Sunday, 13 October 2013

Making an OK radio a great radio

Some time ago I treated myself to a Yaesu FT-847, I wanted a radio I could use on the higher bands and it had the option to use 4m (Although I am still waiting to experiment with this band.)
Everywhere I read about the radio, the comments made it out to be a poor performer on HF, although I wanted the radio for higher bands it seemed a decent backup option for HF and portable operation too. It even had the option to turn the power down as low as 2w.

I set about finding out how I could improve the performance of the radio, and among all of the mods out there the easiest one to do that would not impact on an otherwise mint condition radio was the mod to add INRAD filters to the unit. When I first got the radio I was planning a visit to the Isle of North Uist in the Outer Hebredies and decided to take the radio with me to see how it would perform in a low noise environment. While I was there I spoke to a fellow amateur on 40m who had the same radio but with the filters installed. He gave me glowing reports about huge improvements in the performance of the RX once added.

I have already experienced adding extra INRAD filters to the FT-817 and liked the results it produced. I opted for the 2.1kHz crystal filter to see if it would improve things. It took some time to get the filter due to a mix up with shipping but it did turn up several weeks later, might I add with excellent customer service to sort out any problems.

I installed the filter in the radio on the RX path and using the coax jumpers installed it in the location suggested in the instructions. (See the image for exact location) All I can say is wow, what a difference! I am now able to tune across the bands and notice less noise, more separation between the signals and hear more on busy bands like 40m and with a marked improvement in the ability to read weaker signals near the noise floor. I expected a small improvement but not quite what came.

I have done side by side comparisons with my FT-1000MP MrkV and have found that in a contest there are occasions when the 847 hears better than the 1000 with both 2.0kHz filters in the RX. I will have to get some videos put up on Youtube of the radios in a large contest on 40m.

The next step for me was to consider if I am to be serious about working on CW and QRP. It made sense that I needed to make sure I added the 300Hz CW filter too. This time I opted for the mechanical filter to save a few pounds, after all this is only my backup radio.

So after all the effort and considerable expenditure I now have a half decent performing FT-847 on HF and on CW. I really like the small footprint and simplicity to flip from band to band on a radio that can go as low as 2W QRP.

Next time you think about spending lots on a new radio think about how much you may be able to improve the one you have with a much smaller price tag, but when it comes to it we also all like new toys. Until I can save enough for a KX3 or even a K3 I will have to do with what I have.

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