Flexiva 3DX or NX50

AM Radio discussion. Directional arrays are FUN!
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Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by sallen »

If you had the choice of what was bought for a new 50KW AM rig what would you get? Space is not an issue. Choices are the Gates Air Flexiva 3dx or the Nautel NX50. Are there known issues or pain in the ass repairs for either? Which is more reliable?

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Dale H. Cook
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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by Dale H. Cook »

I cannot speak to which is more reliable, but Nautel has a history of supporting their transmitters significantly longer than other manufacturers. Right now I would not consider purchasing a GatesAir transmitter. IMHO the fact that they have not been able to get the customer portal working since the web site switched from Harris to GatesAir (7+ months) is a very bad sign to me. A web site is now a crucial part of customer support because it provides instant access to manuals, service bulletins, and other critical information. If a company can't even make their web site work correctly I would not invest big bucks in one of their transmitters. This is 2015, not 1955.
Dale H. Cook, Contract Engineer, Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA

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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by kkiddkkidd »

I have never installed either brand 50kw but would be a little concerned with the financial stability of GatesAir these days. Dale is correct, a dead website for months isn't particularly confidence inspiring.

Nautel still supports their oldest transmitters. Not to mention that there is a certain lurker here that can be fairly useful in a bind :roll: .
Kevin C. Kidd CSRE/AMD
AM Ground Systems Company
KK Broadcast Engineering

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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by KPJL FM »

I thought Jeff was useful for something, just couldn't remember what..... :P
I'll second the Nautel choice. I haven't had the pleasure of maintaining the AM boxes, but the FM's are nice.
Trim to fit, paint to match, tune for minimum smoke.

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Deep Thought
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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by Deep Thought »

The 3dx50 is an established box that is relatively easy to service and there are a lot of them out there, but don't expect much support from GatesAir going forward. As everyone else mentioned, customer support is not a priority with them as evidenced by the lack of web access to things like manuals and tech bulletins. Having said that, both times I've called them since the changeover (during business hours...no idea what after-hours is like) they've had the part and shipped it promptly, and were professional and courteous on the phone.

The NX-50 is also a nice box but has been infected by Nautel's bad design choices involving way too much ancillary third-party-vendor computerization that they can't troubleshoot. Their earlier efforts were mostly in-house sourced and their tech support staff knew how they worked, and could usually get to the problem fairly quickly. Not so much today. I just went through a NX-50 troubleshooting-by-phone experience that should not have happened. The on-site engineer had isolated two "Meanwell" power supplies in the transmitter as the culprits shutting the entire box down but was overridden by Nautel's tech support who insisted it was something else. When a regulated power supply output is drifting around at almost twice its rated voltage it's at least a problem if not the problem. Nautel's phone techs were arguing about it and even hung up on him, which is when he called me. Two power supplies later the transmitter was back on air after being down for four days. I have had similar experiences in the last 12 months, and they really need to nip this in the bud before it spreads to the entire company.
Mark Mueller • Mueller Broadcast Design • La Grange, IL • http://www.muellerbroadcastdesign.com

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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by COMMENG »

sallen wrote:If you had the choice of what was bought for a new 50KW AM rig what would you get? Space is not an issue. Choices are the Gates Air Flexiva 3dx or the Nautel NX50. Are there known issues or pain in the ass repairs for either? Which is more reliable?
I would base the choice on two technical aspects:

1. How much experience and knowledge do you and the technical staff have wrt broadcast electronics,

(I.E., how much are you willing to do, and how much can you do on your own irrespective of manf. [non]support)?

2. Do the respective companies have comprehensive and quality training classes for each transmitter?

(I.E., contact the manf. and other BE's and try to get a picture of the extent of training. It's one thing to have a class on the theory of transmitter operation, but does the manf. explore pitfalls, error indications and what to do when error indications arise)?

Deep Thought has some very good points for consideration. :!:


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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by PA_TUNE »

I will agree with Dale, Kevin, and Mark. I refuse to specify GatesAir products until such time as they prove that they are in it for the long haul. The disappearance of the Support Portal has cost me to lose a lot of faith in the company, and every day that it's absent makes me less apt to do further business with them.

Since the Portal disappeared, I've specified 3 new transmitters. I urged my clients to stay away from GatesAir at this time, and all three chose Nautel.

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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by sallen »

I actually maintain 3 DX50's (90's vintage two main and a backup) 1 ND50 and a NX50. I have had to replace the rack interface on the Nautel NX50, not fun. I actually have a good understanding of Nautel support and know most of the support people. The NX50 I take care of runs IBOC and just last month Javad from Nautel came out to swap all the power modules and do a mini rebuild, but we did not take any of the back planes out. We did replace the combiner rod that runs through the backplanes. I do know that you need to remove both sides on the NX50 to remove the combiner rod and remove a backplane section. So keep that in mind when placing the NX50. You need more space on the left side of the box as you face it from the front to remove the combiner rod if you ever have to take out a backplane section.

I actually know the NX50 really well. So well I have a list called the top ten things Nautel told me not to do to the NX50.

Number one goes with out saying. DO not do a firmware update while on the air. The first time we had to update the firmware it never mentioned if the transmitter had to be off. So I called Nautel to verify that firmware should not be updated while on air. So that became number one.

I just had to replace a module in one of the DX50's last week after a power outage. I have been taking care of this box for about 18 months and this is the first module issue. The battery holder on this box is another story and has made me concerned about the other DX50 and the backup DX50 battery holders

The backup transmitters I help maintain are an original Amphet for one station, Gates five with night duty and a 317C-2 (any one need a 317C-1?). And the DX50 that is a backup to a newer DX50.

The NX50 and the older DX50 are at a shared site and during that special time of the year when the bugs like to swam the tower base the Nautel NX50 will email me (yes I know I set it up to email and there are other alarms I have since disabled the email alert on after originally setting them up) every time it does a fast VSWR and then after about 6 of these it does the VSWR foldback. The DX50 just dumps really quick and goes on no matter how many times it zaps a bug. I have adjusted the ball gaps and it does not do this very often any more but some of the emails the NX50 sends can help refine how to run the box.

I guess I have a love hate relation ship with the NX50 and unless the NX50 can get on line it will never know I'm relationship shopping another transmitter....Oh wait the NX50 does have internet access!

I'm not looking to replace the NX50 the owners are happy with it. I'm wondering if there is something better to get in a "relationship with". Since transmitters are not people, although it could be a future update from Nautel, it makes me wonder if there is anything better. Are these the only real selections for high power AM stations or am I missing a manufacture. I also have minimal experience with Gates-air support so I have no info to offer or experience to draw on. I know Garret Woods and his replacement who I have meet, who's card is on the desk of one of the stations I take care of. I expect the next New transmitter will be a 3DX50 or NX50. I'm comfortable with either one. It's enlightening and interesting to hear the different views and experience with these 50KW rigs.

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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by Shane »

317C series has a special place in my heart. The -C3 especially. Got a story or two I'll share in another forum.

My company has a bunch of DX50s and 3DX50s but I'm not in any of those markets. There may be an older Nautel or two in there. Anyway, since we keep buying them my guess is they are happy with them. Standardizing also has the advantage of one being able to share notes with one's colleagues. Not that we can't do that here.

This discussion has been quite informative.
Mike Shane, CBRE
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Re: Flexiva 3DX or NX50

Post by jammerdave »

I still have a certain DX-50 in service as backup. Still works great, very reliable. Serial #1, ENG model. 1530 KFBK. :D

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