Monday, 22 June 2015

More on the Yaesu FT-450D

I was going to say something here now about recent VHF Sporadic E and my attic antenna, but I will hold those over for a while.

As I had noted earlier, the Yaesu FT-450D looked like being a "fit and forget" rig. There is not much to say, it does its work without complaint. After a week or two in heavy use on 6m SSB and data etc., I am summing up here what I think of it now.

The layout is very straight forward. All the controls you need are easily at hand. The VFO has two speeds, 10h per step or 100hz, selected by a FAST button beside the VFO knob itself. Of course I would prefer a "weighted" VFO which senses your speed of movement, but maybe that is not realistic at this price. You can also press the DSP/SEL knob and open the way to 100kHz steps, which are handy on 6m and would be useful for FM operators.

As usual, the Yaesu menu system is either something you love or hate. I guess you could use the rig without using it much. When you press the F button you have access to the function menu. I found, when changing the power level, the rig will not transmit with you have the F button pressed and are in any menu. This is not a real problem, once you find it out for the first time. I found it easy to adjust the power (say) and then forget to press F again, causing an unusual "no tx" non-fault. This is the sort of "fault" which keeps our local TV engineer busy, as he keeps calling on our neighbour to correct difficult things like turning on her set-top digi-box (at the mains switch).

The display is good but as I say it does not photograph very well. Here is the proof of that.

I does look better than that in real life. Anyway, click on it to enlarge if you need to.

At the top right of the display is a schematic of the rig, showing the set-up of attenuator, IPO, Filter, noise blanker and AGC. This is handy and better than individual LEDs. The idea comes from more advanced rigs in the series where you can have various routes through the rig, several antennas, etc. Still, here it looks pretty good. There is no adjustment for the filters as opposed to the DSP, which is maybe my only real gripe with the rig.

What you can adjust is the IF DSP which is show in the bottom right. Now you can adjust almost everything you need, contour (I would call it filtering shape), notch, digital noise reduction, width and shift. You click on the one you want to select using the DSP button, and then adjust it with the DSP/SEL knob. This is grand within what the rig can do, but the range of adjustments is a bit odd. When you switch to DATA mode (you have to select SSB and DATA by cycling through using the MODE buttons) then the bars in the "width" selector are shorter (2 LED bars at each side). This suggests to me that the DATA filter width at maximum is narrower than the SSB one, which isn't true according to the handbook. In fact, both the apparently wider SSB setting and the narrower DATA setting have the same number of adjustments (3).

OK, we could quibble here. DSP filtering could be continuously adjustable with some presets. That would be fine. With the FT-450D you get some presets, but it is a bit tricky to understand what they mean and adjust them separately. What you do not get is continuous adjustment (nor can you expect it from a budget rig).

If you are the sort of operator who turns to SSB and works all day on one setting (or CW for that matter) you can forget all this. For you, Yaesu have provided automatically selected presets (up to a point).  I worked like that for about 30 years and all I needed was a CW filter, which this has in the DSP.

The manual states that the "widths" are:-
SSB 1.8kHz/2.4kHz/3.0kHz (nominal 2.4kHz)
CW 300Hz/500Hz/2.4kHz (nominal 2.4kHz)
DATA 300Hz/2.4kHz/3.0kHz (nominal 2.4kHz)
AM 3.0kHz/6kHz/9kHz (nominal 6.0kHz)
FM 2.5kHz/5.0kHz (nominal 5.0kHz)

I am not exactly sure what this means but I would have preferred to have a wider filter for DATA. 300Hz and 2.4kHz are fine, but something like 4.0kHz would have been nice for JT65/JT9 on the same screen.

I was puzzled as the diagram of the width as shown by the LED bars is narrower for data. However a careful check shows that the bandwidth with 7 bars in DATA is exactly the same width as when it shows 11 bars on SSB. There is not much difference between 2.4 and 3.0kHz either, and what "nominal" means in practice I am not sure. In my expereience, with SSB and data, about 2.4kHz is as wide as it goes.

It does not really matter much as I can simply retune the rig. The data signals are not wider than 2.4kHz, they are just spread over a wider area. Those data suites with wide waterfalls such as HRD and WSJT-X could benefit from a wider filter. However, that would be a nicety rather than a necessity.

I have been spoiled by the Flex 1500, which allows its DSP filters to be varied continuously within very wide limits. That sot of thing is not going to be available from a rig like this. The filter issue will only be apparent for dedicated data users, and everybody else, including casual data users, will probably not notice it.

I can see what Yaesu are up to. They were trying to make a rig with the most common filter option being selected automatically for each mode. On the other hand, sometimes I want to select my own, rather than fiddling with width and shift controls. But then I am a bit of a nutter.

Anyway, it all works very well and that's that.

The phones and key sockets are on the front and they work fine. The internal CW keyer works well with my MFJ-564 squeeze key. I had to reverse the key plug sense using the menu (because years ago I wired the key up back-to-front!)

