FlexRadio Maestro Inspires Innovation

The Maestro from FlexRadio Systems that debuted a few days ago at Hamvention remains firmly stuck in my head. It’s a hardware front-end for their 6000 series transceivers. A touchy-feely front panel for a radio that exists almost exclusively in silicon and software. Portable, lightweight, and with an option for wireless operation, I imagine carrying it outside to a table on the deck when days are too nice to sit inside a radio shack to be bliss.

maestro

Another part of the attraction for me is that I can finally get real knobs and buttons on a radio from Flex. But what has me most excited is that it removes the necessity for a PC. I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, I’ll never own a radio that requires me to stare into a computer monitor like a zombie. It’s why I’ve avoided SDR’s like the plague.

My idea of radio adventure doesn’t include endlessly trying to work out Windows driver issues, I/O conflicts, hard drive faults, incompatible screen resolutions, OS updates that break things, and all the joys that attend being an unpaid IT support and software beta tester for SDR equipment manufacturers.

It’s like my wife says about the self-checkout lines at the grocery — “I’ll start using them when they start paying me to ring the goods up and sack them”.

As I look at the Maestro interface, I must assume this is the way the designers at Flex imagined the front of their 6000 transceivers would look, had they been designed with a traditional front panel. No more, no less. A workable utility that no doubt will evolve over time to include new and useful features.

Thinking about how that design might be modified, I got inspired. And then I got a little crazy. Turn your imagination on and consider this nutty notion…

Suppose someday Flex licensed the technology required to remotely communicate and control their transceivers to third party manufacturers. And suppose those manufacturers designed their own front-end interfaces for those transceivers.

kwm2

 

tr4

Now suppose someone made one that looked a lot like the front-panel of a Collins KWM-2 or a Drake TR-4 or a HeathKit SB-104 — or even some old WWII radio equipment.

For that matter, any other classic radio design that the market would bear. The front panel is just plastic and could be made to look like almost anything I suppose. It wouldn’t even have to look like any radio front panel we’ve ever seen before.

Steampunk ham radio!

So long as the cosmetic front-end can communicate and control the transceiver, 3rd-party designers could go crazy and offer up a plethora of designs that run the gamut from nostalgic to futuristic and no doubt delighting a lot of ham radio enthusiasts in the process.

I’ve got to quit thinking so much about the Maestro.

Author: Jeff Davis

 

5 thoughts on “FlexRadio Maestro Inspires Innovation”

  1. Yes, the Maestro is an intriguing gadget. It’s an obvious evolution of the SDR platform.

    I got a chuckle out of your comments about “endlessly trying to work out Windows driver issues, I/O conflicts, hard drive faults, incompatible screen resolutions, OS updates…..” and on the forums you see guys that get bogged down with these issues, trying to run a flex 6000 on a laptop running XP or Vista. (In my opinion they deserve their woes). MY experience since Oct. 28th with the Flex 6300 has been smooth plug n play (into a Win (8.1) platform.

    Does one really ned to go out on the Deck and operate, if you have a full blown station in the house? No. But do hams really need “back up” rigs? What for? to Ragchew?….. The Maestro is an irresistable accessory that is a waste of time and money and will be occasionally fun. (Oh wait….that’s my definition of ham radio….”waste of time…..) I Pre- Ordered a Maestro this weekend! Laughs

    Cheers
    Mike

  2. Good points — but I still want the KWM-2 faceplate!🙂

    I’m going to breakdown and order one Mike — too irresistible to pass on…🙂

  3. Not everyone wants knobs and dials on their radio or boat anchors in their shack, some like old radio, some like new radio, each to their own, whatever works to keep ham radio ticking along. I only use an FT817 and a bit of wire and that works for me!

  4. Why do you think you will have to ‘stare at a computer monitor like a zombie’ if you buy a Flex or any other SDR?
    I have no idea how old you are but I am 68 and have been licensed, on and off, since I was 14 – a little maths tells you that I have been playing radio since before 1960.
    The reason to tell you that is to explain that when I first started playing radio for 99% of the amateurs I knew there weren’t many commercial transmitters, receivers yes but TX? No. So we modded ex military stuff or made our own. What we had was BIG and had lots of knobs.

    After a long time away from radio I came back 12 months ago and bought an Icom 775DSP – very big, very heavy and lots and lots of knobs – sheer heaven!

    I got the chance to try SDR and within 5 minutes I was converted. Every is a mouse click or 2 away, It felt so intuitive. I didn’t have to dig into the manual to find how to access the menu and then drill down through 3 layers to brighten the front panel!

    No more big radios here – the 775 is for sale and a Flex 6300 will be here by this time next week.

    BUT – whatever you like, be it knobs or screens, enjoy the hobby.

    Tim

  5. Hi Tim, thanks for your comment. I’m 56, been a ham since 1977, and have been working with computers since 1981. In fact, I spend 8-10 hours each day in front of a computer. The last thing I want to do with my free time – my hobby time, is to spend a few more hours in front of a computer screen.

    Even so, while that may in itself be tolerable, what I REALLY don’t want to do is be an unpaid beta tester for SDR software that is never finished. I read the FlexRadio community groups, and from that, I gather that many hours are expended by Flex customers in pursuit of resolving interrupt conflicts, driver problems, and all manner of operating system “fun”.

    I do believe much of that has been mitigated by the 6000 series design and that’s great. But I still have no interest in staring at a computer monitor in order to talk to someone on a radio.

    That’s why I was so effusive in my praise of the ‘Maestro’ concept.

    Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

    73, Jeff

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