gorgeous high-res. display, which I honestly do miss. However, I also paid $5,000 for this "privilege" and received a box containing a number of disappointments, the gorgeous display notwithstanding. (6600-M). Also in all fairness, I was warned but still fascinated with that display and plunged headlong into a purchase.

    Where to start? Judging a book by its cover (first impressions), the built-in speaker sounded like that of a cheap walkie-talkie, certainly not $5 grand worth. The rig also required 4 separate actions (key presses, menu choices, whatever) just to turn it on... each time. This seemed terribly unintuitive and gradually grew in its level of user annoyance probably starting with the 2nd or 3rd time and just kind of snowballed from there. After putting up with it for 10 days, I was anxious to say goodbye to it. My XYL can also recount for you the number of shouted expletives she heard coming from the ham shack.

    Operationally there were recurring problems saving profiles, which though saved, at least one of the saved parameters I use & depend on most (TX Monitor) was always inactive following the 4-step turn on procedure. It showed to be correctly saved in the Mic profile & properly associated with the global & Tx profiles, but still had to be toggled after each restart to get it working again. I went to the Flex Community & got BS fan-boy answers that didn't solve my issue. If I have to stand on one foot and pull my left earlobe while rubbing my dog's belly in order to save a basic operating parameter, then something's wrong with the procedure or the documentation (or the product). TX Monitor also did not work (at all) with VOX. You could use one or the other, not both. This was firmware ver. 2.1.33, perhaps it's better now. Perhaps it's also possible I got a lemon. Okay perhaps De minimis to some, but "TX Monitor" is one of the specific features I demand from any rig I purchase because I'm hard of hearing, always use headphones and depend on that feature working else I wind up shouting into the mic. Alas, problems didn't stop there. In addition, the highly-touted wideband noise blanker (WNB) simply didn't work at all and the regular noise blanker caused considerable distortion of strong SSB signals (anything 20-over S9 or stronger) regardless of the NB level setting. The only acceptable NB setting turned out to be the "off" setting. Ergo a highly acclaimed feature in an expensive rig that doesn't work. The external monitor (display) function was also hosed, as I later found out from the "Community" after fighting with it that I would have to start up the rig (4 steps) and wait for it to boot up before connecting the external display; otherwise the internal display on the rig came up rotated 90°. I had to do this every time. Nice, eh? No SSB Tx issues on the air (saving the mic profile TX Mon parameter notwithstanding) but receiver performance seemed unimpressive, again considering all the hype leading up to the release and again coupled with the amount paid. I sure didn't feel like I was sitting in front of a $5,000 radio. At this point I knew I had made a big mistake.

    I didn't have the luxury of any test equipment, just my previous IC-7300 to compare, but in side-by-side tests I heard nothing on the Flex rcvr that I wasn't able to hear at least equally well and with equal ease on the 7300. Synchronous AM detection was a nice feature for SWL'ing, but who spends that kind of gelt for an SWL rig? I've also heard an unconfirmed rumor of some possible issue in the second SCU, but I never got that far myself. Oh yeah, one other thing, the new Flex also spontaneously rebooted all on its own twice in the 10 days I had it, but naturally stopped during the boot process waiting for those 3 additional keypresses/user input. I didn't see what happened as I was out of the room, but came back in to be greeted by that danged start-up sequence.

    Just my opinion, but the 6600M (mine at least) was nowhere near being ready for prime time. On a scale of 5 I'd have to give it a 2. (Needs help).

    As for eHam, either the mods are on vacation or else you can't post anything on the 6400/6600 thread that's in any way derogatory. I noticed one what I would call fairly negative review where the poster listed several problem areas, including 2 strikes at product returns/exchanges but then still gave it 5/5. I guess he was drinking the Kool-Ade too. Sherwood's report also missing seems equally strange. Yes, the Flex Community is all hearts & flowers, but that may be by design as I have direct personal knowledge of 3 returns (refund requests) and know several who have reported issues which all seem to wind up in a non-public abyss someplace, safely away from public view. (you can't seem to research them) Perhaps they're just trying to CYA & hold returns to a minimum, but it would sure help a lot to have all of the known performance issues listed somewhere so you could compare against your own issues and didn't have to swim upstream against the fan base and the same 'check this and check that' headwind when trying to report something. Unarguably there's plenty of pilot error to go around, but I really think there's more to it than we're being told.

    And no, I cannot argue that the 6700 is anything but a truly great rig, but it's also been around awhile and has stabilized and let's be very clear about something, it's not a 6600M . There is no way you can draw any parallels or make any comparisons between the 6700 and the 6600M with the possible exception of similar product labeling. The 6700 is a completely different radio. Posting that you've had zero issues with your 6700 isn't helpful and doesn't alter the fact that the 6600M I received was a disappointment. To their credit, Flex was very prompt in sending my refund check just in a matter of a week or so, but I've heard from others who haven't been so lucky and are still been waiting for their refund after a full month.

    Please don't pee on my leg & tell me it's raining. Users aren't stupid. Please don't attempt to insult our intelligence. Anyone who's been active in Ham Radio any length of time can usually tell when something about a rig isn't working right. Not every manufacturer has this insight.

    W4HM, W1JAC, WD8ED and 9 others like this.

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