Overloading: The Xiegu X6100’s biggest negative

I’ve had the Xiegu X6100 on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, 2021. In that time, I’ve used it heavily in the shack and I’ve taken it on three field activations using a variety of antennas.

Overall, I think it’s a great little field radio.

I’ll be producing an in-depth review of the X6100 for The Spectrum Monitor magazine, but in the meantime I’m trying to bring up any points in advance that might help others make a purchase decision.

On that note?

Receiver overloading

Let’s face it: receiver strong signal handling and overload performance are important factors when you choose a radio.

No one buys a new radio and says, “I really hope it overloads easily!

As the title of this post implies, the biggest negative with the Xiegu X6100–in my humble opinion–is that it is prone to overload when in the presence of a strong signal. It’s a shame the front end isn’t more robust.

I’ve noticed this from my QTH, especially when tuning the X6100 outside of the ham radio bands. Indeed, I recently made a post about this on the SWLing Post. In truth, though, all bets are off when we move into the broadcast portions of the HF spectrum. Transceiver manufacturers usually don’t guarantee performance outside the ham bands. It makes sense as the focus is placed on ham band filtering.

But I have noticed overloading on the ham radio bands as well.

Earlier today, I did a park activation in Pisgah National Forest with the X6100. Before my activation started, I could hear a local AM broadcaster punching through the X6100’s front end all over the 40M band. I think it was a station on 1010 kHz which is only about 4-5 miles away from the site as the crow flies.

Disappointing.

Was it an issue? Not really. Not for me.

Once stations started calling me, the X6100 shifted attention to the loudest signals: my chasers. There were times when I believe the local AM station caused the X6100 audio to temporarily deafen–perhaps when the broadcaster transmitting higher gain audio? I’m not sure. It sounded like an AGC hangup and you’ll be able to hear it for yourself when I upload the activation video. [Note to Xiegu: I think the X6100’s AGC could be adjusted to better cope with this.]

Elephant in the room?

It’s worth noting that over the past two weeks, I’ve seen comments here on QRPer and have gotten emails from readers who’ve also experienced X6100 overloading.

For hams who live near blowtorch stations, the overloading may be bad enough that the radio isn’t terribly functional from home unless you’re willing to implement external band pass filtering.

My free advice

If you live in an urban area–especially near a broadcast station–and you intend to primarily operate from home, I would say pass on the X6100.

On the other hand, if you plan to primarily use the X6100 in the field? You may still consider one.

From my perspective, in the field, overloading is much less likely to be an issue unless you’re planning a summit activation and you know in advance you’ll be among a large cluster of broadcast towers. I’m not sure I’d trust it in that situation. I also wouldn’t trust the X6100 during an RF-dense event like field day and certainly not on a Field Day site with multiple operators on the air simultaneously.

If the X6100 were in the same price class as the Icom IC-705, Elecraft KX2, or Elecraft KX3–? Overloading would be unacceptable and a deal-killer for me.

But the X6100 costs less than half of those radios when similarly outfitted. I don’t expect a $630 radio to place at the top of Rob Sherwood’s receiver test table (like the others mentioned). The X6100 was designed around field use, not contesting.

Still. Overloading isn’t good.

I don’t want to downplay this.

Unless Xiegu can do something to address the overloading in firmware updates (I’m guessing this is more a hardware thing?) I won’t readily recommend the X6100 to new ham radio operators who plan to use it as their primary rig. It would be a shame for them to receive their new radio only to find they can’t hear stations at home because the front end of their receiver can’t handle the local RF.

Yet I bought one…

Yes, I placed an order for a new X6100 from Radioddity fully aware of the overloading issue. I’m hoping my unit will arrive in the next few weeks because I’m soon sending this loaner to the next reviewer.

And you might be thinking…”But Thomas! You hypocrite, you! One of the reasons you sent the uSDX back was because it overloaded.

That’s a very good point, imaginary person! Thank you for bringing it up.

Frankly, I worry about people making purchase decisions based on what I might or might not say. I don’t consider myself an “influencer”–that implies persuasion and a focus on sales. Rather, I attempt to be a reviewer…a reasonably objective one.

But back to the uSDX…

The uSDX overloaded in the presence of normal CW and SSB signals. And when it overloaded, it sounded awful. My particular unit (not all are this way) was simply unusable. Period.

The X6100’s front end is much better than the uSDX. I can personally live with and work around the X6100’s overloading. Sure, it’s annoying when it happens, but it hasn’t happened often and I can still hear my target signals without an issue.

Today was a good example: even with some overloading, it was one of the busiest activations in recent memory and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were pileups in both CW and especially SSB. Over 60 stations logged pretty effortlessly in very short order.

And thanks to my buddy Scott (KN3A), I can hear what the X6100 sounded like on the other end of the ether.

He recorded the following video as I worked CW stations. (You may need to turn up the volume):

And he recorded this one while I was operating SSB:

Thanks, Scott!

Summary

I suppose what I’m saying about the X6100 is that, for me, the other pros of this radio (price, built-in ATU, built-in battery, excellent display, compact/rugged design, good audio, built-in microphone, good electronic keying, digital decode, etc. etc.) make up for the weak front end.

This might not be the case for you, and that’s why I’m making this post now so that it might help guide your purchase decision.

As with most things, it depends on the operator and their own unique context.

If you think it’ll be an issue, give it a pass or at least wait until I post the field report and activation video from this particular outing. It’s a great example of operating with a bit of overloading in play. I hope to have this video uploaded within a week.

I would love to hear from X6100 owners. Some have commented on other posts about overloading and, much like me, are still happy with the radio. It’s funny because I also had mixed feelings about the X5105, yet I bought one and enjoy using it.

