The Yaesu FT-2600M VHF FM Mobile Transceiver
Reviewed by Joe Carcia, NJ1Q WlAW Station Manager
The rugged good looks of the Yaesu FT-2600M project the image of simple, tough, no-nonsense communicator. Further investigation reveals a number of hidden talents and a level of performance that will undoubtedly earn it the respect of its peers. This rig's got moxie.
From the moment ARRL Lab test engineer Michael Tracy, KC1SX, released Yaesu's FT-2600M into my custody, it became immediately apparent to me that this radio was one tough monkey.
Its rugged-looking textured faceplate, rubberized controls and smallish blank gray screen belied its user-friendly control layout—two knobs, four buttons. A front-firing speaker grill on the right side seemed just a little too eager to bark out some audio.
The chassis—a healthy chunk of un-painted cast aluminum bristling with cooling fins—made up most of the underbelly. A black sheet metal lid concealed the circuitry within.
I couldn't help but recall my past experiences with other members of its family—its grandfather, the FT-2400H, and its father, the FT-2500M (the first of its lineage to earn a military specification rating for toughness)—a couple of formidable, and talented, characters in their own right.
For the average Joe, it would have been difficult to pick this mutt out of a lineup based on model number alone—but it wouldn't for me—I had an encounter with its mother's clan, Yaesu's Vertex commercial arm, a few months back. The resemblance on her side of the family was uncanny.
I shoved the subject back into its box and shut the lid, locked the container in my truck and smugly thanked Mike for the hand-off. I returned to my desk at HQ, secretly hoping that once I got it home that evening, I would be able to muster the guts to haul it into the shack, tether it to an antenna cable, feed it some voltage and begin the interrogation process.
The FT-2600M possesses nearly all of the advanced features that we've come to expect in the modern FM mobile transceiver. These include a time-out-timer, automatic power off, automatic repeater shift, priority channel watch, CTCSS encode/decode, DTMF autodial memories and a scan system with programmable limits.
Some of the more notable highlights are a boatload of memories (175), 8-character alphanumeric memory naming, digital code squelch (DCS) encode and decode, and CTCSS and DCS scan. In addition, there's four power output settings (with 60 W out on high), 1200/9600 bits/s packet capabilities, a dc voltage readout and direct frequency/ memory input (and user programmable soft keys) on the microphone keypad.
Yaesu has also tossed in a couple of the exclusive features that they've packed into all of their recent VHF and VHF/UHF transceivers. The FT-2600M has both the "Smart Search" and "Auto Range Transpond" systems. We'll dish out the skinny on these later.
Sizing Things Up
The width and depth dimensions on this new unit are about equal to those of its forefathers, but the height has been reduced considerably—down to a little over 11/2 inches. This transceiver is noticeably wider than most of the other currently available single band mobiles.
The volume control knob is located in the upper left hand corner of the front panel. The power switches on with a snap as you rotate the knob in the clockwise direction. Squelch adjustments are made using a menu setting. There's a 6-pin modular microphone jack just below the volume control.
The display window is offset towards the left side. Beneath the window is a row of four rubberized buttons. Surprisingly, these are the only four buttons on the entire chassis. Each has two labels, one above and the other on the surface of the button. These are SET/ MHz, LOW/ REV, DW/ A/N and MW/D/MR. These front panel keys are not backlit. While there are some additional control buttons located on the microphone, most of the set-
tings for functions that are not commonly needed for typical operations are contained in a 33-item menu. The menu selections are numbered and titled with up to 5 alphanumeric characters, making identification of their assignments fairly intuitive.
The size of the display window is relatively small, especially in comparison to the oversized screens on the '2400 and '2500, but the digits and alphanumeric character size is still more than adequate for easy viewing. The active LCD segments appear black on an amber field. The display brightness can be set to one of four levels or off.
The earlier units had a large amount of the screen area dedicated to an oversized S/RF meter. The '2600 employs a more conventional 12-segment horizontal bargraph meter that's positioned along the lower edge of the display. A row of icons along the top edge of the window indicates the state of several of the important functions.
The main encoder is located to the right of the display window. This puts it slightly to the right of the centerline of the front panel. Above this knob is a small green/red busy/ transmit LED indicator. The area that makes up the remaining portion on the right side of the front panel contains the speaker grill..... Copyright © 1999 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.