Yaesu FTdx3000 Review: Early Thoughts

My new Yaesu FTdx3000 HF transceiver went into service on 25 Aug 2015. I’ve been looking at this radio for a couple years—it sure looks inviting. It’s billed as a mid-range rig, but to me it seems a bit more on the high end. Lots of features!

I have this review set up in two parts. They are:

It’s not a small radio: 14.5 inches (37 cm) wide and, with feet extended, 6 inches (15 cm) tall. The button sizes are a titch small for my big fingers, but so far I’ve been able to use them all just fine. Here’s a photo of the rig with my MFJ-993B antenna tuner atop:

Yaesu FTdx3000 front panel. See text for description. My MFJ-993 sits atop the '3000.

Yaesu FTdx3000 front panel. See text for description. My MFJ-993 sits atop the ‘3000.

Let me describe some of the key features on the front panel.

  • Power. This switch, when held down for a couple seconds, toggles power on and off. If it’s just pressed momentarily, it will mute the receiver for a few seconds (for me, if I want it muted, I just turn AF gain to zero—and AF gain of zero is indeed zero—silent). The rig requires an external DC supply 13.8 vdc ±10% (12.42 vdc – 15.18 vdc). I power mine with a marine (quasi-deep cycle) battery that’s charged by a solar panel. A fully charged battery with no load and no charge is 12.7 vdc, and under load can droop below this. I’ve run the rig successfully down to maybe 12.1 vdc with no problems. As I speak into the microphone, I see the meter light in the MFJ tuner dim and glow along with my voice, but the Yaesu’s front panel maintains constant brightness.
  • Tune. The rig has a built-in tuner, but it will only manage up to a 3:1 SWR, meaning that it’s only good to top off the tuning of an already resonant antenna. For example, with my Butternut HF-9V antenna, it works quite well. I also have an 80 meter full-wavelength loop up about 20 feet, and this antenna requires some pretty robust tuning. Hence the MFJ-993B IntelliTuner. MFJ makes an interface that goes between the 993 and the 3000, but it doesn’t seem to do much. A menu item tells the 3000 whether to use the internal or external tuner. Press the Tune button once to turn the tuner button on. Press and hold to cause the system to tune. I’ve found that often time duration of the tune signal is insufficient for the 993 to tune—here’s a chance for Yaesu to improve the radio’s flexibility. I have to whistle into the mic to give the 993 a good go. However, if the MFJ already has that frequency in memory, it pops right in. NOTE: I’ll have more to say about multiple antennas later. Right now I switch between my loop and the vertical using the 993.
  • Key. The 3000 has two CW key jacks: one on front and one on the back. You can independently set each jack; I have my front jack set for a straight key, and the rear jack for the paddles. The rig has an internal contest keyer, and memories can be accessed with the included FH-2 Remote Control Keypad. The rig has a number of CW features, including a built-in CW decoder, although the CW has to be strong and perfectly-sent for the rig to decipher it properly; I’d say this is a marketing feature and not a real aid to CW operating. The rig has a couple features to help zero-beat the incoming signal nicely. Given I’ve only listened to CW and haven’t actually operated CW as yet, I can’t say more.
  • Phones. The phone jack is 1/4-inch. I use my Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones are designed for accurate reproduction and do a nice job. If no phones are plugged in, the rig uses its more than adequate built-in speaker. The level balance between headphones and speaker is well done: when you pull the headphone plug out, the speaker has about the same apparent volume as the headphones.
