The Yaesu FT-990
A fully-equipped transceiver for the everyday ham.
The FT-990 is advertised as incorporating many of the features found on the FT-1000. yet leaving out some that most hams would seldom use The result is a fully-equipped transceiver somewhat more affordable than the FT-1000. and more applicable to the typical ham.
Getting the FT-990 on the air was straightforward and took just a few minutes. Only two things are required to operate the rig: AC power and an antenna. This is a complete HF ham station in a single box.
If you are just entering the microprocessor rig era you may find the large number of con* trols rather formidable, but don't be daunted, The FT-990 is really a very simple rig to operate and the dexterity it offers will be warming to any operator. Most functions are selected via microprocessor control buttons, in contrast to the old wafer switches of yesteryear with their thump-and-bump knobs.
Frequency selection is done with the main tuning knob, which has a very heavy, yet smooth feel Actually, this can be said for all the controls on the front panel. They operate smoothly and are good-looking Keypad selection of frequency is simple (except for adding a leading zero below 10 MHz) and, after the memories have been set, selection can be made directly from the memories. There are 90 memories, all tunable and scarv nable Of course, there are two VFOs, The frequency readout is excellent and the display also monitors mode, memory number, VFO in use, tuning speed, and clarifier offset (RIT).
The automatic antenna tuner does its work quickly, even when not operating from one of its 39 memories. Typically, it only takes a few seconds. The received audio is a little mushy, to my ears, when all controls are open or centered, but slight adjustments to the DIGITAL FILTER and SHIFT controls make it real sharp (more about these features later) My transmitted audio got many unsolicited reports of "audio really sounds good/' which is notable because I was using the hand-mike that came with the rig. Overall it is the quality and action of the FT-990 s controls that impressed me the most.
My antenna system is designed to instantly switch from one rig to another, and can be set to parallel rigs on the same feedline. This provides a means to compare performance. During the review process. I operated only in SSB, FMT AM, and CW modes, even though the FT-990 is built with internal interfaces for digital modes (RTTY, packet. AMTOR). I was very pleased with the general receiving capabilities of the FT-990 and I feel it will meet most needs,! still think that the FT-1000 has what I feel to be the ultimate receiver, but it is, after all, more expensive than the FT-990.
The rig I tested had the 2 kHz SSB and 250 Hz filters installed. I found that for signal separation, using these optional fitters gave a distinct edge- Overall, the receiver is very tight and does not appear to suffer overloading problems caused by nearby strong signals.
Features and Comments
The Digital SCF filtering is super! I cannot say enough good about this feature. I used it often and was very pleased with its power and ease of operation. The filter consists of two controls that limit the audio bandwidth of the received signal. One cuts out the highs and the other the lows. Both are infinitely selectable and have very steep skirts. This filter is a real plus that isn't even found on the FT-1000.
The SHIFT (IF pass-band) control is great to use, smoother and broader (easier to tune) than most other rigs. Although the NOTCH FILTER works like it should, I've found that there are some tremendous automatic notch filters in the add-on market. It'd sure be great to see this kind of noth filter available in commercial rigs.
The RF FSP speech processor is unique in that it has a provision for shifting your transmit frequency. It is most effective during pile-ups. The slightly higher-sounding audio really cuts through. Just don't use it on 75 and 40 for local work. You won't be liked very much. This feature can be cloned by operating split, using two VFOs, or by using RIT, But, I doubt if you would consistently be as good sounding or as effective as the FT-990,
If you have never used a rig with an automatic antenna tuner, treat yourself to it sometime. I used multiband wire and vertical antennas for most of my HF work and found the 990's automatic tuner to be perfect for fast QSY. It tuned everything I normally use, with no problems. It did balk at working with my linear amplifier, so in those situations I turned the tuner off.
There is a nice feel to the tuning knob and all the controls are of excellent quality both visually and functionally.
The front feet on the rig are far nicer than the typical wire bails found on most rigs They drop out of the case bottom, are round, and large in diameter. They are also non-slip! For the CW operator, a built-in iambic memory keyer with dot/dash memory and selectable weight is standard The keyer can even be set to simulate a bug. The BFO frequency is adjustable, and a SPOT button allows for precise tuning. A 500 Hz CW filter is standard with 250 Hz optional.
Each of the 90 memories stores frequency, mode, bandwidth, and clarifier (RIT) settings. They are scannable, perhaps nice for keeping track of activity on favorite nets or for FM
The DVS-2 digital voice recorder (optional device) is basically a solid-state tape recorder.
It is convenient for calling CO and. with the four short message sections, can be set up to XMIT most of a contest contact. Recording off-the-air is a good feature for repeating missed calls and contact numbers. In addition, as many hams really do wonder what they sound like on the air, particularly when making mike and/or audio changes to their stations, being able to play back on the air is a great feature.
Yaesu does not recommend long transmissions at full power on the FT-990 when operating digital modes. They suggest operating at half power
The manual for the FT-990 includes an excellent tutorial to get you going and does a good job of explaining the function of each control. It is a must-read booklet, as it contains instructions for customizing the transceiver for your own operation (power-up selections). I found the manual lacked some specifications (no stated dynamic range).
Customizing the FT-990
You can customize some of the operations of the FT-990 to suit your particular desires by instructing the rig how to come on when powered up (turned on).
Power-up selection choices are made by holding specified keys/buttons while switching the FT-990 from MofT to Mon/T and by using DtP switches. Once selected, these choices will be included every time the rig is turned on (until you change them). Some power-up selections are: method of frequency display (offsets for different modes), beeper on/ off and pitch, 10 Hz readout, CW pitch, and sidetone volume This capability makes it easy to turn the 990 into your radio.
At a suggested list price of $2,399 you will be getting a high-grade transceiver loaded with bells and whistles, interna) power supply, automatic antenna tuner, and digital SCF audio filtering. The rig is also ready for any current digital mode.
Putting these prices into perspective, the FT-990 isn't such a case of sticker shock after all. All you need for general operation is a single all-band antenna such as a G5RV or Windom, a feedline. and a place to plug in the FT-990.
Would I recommend the FT-990? Yes. it offers the features most hams are looking for. Its controls are smooth and very effective, particularly the digital SCF audio filter and shift tuning. And, let's face it, the rig does look pretty darn good!
1991 - Bill Clarke WA4BLC - 73 Radio Amateur Today