During my holidays I’ve activated WSPR and the Flex 1500 ; it worked fine though bandconditions were far from optimal.
When I repeated the same last weekend everything went quiet. Though I did see stations in the bandscope nothing got decoded. What could be wrong this time?
As a good HAM you first start fiddling around with all kinds of settings; try this, adjust that but unfortunatelly this didn’t help. Let’s deinstall Virtual Audio Cable (and repeat it 5 or 6 times, hi!). No result.
Let’s reinstall WSPR, no changes. PowerSDR? Well why not… No result.
And again let’s take a look at Virtual Audio Cable; query the register for all traces containing Eumus or Virtual Audio Cable. Oh, don’t forget to first backup the register… It appears deinstalling Virtual Audio Cable doesn’t mean you’re removing all VAC definitions.
And while we’re busy with the laptop let’s upgrade PowerSDR to 2.2.3. And bingo! We are on air again.
After a couple of hours WSPR-ing with the Flex 1500, 5W, 20m indoor dipole I can say the results aren’t bad. Not bad at all. Brasil and Tasmania (16995 km).
Since I acquired a Heil Proset Plus with the HC4 & HC5 elements I must say I’m very happy with it; together with my Yaesu FT-950 it makes a good combination for contesting, DX QSO’s (both HC4 element) or just ragchewing (with the HC5 element).
The reason for buying the Proset Plus was because I wasn’t completely happy about the Yaesu MD-200 microphone, especially when it comes to contesting and DX QSO’s. It looks like the punch in the middle of the spectrum is somehow not high enough. Of course I can change it by adjusting the equalizer settings in the FT-950 itself but I don’t want to keep on changing these settings for contesting/DX-ing on one side and ragchewing on the other side.
So I tried to improve my audio quality by acquiring a W2IHY 8 band equalizer and W2IHY EQPlus. By the flip of the On/Off button on the equalizer I could switch between contesting/DX and ragchewing. But my current antenna setup led to RFI on the audio signal. W2IHY states that their products are built to be used in transmitting environments where RFI and less-than-perfect ground systems can compromise the performance of audio equipment.
And that’s where I left it and got the headset. I’ve never really used it since last Saturday I was in the shack and decided to give it another go. By going through the manuals step by step I setup the equalizer and EQPlus. One of the good things of the EQPlus is, without a doubt, the Downward Expander which should be turned up that far until no noise is being heard. In this case the adjustable compressor doesn’t pick up noise and starts amplifying it. No input signal means nothing to do for the compressor and thus no noise transmitted.
After I setup everything I decided to monitor myself on my good old FT-817 but this was not a good idea; it sounded very bad so I decided to use the monitor output of my FT-950. And that was a much better indication.
The 2nd QSO I made (with a French station) lead to an unsolicited comment about good audio. So that makes me wonder if it really makes such a difference. Then I decided to try to break a pile-up for an English special event station. One call and he heard me above local English stations… Nope, I wasn’t running a lot of power and my antenna situation isn’t perfect (indoor multiband dipole). I wonder if it has anything to do with the setup as it is right now or just pure luck. Coming weekend there’s a Spanish contest. Maybe it’s a perfect moment to test the setup a bit further.
And the RFI is still there (on 40m and 80m). It could well be it’s the microphone cable which is connected to the 8 bands equalizer. Time to replace that one as part of the chain I would say.
If you regularly check the Asian webshops you would have seen a lot of new Chinese HT brands. You can think of Linton, Lisheng, Puxing, Quansheng, Rongsheng, Weierwei, Xinjie, Wouxon, Baofeng a.s.o. They’re all a lot cheaper than the Japanese brands like Kenwood and Yaesu but are they as good?
With that question in mind I started to look at all of the HT’s I’ve collected the past years. What’s important to decide if a HT is good or not is what are your expectations. Is it size, weight, how long before the battery runs flat, what bands can I use, audioquality, sensitivity, … ?