  • Mic. The microphone jack is a standard 8-pin Yaesu jack. I’m using the included Yaesu MH-31 Dynamic Microphone. The mic has several buttons: DWN (down in frequency), FST (toggles between fast and normal tuning rates), and UP (up in frequency). This seems to be a Yaesu tradition, as my old Yaesu FT-747 had these back in the late 1980s! More importantly, on the back of the microphone is a switch labeled TONE that gives you a choice of 1 or 2. The manual does NOT mention this switch. Some testing showed that the 1 position gives me rather muddy transmit audio, and the 2 position provides much crisper transmit audio. Needless to say, I keep it on 2. NOTE: when you use the hand mic, you have to hold it solidly, otherwise every little creak and crack, such as not holding the PTT button in securely, will go out over the air. So grip it firmly and don’t shift it around in your hand. By the way, I was talking with a guy in Atlanta (I’m in Colorado), who had trouble believing I was using the hand mic. The mic’s audio is quite good!
  • Main Panel. There’s a bunch of stuff going on here. I’ll cover the stuff on the screen a little further down. In the photo above, note the six lighted oblong buttons on the left. These are labeled ANT, IPO, ATT, R.FLT, NB, and AGC. Some of these bear explaining.
    • ANT. There are three antenna jacks on the back of the rig, all for coax. If you are using the built-in antenna tuner, you can use this button to toggle through the antennas, for example, a loop, a vertical, and a dummy load. BUT, and this is an important but, if you set the menu such that you’re using an external tuner, the rig wants to funnel everything through Antenna #1. I really only need to funnel the loop through the tuner, but can no longer access the vertical with Antenna #2. Here’s an opportunity for Yaesu to improve this rig. I’d like to use Antenna #1 for the loop with an external tuner, use Antenna #2 for the vertical with the internal tuner, and use Antenna #3 for the dummy load with no tuner.
    • IPO. IPO stands for Intercept Point Optimization. What it really means is that you can send the received signal straight into the receiver, insert a preamplifier, or insert a more powerful preamplifier. For 80, 40, 30, and 20, you don’t really need a preamp. On the higher frequency bands, where there’s less atmospheric noise, a preamp can help. Remember: the front end amplifier pretty much determines the receiver’s noise figure, so inserting a preamp adds noise that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
    • ATT. This toggles through zero dB, 6 dB (one S-unit), 12 dB (two S-units), and 18 dB (three S-units) of attenuation. Normally one can simply turn the RF gain down, but in the presence of a really strong signal, the attenuators may help. I rarely use this feature.
    • R.FLT This toggles between the 600 Hz, 3 kHz, 6 kHz, and 15 kHz included roofing filters. I’m no expert on roofing filters. I’m told they can help the receiver hear weak signals with strong signals nearby. All I know is that this radio has brick-wall filters and I’ve yet to see the ACG captured by a strong nearby signal. Note this: the roofing filters are included in the stock radio. You don’t have to buy them as optional extras. Note that Yaesu does sell an expensive additional type of front end filter called the RF μ-tuning filter (thats the Greek letter mu). These add 4 dB to the 3rd-order intercept point, a feature of interest only to the most devoted DX enthusiast or contester. Certainly of no concern to me!
    • NB. Toggles between no noise blanker, a traditional noise blanker, and a so-called wide noise blanker. Noise blankers are designed to mute the receiver during noise pulses such as those from automobile ignition systems. These days, automobiles have long progressed beyond the point of creating ignition noise, so the noise blanker doesn’t make much difference to what you hear.
    • AGC. Toggles between Slow, Mid, and Fast automatic gain control. If you hold the button in, it will turn off the AGC entirely, not something I’d recommend. I find that the Slow setting works best for me for SSB.
  • The main screen. Here’s a photo of the main screen. I’ll walk through some of the features.
    The FTdx3000's main screen. Note that the operating frequency is actually found on a different display. See text for description.

