Yaesu FT-1900R 2 Meter FM Transceiver
Reviewed by Steve Ford, WB8IMY QST Editor
The FT-1900R offers a wide range of features at a budget friendly price. Its sturdy construction and bright, easy to read display make it a good choice for mobile use.
If you're in the market for a tough 2 meter rig that won't break your budget, Yaesu's FT-1900R is worth consideration. This 2 meter FM transceiver is capable of 55 W output, enough for even the most challenging mobile operating environments. It also offers a list of clever features that you may not find elsewhere — all for around $150.
The FT-1900R sports a compact physical layout in a die-cast aluminum chassis that is less than 6 inches wide. In my temporary mobile installation I was able to shove the rig into the glove/map holder on the transmission hump of my Chevrolet Impala with room to spare. A sizeable loudspeaker is built into the top of the chassis, so if your vehicle requires under dash mounting, consider using an external speaker.
Frequencies and Memories Galore
The FT-1900R boasts receive coverage from 136 to 174 MHz, FM only. That's not as generous as some rigs that include AM aeronautical band reception and more, but then again, keep the price in mind. The extended coverage above 2 meters still gives you a substantial number of active public service frequencies. The fire dispatch in my area operates near 154 MHz, as does local public works and other town agencies. So, I was able to fill several of the FT-1900R's 200 memories channels for mobile eavesdropping. You can program 6 character alphanumeric tags for each memory for easy recall.
Among the FT-1900R's listening capabilities is a NOAA weather function. The 10 NOAA channels are dedicated frequency memories that you can scan for weather broadcasts. More importantly, the FT-1900R can be configured to briefly sample the NOAA channels about every five seconds, listening for severe weather alert tones. This sampling results in a slight clicking noise when you're listening to other frequencies, but it isn't obtrusive. I wrote this review in January and weather alerts were infrequent — until the morning the NWS decided to warn us about an impending ice storm and I was able to listen to the alert on my way home from work.
Although you can program the FT-1900R's memories with the front-panel controls, I found it easier to invest in the ADMS-1900 software package for Windows. The package, by RT Systems, comes with a USB cable and the software itself on a CD-ROM. The USB cable is actually a USB-to-serial converter. You plug it into the transceiver's microphone jack and fire up the rig while holding down the A/N LOW button. The FT-1900R awakens in the clone mode and is ready to communicate with the software. I enjoyed the convenience of being able to use the software and program the entire radio in one sitting.
On the Road
For this review I connected the FT-1900R to a quarter-wavelength magnetically mounted mobile antenna and grafted its dc power cable onto a cigarette lighter plug. My setup was far from elegant, but it worked well. The only glitch worth noting was the fact that RF tended to get into the dc power leads when running the FT-1900R at 55 W, which caused the radio to shut down whenever I keyed the microphone. This is more the fault of less than optimum grounding than a flaw in the FT-1900R. Application of a ferrite choke on the dc line cured the problem.
The FT-1900R's receive audio seemed robust and clean with more than enough acoustic power to overcome the ever-present road noise. Transmit audio reports were flattering with references to how good the rig sounded. The backlit DTMF (dual tone, multifrequency) keypad microphone also provides some limited rig control functionality. In terms of reception, the FT-1900R appeared to acquit itself reasonably well. I heard distant stations easily (including the International Space Station!) while avoiding most intermodulation byproducts.
Speaking of being on the road, I have to say that I truly enjoyed one of the FT-1900R's more unusual features: the CW trainer. When activated, the rig plays strings of Morse code at various speed steps from 4 to 40 WPM. You'd be amazed at how you can improve your CW receiving speed with a few days of training during commutes to work. Just make sure you resist the temptation to gaze at the characters on the FT-1900R's display while driving. The catch with the CW trainer is that the Morse code audio is mixed with any signal the FT-1900R happens to receive over the air. If someone begins talking while you are listening to Morse training, you'll hear their voice along with the dits and dahs. Tune to a quiet frequency before you activate the trainer.
The FT-1900R provides a feature that makes it as simple as possible to make contacts through the Wide-coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System (WIRES). Perhaps you are more familiar with EchoLink or IRLP, the VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) systems that use the Internet to link audio streams between distant repeaters or simplex stations. WIRES is similar, using DTMF tones to establish links that could permit a mobile operator in, say, Los Angeles, to speak with a ham in Japan.
The FT-1900R attempts to streamline the WIRES connection process by providing a button on the front panel (it is labeled with a symbol that resembles a stylized atom). For example, if you are communicating through a WIRES repeater that is linked to several other machines in what is known as the Sister Radio Group mode, the FT-1900R will add a short DTMF burst to the beginning of each transmission to open and maintain a link to a designated repeater.
The only downside to the WIRES concept is that most WIRES equipped repeaters are in Japan. At the time of this writing, the WIRES ACTIVE LIST on Yaesu's Web site showed only 25 repeaters in the United States. That said, the WIRES functionality in the FT-1900R can be used to access EchoLink and IRLP systems, although the manual doesn't specifically say so. If you consistently link to an EchoLink repeater in, say, Chicago, you can store the DTMF sequence that corresponds to the Chicago repeater in the WIRES INTERNET MEMORY.
FULL ARTICLE Copyright © 2010 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.