My first HT was a Kenwood TH-F7E; a rather small HT with a decent battery, reasonable audioquality and a good sensitivty. Unfortunatelly it slipped out of my pocket when entering my car resulting in a scratched display. And that was the moment were I decided that every new HT should have it’s own bag.
If you play around with the TH-F7E then you notice the sensitivity can be improved by adding one or two so called tailpigs, wires with a length of approximatelly 0,25λ. On 2m the gain can be 2 or 3 S points. Personally I think it’s a rather strange sight to have a small HT and then hook up two 50cm wires to it…
The Yaesu VX-7R is known as a submersible tri-band handheld transceiver. I’ve never dared to throw the HT into the water but if you check on youtube there will be some movies. And yes after they remove it from the water (and even when the HT is in the water) the HT keeps on working… Sensitivitywise this is one of the better HT’s I own. One of the cons is the problem some people have to make adjustments in settings. One of the best kept secrets is adjusting the date and time which seems problematic to some. Also the possibilities for using this HT on 6m are restricted.
To be able to use DSTAR my next HT should be an Icom; I’ve chosen for the IC-E92D, a nice and solid HT, good batterycapacity, good sensitivty and ready for DSTAR. Combined with the HM-175 GPS handmike it’s very good, though the mike does give me some RFI problems on 70cm like loud beeping. But it’s one of my favorite HT’s.
And then there was…. an APRS HT. Since the Kenwood TH-D7 wasn’t available anymore I decided to go for the Yaesu VX-8. And man did I regret that choice. I always had the idea the sensitivity was bad, easy of use was bad just like the batterycapacity. So after a while I decided to sell the thing and buy the brandnew Kenwood TH-D72.
Boy o boy what an HT! You’ll have to check the menustructure but within no-time you’ve got a good performer. It’s a solid HT, good battery and audioquality. One of the nice things is that you can also store all waypoints in memory rather than TX-ing them on the APRS frequency. And when you arrive at home upload the waypoints to your PC and plot the route on a map. This HT is fun!
To check whether the Chinese HT’s would be able to make it up to their Japanese counterparts I’ve decided to buy a Wouxun KG-UVD-1P. Battery and sensitivitywise it’s an excellent performer. One of the cons is that all received signals are display fullscale on the S-meter. The HT feels good and is solid but does have some cons like the menu, strange abbrevitions, it’s slow and the antennaconnections varies for the normal SMA female. But on the other hand the price is a lot smaller.
If we start cutting down on size and weight (and as a result of that also the TX power) we end up with HT’s like the Yaesu VX-3R and Baofeng UV-3R. The HT’s look similar but mark my words they are not. It’s obvious Baofeng (Vero) got inspired by the small Yaesu VX-3R. If you want a small HT for monitoring local repeaters I would recommend the VX-3R. Compared to i.e. the VX-7R the output power is less but you can take it wherever you want. And it’s Yaesu quality. Boy do I love this HT…
I’ve already mentioned the Baofeng UV-3; I don’t dare to call it an HT. By default you receive the HT with two monoband antenna’s. And there are some problems with RFI, volume, harmonic surpression. Yes it has DSP but can it make up with the bigshots? I don’t think so…
It’s always good to share some measurements; each handheld has been set to the A band. The 2nd and 4th column show the specifications as given by the manufacturer for 12 dB SINAD (this defines how much Volt you need at the input of the antenna for signals you can just read). The 3rd and 5th column show the measurements in the ARRL lab. The lower the value the more sensitive the HT is.
2m NFM measured
The Baofeng hasn’t been tested yet but if you look at the specifications it doesn’t show that well.
As I’ve already noticed the Wouxon has the best sensitivity on both 2m as well as 70cm. And my feeling that the Yaesu VX-8 wasn’t that sensitive is true as well.
What about size and weight? As you can see the heaviest HT is about 3 times as heavy as the lightest. But there’s a lot of difference in possibilites and price…
What about the audio quality? Audio is always a personal thing, but if I would be using a HT I would like my counterpart to get a readable signal.
