Posts Tagged ‘FT-817’
If you have used a Yaesu FT-817 on SSB you’ll have probably been annoyed by the lack of a TUNE button to generate a steady carrier for antenna tuning. You usually have to press the MODE button a few times to select FM or PKT, use PTT to send a carrier, then change mode back to USB or LSB. It isn’t one of life’s greater annoyances, but it’s a nuisance all the same, especially if you use an antenna like the AlexLoop which needs retuning every time you change frequency.
A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from one of my blog readers, John G4HUK, enclosing a Quick-Tune Dongle that he makes for the Yaesu FT-817, FT-857 and FT-897 rigs. It’s a neat little gadget that plugs into the ACC port on the back of the radio. What it does is let you generate a tuning signal in SSB mode by double-clicking the microphone PTT. Simple but effective! It won’t be so useful for home users who have a CAT cable plugged into their ACC port already, but for SOTA operators and other exponents of outdoor radio (apart from CW operators who can just hold the key down) it could be a godsend.
|The Quick Tune Dongle installed on the back of the FT-817|
The dongle didn’t work for me at first until I set the baud rate of my FT-817’s ACC port to 9600. This is explained in the ‘manual’. The instructions also explain how you can reconfigure the dongle to change the way it works. By default it will use PKT mode to generate the tuning carrier and ignore double-clicks made in any mode other than USB and LSB, which I think will suit most people.
I think it is an ingenious little gadget which you can get from HUK Electronics for £15.95 + postage. Here’s a video of the dongle in action.
I just finished a contact with a very loud Austrian station, OE3DIA on 10 metres, who took time out while working a string of stations to give me a complimentary audio report, quite unsolicited. It’s good when that happens! The comment was “Very nice audio cutting through the QRM” I was using the K3 at 80 watts and the mike was one of those Heil mikes with the dual insert, set to “narrow”. The K3 transmit audio equalisation is factory standard, in other words flat.
As it happens I had just been doing some audio comparisons between the KX3 and the FT-817. There has been a thread going on the KX3 Yahoo group started by a disenchanted American ham who claims that the FT-817 has punchier audio than the KX3. It’s rubbish, to put it politely. The KX3 has a built-in speech compressor, while my 817 has an RF processor made by Joachim, DF4ZS (more details on my FT-817 page) built into the microphone. Without it there is just no comparison.
I recorded some audio clips so you can hear for yourself:
- FT-817 with standard microphone, no compression
- FT-817 with standard microphone and DF4ZS compressor
- KX3 with MH3 microphone, mic gain and compression both set to 30
There is a bit of distortion on those clips which was not noticeable when listening on the radio. I think I might have a problem with my sound card.
I’m not sure if the difference are that noticeable in those clips, but when you look at the needle of the power meter the KX3 certainly has the more punchy signal.
Both the FT-817 and the KX3 were running off 13.8V and set to 5 watts output. I couldn’t compare them on battery power as I don’t have the charger board for the KX3 and the external battery pack (10xAA NiMH cells) I intended to use appears to be past it and the KX3 kept cutting out on voice peaks.
|FT-817 and Signalink USB Interface|
|WSPR Control Software|
|10 mins on 17m!|
|10 mins on 20m!|
|Screenshot of WSPR.net Map Page|
|The '817 and Miracle Whip|
|Connect. Extend. Tune.|
|FT-817. 5W on 10m.|
My current assignment at Fort Leavenworth has me traveling quite a bit. My intent has been to bring a rig with me and have some casual QSOs while on the road. My success has been mixed. I would mostly attribute this to either a lack of planning on my part or being in a stuck in a hotel room with zero antenna opportunities.
One of the most inspiring ham radio blogs I ever ran across was the 100 Pound Dxpedition. I enjoyed how Scott, NE1RD, covered his adventures of conducting portable operations… documenting what worked and what did not. His last post on that paticular blog was back in 2007, but I still use the site as a reference. Scott’s praise for the Buddipole led me in using the Buddipole during my recent tour in Korea. Another tip from Scott I am going to try out is using a hardside golf bag case to transport my Buddipole to Hawaii.
Now for a rig… I think the Elecraft KX3 would be ideal for a Hawaii trip. With 10 watts output and an internal battery, I can’t think of better rig to take to the beach. But the wait time for the KX3 is still quite a while. I have both an Elecraft KX1 and a Yaesu FT-817ND. The KX1 would be great due to its small size and ease of use. But it is limited to only CW and I would like to do some PSK in addition to CW.
I pulled out my FT-817 and conducted an inventory:
- – West Mountain Radio RIGblaster Plug n Play connects directly to the DIN socket on the back of the rig.
– CAT cable that connects from the RIGblaster to the rig’s ACC socket which enables rig control.
– PowerPole 12v adapter.
– Palm Paddle.
– Elecraft T1 Auto-tuner.
– Nifty manual for the FT-817.
My FT-817 has quite a few of the optional bells and whistles from W4RT:
- – DSP module
– Kranker Knob – probably the most useful of any of the options
– One Board Filter (300 Hz)
– Speech compressor built into the MH-31 handmike
– Why all the options? The FT-817 was the center piece of my 2009 Field Day setup and I was attempting to get the most I could out of the pint-sized rig.
I also splurged on two recent upgrades:
- – Peg Leg tilt stand – I think this will be helpful as one of my significant dislikes of the FT-817 is the small display which is hard to see.
– Magnets for the Palm Paddle – this is critically important as the Palm Paddle by itself is not heavy enough. The magnets allow the Palm Paddles to firmly stick to the top of the FT-817.
For PSK, rig control, and logging I have my Dell Mini netbook. I had not used the netbook in a while, so I started it up to see how it was working. I initally purchased it back in 2009 baselined with Ubuntu and have kept Ubuntu installed on it since then. After booting it up. I updated the distribution to 10.04 LTS and installed fldigi. The RIGblaster easily interfaced with the netbook via a USB connection and the headphone/microphone jacks.
I configured fldigi to work with the RIGblaster to include rig control using Hamlib:
- – Audio: PortAudio using the netbook’s hardware soundcard for both Capture and Playback
– Rig: Hamlib; Device /dev/ttyUSB0; Baud rate 38400; Stopbits 2; PTT via Hamlib command checked
… clicked on the Initialize button and I was good to go.
Setting up the macros on flidigi is pretty straightforward with the default macros only needing slight tweaking for my personal preferemces.
Once I fired everything up all I had to do was switch to 14.070 MHz, switch the mode to DIG, and drop the input level a bit. With the narrow yellow PSK streams cascading down the waterfall, I picked one that was calling CQ and answered. Transmit worked and my home antenna provided a nice low SWR, no need for the tuner. My macros worked and the QSO was concluded successfully. All with 5 watts.
I plugged in the Palm Paddle, switched to 7.115 MHz, listened and heard nothing, then used the paddles to send QRL? a few times. SWR still looked decent. After a few CQ calls, I got an answer followed by a short QSO. Great – both PSK and CW were working FB.
Now the question is: do I want to bring my small Tokyo Hy-Power HL-100B amplifier that will raise the output to 100 watts? If I bring the amp, I will have to bring a power supply and a different tuner. I am thinking I need to be able to use two different configurations:
- (A) Beach and Buddipole: using the barefoot FT-817, running everything on batteries.
(B) Lanai Portable: used from the hotel room, with amp and assoicated power supply.
Now it is time to go through my Buddipole bags and figure out what I need to pack.
Looks like I will be there during the Hawaii QSO Party!