I have to say that I am now hooked on SDR's and would have a difficult time a switching back to a traditional radio. The performance of the radio is truly unbelievable. You can go to the FlexRadio Systems website for all the features, but here a few that I really like.
It has the ability to define both transmit and receive filtering to any width you want or need. I am able to use the brick wall filtering on receive to completely block out nearby stations and noise. On the transmit side you also have to ability to choose any filter width and cut off point. When working DX I use a narrow 2.4kHz bandwidth, for normal HF I will widen it to 2.9kHz, and when talking to local ESSB friends on 75 meters and if conditions allow I will open it up 3.4kHz. The filters adjustable to a full 9.999 kHz wide!
As shown in the screen shot above, the Flex-5000A and PowerSDR software provides the ability to listen to two different passbands within the 192K of bandwidth that the radio is receiving. I have used this to listen to both sides of DX stations who is working a split. You can also have a QSO on frequency and listen to another. This does NOT require a second receiver. There is a second receiver available as an upgrade that allows you to work Full-Duplex
The interface for the radio is PowerSDR software. From the software I have full control over all aspects of the radio. I know that many feel that they need to have knobs and VFO to spin and that was my concern initially, but once you start using the software and a mouse, it is hard to go back. The software also provides a Pandadapter, Waterfall, Spectrum Display, Phase Display as well as combinations those already mentioned. I generally use the Panafall which is the Panadapter on the top and the Waterfall below. With the 192Khz sampling I can entire General, Phone portion of the 20m band. The display is great for quickly identifying weak signals as well as new signal coming up on the band. I have been able to see a DX station tuning up on the band and been able to be his or her first contact. You can also very easily see when someone is transmitting out the passband or splattering nearby. The waterfall is also let you see where signal have been in the past.
Digital Modes without Wires
AD/DA converstion is all done in the software. So using third party software call Virtual Audio Cable (VAC) there is no need for an audio interface for working digital modes or running cables between the radio and the sound card. All of it can be configured via software.
My first "big boy" HF radio was my Kenwood TS-940s-AT. I love this radio. I bought it as a complete station from the estate of a silent key with a SM-220 Station Monitor, SP-940 speaker and MC-85 Deluxe Microphone. It is a great, straight forward, simple to operate, high performance HF radio. It has fantastic audio and is great for getting through rough band conditions. The slope tuning features really helps to pull stations out of the noise. I added a Timewave-599xz external DSP unit to improve the already great receive audio. To improve the transmit audio, I was using a Heil Goldline HC-4 microphone and W2IHY 8 Band EQ and EQplus. With the Heil switched to the narrow DX element it punches into pile-ups. I also have had it connected to RigBlaster Pro for PSK31 and RTTY.
My first attempt at an HF antenna was a Slinky Dipole. It was strung up on a couple of tripod lighting stands that were being thrown out and one end from the chimney. I was able to tune it on 10m-40m using a LDG RBA-1:1 Balun and a LDG-AT100 auto tuner. It worked okay and I was thrilled since I was a new General. It was not perfect but for under $20 I was on the air and working some DX into Eastern Europe.
My next stage with antennas was Hamstick Dipoles. I purchased a pair of Workman Mobile HF Hamstix on for 6m, 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m, 40m, and 75m along with a horizontal dipole mount. I made myself a choke balun from 20ft of thin Radio Shack Coax and a empty plastic tennis ball can and I was on the air. They worked really well and was able to work Europe, Africa, Central America, and South America as well as North America and the Carribean. The good news was that I did not need a tuner. The bad news was that on the lower bands the bandwidth got very narrow and I needed to change out elements every time I wanted to change bands.
This is a great solution for Hams that want to get on HF but have limited space and limited funds. I found a great supplier in Ham4Less.com . The owner of the company Bill Rouch N6HBO . is a great guy who started his company to supply ham radio products at affordable prices to HandiHams with limited incomes. His prices and service are great and was a pleasure to do business with.
HI-Q 4/80 RT MC-1H Tune-A-Dipole
My current antenna is a HI-Q 4/80 RT MC-1H Tune-A-Dipole. It is essentially two Hi-Q screwdriver antennas configured as a dipole. It is controlled by a HI-Q DC Controller and mounted on a rotor at approximately 35 feet.
This, however is not a plug-and-play antenna. When I purchased mine a had to make modifications to the supplied mount in order to mount it on my rotor and weather proof the connections. Charlie W6HIQ, the owner and designer of the antenna was a tremendous help and provides unmatched customer support. It was not a difficutl taks, but it did require some planning an inginuity.
This is also not an inexpensive antenna system. Howerver, I believe it is the best solution for my needs, situation, and location.