Moving Back to FlexRadio

Around the time I moved house I sold my FlexRadio 6500. The new house was in a community that had serious no-antenna restrictions. And for a whole host of personal reasons I didn’t have much time in my life for ham radio.

After the move, I pretty quickly regretted not having an HF radio. So, I got an IC-7300 and very occasionally connected it to a temporary outdoor antenna so I could play.

In November 2023, I decided to get back on the air “by any means necessary.” I got a Ciro Mazzoni Stealth Loop antenna that I hid in the woods (I’ll write more about that separately) and I hooked up the IC-7300. I was back on the air. Sort of. Somewhat. A little.

At first, things did not go smoothly. Why? Well, for one thing, the only time I had ever used a radio with knobs and buttons was as an SWL. My entire ham life I had used a PC-based SDR. First, it was an SDR-100. Then a FlexRadio 1500. Then a Flex-6500. None of these had a front panel. They all relied on software running on a PC, and displayed a gloriously large, customizable, panadapter (and waterfall). See a signal; Click with the mouse to tune.

Turning a knob and staring at the comparatively little display on the IC-7300 was quite a change. I bought a printed copy of the manual. I studied it. And between my ID-5100 (VHF/UHF rig) and the IC-7300 I slowly caught-on to “the Icom way” of doing things.

Even then, it took a while to get properly on the air. I chose new logging program. I imported all my old QSO data. I got the logging program automatically reading the frequency data from the IC-7300. Finally, I made some FT-8, FT-4, and SSB QSOs. But I never really could become close friends with the IC-7300’s panadapter/waterfall display. It was just too small for me, and not sufficiently customizable for my tastes.

But, you know what? I learned that I really liked controlling the radio with knobs and buttons. Surprise!

So, given that I was absolutely dedicated to staying on the air on HF, and that I wasn’t likely to ever fall in love with the IC-7300’s display, I thought I should explore the possibility of getting a Flex radio with a front panel. So, I checked-out the Flex-6400M on the Flex website. I found this:

Given that it was December 2023, and the notice read “if you placed an order… before August 15, 2022, your order will be processed” it didn’t seem too likely that I was going to be able to buy one of these. At least, not any time snoon.

Imagine my surprise when, in mid-January 2024, I tripped over a posting on QRZ where a ham was selling his 6400M. This was an incredible coincidence, and to this day I have no idea how I noticed this posting. I had never, not once, checked out the QRZ For Sale section. And the OM who had the rig for sale is somebody I had actually talked with on D-Star just a week or so before!

Within a few hours, the Flex-6400M was on its way to me.

When it finally arrived, I set the radio up temporarily to test it out. Within two hours, I had an SSB QSO with Serbia. I loved the knobs and switches. And I really loved the big, fully customizable, display! Yes, I was in love with my new Flex-6400M in a way I never could manage to love my IC-7300. Ah… you just can’t explain love, can you 🙂 .

After that, it was just a matter of a few hours of work to get the IC-7300 extracted from the station, the Flex-6400M permanently cabled-in, and the software all properly configured. And… voila! My new Flex-6400M station:

Yeah, I’m pretty happy with that setup. And, you know what? Though I’ve got the Flex DAX and CAT apps running, I still haven’t even started SmartSDR. I think I’m going to concentrate on using the front panel for a while.

I am very grateful for my IC-7300. Not only did it get me back on the air when I thought I’d be off the air forever, but it taught me that knobs and buttons can be a good thing on a radio.