Yaesu FTDX5000D HF and 6 Meter Transceiver
Reviewed by Rick Lindquist, WW3DE Managing Editor, National Contest Journal
An extraordinary transceiver for the discerning contester or DXer. This one will become the gold standard for operators seeking the best receive performance and best value in its class.
Yaesu's latest colossus rules, delivering top tier performance at a substantially less than a top tier price. The FTDX5000 series establishes a new benchmark, the highest close-in IMD dynamic range and third-order intercept we've ever measured. It can and will do the heavy lifting for the most demanding DXer or contester.
This radio shares DNA with earlier Yaesu offerings. Over the past several years, Yaesu has deployed an array of such signature signal enhancing features as Contour, VRF, u-Tune and Class A. As with the FT-2000 and FTDX9000 models reviewed previously, the FTDX5000 builds upon this legacy, and it may be helpful to reread those reviews (you did read them already, right?).1 Three FTDX5000 models are available according to option package: The FTDX5000, the FTDX5000D and the FTDX5000MP. The basic 5000 is very well equipped. The D model adds the SM-5000 monitor scope, and the MP adds the SM-5000, 300 Hz roofing filter (optional on the other models) and high stability oven controlled crystal oscillator.
The FTDX5000D with optional 300 Hz roofing filter reviewed here is a transceiver for the discriminating contester or DXer, who may even consider its roughly $6000 price a bargain. Although extremely rich in performance, it lacks some "convenience" features. For example, you cannot connect a keyboard for digital modes or data entry. Then again, you don't put a backup cam on an Indy car. Optional Yaesu accessories let you trick out your ride.
Some Broad Strokes
Main (A) and subreceiver (B) performance tops that of several vaunted radios already on the market, although the main receiver does outperform the subreceiver (see Table 1). The two discrete and comparable receivers make it possible to transmit and/or receive on separate bands — SO2R in a box (details to come)!
Both receivers cover from 0.03 to 60 MHz. Receiver A is double conversion, with the first IF at 9 MHz and the second DSP IF at 30 kHz for SSB and CW and 24 kHz for AM and FM modes. Receiver B is a triple-conversion design, with the first and second IFs at 40.455 MHz and 455 kHz, respectively, and the DSP third IF identical to the second IF in the main receiver. The 300 and 600 Hz roofing filters are not available to the sub-receiver.
The radio delivers 200 W on HF and 6 meters on SSB and CW. Yaesu advises reducing the power to V2 to V3 of maximum when using high duty cycle modes such as RTTY or PSK31 for "longer than a few minutes," and rolling back to 50 W on AM.
As revisions become available, you can update the radio's firmware via an RS-232 port using files downloaded from the Internet. Since most new PCs don't come with RS-232 serial adapters/ports, USB would have been a nice option; there are arguments on both sides of this technological issue, however. A serial to USB adapter (Prolific chipset) worked fine for me. We did not perform a firmware update on our review radio, since this would have presented a moving target for evaluating performance. The procedure is relatively straightforward, and Yaesu has resolved early issues with the update writer.
The FTDX5000 takes DSP noise reduction to a new level — absolutely the best implementation I've ever experienced. It's just spectacular and could even make the horrid racket from my neighbor's solar array system melt into the background.
To enhance selectivity, the '5000 offers a selection of six pole crystal roofing filters (300 Hz, 600 Hz, 3 kHz, 6 kHz and 15 kHz are available for the main receiver), a feature several quality transceivers have begun offering. On CW the 300 Hz roofing filter is amazing. Coupled with a narrow DSP filter, you can sidle up to the strongest signals on the band to pull someone out.
In general, the radio's various DSP tools may impart some echo — the audio equivalent to "ringing" — especially at more extreme settings. This apparently is a result of latency.
A 46.3 Pound Gorilla in the Shack
This is a substantial radio, although it doesn't match the girth or weight of the FTDX9000MP reviewed in July 2010 ©ST, nor that radio's 400 W output. The ac power supply is built in. The FTDX5000 presents the user with a surfeit of knobs, buttons and displays that let you know you're at the helm. The ample main tuning knob augments this sense of control. It can be daunting at first. Some controls probably could have been relegated to menus; MIC gain, for example, is not something you typically adjust on the fly.
The front panel layout is sensible, although I did wish the legends were in a more contrasting shade. Style does not triumph over substance here. I'd expressed similar concerns in reviewing the FTDX9000 Contest (see "Product Review," Mar 2006 QST). On the other hand, all readouts are easy on the eyes. The three subdisplays are crisp, organic light emitting diode types. The multipurpose meter has a D'Arsonval movement. As in earlier Yaesu incarnations, a system summary panel, part of the main display, shows basic signal paths and settings for the main receiver (VFO A) and the subreceiver (VFO B) per the antenna, attenuator, IPO, roofing filter and AGC settings.
A couple of things struck me. First, there is no separate indication on the main display to let you know when VOX is enabled, beyond a tiny red LED on the VOX button. Second, there is no main display SPLIT indicator. You must instead pay attention to whether the TX indicator adjacent to the VFO B knob is illuminated. (You'll also see the TX indicator switch to VFO B when transmitting.).
The VFO A and VFO B subdisplays continue to show the set value, even after the function is off. For example, if you turn off the NR, the display dims, and turning the knob still changes the displayed setting while not affecting reception. Enabling another function shifts the subdisplay's focus to the new function.
