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Yaesu FT 817 - Greatest QRP radio

 

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The world’s first self-contained, battery-powered, Multi-mode Portable Transceiver covering the HF, VHF, and UHF bands!  The world’s first HF/VHF/UHF self-contained battery-powered Multi-mode Portable Transceiver. Providing up to five watts of power output, the FT-817 is designed for operation on the 160-10 meter HF bands, plus the 6 meter, 2 meter, and 70 cm bands. Whether your preferred operating mode is SSB, CW, AM, FM, Packet, or SSB-based Digital modes like PSK31, the FT-817 is ready to join you on your next hiking, camping, or search-and-rescue adventure! 

Now the 817 legacy is even better with the introduction of the FT-817ND, which includes coverage of the U.S. 60-meter (5 MHz) band, and it also includes  a 1400 mAh NiMH Battery pack (FNB-85) and NC-72B Charger!

 
Ultra Compact HF/VHF/UHF Multimode Rig
Despite its incredibly small size (5.3" x 1.5" x 6.5"), the FT-817 delivers big performance! Its next-generagion PA puts out five watts on all HF bands, plus the 50 MHz, 144 MHz, and 430 MHz bands, on all popular operating modes: USB/LSB/CW/AM/FM/Packet/PSK-31/RTTY.
Wide Receiver Frequency Coverage
Enjoy shortwave and FM broadcasts, public safety communications, and airband calls thanks to the extended frequency coverage of the FT-817ND, which includes reception on 100 kHz - 56 MHz, 76 - 108 MHz (W-FM only), 108 - 154 MHz, and 420 - 470 MHz.

• IF Shift – For reduction of adjacent-frequency interference. 
• IF Noise Blanker – For reduction of ignition and other impulse-type noise. 
• IPO (Intercept Point Optimization) – Bypasses RX Preamp on HF/50 
MHz for improved performance during strong-signal conditions. 
• ATT (Front End Attenuator) – For more pleasant reception of very 
strong signals.
• CW “Semi Break-in,” with T/R recovery delay programmable from 10 

ms ~ 2500 ms. At 10 ms setting, performance emulates QSK 
operation. 
• CW Reverse: provides BFO injection from LSB-side, instead of default 
USB-side. 
• CW Pitch Control: adjusts TX offset and (identical) sidetone between 
300 Hz and 1000 Hz in 50 Hz steps; this allows precise spotting on DX 
stations. Sidetone level is adjustable. 
• Built-in Electronic Keyer, with speed adjustable between 4 WPM and 
60 WPM, and Weight (Dot:Dash Ratio) adjustable between 1:2.5 and 
1:4.5. 
• For emergency use, the Menu allows you to set up the Microphone’s 
[UP] and [DWN] keys for generation of “Dots” and “Dashes” on CW!

The FT-817 is the only rig in its class with internal battery operation capability. Shipped from the factory with a battery tray for 8 "AA" batteries, the FT-817D may also be operated from the optional FNB-72 Ni-Cd battery pack. full power output is available under battery power. 


Other manufacturers radios make you carry around a heavy external power source. . .but the FT-817ND is entirely self-contained, making it ideal for backpacking or search-and-rescue work.
 

Good points

Small size. This is probably the FT-817's most important attribute. There's nothing smaller, apart from FM-only HT's and one-or-two band QRP CW-only radios. It's small enough that you can slip it in your rucksack or even a pocket just in case you feel like having a few QSOs while you're out. This is something you wouldn't be tempted to do with the (which I also own.)
"All-band" coverage. The FT-817 covers all amateur bands from Top Band to 70cm (excluding the UK-only 4m band and the US-only 222MHz band.) It also has pretty extensive general coverage capabilities. This makes it an ideal "do-anything" radio, suitable for whatever kind of operation you feel like doing.