On the back there is a pleasing absence of socketry.
The RF and DC socket of course, an earth point, a D9 socket for CAT control,. a 6 pin mini-DIN for data, a bewildering Yaesu linear socket and an ATU socket. There is also an external speaker socket.

The internal ATU seems fine for moderate SWRs, but for serious work an external one would be better (I like LDG ones).

The D9 socket is a bit of a dinosaur these days. I fixed up a USB to D9 lead, and you can buy them on eBay for not very much money. It works fine. Of course as befits the age of the rig, there is no way to update the firmware in it via a computer, you can just set the frequency by CAT etc.
EDIT - this is nonsense - for more on installing an offical Yaesu firmware updates and better USB chips and leads see here:-
http://gm4fvm.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/yaesu-ft-450d-firmware-update.html

The 6 pin mini-DIN using the standard pins is carried over from the days of packet, and I can run what the manual calls "miscellaneous AFSK-based data modes" (like JT65 and WSPR) using it. There is no digital audio output as you might find in a more modern rig with a USB socket.

I have not tested the linear or speaker sockets but I am expect they are fine. I expect that the audio would sound better on an external speaker but I usually work with the speaker level turned down.

The rig runs pretty well the 100W as far as my meters can measure it. The audio is good and the peak/average ratio is good (Icom please note for the IC-7100).

Frequency stability is important to me and seems to be fine. The specification includes a TCXO, which was an optional after fit on the FT-817 for instance. Having a standard TXCO is a big plus for modes like WSPR.

The fan is quite quiet, though I use the rig in shelving which might deaden the noise a bit. There is plenty of room round it for ventilation and it has never run hot, even after long spells on data.

I plugged it in, it worked. Except for one tiny point about the filter settings (and that is probably unique to me) it is 100% OK. more to the point, it is great value for money. It cost half the price of other comparable rigs.

This is  now marketed (and priced) as a starter rig. Yet I know quite a few hams who use it as a main mover for HF CW work. I know a serious CW operator who uses one as his main rig.

This is the sort of starter rig you could buy, and it would still be in your shack 25 years later.

I think this FT-450D is the FT-101 of its day. Except my FT-101 was £450 in 1977, which I reckon is now the value of at least 5 FT-450s in current money. And the FT101 did not have a TXCO, 6 metres, general coverage, digital readout, adjustable DSP, keyer, memories, two VFOs, ... need I go on? And the FT-101 weighed a ton by comparison and needed a strong desk to hold it up. However, it did have a mains power supply ...

73

Jim
GM4FVM

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I bought one of these six months ago as I decided I was finally ready to jump back on HF after nearly 30 years on strictly UHF (and occasionally VHF). My needs are simple and I'm not pushing the capabilities of this radio at all with the occasional light contesting and general rag chewing that I put it through.

    One interesting point that I just learned this morning regarding the MH31 microphone that is provided. Sliding the 1/2 switch on the back of the mic to the 2 position apparently made my TX audio much clearer. It seems that in the 1 position there is no audio above 1,200 Hz, which was making me sound somewhat muddy and not as intelligible as I could be.

    Anyway, thanks again for the review. It took you some time to write it and I appreciate the effort.

    73,
    n7mot

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lenny
    Thanks. Good to hear from you.

    Sounds like the 450 was a good choice for you too. I think as a no-nonsense rig at a good price it is hard to beat. And it would make a good starting rig too. It is a bit fiddly in some respects, but then again you get what you pay for.

    For me it just sits there and does its business without attracting much attention. Pretty much a Yaesu tradition, that. I am hoping to promote it to general HF workhorse soon. Well, a lot of low power WSPR and then some data if the bands are good. It should be good for that, and my FT-817 can be "transferred to light duties".

    OK on the mic switch. It is pretty important and yet I know a lot of folks who never even noticed it was there. It is worth getting another station to comment on the audio, as you did. It seems that position "2" is best for what Yaesu call "Western languages".

    Your comments are appreciated but, truth told, I cannot stop writing anyway (you can see that from the length of what I write).

    Thanks again.

    73

    Jim
    GM4FVM

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  3. Hi Jim

    You have probably come across this by now but the DSP/SEL Knob can be programed on the FT-450D to change the RF power output level without having to go into the menu functions.

    Regards

    Stephen

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  4. Thanks for that. I had not worked it out myself.
    73
    Jim

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  5. Note that the firmware can be updated on the 450d, see http://www.yaesu.com/downloadFile.cfm?FileID=9417&FileCatID=42&FileName=FT-450D%20Update%20Firmware%20v244%20Information%208-23-2016.pdf&FileContentType=application%2Fpdf

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mark
    You are correct, though this information does not seem to be found on the Yaesu UK site. As you point out, it is on the yaesu.com site.
    Thanks, I have updated mine and I will report on that soon.
    Some of the links on the yaesu.com site do not seem to be working, but I found it by going to the FT-450D page and following it from there.
    Thanks.
    73
    Jim GM4FVM

    ReplyDelete