So there you go.

17 thoughts on “Overloading: The Xiegu X6100’s biggest negative”

  1. Thomas,
    Great comments! Could you elaborate on if overloading is a problem with the TX500?
    Thank you!
    Mike
    AI7HP

    1. Hi, Mike,

      I haven’t noticed overloading in the ham bands on the TX-500. Rob Sherwood has tested the TX-500, so you can actually see how it stacks up compare to a few other field radios on his receiver test data table:
      http://sherweng.com/table.html

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  2. Looks like the CW QSO recording was on X6100??? SSB on IC705 or IC7300.

    My X6100 order is still in China. Does sound like the X6100 has wide open front end meaning no front end filtering. AM broacast station 7 MHz away overloading it.

    73, ron, n9ee

    1. Hi Ron,

      I did the CW recording on my 6100. When Tom moved to SSB, instead of swapping antennas around, I decided to record it on my 7300 which was hooked up to the 40 meter inverted vee. I work from home QTH now and had to do what was quickest for me to get a recording in. The antenna and x6100 I used for the CW recording was also the antenna and radio I used to contact Tom on CW.

      Scott
      KN3A

  3. Waiting to hear your SSB video to see the overloading issue. Especially since I was one of your SSB contacts.

    Xiegu just released a new firmware for the G90 and it addressed volume and AGC issues among other things so maybe they will fix the 6100 too. I can’t afford to buy one until later this year so I have plenty of time for Xiegu to fix the issue.

    1. Yeah, it might be best to hold off. Again, I’m not sure if they can fix the overloading in firmware. I imagine they can and will work on the AGC, though. Glad they’re still pushing out updates for the G90!

      Great working you!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  4. I worked you today on my X6100. I live in a fairly quiet RF area. I had no problems hearing you. I also worked other stations from MA and MN. So far I am pleased with my X6100. I have been using SDR type radios for a few years and my piece of advice is to learn to use the RF gain knob. The RF gain on my 7610 is almost always turned down a bit. But it’s nice to have that cushion when working a weak station. I also have my AGC set to fast.

    1. I wanted to add to this a bit as I was thinking it over last night. The X6100 has what I think are a good set of filters. For CW I usually use either the 500 or 250 Hz. They look and feel very similar to Icom’s dual passband filters. One of the possible reasons for the overload may be the lack of roofing filters (a guess on my part); however, the dual passband filters when used make up for that. Thanks for the write-up.

  5. Good morning Thomas,

    Wow, I’m so glad that I resisted the temptation to order one of these. The “I could hear a local AM broadcaster punching through the X6100’s front end all over the 40M band” seals the deal for me. I imagine it would be worse with a better antenna.

    Your comment about it not being an issue once your activation started due to the X6100 copying the strong stations that called seems like another way of saying that you wouldn’t be able to copy the weak stations calling you.

    Thanks for an honest review!

    1. Thank you, John. Yeah, it’s disappointing to bandscan the entire 40 meter band from the bottom to the top with an ever-present AM broadcaster in the audio.

      Overloading/imaging is a funny thing and, sadly, I’ve had a lot of experience with it.

      I liken it to putting vaseline on a camera lens. The (audio) picture becomes so fuzzy and nebulous, you don’t know what you’re hearing and not hearing. When receivers are overwhelmed, they behave erratically.

      I’ll never forget doing Field Day with an amazing club one year. They had one of the best thought-through transceiver and antenna management systems I’d ever seen for a multi-op situation.

      But all three (or four?) of their field day transceivers were the club’s Yaesu FT-450s. The ‘450 isn’t a bad radio for day-to-day stuff, but the receiver simply fell apart in the RF density of Field Day. I was on SSB duty and knew my signal was getting out (via their 50’ HF Yagi) but the audio was so garbled, I couldn’t identify anyone trying to work me. I had one of the lowest Q counts I’ve ever had despite one of the best FD antennas I’d ever used.

      Ironically, their GOTA station was a Kenwood TS-930s. The difference in receivers and audio was night and day. The TS-930s wiped the floor with those FT-450s.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  6. Thomas, what X6100 firmware version were you using? This is from the firmware update released last week.

    BASE : V1.1.2 Dec 30 2021,15:37:48

    Improved NR performance, the noise caused by the NR algorithm itself is eliminated.
    Improved ALC performance, CW performance is improved.

      1. Hi, Scott!

        Great point. So I had the previous version of the X6100 firmware on the rig during that activation. I think the update might help the AGC, but I’m not sure if it could help the overloading in general. I will give it a go, though!

        Cheers,
        Thomas

  7. The problem might not be ‘overloading’ but a return of one of the early direct conversion receiver’s problem of AM breakthrough. This was caused by several phenomena including intermodulation but most likely is due to a nonlinear element like a PN junction that demodulates the AM and couples it into the audio or the I and Q in the X6100’s case. If the AM signal can be heard all over the band instead of at distinct frequencies, this is most likely the issue. A possible fix would be to offset the I and Q in frequency so that the audio range is not included, i.e. to an “IF”.
    Gary
    W9TD

  8. X6100 in the field.

    It’s almost impossible to read X6100 screen outside. I have to cover my head and the radio with a jacket to block the light to read the screen.
    Does anyone have a solution? Has anyone hacked the software program to change the screen colors?
    Otherwise I really like the radio.

    1. Good morning Jon. I have taken my x6100 on many outside activations. Just make sure you turn the screen brightness to 10. As for the colors, if you search YouTube, there are hacks in Linux that people have successfully changed colors on theirs. I have not tried, nor do I wish to try to hack into my 6100.

      Scott
      KN3A

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