Bad points

High power consumption. The FT-817 consumes around 400mA even on receive. This is pretty poor, especially given the limited capacity of the battery pack (see below). Yaesu could surely do better. The Elecraft K2 draws about 240mA on receive, normally configured, but this can be reduced to about 140mA for portable use by invoking various power-saving options.
Low battery capacity. Eight AA-size cells are too weedy. The original factory-supplied rechargeable NiCd pack had a capacity of just 1,000mAH. The current FT-817ND model has a NiMH pack with 1,400mAH capacity. This is barely enough for three and a half hours of listening, with no transmitting. Yaesu should either have increased the size of the radio to permit a bigger battery pack to be used, or offered a Lithium-Ion battery option (as used as standard in the VX-5R) to permit greater capacity in a small size. This would also allow 5W to be used when running from battery power.
Only 2.5W on battery power. The FT-817 is advertised as a 5W radio. But on battery power the maximum output power is normally 2.5W. This canbe overridden, but bearing in mind the limited battery capacity this may not be a good idea. But it's disappointing. Let's face it, out portable you are probably going to be using a pretty inefficient antenna, so being limited to 2.5W as well isn't going to help.Poor receiver. A contest-grade receiver isn't expected nor required in a radio of this type, but the FT-817's receiver seems poorer than it need be. Even using an inefficient short whip, strong local stations can overload it. The main problem seems to be bleedover (apologies for the CB term, but it sounds just like a cheap CB radio) due to the inadequate IF filter fitted. A better filter is available as a (pretty expensive) option, but you can only fit one accessory filter, which is a problem if you want a narrow filter for CW.No ATU. The FT-817 has no internal ATU. Originally I thought that this was a reasonable design compromise. However, having experienced how hard it is to get small portable antennas tmatch in the varying environments in which they may be used, I began to realize that an ATU would be very desirable. Most ATUs are the size of the FT-817 or larger, which negates a lot of the benefits of the radio's small size. However, has recently introduced a tiny portable QRP auto-ATU, the 
Poor ergonomics. Many commonly used functions are accessed from one of the three buttons below the display, which have about 11 different sets of functions. This means a lot of button pressing and knob twiddling just to do something like turn the noise blanker on or off, change the output power or toggle the meter between SWR and power out. Although to a great extent this problem is inevitable given the small size of the 817's front panel, I'm sure Yaesu could have fitted a slightly bigger LCD panel, with less of a surround, and this could at least allow the current selection of the three buttons to be permanently displayed. Perhaps some functions could have been made accessible from a key-pad mike, as well? Direct frequency input would have been nice.

The bad points outnumber the good points. Whilst some allowance must be made for the FT-817's small size and portability, especially with regard to ergonomics, several of these criticisms could have been averted using existing technology.

Overall I give Yaesu only 7 out of 10 for this radio, with the comment "could do better." But there's nothing else quite like it on the market at the moment. If you want a very small all mode HF and VHF radio, better get an FT-817!

 

 

Antennas

Several small portable antennas are now available which allow you to easily get the FT-817 on the air out in the field. In my search for the ultimate portable antenna I have tried the , thand the 

However, a piece of wire will always give better results than a short whip (if it is longer than the whip, obviously!) Elecraft's portable automatic ATU, with optional FT-817 interface cable, is the ultimate FT-817 accessory. It's the size of a pack of playing cards, it's powered from its own internal PP3 battery, and it turns a couple of lengths of thin wire into a really effective portable antenna. 

SWR foldback

One of the problems with operating portable is that different environments can affect the performance of small whip antennas. This means that settings which gave a good SWR in one location may not be reproduced in another. If you use a short feeder, losses in the cable due to a high SWR will be minimal. However, if the transceiver backs off the power when a high SWR is sensed, you may be radiating a poorer signal than you expected. I therefore decided that I should check what the FT-817 does when faced with a poor SWR.

The good news is that when operating on the 2.5W mode (the default for battery power) the FT-817 appears to deliver the full 2.5W regardless of SWR. I guess this applies to the lower power modes too.

In 5W mode, however, there is some SWR foldback. Full power is delivered as up to three bars of the built-in SWR meter are displayed. When the fourth bar appears, power is immediately reduced by about 20%. When the fifth bar appears, power is reduced by about half. Therefore, when running 5 watts, it is important to ensure that the SWR seen by the FT-817 equates to three bars or less. This is equivalent to around 2:1 or more, so the radio is really quite tolerant of SWR mismatches.

Working SSB

It is possible to work SSB DX using a barefoot FT-817, even with modest antennas. However, it certainly helps to pay attention to your transmitted audio, to maximize your chances of being copied when you are down in the noise or competing with higher-powered QRM. A speech processor will give your SSB signal valuable extra "punch".

One possibility is an audio processor such as the one big punch W4RT I haven't tried it, and it's not an option I would choose. Audio processing can actually end up making your speech less intelligible, because it produces in-band distortion products. Put simply, if you clip a 400Hz signal, it creates harmonics at 800Hz, 1200Hz and so-on.

RF Speech Processor

RF speech processing avoids this issue by converting the audio to an RF double-sideband signal before clipping or compression. Any harmonics produced will be harmonics of the RF frequency used. If the RF processor uses 455KHz then the harmonics would be 910kHz, 1365kHz etc. which are easily filtered out using a narrow band filter. The RF is then demodulated back to audio again. This gives a cleaner sounding signal for the same amount of compression.

Joachim, DF4ZS makes an. It costs about 65 Euro. You can either fit it yourself or send your mike to Germany with return postage and Joachim will fit it for you.

The processor replaces the standard microphone element with an electret type that has more of a treble emphasis. This may not suit all voices but it can enhance copy under difficult conditions, compared to the normal Yaesu rather muffled audio. I think it sounds excellent on FM, too.

You can see the difference here in these two oscillograms.