    The FTdx3000’s main screen. Note that the operating frequency is actually found on a different display. See text for description.

    • The Meter. Note that it sure looks like an analog meter. And it even behaves like one. The top scale is always S units. The bottom scale can be selected between PO (power out), SWR, ALC (automatic level control), COMP (level of transmit audio speech compression), and a couple more that measure internal current and voltage for the output amplifier. The ALC can be used to set the compression level, and is also important for setting output levels when using digital modes (basically, you don’t want the ALC to kick in for these, as this creates distortion). Note that the meter can also be set for digital readout, including a peak-reading mode. My strong preference is the analog meter!
    • Processing chain. These indicators tell you which antenna is selected, which pre-amp (IPO means none), the attenuation level, which roofing filter is selected, whether the noise blanker is on (in this case, the wide noise blanker), and the AGC level.
    • Bottom of screen. These are some settings that you can set by using the up/down, left/right arrow keys just to the left of the main display. VOX is voice-operated keying, PROC is whether the transmit speech processor is on, MIC EQ is whether microphone equalization is turned on (the rig can adjust the transmit audio low, mid, and high tones separately, a feature I don’t use), KEYER is whether using the CW keyer, METER is the meter mode (see above) in this case power out, DNR is whether the Digital Noise Reduction filter is set on, DNF is whether the automatic notch feature is on (can remove steady tones from the received SSB signal), and ZIN/SPOT are CW features for zero-beating. A word about digital noise reduction: the manual says there are 15 different noise reduction algorithms, and these are set using a menu feature. This really should be a separate control, as what these 15 different algorithms are is really 15 different levels of noise reduction. This noise reduction systems is dramatically effective! Re the CW zero-beat feature, directly above the keyer, you see a little scale. The CW signal you’re tuning will appear here, and you can tweak visually to exactly zero-beat the incoming signal. Nice! Oh, by the way, do you see the 17:57? That’s a clock, which I’ve set to UTC.
    • The four little graphics. These show the state of four controls, which are set by knobs located below the screen, and can be switched in and out. The Contour allows you to shape the passband of the incoming signal. It’s quite effective. If an incoming SSB signal is quite bassy, I can use this to cut the bass. Similarly, if an incoming signal is shrill, I can tone down the upper part. The Notch is in addition to the automatic notch. The manual notch is rather wider. I use this when there’s an overlapping signal; I can cut away much of the overlapping signal and leave most of the received signal behind. Just remember to turn this feature off before contacting another station! The Width is the passband width, and I have some thoughts on that later. The passband is absolutely brick wall—a signal is either in or out of the passband! The Shift is the IF shift feature, which can sometimes be handy to remove an interfering signal on either the low end or the high end of the desired passband.
    • Miscellany. The term Yaesu uses for receiver incremental tuning or transmitter incremental tuning is “Clarifier.” The amount and whether it’s in or out is shown here. Also, if working split, the VFO B frequency is shown here.
  • The waterfall. You can change the main screen to see a waterfall. The waterfall can be wide along the bottom of the screen, take over the screen entirely, or, as below (my favorite), has a wideband waterfall plus a small waterfall of the received signal (labeled as AF-FFT, meaning audio frequency fast Fourier transform). I really like this feature!
    Yaesu FTdx3000 front panel showing waterfall displays.

    Yaesu FTdx3000 front panel showing waterfall displays.


    The waterfall can be set to be centered around your operating frequency, or cover a fixed region. You have a choice of either/or, and you cannot have it centered on some bands and fixed on others—grumble! I have it fixed. For each band you can specify which frequencies ranges are used. I really would like to have a per-band, per-mode choice of centered vs fixed! But, I absolutely love the waterfall display, and find myself using it all the time to find signals on the band. And, to my surprise, I can tune in an SSB signal looking at the AF-FFT almost as well as I can by ear! Once you use this feature, you’ll find it positively addicting! By the way, the waterfall is found in the latest firmware update—if you have an older 3000, you’ll want to update the firmware.
  • Other features of note. The receiver can operate split (transmit on a different frequency from receiving) in several ways. A separate screen right above the tuning dial shows the operating frequency, the mode, and which VFO (A or B) is being used. The rig also has a keypad for selecting the operating band. Note that it has “band stacking registers,” a fancy way of saying that when you press the button for a band more than once, it toggles between three different versions of the band. You can have one set for CW, one for digital, and one for SSB. That’s really nice, because you can switch back and forth between all the settings you use for SSB and all the settings you use for digital with the press of a button!
  • Built-in soundcard. The 3000 comes with a built-in soundcard that can be accessed via a USB port! Note that this feature is NOT explained in the book; I found out about it when researching reviews on the Internet. The USB port also provides full rig control. Setup is a bit annoying: you have to download a driver from Yaesu, and then set the 3000 menu items to match how you set up the virtual “enhanced” COM port. But I am able to control the rig using HRD 5, and DM-780 works very well. Also, I’ve set up WSJT-X to work directly with the radio without having to have HRD in the background. Nice!

Kudos and Grumps

First, let me be really up-front about this. I love this radio! In 40 years of hamming, I’ve never seen a better receiver. The interference-fighting capabilities blow me away. In the five weeks I’ve had it, I’ve had 89 QSOs, and by the time I finish writing this I may have more because the California QSO party is perking along right now.