Personally I would say these are the winners:
Positive: Kenwood TH-F7, Kenwood TH-D72 with SMC-33 handmike and the Yaesu VX-3R.
Not so positive: Yaesu VX-7R (loud modulation, too much high), Wouxun and the Icom IC-E92.
So overseeing all of the specs I would say that a cheap Chinese HT can’t fully make it up to his Japanese counterparts. They’re are nice to have as well but not for replacement. Though they’re improving…
At this moment the Baofeng UV-3R is a hot item. A lot of HAMs order one in one of the famous webshops in Hong Kong for prices less dan $ 50,-. My XYL qualified the HT as “a nice toy” and I must say she’s right…
Some people say (and no, I’m not referring to the Stig, hi!) that the Yaesu VX-3R and Baofeng UV-3R are identical. From personal experience I can say that is not the case. Judge for yourself:
Two things are noticable if you see the HT’s side by side:
the keypad of the Yaesu contains the functions whereas for the Baofeng you sometimes need to guess what buttons to press (i.e. how to activate scanning?)
both HT’s are tuned to PI3AMF; the Yaesu shows an alfanumerical label whereas the Baofeng doesn’t have the option to label memories
And when I mention memories, Yaesu has plenty of memories whereas Baofeng only contains a hundred.
If you have programmed all of your memories it would be nice to scan through them, or better have the HT scan through them, to check for activity. It looks as if the Baofeng has problems locking the PLL on frequency. And this results in an awfully slow scanningspeed.
The same behaviour with the Baofeng is noticable as well when switching from TX to RX.
If there’s a factor 4 (or more) difference in price it will also show in the build quality.
A black screw looks a bit better than the metal one in the Baofeng.
Also the connector for the headset doesn’t show that good. You could see a small bit of the PCB and some paint scratches.
If you start using a HT one of the first things you’re gonna do is place the battery. With the Baofeng you need to use a bit more force to put the battery in the compartiment before you can close the back. If you’re using the VX-3R it’s a matter of brute force.
When you order the UV-3R you receive two antenna’s, one for UHF and one for VHF. The HT is capable of TX-ing from 136-174 MHz and from 400-470 MHz. If you compare this with the Yaesu (144-146 MHz and 430-440 MHz) it sounds logical that you receive two seperate antenna’s.
The Baofeng contains a DSP circuit; if the signalstrength is reducing you can hear the DSP circuit popping in to reduce noise (though it also removes the high tones from the signal)
The pricedifferences shows without a doubt; the audio is too loud from the speaker, when using the headset on 2m you’ve got an RFI problem (the HT keeps TX-ing) and the 2nd harmonic on 2m hasn’t been surpressed well enough. Of course all these things can be corrected; check out the Yahoo group for more info/pictures.
Which HT do I prefer? In and around the house (in combination with the FT-8900 in crossbandmodus) I prefer the Yaesu VX-3R.
My opinion about the Baofeng? Vero (the manufacturer) hasn’t completed it’s product yet. If I were them I would incorporate all modifications (volume/harmonic surpression/RFI) into an improved version of the UV-3R and increase the price a bit.
I wonder what would happen if we unlock the VX-3R and measure the harmonic surpression across the available frequencies. Would it be as bad as the UV-3R? Maybe, maybe not. Without a doubt there will be some frequencies were the HT won’t make it up to the requirements. But I guess Yaesu did look at their customergroup and restricted the VX-3R only to be used on 2m and 70cm. If Vero was smart they would make sure that their HT would fullfill the requirements on 2m and 70cm.
