Monday, 8 June 2015

Yet another radio - the Yaesu FT-450D???

I guess I could be regarded as an "established" radio amateur.

I was going to call myself "mature", but that would be silly.

How can a mature person still get excited when the radio switches back from tx to rx and he strains to hear the tones of JT65 (FSK441, or whatever)?

No, I mean that with my free bus pass less than 6 months away (if I live that long), I could now be sitting behind one of those wonderful shacks you see on QRZ.com. Just a lot of empty desk, with a bespoke piece of oak panelling surrounding an FTdx-9000 (which costs £7999.95, by the way). The one screen is a Apple something, fully integrated and he changes the whole computer rather than any bit of it if he needs an upgrade.

I do  not aspire to an FTdx-9000. I am sure they are fine, but I do not want one. I might want the tidy desk, but you can forget that. My computers are homemade and there are bits in there that last for ever.

If I do not want a rig in the £8000 range, maybe something cheaper like a Kenwood TS-990S at just £5589.95 would do me? No thanks. Not even a Flex 6700 at almost the same - £5799.95.

No, no. Not for me.

The rig that sets my benchmark price is the current Elecraft, presently the K3S 100-F a snip at just £2699.95. Just like those others, I would NEVER have an Elecraft K3S 100-F. Nor the simlarly priced offerings from Icom, Yaesu etc. No thanks, not even as a present, for free. If I won one in a competition (I know some of you lucky people have won rigs in competitions) I would sell it.

I am sure that the Elecraft and those other rigs are just great. If you have one, I am not knocking them. I just do not need them. Instead, for me, they are what others aspire to, and by measuring my shack against that standard, I reckon I am doing pretty well.

A few years ago I reviewed my status as I became "established". And I decided that the then current Elecraft and its future revisions would establish the benchmark for my rigs. I wouldn't have one. What I decided to do is have rigs to the value of that one, but not that one.

I am entitled to an Elecraft, My status gained by having lived long enough to have a licence for 40 years makes me "worth it". A number of years ago, during a spell when I lived in GI, I put out a call on the 2m FM calling frequency. A station came back to me and at one point said "I just called you because you have an old callsign. I wanted to give a contact to an old timer". OLD TIMER??? That was 1997. What am I now? Established enough to be entitled to a fancy rig, rather than a "starter" rig.

So I thought I could buy three or four modest yet capable rigs for the price of one Elecraft. As an "established" amateur I have earned my right to own a fancy rig, but instead I use the same amount of money to buy several rigs. In fact, one each on 2m, 4m and 6m, or sometimes one each on 4m, 6, and 10m. You cannot do that on an FTdx-9000, even if you had spent £8000 on it.

My rigs are starter rigs, mobile rigs and portable rigs. And they are worth about the value of an Elecraft K3. That suits me better. I like it. If one fails, I just get on with the others. I can upgrade gradually. I can, and I do, use three rigs on three bands at the same time.

My rigs may not have the ability to cut through a pileup on 20 metres, but I don't use 20 metres. They might not be able to cope with the noise on 80 metres, but I do not use 80 metres. I explore the MUF rising through the high HF and VHF frequencies.

All this is about justifying me having another rig. However "established" I feel, I still need to justify what I am doing by saying I am doing it instead of buying an Elecraft.

Right, enough of that. I do not need to be defensive all the time.

A Yaesu FT-450 has joined the shack. It is a guest filling the space which had been reserved for something else which has not appeared. It turned up, got plugged in, and already after a few days I have forgotten what things were like without it. After a spell on WSPR, first contact was on 6 metres, with EA1ASC. 59 both ways. Then IN3NGP  on 6m JT65, no problems.

The Yaesu FT-450 does not photograph well. I like the reversed display which has white figures on a dark background. But no camera seems to like it.


In natural light photos the display looks jumbled. In reality it is quite clear.
In a flash photo like the lower one it looks all miserable, though you can see the display. Well, no, you can see a dark smudge where the display is supposed to be. Hmm, it looks better than that. And the body is smooth, not crinkled as that photo shows.

I think I could get a better photo using natural light and a polarising filter. I don't have a polarising filter, so you will just have accept what I have. I know that is tough of me but you will have to get over it.

Anyway, the FT-450D looks good here and it fits in well.

Yaesu have a tradition of producing stripped down cheaper versions of higher value rigs, like the progressively cheaper FT-897, 857 and 817. This FT-450D is in a line below the FT-950. Various features not included, but it is still very good. And it is not in line with the latest models such as the FT-991. So it is in a transition line-up between the FT-897 audio DSP range and the current big display FT-991 type rig.

I rather like those transition rigs. It does not quite have the latest features. Most glaring carry over from the previous era is an RS-232 socket on the back. No USB socket. I can live with that. It does not have upgradable firmware like the latest rigs. EDIT - it does have upgradable firmware, see the link at the bottom of this page. It has been around for a few years and should be sorted by now. It does not have a touch screen. It has fixed tuning rates, not the ones that speed up as you turn the VFO faster (now that would be useful). But it has other things that, say an FT-857, does not have, like IF DSP much better than the audio DSP in the 857. It has a large clear display which the 857 definitely needs.