I love the brick-wall filters—something is either in the passband or out. Period. I love the QRM-fighting capabilities such as the contour, notch, variable bandwidth, passband shift, and the truly marvelous digital filtering.

I love the waterfall display! Just like I’ve done for years with PSK-31, I can hunt for signals visually and drop right in on them in seconds. The AF-FFT feature is a cool tuning aid as well as an interesting display of the received signal. It can help me place the manual notch perfectly, and also tells me where the interfering signal is so I can adjust the filters accordingly. How I ever lived without this is a complete mystery!

I like the band-stacking registers. I’ve never had this feature in a radio before and it’s exceptionally convenient.

I like the built-in sound card. It does a nice job and, once set up, is painless. Getting the driver going, however, took a few tries. Yaesu does not provide instructions—I had to find that on a separate website. (See, for example, here.) Without these third party instructions, setup would be a myth. There’s nothing in the manual that even mentions that the rig has a built-in soundcard! The rig does have a sort of PSK-31 reader and a RTTY reader, both gimmicky and inflexible. Definitely you’ll want to use a computer to do these. By the way, you can do true FSK with this rig if you want to go through the process of setting it up. I’m not a fanatic here, and AFSK is just fine with me.

I bought the extra-cost digital voice recorder accessory. It’s cool. So far I don’t use it much; it’s just programmed to call CQ. As a side benefit, you can record your outgoing audio to see what effect all the adjustments have had.

Now here are a few things I don’t like. I certainly love the radio in spite of these irritations. I’m pretty certain my blog is not on the reading list for the Yaesu software development folks, but it sure would be nice if these things were different.

  • The dial is just plain touchy. I’d like it to turn more for the same amount of frequency change. Getting an SSB frequency exactly where I want it is an exercise in frustration.
  • I really wish there were an option to tune SSB in 100-Hz steps. Very nearly all SSB transmissions are on an integer or half-integer frequency. Combine this with a not-so-touchy dial and tuning SSB would be more pleasant. Yes, I understand that I can push the FST button to get 100-Hz steps, but the ultra-touchy dial makes one really zing through the band. Perhaps I’m just used to the TenTec.
  • On data modes, the widest bandwidth available is 2400 Hz! C’mon, folks! 3 kHz is the minimum here, and WSJT will ingest up to 5 or 6 kHz. To cover the full PSK-31 band from 14.070 to 14.073 (3 kHz wide), I have to use IF shift. C’mon, Yaesu, this seems like a no-brainer!
  • On all bands, a separate set of filter bandwidths can be accessed by pressing the NAR (narrow) button. Why can’t these additional bandwidths be found simply by twisting the WIDTH (bandwidth) button more? It seems like this would be so easy to implement!
  • When in USB mode, there’s no way to simply send a low-power single-tone output that could be used by an external tuner. I can get around this by whistling into the microphone, but my old TenTec had this feature and I don’t see why it isn’t here.
  • When listening to an AM broadcast station, I like to flip between USB and LSB to see which sideband is more clear or has less interference. But the 3000, when flipped from USB to LSB, assumes you’re tuning an SSB station that’s on the wrong sideband, and flips the receiver to a new frequency. For example, if you’re listing to an USB signal on 14.300, and you want to see what’s on the lower sideband, the rig switches mode but also switches frequency to 14.301.4. Why the strange frequency shift?
  • The mode button itself is buried way down by the clarifer/VFO B knob and is hard to touch without also affecting the clarifier or VFO B. Fortunately it’s a little-used control, given that the mode is stored in the band-stack registers.
  • When the menu is set for external tuner, the rig switches to Antenna #1. I would very much like to be able to set Antenna #1 for external tuner, Antenna #2 for internal tuner, and Antenna #3 (my dummy load) for no tuner. Further, I’d like these options on every band. I can only hope that a future firmware upgrade will fix this.

That’s about all I can think of in terms of frustrations. Every radio has its frustrations, and after awhile I’ll get used to them. All things considered, I think the radio is well worth its approximately US$2300 price and I’m delighted with it. I get great reports on the air and it seems to me it’s easier to get an answer to an SSB CQ with this radio than it was with the TenTec. Yes, it’s a keeper!

