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:
- Description of features, with my personal commentary (likes and dislikes)
- Kudos and grumps, my reaction to using it on the air
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:
- 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 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!
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!
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.