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FTDX9000D review by W1ZR | Radioaficion Ham Radio

FTDX9000D review by W1ZR


Yaesu FTDX9000D HF and 6 Meter Transceiver

Joel R. Hallas, W1ZR Assistant Technical Editor

FTDX9000D QST product review

The FTDX9000D earns its spot in the upper tier of Amateur Radio products with two top notch receivers, lots of customization possibilities, flexible display options and the ability to operate SO2R from a single box.

Yaesu showed the world a preview of its top of the line FTDX9000D at the 2004 Dayton Hamvention to the interest and accolades of many in the contest and DXer communities, as well as others wanting to stay up with the latest in technology and features. The high performance FTDX9000D transceiver is now generally available and many will consider its performance and refinement well worth the wait!

While at the top of Yaesu's lineup, current Yaesu FT-1000 series owners may find it an easy transition to get to know this high performance radio. Perhaps radios would be a more accurate term to describe this set, since it is the first transceiver I'm aware of that can actually operate in single operator-two radio (SO2R) mode from a single box. For the non-contester, this means that you can actually be listening on one band while transmitting on another.

By the way, while only one version of the '9000 was available at the time of our testing, there will be three versions offered, as will be discussed later. One of the versions can be almost custom made to meet your specifications, perhaps a new concept for "production" radios.

First Impressions

The pictures don't do justice to the size of this radio! Its width at 20.4 inches allows the controls to be spaced far enough apart to allow each to be operated easily. And controls it has! I counted 37 rotary controls and 96 push buttons on the front panel. What's nice about this is that many controls serve a single function with menu functions and "soft buttons" mostly reserved for the TFT display. I found all the controls to be of user friendly size—no tweezers required!

The controls provide lots of flexibility and features for the different operational modes, allowing the operator to customize the receive and transmit parameters through variable IF-based DSP to suit a given set of requirements from heavy-duty contesting to casual AM operating.

FTDX9000D QST product review

Comparisons to the ICOM IC-7800.

ICOM's entry in the same market niche, are perhaps unavoidable. Both are large, heavy radios, with the '9000D weighing even more than the '7800. The extra size and weight may be more than offset by eliminating the need for a second radio for the SO2R operator. Neither radio will slide around the desk while you are pushing in the headphone plug!

Superficially, both share some general characteristics—each covers the same bands, has 200 W output, built-in ac power supply, two complete (and identical) highperformance general coverage receivers, color TFT display, memory card parameter storage and many other similar functions.

The differences are in the details. The '9000D has three choices for roofing filter bandwidth at 3, 6 and 15 kHz, while the '7800 has two—6 and 15 kHz. The 3 kHz roofing filter and the sharp [iTune preselector front-end account for the '9000D's 9 dB edge in third order dynamic range at 5 kHz spacing (an impressive 98 dB at 14 MHz, the best we've ever seen!), while the '7800 has a 4 dB edge at 20 kHz.

The '7800 uses the TFT display for virtually all of its display functions, while the '9000D offers multiple displays—a large color TFT for information and analysis functions (more later), plus two analog D'Arsonval meters and an LCD panel for primary frequency readout as shown in the above figure. Moving the S-meters out of the TFT provides additional real estate for the display of other information. The '9000D has a fan, but I had to open it up to be sure, since I couldn't ever hear it! Some of the weight goes toward extra cooling capacity!

And Those Other Versions?

We haven't had our hands on the other two versions, but they were previewed in the FTDX9000D manual.

• The FTDX9000 Contest will be available as a semi-custom unit. In its base form, it's a 200 W radio with a single receiver and no TFT display. In its minimal form, it is expected to sell for about half the price of the FTDX9000D. In place of the TFT display are a small LCD panel and two additional meters, all above four additional rotary controls. As options, a second receiver can be provided as can the data management unit, which can drive either an optional TFT display or an external monitor. Up to three of Yaesu's extra sharp [iTune preselectors can be provisioned for 160, 80/40 or 30/20 meters depending your operating interests and needs. The VRF tunable preselector is standard for all bands in all models. Most of the options are not user upgradeable and will need to be ordered at the time of purchase.