Though there are a lot of disadvantages I’ve put the Baofeng in my coat; first of all because of the weight (compared to other HT’s like Wouxon a.s.o.) and size. And if I accidentally drop it I wouldn’t mind too much…
<Note: this article was published March 20th on www.pe1don.nl. In the meanwhile this TRX became available in the Netherlands and is out of production again.>
After having driven around a couple of months with a Yaesu FTM-10R in my car I’ve decided to buy a new transceiver; though the FTM-10 still works fine I’ve got two reasons. First of all the design of the controlhead; since the set was designed to be used on a motorbike (with thick gloves) it shows a bit Spartian. Second reason is that it’s difficult to remember all options in the menu structure.
I must say there is one thing I’m very pleased about with the FTM-10 and I don’t want to miss and that’s the support for a Bluetooth headset. Security wise it’s a very good option Yaesu added to it’s TRX. Switch from RX to TX? Press PTT once. Switch from TX to RX? Press PTT once. No need to hold the PTT button (that is if you’ve enabled the PTT toggle modus on the set). And that’s something I don’t want to miss when I buy a new TRX.
More wishes are a clear menu structure, a relatively high power output on medium (yup, Novice license so 25W allowed), a separate controlhead and as few cables as possible.
A first investigation of TRX’s that support Bluetooth by default has clearly reduced my wish list to one brand. Of course there’s always the possibility to add a sort of Talksafe solution to a TRX to enable Bluetooth but this involves an additional box, additional cables and that’s something I don’t like. This combined with the power “requirement” of 10W with Icom & Kenwood and 20W with Yaesu made me decide to buy a new Yaesu TRX.
Full-duplex VHF-VHF UHF-UHF VHF-UHF
three build-in speakers (one in main-unit, two at the backside of the controlhead)
a large colour display (8 different colours possible)
build-in 1200/9600 TNC (Compatible with APRS)
I’ve noticed that Yaesu sort of shows a bit of a trend to share some accessoires amongst their equipment. For example the BU-1 Bluetooth PCB fits in the FTM-10R, the FTM-350R as well as the Yaesu VX-8 HT. Another example? The external FGPS-2 receiver which fits the VX-8 and FTM-350. Another example? The CAB-10 chargesleeve that can be connected to the FTM-10 controlhead and the FTM-350 controlhead. I must say this is a very positive thing!
Unfortunatelly the TRX cannot be ordered in the Netherlands yet so I took the gamble and ordered it in Hong Kong. After 6 workingdays I had my TRX. And as expected it’s the FTM-350E (so the export version, no American set with 222 MHz band). The set is expected to be available here around the end of April.
It’s very easy to control the set; the menustructure is clear and you get a good overview of all options. Another pro is the fact that you can disconnect the cable directly from the controlhead whereas with the FTM-10 you could only remove the cable from the set. This resulted in a very (too!) short cable between the controlhead and the set or a cable of 6m. Nice if you want to remove the controlhead when leaving the car… But as said that TRX was initially designed for use on a motorbike and not in a car.
Fortunatelly Yaesu decided to provide a standard MH-48 DTMF microphone with the set. The FTM-10 only had an optional mike.
as said the TRX has a clear menustructure; programming is easy and can be done very fast.
the left and right part of the TRX are seperated; I haven’t found an option yet to copy memories from left to right side and vice versa.
No programmingsoftware available yet.
No firmware upgrade possible yet; maybe in the near future like the FT-950 PEP program?!
Sorting memories within the TRX only possible on frequency, not on label
If you’re programming memories and you adjust CTCSS settings there’s a risk of losing frequencystep, repeateroffset or both. This looks like a bug in the software that could be adjusted easilly.
Improved sensitivity compare to the FTM-10
If you have a brandnew set that’s not available yet in your country it also means that some accessoires cannot be bought yet. I’m for example waiting for the FGPS-1 receiver that can be installed in the controlhead to enable APRS. This was also one of the points from my wishlist if it wouldn’t result in too many loose cables in the car.
And then the mount; I’ve already read a couple of reviews and all of them mentioned the provided mount that can be glued to the dashboard. No-one is very positive so I decided to see if the cupmountholder I used with the FTM-10 could be adjusted. Yes!
<Note: it’s now possible to do firmware updates and programming software is available>