The Spectrum is wildly popular, they are showing up more and more at regattas and are reasonably priced. They are available with or without servos, and sell for between $140-$190 in different arrangements. Out of 32 registered boats for the Class Annual this weekend, 8 of them were DX-6.
The only real knock I have heard from the guys using them, and it is from ALL of them… is the antenna is EXTREMELY easy to break off, and you are stuck. I heard of one guy taking 3 of them to a regatta (to backup and offer to sell) and be broke 2 of them before the racing even started. Then comes the mad scramble for a fix, which is still up in the air. Once this problem is ironed out, I think that it will be doing just fine, but Futaba is already working on their versions, as well as the guys in Lake Havasu AZ that are making the modules that will convert your existing radios over to digital.
If you are thinking about saving some money and converting your existing radios… STOP… because the conversions are more expensive than the new radios. Just in MHO, I think that the DX-6 is giving good performance … bang for your buck right now… but if you do not absolutely HAVE to have one… the more you wait the better deal you are going to get.
One of the most important factors here is, as we all know… the R/C sailing community is WAY down the list for manufacturers such as JR, HiTech and Futaba… we are barely on their radar, and even then mostly only noticed when it comes to Sail Winch servos. The pilots are always getting the good deals and fancy features on their super-duper radios… and that has always been the way because of the number of units sold… but because of the freq/band seperation… we were left out. Because of the new technology… there will no longer be Us vs. Them on radios… all those nifty features that are on the transmitters will be available to ANY R/C model because those 72-75 Mhz seperations are a thing of the past.
As the new digital radios become more common, those features are going to ride along and won’t that be a nice thing for all of us!
As to the inexpensive AM radios… they are indeed FINE for sailing, and even some racing… but I can assure you, that if you attend a very full event with 25+ boats on the water, do not expect to make it through the event with your $80 Futaba 2 channel ATTACK radio, and not get hits. There is nothing quite as frustrating as nailing the start and first around the weather mark stretching out your lead… only to watch your boat suddenly start turning circles while the whole fleet passes you. It may only happen a few times… but it sure wrecks your scores. Switching over to an FM radio will help, and a PCM 1024 is even better. I have taken to setting up my loaners and test boats with inexpensive radios, and then should they actually go into battle, I only need to swap the receiver for a PCM Rx, and use my favorite Tx which is already on my reserved freq at the club. I sailed with 30 other boats this weekend and had 100% satisfactory control.