It started out mostly about money.
About a year ago I started seriously looking into adding the 2nd receiver to my K3. I thought (correctly, as it turns out) that being able to listen to the DX on one receiver (left headphone) and the pile-up on the other (right headphone) would offer a significant advantage when working the big DXpeditions. But I also knew that seeing the entire pile-up at once on a pan display would make it easier to find the last station worked and therefore the DX’s listening freq. The cost to add both the sub-receiver, 400 Hz CW filter and panadapter to my K3 would be close to $1600. This is on top of what the K3 already cost.
It was at this point that I started looking at a state of the art manufacturer just down the road from me – Flex Radio.
I subscribed to the Flex user’s forum and read it and the Elecraft reflector daily. User’s opinions, problems, solutions and complaints gave me a good idea of whether I could justify the money for an entirely new rig rather than upgrading what I was already familiar with. A QRP Apache Labs Anan-10E had given me an introduction into the world of SDR operating and I liked it. A lot.
After informing myself as best I could about the Flex’s capabilities, and reading all the opinions on Sherwood Engineering’s rankings, it was time to look at the other numbers – the ones preceded by a dollar sign. When I did, the Flex made more financial sense than pimping my K3. I bought the “entry model” Flex – the 6300 and, after 8 months, I have zero regrets.
For $2500, here’s what it offers along with the price to outfit a K3 in a similar way:
Granted, the F6300 is not the Flex rig that gets top billing in the numbers department. That would be the 6500/6700, one of the main advantages of them over the 6300 being ham band preselectors (the other advantage being 4 receivers - a feature unavailable in the K3 or any non-SDR rig regardless of price). I obsessed over this difference and about the $4300 Flex 6500 but I needn't have worried. Last November's CQWW (CW) contest dispelled any misplaced notions that lacking those preselectors would lead to an inability to copy weak signals next to strong ones - a scenario common in CQWW. The lower-priced '6300 had zero problems in that or any other department.
Many pile-ups for very rare DX have taken place since I bought my Flex - Juan de Nova, Heard, South Sandwich - and the '6300 is doing what I bought it to do. I'm in and done with the pile-ups more quickly that I would have been with my almost-stock K3 - at a much more reasonable price than a "Flex-equivalent" K3.