Through menus, the operator can set individual brightness levels for the analog meter, main frequency display, subdisplays and SM-5000 when the DIM switch is pressed. Color and contrast are not adjustable. There are several color choices for the SM-5000 screen, but color and contrast are not adjustable on the main radio displays.
The FH-2 keypad accessory can be used for controlling the built-in CW memory keyer and voice keyer, as well as for frequency adjustments. At first I didn't figure the FH-2 would come in handy, but it turned out to be just the thing for those times when you're repeatedly calling a DX station that's generated a massive pileup (and you're running 200 W to wires).
A Problem Solved
Out of the box, our '5000 would not key properly, especially with an external keying source. We found dit shortening at 60 WPM, which was not affected by the waveform shaping menu or by adjusting the break-in (QSK) delay. In addition, while using the internal keyer in full break-in, unwanted spikes materialized between dits above 33 WPM, possibly a result of some sort of relay bounce. ARRL Lab Test Engineer Bob Allison, WB1GCM, described these as "phantom spikes" that looked "like triangles in the blank spaces between dits, causing a not so pretty keying waveform."
A Yaesu-provided circuit modification fixed the problem. The manufacturer says its production line incorporated the keying modification starting with Lot 2, although not all Lot 2 radios were modified. The problem has been corrected in all Lot 3 and later radios, however, and Yaesu says it will fix any radios already in the hands of customers.
A Problem Unsolved
So called "spurs" in the '5000's main receiver generated considerable chatter among owners and wannabes on the Yaesu FTDX5000 reflector. While Yaesu is looking into this issue, it remained unresolved as this review went to press. Here's the thing: You have to be looking for these artifacts (they are not "spurs" in the true sense of the word) in order to hear them. If the radio is set for 1 Hz resolution and a signal — preferably a strong one — is on or near certain frequencies in certain bands, you can hear a faint blip as you turn the VFO knob past certain other specific frequencies. They're easy to miss altogether and may give the impression of tuning past a real signal very quickly, but there is no spur that you can actually tune to. Some users consider this a serious issue that's deserving of Yaesu's attention.
SSB enthusiasts will enjoy the FTDX5000's comprehensive transmit audio tailoring capabilities using the three octave equalizer. There are two tiers of settings — one for when the processor is off, the other for when it's on. The PROC button steps through MIC EQ and PROC steps, as indicated on the main display. These settings allow you to adjust gain, bandwidth and even Q for each bandwidth range in the equalizer, punching up one range of frequencies and tempering another to suit your voice. This is akin to the sort of audio processing broadcasters use on their studio microphones to make even the most modest voice sound appreciably more robust.
The equalizer can take some time to set up, and for situations in which multiple operators will be using the radio, you may just want to go with the flat response defaults and trim your audio using any adjustments available on your mic or headset. The radio is capable of enhanced SSB (ESSB) operation. The FTDX5000 offers similarly extensive audio tweaking capabilities for the receivers' audio.
Intercept Point Optimization and Preamps
Yaesu employs IPO buttons on its HF transceivers. The '5000's main receiver has two IPO settings, IPO1 and IPO2; the subreceiver has just IPO1. IPO stands for intercept point optimization, referring to third order intercept point (IP3), a popular metric that takes into account a receiver's sensitivity and dynamic range (see Table 1). What the IPO buttons actually do is turn off any preamps, which typically degrade dynamic range. Pushing the IPO button can improve the dynamic range on a band that has external noise well above the receiver noise. This doesn't show up in lab testing, but can make a difference with an antenna connected — especially on the bands lower in frequency than 14 MHz.
Just why the main receiver has two IPO levels is unclear. The IPO2 setting routes the signal directly to the first mixer. The manual says only that the IPO1 setting "improves the IPO." The radio also has twin preamps, and Yaesu recommends using PREAMP1 for the higher bands (there are three levels of attenuation as well). I found no occasions when I needed to use PREAMP2, although the attenuator came in handy.
SO2R in a Box!
A growing number of contesters are adopting the single operator/two radio (SO2R) operating model. The SO2R shack utilizes two transceivers. The main transceiver is the "run radio" for calling CQ; the secondary transceiver is the "multiplier radio" for tuning around. The typical SO2R setup also employs separate antennas for each transceiver.
The FTDX5000 opens the door to SO2R with a single box and, if desired, just one antenna. Both receivers can use the same antenna at the same time, although with four antenna ports on the rear apron, they don't have to. While running SO2R you can still log contacts as though you were using one radio. Swapping the transmit VFO from B to A lets your logger record the contact on the correct band.
Subjective observations aside, the numbers tell the big story here. Don't be misled by nomenclature. Both FTDX5000D receivers outperform the FTDX5000MP's roughly equivalent receivers in terms of dynamic range and IP3.
For Receiver A, at the where-it-really-matters 2 kHz spacing, the two-tone third-order IMD dynamic range at 14 MHz is just as good as at 20 kHz spacing. In all cases, IMD dynamic range was well over 100 dB. This is the receiver with a 9 MHz first IF and narrow roofing filters, currently the hot setup for top-of-the-line close-in dynamic range. One interesting phenomenon was noted during the testing. The sensitivity (MDS) of receiver A lowered by a few dB after the radio had been in use for a few hours. This did not change the excellent measured dynamic performance. This represents excellent real-world performance, which holds up right through 6 meters!
For Receiver B, with a VHF IF and without the narrow roofing filters, the worst-case dynamic range was 88 dB on 14 MHz at 2 kHz spacing; all other numbers were in the 90s, the best being 98 dB on 14 MHz at 5 kHz spacing, yielding an IP3 of +25 dBm.......