Do you have an FTdx3000? I’d love to read your review or see your comments on this post.

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13 Responses to Yaesu FTdx3000 Review: Early Thoughts

  1. Dave says:

    I got the voice board and use it all the time for calling CQ. Personal choice. That’s the only option I purchased; as you say, nearly everything else comes standard.

  2. I bought a used FTDX 3000 about a week ago. The information you give here is AMAZING! You seemed to put just about everying I need to know on this page. The manual with this radio is 180 pages, it would take a long time to read all that! Right now I am looking for extra’s for this rig but do not see many. The opinion seems to be the recording board is a waste of time.
    I bought the Yaesu 1200 when they had the bonus check. After seeing a number of features I did not like on the 1200, I traded it with another ham for the 3000-like it a lot more than the newer one.

  3. Lee VK2LEE says:

    Hi Guys
    thanks for the interesting comments on the FTDX-3000. I’ve had mine for nearly two years now, and I haven’t done any upgrades as yet. Yes, I agree the main VFO knob is touchy and I find Myself using the VFO lock button ALL the time.. plus the VFO-B/CLAR button has the LED lit up all the time so bumping the VFO-B knob doesn’t change anything. Hi Hi.
    I have adjusted the clutch of the VFO-A but I don’t like it with too much weight. I do use the VFO all the time and I don’t use Ham radio deluxe or the seperate keypad with this Radio. Maybe I should start using some of its good features. I bought this Radio after reading rave reviews from users about its receive audio and noise reducing features, and its just amazing that most of the really low down signals from portable low power stations can be heard, where I could NOT pull them out of the noise before. There are still many features of this great Radio that I haven’t adjusted as yet. I know it does have its faults [although small ones] Hi Hi, but I would have no hesitation in buying another one, if I needed another one, plus if the Head of the house allowed.. Hi Hi.. I also bought the Voice recorder but haven’t even plugged it in as yet after reading some terrible complaints about it… I will try to use it this year during contests.. I find having a poor memory doesn’t help when You need to press a button or hold the button in for 2 seconds then press another button etc… hi hi I also use a Yaesu FT-920 which I have had since new, and I have actually been using it a lot lately and I think I have a one radio memory.. hi hi…. Now to do that Upgrade…..
    Lee VK2LEE

  4. Chet says:

    I sent Yaesu in a bitch about the tune button as well and suggested when the radio is set to external tune that the tune button when held for a duration send a carrier so an external tuner or an amplifier can be utilized. Got a canned but nice message back but hope they forward it to the firmware developers.

  5. Mike says:

    Hi guys,
    After a bit of hand-wringing I did end up getting a ‘3000. What an amazing rig! I have had very little time to devote to getting an antenna up, learning about the radio, etc. and only last week had my first QSO. Looking forward to working digital modes with that “hidden sound card” on-board this radio. Hat tip to KL2ZZ for the Linux endorsement. (No Windows products at this QTH.)

  6. Dave says:

    Hi Rafael, I looked in my ‘3000 manual and don’t see a way to do it either. Perhaps there’s some undocumented way—I’ve already learned the manual is incomplete. For example, it doesn’t cover the use of the radio’s internal soundcard. —Dave

  7. Rafael says:

    Nice reveiw!

    I’ve been using my FTDX3000 since October 2015. I bought the FTDX3000 Programmer software for manning the multitude of menus. This software is great in that I can create one set for each SSB, CW, and DATA.
    Playing CW is very pleasant. I bought the 300hz CW filter. The APF/Contour along with the NAR makes listening to signals a charming experience.
    SSB has many features for listening and transmitting. I’ve been using Heil PR-40 with just about any rig that I have own. The FTDX3000 produces quality sounds.

    One thing that I just haven’t been able to figure (if exists) is how to continue sending a voice recorded message. In this pass weekend NAQP SSB test, I recorded three messages using the FH-2. Message 1 was the CQ NAQP (for running), 2 was name and qth, and 3 was just my call (for S&P). As I recorded the messages, I was looking for a way to keep message 1 self repeating when play back. I could not find the how to in the book. So in the test I keep on pushing the 1 button…a tiring system. I sold an Icom 7410 in lieu of the FTDX 3000. This radio had that feature. It was neat to let the radio run your recorded voice messages and stop it when necessary. Perhaps a firmware might bring this feature to us. Or is it that I haven’t read the book as well?