The FTDX9000MP is a dual receiver radio similar in many respects to the '9000D, the subject of this review. The big difference is that it puts out 400 W instead of the 200 of the "D" model, and it has a separate power supply with speaker. It also has the option of either the TFT display or the additional meters and controls with the small LCD panel as is offered in the Contest model.

Receiver Performance

A primary focus of the FTDX9000 design team was clearly on receiver performance, perhaps the most critical feature for serious DXers and contesters. In summary, this means that an operator will want to be able to receive a weak signal without interference from one or more strong stations very close in frequency to the desired station.

The key parameters that we measure to gain an understanding of a receiver's ability to excel in this respect are MDS (minimum discernable signal), a measure of how weak the station can be so we can hear it; selectivity, a measure of the bandwidth available to separate signals; BDR (blocking dynamic range), a measure of how much stronger than the MDS a signal must be to cause the gain to be reduced, perhaps eliminating the weak signal and, perhaps most importantly in a contest; IMD (intermodulation distortion) dynamic range, a measure of how strong two nearby signals must be to generate IMD products that can mask our signal.2 All parameters are listed in Table 1, with closer-in IMD dynamic range results provided in the Web-based Expanded Report?

Yaesu has attacked each of the above parameters in an aggressive manner. The MDS is often not a major concern, since at HF received noise is often much stronger than the receiver noise floor. By having an MDS well below the external noise level (too sensitive a receiver), the full BDR and IMD dynamic range are effectively reduced, since they are measured from the MDS and the range between the MDS and the external noise floor is not generally useful. Yaesu has provided a single-button ipo (intercept point optimization) control that eliminates the RF amplifier in front of the first mixer. This effectively shifts the dynamic range to the region at which it can be most useful. In addition, attenuators of 3, 6, 12 or 18 dB can be applied to further reduce the input level. If received noise is low, often the case on 6 and 10 meters, the RF amplifier can be switched back in to lower the MDS. The results of their engineering efforts have paid off. This receiver offers excellent performance—many parameters better than we've ever seen on a receiver with a VHF first IF frequency, and in some key respects the best we've ever measured.

The operating selectivity is set by the IF DSP (digital signal processor). The default selectivity is 9 kHz for AM, 2.4 kHz for SSB and 500 Hz for CW. A narrow button drops the passband to a user-settable narrower width for each mode. In addition, a large pair of concentric knobs can be used to adjust both width—down to 100 Hz and up to 3 kHz in fixed steps—and IF shift (plus or minus 1 kHz in 20 Hz steps) to eliminate interference from the next channel. For all cases, the slope of the selectivity is adjustable via the contour knob. The width and shift controls for receiver A are comfortably large as shown in Figure 1. A graphic of the curve with an indication of the shift and width is provided on either the TFT or LCD display (depending on model), as shown on the top of Figure 2.

BDR and IMD rejection are established largely by the first mixer linearity and the bandwidth and skirts of the roofing filter that follows the first mixer. Yaesu has provided 3 bandwidths of roofing filters, 15 kHz, intended for FM and wide AM, 6 kHz for narrow AM, and 3 kHz for SSB and CW. These will change automatically by mode, but you can override the default selection through the menus if desired. The results are shown in Table 1 and are excellent; both parameters are the best we've seen by a wide margin at 5 kHz spacing.

Additional BDR and IMD rejection can be obtained by careful tuning of the variable RF or [iTune preselector ahead of the first mixer. This can reduce the level of a strong nearby signal. However, it is most effective at rejecting signals more than a few kHz away from the desired signal.

A unique, to my knowledge, receiver feature is a CW tuning indicator that indicates whether you are above or below the proper offset by lighting LEDs just above the main tuning dial. If you're low, one of the LEDs on the left is illuminated, too high and one on the right comes on. As you correct, LEDs closer and closer to the center are illuminated. I've never seen a better tuning indicator for CW. Very nice indeed.......

Copyright © 2005 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.

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