So all in all, a sort of "in-between"model in Yaesu's line up with some current features, but some old ones too. The benefit of this is that I was able to get it cheap. Cheap, cheap, cheap. More on that later, maybe. I could have bought five for the price of the Elecraft.

In action it seems pretty good. No doubt I will have more to report later.

I notice the fan comes on during tx, even running flea power on WSPR. It is fairly quiet, on my FT-450D anyway.

I was not really expecting this rig, and I was caught with no way of connecting it up for data. I fished out a 6pin min-DIN to 3.5mm audio plug lead and got it working with the data-VOX settings in the menu. This was not very good as with WSPR the audio level is very low and the data-VOX had to be set to 100%. It clicked into tx at random with spikes on the audio line. Also, it means that the audio was not isolated and earth loops can result. So I found an old data lead from FT-897 days. It has opto-isolation for the USB setting using RTS PTT, which is fine if you do not need CAT, and necessary for WSJT10. But the audio isolation is via some not very good audio transformers. I have ordered a better data box from ZLP electronics which has an in-built sound card. More on that when it arrives.

The one immediate snag was that although I could get WSJT-X and Ham Radio Deluxe to work on CAT, WSPR would not work on CAT. I used it for a few days with WSPR working on RTS PTT switching via the data socket while I fiddled with a way to get CAT working on WSPR via the RS-232 socket. Very frustrating. There are a few (old and confused. just like me) explanations on WSPRnet about this. I tried them all and none worked, until I started a systematic process of getting to the bottom of it.

Clearly CAT works, or WSJT-X would not work. So I looked at the settings and I had to select RTS and hardware handshaking in WSJT-X, which seemed odd. Turning them off meant WSJT-X CAT stopped working. Someone suggested adding a script to the WSPR handshake line to alter the timeout settings in the WSPR software. This is sort-of emulating my WSJT-X settings. I did not think that would work and it didn't

I had read that the issue surrounds the timeout settings for CAT in the FT-450, but I did not want to change them in the rig and throw off HRD and WSJT-X. Still, I did it that way as doing in in WSPR had not worked. I set CAT TOT (time out time) from the default 10 to 100 (I also tried 1000 but that did not work). I also turned off RTS by setting CAT RTS to DISABLE. As I expected, WSJT-X now did not work, but turning off hard-selection of RTS and returning handshake to none in the software restored WSJT-X. Funny enough, HRD ran on either settings. And then WSPR worked too.

So, I suggest using the menu to disable RTS and also increase CAT TOT to 100 or much more. I have no idea why RTS is set to hard select in the default settings. Maybe this is a legacy of the RS-232 era. Anyway, no need for it now.

In doing this you are using the FT-450 menu system. I know that many people dislike the Yaesu menu system. I did too at the start. Now I do not really like it, but I can use it. When I got my FT-897 I spent ages trying to learn it. I used to have to do a reset of the rig to clear what I had done. This was frustrating, but I learned slowly.

That experience of doing resets certainly helped. The FT-450 would not work in all settings when I got it. I have learned over the years, before putting memories and settings into new rigs, do a hard reset. Reset everything to factory settings. I have no idea why a rig is not delivered working fully to factory settings, but time and again I find they do not. The IC-7100 was the same. My advice is to do a full reset first, and before you find you need to overwrite all your memories.

So there we are. The FT-450 is now my 6m rig. Maybe I will use it with the RM linear once I get that running too. I think it got pretty hot when running JT6.

Frankly, apart from some set-up for WSPR which will not affect most people, there is nothing to report. A good rig.

These days it is marketed as a starter rig. Certainly it would be good for that, and it has 6m, which the equivalent starters from Icom and Alinco do not have. It also has a tcxo, which means good data frequency stability at no extra cost, which makes it a good data rig. But for me, it is a real all-rounder. I am looking forward to testing it out.

See more thoughts on the FT-450 here :- http://gm4fvm.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/more-on-ft-450.html

EDIT: thanks to Mark for pointing it out, so for more on installing an official Yaesu FT-450D firware updates see here:-
http://gm4fvm.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/yaesu-ft-450d-firmware-update.html

73

Jim
GM4FVM

2 comments:

  1. The great thing about the K3 is you can connect the IF output into a FunCube dongle. A Rolls Royce enhanced by a Mini.
    BTW I think the new low phase noise synth board for the K3/K3S has just set a new standard for receivers. My own experience in the WPX and NFD contests over the last two weekends is borne out by other comments on the web. I'm looking forward to reading an objective review.
    It's got to work wonders for the exotic data modes as well as CW.
    73 Richard GI4DOH

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  2. Thanks Richard.
    Given the choice I would rather have the Fun Cube Dongle. I have one and it is very handy. I find I don't need to put the Elecraft in the way, the FCD goes right onto the antenna cable without it.
    Seriously though, the Elecraft is certainly very good. It is just that I cannot see myself ever having the money for one and keep listening on three VHF bands at the same time.
    73
    Jim

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