    BTW, I also own a Orion I (which for many who glamour it as one the best radio built) that I pair with the 3000. In my perception of the two, I prefer the 3000. The Orion sits now waiting its turn at bat!

    73
    Rafael / NN3RP

  8. Darryl says:

    Hi Dave, Great write up, I too own an FTDX3000 and had the same complaint about the sensitivity of the dial. But for me I found the answer, check out page 6 of your FTDX3000 manual. “Adjusting the Main Tuning Dial Torque” Hope this helps you and John (KC3ACE above). A small adjustment by me adding a bit of torque made my tuning life so much better. Enjoy.. (oh, And thanks for the WSJT-X tutorial, it fixed my problem)

  9. Mike,

    Unless you will use the features of digital, CW decoding etc of the 3000 the DX1200 I have is the almost the same. I commented on my review the difference between the two. I sold the original 3000 I had. It was nice but didn’t warrant the extra cost I felt. [The ‘3000 also has a real-time waterfall that’s on all the time —Dave]

    73,
    John
    W3AMD (previously KC3ASE)

  10. Dave says:

    Hi Mike, the ‘3000 is a great rig. I would describe it as being somewhere between intermediate and advanced. The FTdx1200 is a popular rig these days, as is the FT-991. The FT-450 is a better rig than any rig from 40 years ago! Yaesu and Icom both offer nice entry-level rigs. If you were quite active 40 years ago, you’ll appreciate the world of digital signal processing! All new rigs these days comes with some form of it. 73, Dave, KEØOG

  11. Mike says:

    Thanks for this detailed review. I’ve been away from ham radio for 40+ years, and just got relicensed a couple of months ago. With the huge number of features on current rigs I’m suffering from analysis paralysis. I was leaning toward a FT-450D to get started again, but after reading this review I’m leaning toward the FT-DX3000. Anyone here care to comment on the DX3000 as a “first rig” vs. the 450D?

    73,
    Mike
    KK6UXI

  12. James says:

    One thing about the FT-DX3000’s built in audio card: For Linux users, this is plug and play. The chipset has been supported in the Linux kernel for some time now.

    I recently transitioned from an FT-450D with a USB SignaLink to the FT-DX3000. After I plugged in the USB cable I found that I had both USB Audio AND the USB Serial interface at /dev/ttyUSB0.

    All I had to do was reconfigure my applications (hamlib, WSJT-X, fldigi, etc.) and tell them that I had an FT-DX5000. (The 3000 is not explicitly supported in hamlib, but the 5000 settings work fine.)

    73

    James
    KL2ZZ

  13. Hi guys,

    I have also owned a DX3000. I have a DX1200 currently. I heavily recommend these series for beginners. Yes, the price points are higher than just using a mobile unit to start with but they are well worth it, even if you have to save up a few months more.

    RE: The DX3000:
    1) When you hook it up and get it first operational the reaction is wow! There is so much built in and the sound is so clean with the digital signal processing.
    2) The processor is extremely fast. The scope with signals over frequencies can run at the same time as listening to signals. (The DX1200 can’t do this).
    3) If you talk to another Yaesu radio (maybe other brands as well with more recent radios, not so far in my limited experience) you will find SSB almost like AM. The sound is top notch and dead nuts on frequency (within 5Hz).
    4) The build in data decoding and CW decoding are interesting. The data decoding works great. The CW requires a timed tuning period which may or may not match a human’s keying which tends to vary.

    Overall, I’d say this series is quite good and near a gold standard. I do find the clutch for the VFO is not strong enough on both the DX3000 and DX1200 and a slight touch of the knob will move the frequency more than desired. The clarifier adjustment is worse. It would be nice to see a firmware upgrade to tackle these two main issues which I have also found.

    As far as the DX1200 goes.
    1) Great beginners radio, well worth the pricing. This is assuming your desire is a base radio not for normal transport or field operation.
    2) Does not have some of the advanced features of the DX3000. (Data, CW processing)
    3) It does have a built in Freq / Signal chart but requires the receive to be shut off when processing this.

    73,
    John
    KC3ASE

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