New FlexRadio 6000 Signature Series HF Transceiver
As with other manufacturers in the ham radio community, FlexRadio Systems revealed their new Flex-6000 Signature Series HF + 50 MHz transceivers at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention. This new transceiver introduces SmartSDR. RF subsystems in the FLEX-6000 are virtualized as reusable hardware blocks or Signal Capture Units (SCU) with specific capabilities. SmartSDR understands the capabilities of each SCU and how to harness its power. As data from the SCUs enters the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) at a combined rate of over 7.8Gbps, SmartSDR performs advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) on the data, splitting it into individual Panadapters and Slice Receivers. Slice Receivers are dynamically allocated full performance receivers that can be directed to the speaker or headphones for listening, or can be streamed as digitized RF to external digital applications. Panadapters and Slice Receivers can be created and destroyed at will.
The FLEX-6000 Signature Series achieves the goal of RF to bits at the antenna connector. Digital Down conversion (DDC) of the signal at RF, virtually eliminates the performance limitations inherent in legacy superheterodyne roofing filter based transceivers. Gone is the requirement for analog mixing and IF amplification stages that add images and intermodulation distortion. Eliminated is the need for expensive crystal roofing filters that add their own distortion and ringing. Direct digital receivers are simply quieter and less fatiguing to listen to over longer periods of time.
The FLEX-6500 and FLEX-6700 transceivers utilize FPGA hardware to directly generate the CW waveform digitally at the RF carrier frequency. This means that the RF carrier switches at hardware speeds without first element truncation as is typical in many radios. When combined high speed TR and bias switching on the PA, <10 millisecond key down to RF output is achieved. True FSK mark/space carrier is also digitally generated directly at the RF output frequency.
I will be honest, in the past, the Flex systems were not really a CW contester's rig because of the delay in the system. If this new high speed TR switching is as good as they claim it is, it may start seeing its entry into contesters' shacks. Most of the CW contesters that I know of have migrated to the Elecraft K3, which is also a SDR (Software Defined Radio). It will have to be a paradigm shift better for these people to dump the K3 and move to the new Flex 6000 series of transceivers. But if it is a better radio, I am sure that there will be a lot of used K3's on the market. The jury is still out to see how it stands up in true contest conditions. It has a lot of gee-whiz options on it, but will it really perform in the confines of the big multi-multi contest stations during CQWW CW or a RTTY contest, where speed and filtering are of the essence? Only time will tell. The Flex-6700 transceiver will have a list price of $6,999, while the Flex-6500 transceiver will come in at $3,999. The Flex-6700R receiver will cost $5,999.
The FLEX-6700 transceiver and FLEX-6700R receiver each allow creation of up to 8 independent Slice Receivers from 0.03 MHz to 77 MHz and 135 MHz to 165 MHz. The FLEX-6500 allows creation of up to 4 Slice Receivers with tuning from 0.03 MHz to 77 MHz. Each Slice Receiver can provide independent spectral display of up to 384 kHz. Each FLEX-6000 Signature Series radio is equipped with a 1Gbps Ethernet port and two USB 2.0 ports for communication to existing PCs or other future display platform!
The Xilinx® Virtex®-6 FPGA works in tandem with a Texas Instruments® DaVinci® Digital Media Processor that includes a 1.4 GHz (1.2 GHz on FLEX-6500) ARM Cortex®-A8 CPU with NEON® floating point coprocessor. It also includes a 1.2 GHz (1.0 GHz on FLEX-6500), 32-bit floating point DSP coprocessor. The FLEX-6000 Signature Series achieves PNDR (Phase Noise Dynamic Range) through the incorporation of an ultra-low phase noise master oscillator at 983.04 MHz. The FLEX-6500 and FLEX-6700 incorporate a 100W push-pull pair of RD100HHF1 MOSFET transistors operating at 13.8V DC. The back of this rig actually looks like a transceiver and not a computer!
You can look at the full description of these transceivers via a PDF brochure from FlexRadio at: FLEX-6000 Series Brochure